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Poll: Which would you vote for? (82 member(s) have cast votes)

Which would you vote for?

  1. Expand the current bus system (7 votes [8.54%])

    Percentage of vote: 8.54%

  2. Initiate a new light rail system (75 votes [91.46%])

    Percentage of vote: 91.46%

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#1 mosteijn

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 01:53 PM

I'm not sure how many people would agree with me, but as of now The T's system sucks! Routes aren't convenient, buses aren't very frequent, etc. Would you rather improve and expand the current bus system, or would you like to see light rail come to Cowtown? Please explain your choice.

#2 Rob1316

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 03:32 PM

I would advocate expanding the Bus system. Rail construction is very costly, takes a long time, and has zero flexibility to respond to changing demographics. Routes have to be decided, than right of ways created, environmental impacts need to be considered, noise the whole nine yards. Bus routes are very flexible since they use existing infrastructure, bus routes can be added, or deleted simply by buying or selling buses, and can be modified overnight. In my opinion buses give you more bang for the buck hands down.

#3 Sam Stone

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 03:55 PM

I don't mean for this to address the whole bus vs. rail issue, but I think Rob1316 has hit upon something very fundamental. Perhaps it's actually the inflexibility of rail that makes it better. The permanence of a rail station helps the permanence of everything around it. A constantly shifting bus route with no need for anything beyond benches and small shelters doesn't offer any permanence to the vicinity.

Proximity to rail stops is a selling point for real estate in major cities. Bus stops are too, but to a lesser extent.

I also think that permanent identifiable stations and stops provide riders with images they can keep in their minds of their destination and possibly increases ridership.

#4 JBB

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 04:48 PM

I'm all for moving forward with light rail, but, if I remember correctly, the city has stayed away from it because the ridership projections will not be high enough to qualify for federal aid. The city will never be able to afford it on their own, especially if they insist on continuing to give lucrative tax breaks to for-profit retail ventures. In the meantime, it might make more sense to work on upgrading the current bus system.

#5 normanfd

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 04:49 PM

Rail also allows more flexible bus service. Instead of having most bus routes connect neighborhoods to Downtown, rail allows buses to run shorter, more frequent routes connecting neighborhoods to the closest rail station transfer point, or allowing more buses to serve major cross town arteries that don't pass through Downtown.

#6 mosteijn

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 08:54 PM

I think I should have started a poll about who actually rides mass transit. I'd like some feedback on the current T system, which I don't ride often, but I hear it's very inconvenient. I'd ride it, though, if they had a route that went anywhere near my house, but the closest stop is 10-20 blocks away.

I voted for light rail, because I think it would be a much more sustainable option for the city. Norman and Sam had some good points, I would like to see urban development accelerate due to light rail, and bus routes replanned to fit the new light rail lines.

To address the ridership issue, when was the last time the city did ridership estimates for a light rail system? The plan I've seen only had lines in the central city, and given it's recent explosion of residential growth, I'd like to see an updated estimate. Would it also be possible to include most of the funding in a bond package?

#7 ghughes

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 09:59 PM

normanfd hit on a vital aspect for the success of light rail: feeder lines. The best systems are an integration of what works in different situations. A bus can circulate to bring people to the train because it's flexible and can pick up in neighborhoods. A train runs lots of people between high-traffic points. So from a system design perspective you can either use busses to feed the trains or you can build big ol'parking lots at each station.... or you need a population density like NYC where enough people can just walk to the train.

The over-arching reason rail can't work in Fort Worth (today) is the same reason that the bus service can't be frequent: low population density. The secondary issue is a combination of extensive highways and affordability of cars. Throw in the many-to-many source-destination trips (i.e. work centers are scattered) and you have a formula for individual transportation modes (cars, bicycles, horses...)

We don't have enough people going from Point A to Point B to run decent bus service, let alone to install rails and run trains. While our downtown may be big-city, most of our housing, employment, and travel patterns are pretty suburban, I hate to say. And like most suburban areas, the resulting opportunity for public transportation is very limited.

#8 normanfd

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 12:24 AM

Many people cn the forum complain about the development in the Alliance area. My personal opinion is that Alliance is a huge job generator, and residences should be close to jobs.

