Other People's Rail: Amtrak, commuter rail, rapid transit news & views outside New England

F-Line to Dudley

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I believe MBTA Light Rail was the busiest system in the country until a few years ago
L.A. MetroRail has taken the top spot, with 51.4M riders in 2019. Although their C Line really starts to blur the lines between LRT and HRT, so there's no such thing as 'purity' when counting up this particular mode.

SF MUNI Metro narrowly leads Boston at #2 with 49.5M riders vs. Green/Mattapan's 47.2M riders in 2019. That ranking is very likely to seesaw multiple times over the next 5 years with COVID recovery probably favoring Boston first, then GLX's opening, and then MUNI Central Subway's opening.
 

bdurden

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^LA metrorail will likely widen its gap with the opening of the Crenshaw line to LAX later this year.
 

Arlington

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Riders per route mile used to show that The Green was a crazy outlier.
 

HenryAlan

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^LA metrorail will likely widen its gap with the opening of the Crenshaw line to LAX later this year.
They are also in the midst of building the "downtown connector" which will unify the A and E lines with the L line, scooping some riders away from the downtown HRT lines. L.A. is in full build mode, with several more new lines and extensions in planning phase. I don't think Boston or San Francisco will ever catch up at this point, with our more mature systems unlikely to see anything like the expansion they will have.
 

George_Apley

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They are also in the midst of building the "downtown connector" which will unify the A and E lines with the L line, scooping some riders away from the downtown HRT lines. L.A. is in full build mode, with several more new lines and extensions in planning phase. I don't think Boston or San Francisco will ever catch up at this point, with our more mature systems unlikely to see anything like the expansion they will have.
We just gotta turn up the heat on the Green Line Transformation! Lots of good (and needed) LRT for the MBTA to shop at in our Design a Better Boston threads ;)
 

Equilibria

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They are also in the midst of building the "downtown connector" which will unify the A and E lines with the L line, scooping some riders away from the downtown HRT lines. L.A. is in full build mode, with several more new lines and extensions in planning phase. I don't think Boston or San Francisco will ever catch up at this point, with our more mature systems unlikely to see anything like the expansion they will have.
Good! LA is a much bigger city and should have a much bigger system. The more relevant question to me is whether LA is building the right mode. Paris and London aren't crisscrossed by LRT. We've been selling ourselves short in the US by celebrating the limited ambition of Portland, Denver, etc. Build freaking tunnels.
 

jbray

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Good! LA is a much bigger city and should have a much bigger system. The more relevant question to me is whether LA is building the right mode. Paris and London aren't crisscrossed by LRT. We've been selling ourselves short in the US by celebrating the limited ambition of Portland, Denver, etc. Build freaking tunnels.
I hear you, but remember, we didn't start with Subway either. We built trolleys, then increased ridership, moved them underground when they over saturated the streets, and repurposed those tunnels for subway when they became overcrowded.

If LA has a culture of driving, you have to drive a mode switch where you can. I agree that LA, for its size, should go big, but they'll get it right in the end and those lines will move underground where necessary just like we did.
 

HenryAlan

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Good! LA is a much bigger city and should have a much bigger system. The more relevant question to me is whether LA is building the right mode. Paris and London aren't crisscrossed by LRT. We've been selling ourselves short in the US by celebrating the limited ambition of Portland, Denver, etc. Build freaking tunnels.
Agreed, I am so excited to see them finally building a large capacity system, which of course leads right to your other point. Is it the right system? The geography is tricky in L.A. due not only to seismic faults, but also significant methane gas deposits and what we might term a squishy subsurface. Of the initial three lines, two are actually heavy rail subway. But one of them ran in to some construction issues with natural gas explosions and the city decided to ban any future subway expansion. That left surface only, which can be done for quite a bit less cost if it is light rail. And less noticed in the current expansion phase, is that the ban was lifted and they are once again building heavy rail by extending the D-Line. As F-Line already pointed out, the C-Line is quasi HRT anyway, as will be the case with the nearing completion Crenshaw corridor line.

