I was on vacation back in Indiana last week, so what else would I do but arrange to take a ride on Indy’s under construction BRT system? I had a positive impression of it and am planning to write up a longer piece about the system and the role of BRT in low-density cities generally. In the meantime, here’s a podcast I recorded about the project with Jerome Horne from the city’s transit agency. If the audio player doesn’t display for you, click over to listen on Soundcloud.
Subscribe to podcast via iTunes | Soundcloud.
P Burgos says
This is an unpopular opinion among some people, but the state legislature’s ban on rail looks like a good thing for Indy, because it forces people there not to hop on the “monorail” hype train. So no streetcar or light rail boondoggles.
Is this a statewide ban or only pertaining to specified geography (e.g. does it negate funding for a South Shore south extension to Dyer (near term) and Lowell (long term) in Lake County (NWI).
Aaron M. Renn says
It’s not a statewide ban. In fact, there are active plans to expand to South Shore Line as we speak.
Streetcars and “light rail’ are inherent “boonndoggles”? I’d love to hear the argument for that point of view.
P Burgos says
Streetcars are inherent boondoggles, being really expensive to build, not having the capacity to move many people, not having large riderships, and sharing right of way with other vehicles, so pretty slow.
Intra-city passenger rail is a boondoggle in most US cities. Again, the problem is that it is very expensive and attracts very few riders.
Seattle shows what is possible with intelligent investments in mass transit. They have high and rising ridership on buses, and only now that their buses are full are they building higher capacity/higher speed mass transit (light rail, I think).
By contrast, the rail lines in China’s cities aren’t boondoggles. For example, you have a city like Nanjing that has around 10 million residents, and they only started building intracity passenger rail a decade ago.
These are your opinions. Is there a measurable basis for any of it? The measure of transportation is cost, not speed. Roads are boondoggles because they aren’t remotely paid for by their users.
P Burgos says
I think you make a good point about roads as well. I don’t have the figures at hand, but read the blogs New Geography or The Anti-planner for exact figures. But yes, the US builds way more lane miles of roads than is fiscally prudent, and would be a wealthier place if instead they used congestion pricing and up zoning instead of building so many new roads to very low density greenfield development.
Steven A says
Agree. I think it is more useful to consider “what factors most influence the success or failure of light rail and how is success measured?” While it has definitely been a financial boondoggle in some cities, light rail as a failure is by no means a universal truth.