Nevertheless, a commuter rail link from the central city to Alliance and on to Denton should have been built and running yesterday, with bus lines connecting people to Alliance area jobs or to the rail link well in place.

If the infrastructure were in place, developers would have had a strong incentive to create denser housing rather than contributing to sprawl. Only with such infrastructure would homebuyers find transit more attractive than large yards requiring time-consuming maintenance, and developers would welcome the opportunity to sell more units upon a finite land constraint.

On a personal level, Johnny, I'm glad that the entire time I was growing up, I never lived more than five blocks or so from Camp Bowie or CB West. When you're a kid too young to obtain a driver's license with working parents, convenient bus service was a godsend for me. I'm sorry you don't have the mobility and independence that I had.

#9 Doug

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 08:57 AM

I am in almost complete agreement with Rob#### regarding busses over light rail. The costs for the construction alone seems to me could be better used in other areas. The major precise employment destinations here are Lockheed and DT and several large, spread out industrial areas -- Mercantile, S Freeway and Alliance. Commuter lines like TRE on existing rails could service DT to Alliance & Mercantile with shuttle/circulators service moving people within those sites; and maybe DT to Alcon, Albertosn's, Miller Brewery, & Mrs. Baird's area. Still, I'm not sure the numbers would warrant. Hub bus terminals at shopping centers could get people to/from DT to catch the rails.
Light rail for tourists could run from DT/Sundance to the Stockyards more as a novelity but possibly be well used if the Stockyards, new Mercado and LaGrave continue and prosper. Possibly using LaGrave for concerts could attract good numbers. N Main should have a good mix of business, industry, food and entertainment if development and popularity continue.
DT to the Cultural District/Zoo/Botanic Gardens is more of a circulating shuttle by its nature. Walking among the 3 museums is OK in pleasant weather, but a route stopping at each of the 5 museums, WR buildings, Gardens, and Zoo for a single round trip fare with reboarding rights from DT would appear popular for tourists and FW residents alike. Being able to get on and off at each site for free allows people to visit all museums easily. The "Trolley Bus" could leave each half hour alternating directions -- Zoo first .... Modern last and vice versa. Maybe a stop a MW shopping area could be added for DT residents. 3 stops DT seems adequate to keep things moving. This could be flexible so that if the Zoo and Garedns are closed due to weather, they could be left off the route.

#10 hipolyte

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 09:27 AM

I'm for a 'tarantula' system of light rail, radiating out in all directions. The ridership will never appear until after such a system already exists. Build it and they will come, I say.
I always rode the Tandy subway into town, but the new ITC is too far on the outskirts for me.

#11 mosteijn

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 11:56 AM

Here's a map I found on the city's website (when the fwtaa had a website, they had all the considerded alignments):

Posted Image

Most light rail is a hub and spoke system, with routes radiating out from a central location. What I've noticed is that in most city's starter projects, they begin with a spoke and gradually add spokes as the need becomes appearant. I like FW's starter project, which would add the hub first and the spokes would get longer as neccessary.

Greg, I don't understand why Fort Worth's population density wouldn't be high enough to justify a light rail line if cities like Minneapolis, Charlotte, and Tacoma all got federal funds for their systems (which start as spokes, btw). I would think Fort Worth's rapidly densifying central city would be enough to justify the light rail starter, which only runs the central city anyways. Like I said, someone needs to do a current ridership estimate.

Also, light rail doesn't include the planned Cotten Belt commuter rail and the TRE extension (along with those other green lines you can see in the map). Those are on NCTCOG's Mobility 2025 and will probably happen whether the feds fund it or not.

#12 ghughes

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 01:14 PM

Density is an underlying cause, but it's not what the decision was based on.

The rankings amoing cites has to do with existing transit use (ours is very low), projected impact on mobility (we are extrememly mobile with very little traffic congestion. The proposed system wouldn't address our traffic hot-spots), and funding (The city of Fort Worth was going to have to supply the local match which was wierd, and our local match was only 20% where most proposals have over 40% local match).

What it boils down to is that there are a lot of cities that have filled up their bus routes to the point that they NEED the added capacity that light rail provides. Federal rankings in that regard are pretty objective. We had some folks, led by our ex-mayor, who WANT light rail. But transportation professionals could not demonstrate the need, so we lost.