Overall, I think the strategy is to get as much geographic coverage as they can for the money spent, which means predominately surface level light rail. But they are building subways where needed, and I suspect we will also see more heavy rail along the way. They are 50 years away from a fully built system. Imagine what Boston could do in 50 years of continuous expansion!
 

Equilibria

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Overall, I think the strategy is to get as much geographic coverage as they can for the money spent, which means predominately surface level light rail.
The goal shouldn't be geographic coverage, but rather population coverage. I'm not an expert in LA, so I can't say if they're doing it right, but the goal should be to move the greatest possible number of people per day per dollar spent. If that means 1 minute headways on the densest corridor and everyone else gets half-hour buses, that's how you should do it.\

Obviously it's never that simple, and you have historical equity and justice concerns, but the core should be person throughput.

Imagine what Boston could do in 50 years of continuous expansion!
It's not hard, just look at what Boston did from 1890-1940 :).
 

ra84970

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Agreed, I am so excited to see them finally building a large capacity system, which of course leads right to your other point. Is it the right system? The geography is tricky in L.A. due not only to seismic faults, but also significant methane gas deposits and what we might term a squishy subsurface. Of the initial three lines, two are actually heavy rail subway. But one of them ran in to some construction issues with natural gas explosions and the city decided to ban any future subway expansion. That left surface only, which can be done for quite a bit less cost if it is light rail. And less noticed in the current expansion phase, is that the ban was lifted and they are once again building heavy rail by extending the D-Line. As F-Line already pointed out, the C-Line is quasi HRT anyway, as will be the case with the nearing completion Crenshaw corridor line.

Overall, I think the strategy is to get as much geographic coverage as they can for the money spent, which means predominately surface level light rail. But they are building subways where needed, and I suspect we will also see more heavy rail along the way. They are 50 years away from a fully built system. Imagine what Boston could do in 50 years of continuous expansion!
The tunneling restriction was a federal one -- brought about by Rep. Waxman (D) for CA-33. Basically any dollars spent on projects in LA couldn't be spent for subway construction from "fear" of methane explosion. The Ross Dress for Less explosion in 1985 was a horrific incident that was literally described as fire raining down on on people. The Wilshire subway was to go right under the methane fields and thus turned into pretext for a lot of angry, NIMBY Westsiders who didn't want "those" people travelling to work in their neighborhoods. (Sound familiar, anyone?) A pretty decent summary of the issue was written up by KCET when LA Metro cleared its last hurdles around the time that Waxman relented by writing a bill allowing federal dollars for tunnelling in the Westside again, and LA Metro got the funds to restart the Wilshire subway.

https://www.kcet.org/shows/lost-la/...a-methane-explosion-derailed-las-subway-plans

Another more detailed recap of the his/story - especially fun by way of comparison to WMATA and the differences between the two region's responses to subway construction.


Back to the topic of Los Angeles, I think the real question for any success in the Los Angeles region will be if/how/when the cities and counties of the region decide to intensify development in the areas around the stations that are being built. It would cost a pretty penny but I think the division between "LRT" and "HRT" in LA is less meaningful because there's a lot of grade-separated LRT that functions much like the GL/GLX here in the Boston region and the key thing holding back the LRT network is core capacity restrictions in the Downtown area because of overlapping routes downtown. I think with LA Metros program of infrastructure toward 2028 though, they're going to be leaps and bounds ahead of us and SF in ridership from sheer number of destinations covered.
 

