Publicola reports that the Obama Administration is revising FTA guidelines that were viewed by rail advocates as biased against rail because they did not capture its various secondary benefits.

Anyhow, Erica Barnett says what needs to be said, so read her piece.  I suppose this is good news for Sound Transit (and its upcoming rail projects) and somewhat worse news, in relative terms, for the many local transit agencies with plans for BRT.  On the other hand, less mature projects may have their alternatives analysis tipped to favor rail.

Also APTA is pretty happy about this.

26 Replies to “Obama’s DOT to be more rail-friendly”

    1. Of course. But really we have to get some notion of cost and ridership numbers before we can see how competitive it is with other projects.

      1. I wonder if DT Redmond extension/DT Bellevue tunnel could get money more easily with this.

      2. I wouldn’t worry about that until we find out just how bad the revenue drop is. We might be begging for federal funds just to complete the project we’ve got.

  1. Not really worse news- many of these “BRT” projects should have been rail from the beginning. Also, it may happen that projects like the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will be allowed to run BRT initially- but with understanding that system be designed specifically for rail conversion.

    Might be especially good news if before Rapid Ride gets any farther, plans get re-configured for streetcar or light rail. If recent ride on SWIFT was any indication, Ballard deserves service that doesn’t have to fight turning traffic itw whole route.

    Mark Dublin

    1. How much nonrecoverable investment goes into Swift/Rapid Ride routes that are later converted to rail? Obviously the buses can be moved, but there’s some investment in the high-class bus stops and street/signaling that can’t be moved.

      1. I would say the signaling and ITS infrastructure can be adapted for rail use along with local buses, especially if the rail line runs at grade like on MLK. The hi-quality bus stops (stations) would be retained for local use and would likely be integrated with future rail stations.

  2. Any chance this will tilt the balance away from inner city rail towards inter-city projects such as HSR in Fla, Tex, CA ?

      1. I ride the Sounder to work downtown.

        It’s a superior train ride. Although only 23 minutes sometimes I wish it were twice as long.

        If we had high speed rail regionally I would almost like that better than locally because in theory I could live further away and afford more land, bigger house.

      2. Some will certainly do that, and that’s OK as a consequence of building it, but not my cup of tea.
        By nature, HSR has very few stops, a long ways apart. I don’t think you’ll be looking for land in Eugene anytime soon, but Centrilia or Mt. Vernon, maybe so.

      3. Funny you should mention Centralia because that’s exactly what I always had in mind! You can get a prebuilt 3-bedroom house for $40,000. All I want is 2 acres of good land close enough to a HSR to get me into Seattle a few days a week + Clear Wimax for communications.

      4. One thing that might argue against doing that is that HSR fares would most likely be quite a bit higher than a Sounder fare.

      5. AW,

        Yes, they would. But you can buy a whole lot of train fares for $200,000. Plus, Lewis County taxes are lower, mostly because of the lower assessed valuations.

        People do this very thing in France. They live a couple of TGV stations away from Paris and commute several days a week.

      6. That assumes all ‘sprawl’ is equal. Commuter Rail suburbs are nothing new, in fact almost 150 years old. Those communities that developed around a railway station outside of a major city were pretty darn dense and mixed use. Most people walked to the station so streets were walkable.

        Much better to have a string of pearls of such moderately dense commuter towns surrounding a city, than a carpet of Levittowns and stripmalls stretch as far as the eye can see.

      7. One may argue that these towns were dense because they were built before cars even existed. I think HSR is a great way to get between large existing cities, but if done poorly will create sprawl for people like [the Riddler] who could find even cheaper, larger housing miles from these towns then drive to a station.

        If you need an example, go to San Francisco and take BART the end of the line. When you get out, walk past the vast parking lots and cross the busy street to ask one of the strip mall sales clerks where the cute, dense city is.

      8. I’ll pass on Lewis county with their reactionary politics and on Mt Vernon whose Mayor loves Glen Beck.

      9. I support commuter trains on the Amtrak Cascades route over the long term. That’s what New Jersey and Connecticut have, and it seems to work well. Many people who live in suburbia would actually prefer to live in a smaller town if it had hourly train service. Not all of them would come into the city five days a week. Some would come once or twice a week, and others would stay in the city three days a week on a compressed workweek. (This is common among nurses at Harborview, for instance.)

        Most of the towns on the Cascades line have good intermodal transit stations already. So we just need to encourage microdense development near those stations. Some people move to the towns because they want a huge house and yard, but others would be happy with a regular house in a smaller city.

      10. A commute between Centralia and Olympia might make sense. Well except that Olympia’s train station isn’t actually in Olympia, and we already have enough reactionary politicians in Olympia.

  3. Given that the state DOT’s eventual goal by the mid-2020’s is to have 12 trains a day between Seattle and Portland, living in Centralia or Olympia/Lacey and commuting to Seattle a few days a week may be realistic, someday.

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