#13 mosteijn

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 07:03 PM

(we are extrememly mobile with very little traffic congestion. The proposed system wouldn't address our traffic hot-spots)

I don't know about that, the freeways have been getting continuously jammed as the city continues to sprawl out. Traffic on the North Freeway is especially bad (or so I hear) and other freeways don't move at all if there's an accident. Not to mention a lot of inner city arterials are crowded during peak traffic times.

Do you think the city could cover a huge chunk of the funding on a bond proposal? I'm pretty sure some money would come from the T in some form of tax or something, but judging by the looks of this poll, I think a majority of the citizens would approve a bond package including light rail.

And the T is currently in phase II or III in the Transit Alternatives Analysis, which are the phases for "public" input and the like. According to everything I've read, they should release their final analysis in October of 2005.

#14 Willy1

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 12:52 AM

I agree that FW need to build a light rail system, if for no other reason, to stay ahead of the infrastructure curve. However, they need to do some serious studies and serious planning before building it. I rode the DART rail this week in an attempt to go to the Dallas Zoo (I'd never been and wanted to see how it compares to ours - simply put, it doesn't compare at all!). Anyway, my friends and I thought it would be interesting and cheaper to park and ride DART. Okay, so we tried to park at the Dallas Convention Center thinking "they'll have to have a DART station at the Conv. Center." Well, they do, but parking is $5-$8. So, we called DART to see if there were any free park and ride lots for DART Rail. There was one at 8th and Corinth which is one station away from the Zoo station. So, we drove down there, parked, paid $2.50 for our day passes (plus another $2.00 to get rid of a persistant beggar - which is always a factor anywhere in Dallas where there is an outdoor ATM machine or anysort of machine that renders change). We boarded our train and exacly 84 seconds later we were at the Zoo. Overall, the rail train was nice - clean, safe, smooth, air conditioned, etc. However, the ordeal of trying to find a way to get to the station, park and then figure out the pain in the butt ticket system was a nightmare. Basically, all the convenience of riding the DART Rail was erased by the hassle of getting to and from the station in order to ride the rail. Add to that the "begger factor" that seems to always be an issue anytime you're in Dallas and the experience became really unpleasant.

If FW builds a LR system, they need to consider a few things. First of all, no one in a city like FW or Dallas (other than low income people who depend on public transportation) will ever give up their cars to ride the rails unless the convenience of the system is so great that people will be willing to give up driving their own cars. This means abundant FREE parking at rail stations, convenient rail stations in sensible locations with a safe place to park your car, and some sort of way to make the trains and stations feel safe and hassle free (meaning, no beggars).

Ghughes said that we'd need a population density more like that of NYC for a light rail system to be reasonable here (paraphrasing). Well, the problem is that the footprint of Manhattan is smaller than that of DFW airport. So, as extensive as the NYC Subway system is, it covers a much smaller area than one in FW would have to cover. Everyone is within walking distance to a subway station in NYC, because NYC is a pedestrian city and everyone is in walking distance to almost everything. People ride the subways in NYC for time-sake, not because it's too far to walk. Sure if you're going from downtown/Wall Street to Broadway, it make sense to jump on a train and zip uptown... but, if you had to, you could walk it... it would just take a while. Here, it would be too far to walk to downtown if you live in HEB or far West FW, or something similar. The Metroplex is a commuter city, like Los Angeles... So, the odds of light rail systems ever REALLY taking off here is really remote. Maybe in the distant future when DFW is much denser than now and driving on our overly congested, LA-like freeways is much less convenient than catching a couple buses to get to the train station... But until then, FWorthians will be FWorthians... and we'll all keep doing things like driving from one side of the parking lot at University Village to the other side of the parking lot at Univ. Village so we don't actually have to walk all the way from The Gap to Blue Mesa...

However, if they built sensible stations at places that made sense and connected them then maybe FW would have a chance at a successful light rail system. IMO, they need to build one within walking distance of North (Tandy Center???) and South ends (Convention Center) of downtown so downtown residents can walk to the stations without moving their cars. Then they need to connect those stations to destinations around the city - Ridgmar Mall, So7/Montgomery Lofts, Hulen Mall, Cultural Dist., The Zoo, LaGrave Field, Stockyards, Alliance Airport, Medical Dist., Town Center Mall, Six Flags/Ball Park at Arlington, NE mall... and so on. And, if needed, they need to construct parking garages to have plentiful parking at all stations.

