Chi-Dooh Li had an op-ed piece in today’s PI. It’s really well written and pretty funny, and he has a really great point on the extra time saved by rail that most people never even thought of:

According to the Sound Transit Web site, taking light rail in the future from the U District to Sea-Tac would cut my travel time in half. I think I will save even more time.

But one great benefit light rail will bring to all of us, for which detractors have no answer, is the certainty of travel time. Trains will — count on it — get you to your destination in a reliably predictable amount of time.

The same can never be said for any form of transportation that uses rubber tires on asphalt roads. Cars, buses, shuttle buses, vans, taxis — you name it — there is no way time of arrival can be accurately predicted.

Buses, the adored form of public transit among the anti-rail crowd, cannot even give you a fixed departure time. How often do we rush to the bus stop before the scheduled time, only to wait and wait for a bus that has been delayed by congestion?

That’s huge if you think about it, wasted “uncertain time”. The time waiting for a late bus. The earlier you need to leave because you’re not exactly sure what time you have to get in your car to make that 8:30 am meeting at work. If you show up at 8:20, that’s an extra ten minutes eaten.

Traffic congestion not only requires more actual driving or riding time but forces us to leave much earlier than we might need to in order to have some assurance of getting to our destination on time.

When we must be punctual for work, a doctor’s appointment, a job interview, a business meeting or a kid’s soccer game, how much extra time do we build in so we are not late? Even then, no “cushion” will guard against the gridlock created by the occasional perfect storm of traffic congestion: the rush hour multiple car accident under the Convention Center or at Southcenter, or a visiting dignitary motorcade.

Take light rail, and buffer time will be a thing of the past.

It’s a great piece go read the whole thing.

4 Replies to “Republicans for Rail!”

  1. “The same can never be said for any form of transportation that uses rubber tires on asphalt roads.”

    Perhaps true, but you’re missing the real distinction: not sharing a lane with traffic. I’m a little afraid we’re headed toward streetcar systems here. I like streetcars, but if you don’t create a seperate lane for them then they will have the same traffic problems as busses.

    We either need grade-seperation (to add capacity) or road replacement in order to have timely transportation options. ST1 (and 2?) provides grade seperation, which has the benefit of adding capacity without stealing much real estate (other than in the bus tunnel).

    BRT can’t have complete traffic seperation without losing it’s only benefit – flexibility.

    -Matt the Engineer

  2. Indeed, and when you’re not sharing a lane with traffic, rail becomes cheaper in the long run – and brings more development, so you get more bang for your buck.

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