HenryAlan

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I think the real question for any success in the Los Angeles region will be if/how/when the cities and counties of the region decide to intensify development in the areas around the stations that are being built.
Yeah, and I think this answers to a certain extent the issue raised by Equilibria. Population is somewhat evenly dispersed, so there aren't so many super high density corridors for HRT right now. But where the LRT establishes a ridership and then hopefully construction pattern, those corridors may begin to exist. That's when the system will really start to become a more fully realized transit alternative to driving.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Back to the topic of Los Angeles, I think the real question for any success in the Los Angeles region will be if/how/when the cities and counties of the region decide to intensify development in the areas around the stations that are being built. It would cost a pretty penny but I think the division between "LRT" and "HRT" in LA is less meaningful because there's a lot of grade-separated LRT that functions much like the GL/GLX here in the Boston region and the key thing holding back the LRT network is core capacity restrictions in the Downtown area because of overlapping routes downtown. I think with LA Metros program of infrastructure toward 2028 though, they're going to be leaps and bounds ahead of us and SF in ridership from sheer number of destinations covered.
Yes. L.A. user LRV's for fleet commonality, but the way it's deployed runs the gamut from "traditional" mixed-running to "HRT by any other name". HRT itself has no distinct definition apart from LRT other than the smell-test. Things like third-rail vs. overhead happen with either, low-vs.-high boarding happens with either, large vs. small multiple-unit running happens with either. I guess you could say that HRT requires sealed-corridor grade separation on all service patterns since virtually 0% of the systems that namecheck themselves as modern/non-grandfathered HRT have any permissible track access...but LRT can quite literally dupe the same properties. After all, the prevailing D-to-GLX Riverside-Medford Hillside run-thru pattern that debuts with GLX--save for the ped crossings at D platforms--is 98% sealed all the same.

MetroRail C Line, as noted, is 100% grade separated, all- prepayment stations, and non-interlining with the mixed-corridor routes...and can run pretty long lash-ups at peak, and has very long (often island-setup) platforms to accommodate lots of future train length growth. That's a smell's-test coin flip from calling it HRT...as you would hardly be able to tell it apart from our Blue Line if you sampled a random selection of its stations as an out-of-towner. MetroRail's LRV's are also high-floor, level-boarding even at street-level stops...which is an against-the-grain purchasing choice for most LRT systems and serves to further blur the lines between mode identities when the same equipment is run on these new sealed corridors. In L.A. the mixed-running stops outside of grade separation simply have shorter platforms for typically trolley-like 2-car trains...whereas on the C you really, really can't tell the difference between HRT because the platforms are all pre-built for 4-6 car lash-ups banking future growth.

L.A. does have two more conventionally-built HRT third-rail lines--the B and D--which are interconnected. Those two look hardly any different from our Red Line. Their choice of rolling stock seems to weight more to what 2D lines they build on a map could/will be interlined at some point rather than "grade separation = copy New York"...but they have that luxury for scale because of their (not rare by any means...but somewhat uncommon) choice of level-boarding LRV's lets the grade-sep lines morph into HRT lookalikes simply via adding cars to the train. So in reality they have two born HRT lines, a 'trans'-identity LRT line that's fluid on what pronouns you call it, another 'trans'-identity line about to go live, and a few born mixed-running LRT lines. Where their growth is basically set up to weight the scale more in the HRT direction on a few trunks...whether they outright change the type of rolling stock or just keep it as-is but in longer lash-ups.

For their purposes it was the ideal choice for giving them every conceivable option while leaving no future prospects sold short. Any other city on the planet would organize its transit under different assumptions, so they're not necessarily "better" for it. The fact that high-floor trolleys are kind of harder to pull off in heterogeneous running environments means that definitely wouldn't be a rational choice for Boston, and probably 70% of other LRT-planning cities would opt for low-floor because that's where the biggest flex is in it for them. So there would be naturally sharper distinctions in most places between LRT and HRT than in L.A. where they could put up with high-platform ramps at street level because there really isn't a high total (or desired total) of street-level stations on their system and more of their growth is going to be in grade-separated stations (if not always on sealed-separation corridors). Stuff like the Urban Ring attached to Green Line, for instance...that's definitely going to be low-platform infrastructure given where most of those stops are situated. That's "best" for us, whereas hybridized high-floor was clearly "best" for them.
 

bdurden

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The LA D-Line (formerly the Purple Line) extension west from its current terminus at Wilshire / Western will extend down the Wilshire corridor to Westwood.
This took years of effort mainly because Beverly Hills was opposed to a subway station claiming that it raised safety concerns because it would run beneath Beverly Hills High School. Luckily, that was overturned. Sadly, Santa Monica won in their effort to not have the line extend to the third street promenade (although I suspect that’ll change in the future).



This image is now outdated as the future extension West is now under construction as well as that was fast tracked.