#15 Rob1316

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 01:03 PM

Willy1, your story of trying to ride the DART is exactly why a light rail system is wrong. A lot of forum member talked about how rail combined with bus would be sustainable and all, but the reality is that America is a car loving, car obsessed place, and a rail system wouldn't work without offering parking. Willy goes on to seek free parking! So now we want a rail system that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and we want to give away acres of land for parking. Absurd! Rail only works in very dense areas (ie NYC) and wouldn't work in Fort Worth.
If it ever came down to it not only would I vote against rail, I would do whatever I could to stop it from being built.

#16 mosteijn

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 01:38 PM

Willy1, your story of trying to ride the DART is exactly why a light rail system is wrong. A lot of forum member talked about how rail combined with bus would be sustainable and all, but the reality is that America is a car loving, car obsessed place, and a rail system wouldn't work without offering parking. Willy goes on to seek free parking! So now we want a rail system that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and we want to give away acres of land for parking. Absurd! Rail only works in very dense areas (ie NYC) and wouldn't work in Fort Worth.
If it ever came down to it not only would I vote against rail, I would do whatever I could to stop it from being built.

Actually, given our car loving society, a rail system with adequate parking would work a million times better than a bus system because either people will use their cars or they will use the bus, but not both. If we had a rail system with park and rides everywhere, in the beginning of the system's operation, people could drive a short distance and hop on the train and get wherever they want to go. If there isn't a convenient bus route near you, you won't walk to it and you DEFINATELY won't drive to it, thus making the system unreliable.

Now, after the light rail is constructed (or during, for that matter), developers will try to capitalize on people's desire for convenience by building dense developments within a short distance from a light rail station. I'm not making that up, it's happened in virtually every city that has begun a light rail system. Like someone said earlier in this topic, it's a chicken and egg thing. Build it, and the development potential in the city will tenfold. Without it, there will never be enough demand for it.

#17 ghughes

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 05:17 PM

Ghughes said that we'd need a population density more like that of NYC for a light rail system to be reasonable here (paraphrasing).

Actually that was just for the pedestrian option. I also described using busses to feed the trains and building large parking lots. The TRE operates with feeder busses and big parking lots. DART's light rail does the same, although several downtown stops don't have parking lots so are pedestrian and bus oriented. All three of those modes work, they just require different facilities and planning.

The Mockingbird Station has a large parking lot but it also has a big mixed-use development. So, for a zoo trip, one could park over there, go to the zoo by train, then stop off for a snack and a movie before driving back to FW.

Another alternative would be to use the TRE from Fort Worth and connect to the light rail at Union Station. Then there's no worry about the parking in Big D.

#18 John T Roberts

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 05:59 PM

Another alternative would be to use the TRE from Fort Worth and connect to the light rail at Union Station. Then there's no worry about the parking in Big D.

Willy, that was going to be my suggestion for you. If I have the day to spend in Dallas and I'm not on a time schedule that conflicts with the TRE, that is my preferred way to travel over there. I also know of a few cheap downtown lots where I park if I drive.

#19 Rob1316

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 02:19 PM

Jonnyrules23

So your proposing to build a system where people drive to huge free parking lots to take a train to take them to where? Downtown where are huge parking lots (free on nights and weekends) Sounds good, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a billion dollars!

One other question, where did they build a light rail system with developers clamoring to build high density developments along beside the rails stations. I bet you couldn't name one that wasn't build without HUGE grants!

#20 mosteijn

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 04:14 PM

Jonnyrules23

So your proposing to build a system where people drive to huge free parking lots to take a train to take them to where? Downtown where are huge parking lots (free on nights and weekends) Sounds good, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a billion dollars!

No, I'm proposing a system that has adequate parking in the suburbs that will take people to downtown and other central city locations where the parking isn't adequate any more because all the lots have been developed (due to the fact the rail exists). I'd rather have a billion dollars spent on that than, let's say, a new freeway. It's better than a bus system where suburbanites would have to walk miles to the nearest bus station so that they can go downtown where there is adequate parking because nothing has developed (due to the lack of rail). :mad:

One other question, where did they build a light rail system with developers clamoring to build high density developments along beside the rails stations. I bet you couldn't name one that wasn't build without HUGE grants!

First of all, ALL transit systems in the entire United States are funded by grants given out by the FTA. Yes, bus systems, NYC's subways, light rail, Chicago's El... And as for naming a system with high density developments, um, ever heard of DART??? The huge Mockingbird Station development would have never existed had it not been for DART, as would many of high density developments that have sprung up in near north Dallas (West Village, Knox-Henderson, Victory). That's just one example, in reality this happens in almost all modern day light rail systems. Houston, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, etc.

#21 ghughes

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 10:36 PM

Downtown where are huge parking lots (free on nights and weekends)

That's a very good point. The abundance of cheap/free downtown parking inhibits transit growth.

But this is also where things get dicey. Because in an auto-centric place like Fort Worth, there is no way to grow the sort of thing going on downtown without people being able to get there in a car and then park for nothing. Otherwise they'll go to the malls. Sorry, that's who we live with. :mad:

But the success of our downtown will eventually make parking a pretty poor use for land. In other words, there will be better money to be made from some other activity on the property... residential, commercial, office, a mix, whatever. "Highest and best use" in the jargon of real estate. And as parking lots are converted to buildings, or garages are torn down and replaced by something else, the price of parking will climb. One of those supply and demand things.

Higher priced parking encourages transit use. Again, economics at work.

But the trick is the gradual conversion without a loss of downtown appeal. Because if getting there becomes too much of a hassle, the malls pick up customers at downtown's expense. Hence, the big parking lots at rail stations. A necessary evil.

Then, even those places become destinations. Johnny points out good examples. Development follows traffic, and if enough people are changing modes (i.e. car to rail) the locations become opportuities for the service sector: dry cleaners, restaurants, etc. None of it happens fast, but it's pretty inevitable.

#22 normanfd

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 12:58 AM

Another factor to consider is the production of oil and gasoline. The opening of Chinese and Indian markets to free market capitalism has resulted in phenomenal economic growth in both countries, each of which are home to more than a billion people. In China alone, if gross domestic production per capita were to be raised to even the level of Mexico, world oil production must double to meet that demand. The resources simply are not affordable at present levels, and the effect on the atmosphere's carbon balance would be disasterous if they were.

Apart from oil production, gasoline production is a separate matter. The US hasn't built a new gasoline refinery in over 30 years--in fact, we've dismantled some over that time for environmental reasons. The prospects of building new ones are bleak, as communities in this country invariably take a "Not In My Back Yard" (NIMBY) attitude. We are now a net importer of gasoline, with the deficit being purchased from Europe. The EU won't be able to produce at a surplus much longer, either.

Mexico is no help. Mexico actually delivers oil to the US to be transported back to Mexico as gasoline, because they produce less gasoline than they consume. The prospect of building gasoline refineries suffers from the NIMBY phenomenon in an increasingly democratic Mexico as it does in the US. Also, most third world refineries do not produce the strict grades the EPA requires in American urban environments to reduce tail pipe emmissions. Let's consider, too, that gasoline produced in the third world woul have tremendous trans-oceanic trasportaion costs. None of this factors in political issues such as Arab hostility to our nations' policies, political instability in countries such as Venezuela and Nigeria, or hybrid vehicles that will only be available to the truly wealthy in the short term.

Europe has traditionally placed high taxes upon gasoline, and used the money to build and encourage mass transit. As oil and gas prices go up, Europe will have the luxury of moving their tax structures elsewhere to other sectors of their economy, as well as reducing entitlements long considered excessive in the US, and provide relief for rising prices, since they already have thair basic infrastructure in place. The US will have no such luxury.

Every serious analysis I've read is that the high gas prices we've experienced this summer is something to get used to in the long term. Anywhere's from 3-7 years from now, the prices we're presently experiencing will be considered low, even a market blip if you will. Also, get used to the idea of paying tolls more frequently to get anywhere.