The planned Sepulveda line (which will also be heavy rail) will also connect LAX to the west side and to the Valley in Van Nys — this as been fast tracked as a priority.

While I don’t think Boston has anything to be jealous about, I do admire that LA is aggressively building heavy rail — really the only city in the country doing so.
 
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Arlington

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(fun fact: Chicago Brown, Yellow, & Purple HRT all have grade crossings)
 

ra84970

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Yeah, and I think this answers to a certain extent the issue raised by Equilibria. Population is somewhat evenly dispersed, so there aren't so many super high density corridors for HRT right now. But where the LRT establishes a ridership and then hopefully construction pattern, those corridors may begin to exist. That's when the system will really start to become a more fully realized transit alternative to driving.
As much as I think that intensification is the key to LA's long term transit future, past as prologue says that LA won't intensify in meaningful ways. The Metro A/Blue lines have been around for 30 years and .... While those areas near DTLA and DTLB have seen much development, the areas in between have not.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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(fun fact: Chicago Brown, Yellow, & Purple HRT all have grade crossings)
That's why I said "non-grandfathered".

Chicago's been trying for close to 50 years to eliminate those last crossings. They just can't get any consensus with the neighborhoods on how to actually go about it so it's a glacial game of tooth-pulling.

HRT-like rolling stock is still less safe for crossings than LRV's because they provide less "cow catcher" protection low and in front for obstructions in the ROW. Which is...gruesomely...why suicide-jumpers choose Red/Blue/Orange over Green if they're going to do it. Going under and being pinned under a carbody suspended all-above coupler level is guaranteed unsurvivable while bouncing off a bumper at least leaves a chance of escape-with-serious-injury at high speed. MetroRail's high-floor LRV's, being designed for non-sealed corridors even when half the time they run on sealed ones, have the more typically LRT-like bumpers down low.

Mainline RR stock deals with the cowcatcher effect by always having plowblades on whatever is the lead car (front of loco, cab end of cab car or xMU, or both ends of any bi-directional loco) regardless of whether it's operating in the hottest/driest desert or warmest subtropics. Though there's a shitload of other regulated design difference driven by RR stock's humongous weight differential, so any superficial resemblance to HRT carbodies/trucks is just that. You wouldn't be able to, say, add a permanent plowblade to every Orange Line car and pick up the obsolete-design early-70's Reading extension that retained a handful of the crossings. That's still not quite enough combo of weight differential and/or endemic down-low protection to push a stuck vehicle out of the way without leaving some risk of it getting pinned under and lifting the trucks on the lead car clear off the tracks. So that's no longer allowed as a new-construction hedge. On RR that isn't a factor because the train is so crazy-heavier, and on LRV's all the crash energy management is bottom-centric by vehicle design regardless of interior floor height.
 

ra84970

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That's "best" for us, whereas hybridized high-floor was clearly "best" for them.
The key for me was realizing that LA with its polycentricity was not going to transform into Manhattan or Downtown Boston in the next century and would need to rely upon a very different type of transit network. Sadly after the 2008-2009 blowout of state and local government spending, spending om transit operations *still* haven't recovered. I remember when LA metro was touting it's 10 minute network in 2005-2006 which quickly became it's 12-minute network on 2008 and then disappeared after the Great Recession. And, the three-level routing plans with the 900 series super rapid routes, 700 series rapid and the locals. Hopefully, the rail (and bus way) infra spend can be matched with more spend on transit ops.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Speaking of MetroRail, their new KinkiSharyo P3010's now deployed to each of their LRT lines (both the "HRT-like" and typical mixed-running) are the spitting image of the grandkid of a Type 7. . .


(^^note the stairless doors for the all- high-level platform system)


 

ra84970

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Speaking of MetroRail, their new KinkiSharyo P3010's now deployed to each of their LRT lines (both the "HRT-like" and typical mixed-running) are the spitting image of the grandkid of a Type 7. . .


(^^note the stairless doors for the all- high-level platform system)


I've been on a few K-S curre9 generation LRVs and have enjoyed their very secure and comfortable ride.

It does feel like a refined and modern Type 7.
 

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