In other words, having efficient rail and bus mass transit will be a demanded commodity in the future, and will be a marketing point for cities competing for jobs. Oil and gas prices will dictate consumer preferences regarding mass transit. The old paradigm that Americans won't let go of their cars will be driven by the same market forces that put them off the trolleys and into their cars in the first place half a century ago.The question is, do we begin building this system while transportation monies are available, or do we wait until we're competing with many much smaller cities for those funds?

Even now, Fort Worth is in the minority of the nation's 20 largest cities in not providing rail transit, while much smaller cities such as Salt Lake City run effective systems. Fort Worth really needs to get on the ball on rail transit.

#23 gdvanc

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 11:30 AM

...or hybrid vehicles that will only be available to the truly wealthy in the short term.


Woo-hoo! I drive a Prius! Please don't tell my wife I'm truly wealthy until I've had a chance to find where all that money has been hiding.

#24 mosteijn

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 01:08 PM

Even now, Fort Worth is in the minority of the nation's 20 largest cities in not providing rail transit, while much smaller cities such as Salt Lake City run effective systems. Fort Worth really needs to get on the ball on rail transit.

You're right, norm. I made a list of the 30 largest cities, and which ones have a rail system either existing, u/c, or approved (as in an actual system proposal with funding):

1 New York
2 Los Angeles
3 Chicago
4 Houston
5 Philadelphia
6 Phoenix
7 San Diego
8 San Antonio
9 Dallas
10 Detroit
11 San Jose
12 Indianapolis
13 Jacksonville (monorail)
14 San Francisco
15 Columbus
16 Austin
17 Memphis
18 Baltimore
19 Milwaukee
20 Fort Worth
21 Charlotte
22 El Paso
23 Boston
24 Seattle
25 Washington D.C.
26 Denver
27 Nashville
28 Portland
29 Oklahoma City
30 Las Vegas (monorail)

Then there's tons of other systems in smaller cities (like Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Long Beach, Miami, etc.) IMO, this shouldn't be a case of demand and supply, we should be thinking about our future and supplying the city with a means to grow smarter. Has there ever been an actual light rail vote in Fort Worth? I don't recall one, but it could have slipped my mind. If not, I hope the first proposal the T makes is met with support.

#25 360texas

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 01:56 PM

? is #25 Washington = Washington D.C ?

Dave still at

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Visit 360texas.com


#26 mosteijn

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 02:37 PM

Yeah, I'll add D.C. in so there's no confusion.

#27 tcole

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 03:26 PM

Interesting list Jonny. What would be MORE interesting is to see that list coded in just two colors devided between the cities where ridership is sufficient to maintain the TOTAL cost of the systems and those where it is not.

And, "supply and demand" matters a great deal more than you are willing to accommodate. For an explanation, re-read almost any of Dis' treatises on the subject of statism/capitalism.

#28 mosteijn

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 03:42 PM

What I meant to say was that if the city doesn't supply this form of transit, chances are the demand for it will never exist. The majority of people who use light rail transit in other sunbelt cities live in urban neigborhoods that have sprung up because the rail lines are there. There was never overwhelming demand for these neigborhoods nor the rail, but they've been succesful because someone was willing to take the first step. Basically someone supplied and the demand rose, not the usual way it works, where someone only supplies a product because overwhelming market demand is there.

#29 gdvanc

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 06:31 PM

What would be MORE interesting is to see that list coded in just two colors devided between the cities where ridership is sufficient to maintain the TOTAL cost of the systems and those where it is not.

I'll throw out the operating profit/loss for the top five. I'll use green to indicate transit systems with a net operating profit and red to indicate transit systems with a net operating loss:

1. New York
2. Los Angeles
3. Chicago
4. Houston
5. Philadelphia


But I'm sure they have challenges that we don't face and our inexperience will allow us to think outside the box and not make the same mistakes they made and we can do this profitably.



The numbers, for those interested:
1. New York - I used the summary from the NY's MTA 2003 Annual Report --- Operating Revenue $4,553 million; Operating Expenses $7,580 million; Operating Loss $3,027 million. Or $3 billion, if you prefer. Ouch. From what I could tell, half or more of the loss was from NYCTransit. Maybe they're just too dense for the transit thing to be profitable.

2. Los Angeles - I couldn't find numbers for LADOT, so I've used the LA County MTA figures. For the year ended 6/2003: Charges for services: $247,426 thousand; Operating Grants and Contributions: $109,491 thousand. Expenses: $2,202,800 thousand. Okay, so they lost some money, too. Break it down: Bus operations generated fares of $247,426 thousand on expenses of $840,577 thousand. Rail operations generated fares of $33,240 thousand on expenses of $398,679 thousand. Not really that good when you think about it.

3. Chicago - CTA 2003 projected figures: Operating Revenues: $440,203 thousand; Operating expenses: $893,691 thousand; Operating Loss: $453,488 thousand.

4. Houston - MTA of Harris County for year ended 9/03: Total Operating Revenue: $47,347,220; Total Operating Expenses: $395,584,076; Operating Loss: $348,236,856.

5. Philadelphia - well, the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority anyway - FY2003: Total Operating Revenue: $416,690 thousand; Total Expenses: $843,064 thousand; Deficit Before Subsidy: $426,374 thousand.


Extra Credit
The following numbers are from CTA's annual report and were offered as comparison of their performance. I'm not sure what years they used and such:

CITY (SYSTEM).............FARE REV ...OP. EXP. ..RECOVERY
---------------------------------------------------------
CHICAGO (CTA).............$375,655 ...$895,802 .. 41.94%
NEW YORK CITY (NYCTA)...$2,128,531 .$3,730,126 .. 57.06%
WASHINGTON D.C. (WMATA)...$375,184 ...$802,608 .. 46.75%
PHILADELPHIA (SEPTA)......$296,000 ...$718,097 .. 41.22%
BOSTON (MBTA).............$304,112 ...$743,143 .. 40.92%
ATLANTA (MARTA)...........$101,278 ...$334,702 .. 30.26%
SAN FRANCISCO (MUNI)......$104,155 ...$409,448 .. 25.44%
LOS ANGELES (LACMTA)......$213,530 ...$746,341 .. 28.61%
SAN FRANCISCO (BART)......$213,260 ...$334,084 .. 63.83%
NEW YORK (PATH)............$97,468 ...$158,089 .. 61.65%
CLEVELAND (GCRTA)..........$41,124 ...$228,951 .. 17.96%

(Numbers in 1,000s)


#30 normanfd

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:23 PM

This is a strange argument. Sure, transit allows alternatives to sprawl, while I-35W has helped promote sprawl in both the far north and towards Burleson. Yet despite its heavy ridership, I don't ever recall hearing about when I-35W began operating for a profit. Why are some forms of transportation considered basic infrastructure that taxpayers must pay for, even if they never use, while others are expected to pay for themselves?

Also, was it the public or the airlines that spent the bulk of the money to build DFW airport? Does the FAA or the airlines provide the flight controllers? Whose money was spent to bail out the airlines when they're threatened with bankruptcy? Why is rail the red-headed stepchild among transportation nodes that uniquely is required to pay for itself when all other modes are not expected to?

#31 ghughes

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:58 PM

Right... and what's the operating loss on gasoline if one considers a few extra carrier task forces and other military costs that keep the sea lanes open for oil? You're off into some mega-accounting for all that.

But to the subject at hand: like most other public entities, public transportation requires public participation. No news there. I can't remember the city in Brazil, but there is one that operates without a subsidy. For the rest of the world public transportation has been judged to be worth the support.

Consider: What police department operates without a subsidy? How about a sewer system? Library? Parks?

If we live in a city, we live in a collective. We choose to bind ourselves with the others and pool certain resources and make the place as nice as we can. Granted, it's not explicit and there's no written contract. Perhaps there ought to be so we would understand what we get ourselves into. Maybe then more citizens would take an active role.

But Fort Worth does need to decide on some growth strategies unless we're just going to kick back and let it happen without any planning. And the transit mode question is real. It's just more complicated than stating "bus" or "rail."

#32 gdvanc

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:47 AM

This is a strange argument.



For my part, I am not trying to make an argument. Frankly, I'm a fan of rail and if I could ride it to work I would.

Whether you are for or against rail in FW, it makes sense to have some idea of the potential cost. If you are for rail, it is a mistake to say that rail is worth the subsidy without some idea how much the subsidy is likely to be and without giving some thought to how you're going to pay for it. Any operating loss has to come from somewhere - through some combination of new city or transit authority receipts, or through reduced expenses in other areas. Based on some of the data given above, that deficit could realistically be in the neighborhood of $100 - $300 million. If you think it's worth it, that's great. However, in case you want to sell the plan to your fellow taxpayers it might not be a bad idea to consider coming up with some sort of pro forma projections for net new tax revenues the rail will generate and where you would cut existing spending in case those revenues don't quite cover the costs.

Sure, transit allows alternatives to sprawl, while I-35W has helped promote sprawl in both the far north and towards Burleson. Yet despite its heavy ridership, I don't ever recall hearing about when I-35W began operating for a profit. Why are some forms of transportation considered basic infrastructure that taxpayers must pay for, even if they never use, while others are expected to pay for themselves?


Yes, I-35W promotes sprawl. However, connecting people in Burleson to the jobs at Miller Brewery and Panhandle Slim is not the primary purpose of I-35W. That's just a side effect. The benefit of I-35W (and the interstate highway system as a whole) is primarily more efficient interstate commerce. Of course, there are also benefits in the areas of defense, emergency management, and so on.

I don't know that I can come up with reasonable numbers for how much we spend locally for our portion of the interstates and it would certainly be difficult to estimate the financial benefit we receive from them. But I can stop and try to imagine what would happen if we closed our portion of the interstates and did something with all that subsidy money we'd be saving. When I picture that, my own gut instinct is that doing so would be a bad financial decision. Something tells me there would be a significant adverse impact on our local economy that, in strictly financial terms, would be far greater than whatever subsidy we'd be saving. So, based on that sort of analysis, I think we're coming out ahead on the interstate thing.

Also, was it the public or the airlines that spent the bulk of the money to build DFW airport? Does the FAA or the airlines provide the flight controllers? Whose money was spent to bail out the airlines when they're threatened with bankruptcy?


The airlines don't actually own the airport so I don't know why they would be expected to spend the bulk of the money to build it. Actually, they are customers of the airport and pay landing fees, parking fees, leases, and so forth for the benefit of using its facilities.

As with the interstates, the entire region has obviously benefitted enormously from the existence of DFW. Unless someone can demonstrate otherwise, I'll have to believe that we have beneffited financially quite a bit more than we've invested financially. And last time I checked (FY2003), DFW was generating an operating profit.

In 2003, about 75% of the cost of the FAA, including its controllers, was paid for by such things as passenger ticket taxes, international departure taxes, fuel taxes, waybill taxes, and so on - in other words, by those primarily using the controllers and other FAA-provided services. The rest, of course, was largely covered by federal appropriations. Of course, we all benefit from an orderly and relatively efficient (compared to what we would have without controllers) airway system so it's not completely unreasonable that we cover some of the cost. And those few airlines that can actually manage to make money are paying as well.

Why is rail the red-headed stepchild among transportation nodes that uniquely is required to pay for itself when all other modes are not expected to?


If local and regional transit expenditures receive more scrutiny, it's probably because there is an alternative already in place. Of course, that alternative also requires continued investment as local and regional needs grow - and you can certainly argue that there are costs that are not fully considered when we decide to build roads. But you have a deeply ingrained mindset to work against. It's one thing to talk voters into spending millions of dollars on a parkway that will obviously be well-used (regardless of who really profits the most, how little those that pay are getting in return, and the opportunity costs and externalities involved). It's another to ask for the same amount of money for a rail system that many are convinced will never be used.

Whether or not roads are better investments, they are the default and accepted solution in this area. They don't have to win against an established mindset. If you are ever going to win this debate where it matters, you'll have to move beyond the "build it and they will come" cliché and fuzzy "smart growth" theories and hit them with something more concrete.

#33 gdvanc

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 02:21 AM

Right... and what's the operating loss on gasoline if one considers a few extra carrier task forces and other military costs that keep the sea lanes open for oil? You're off into some mega-accounting for all that.


I don't know that it takes a few extra carrier task forces to keep the sea lanes open for oil. In the first place, the purposes of the Navy (and other military costs) go well beyond protecting the sea lanes. There's coastal and homeland security, power projection, the occasional ceremonial gig, and so on. It doesn't take mega-accounting. You could probably do it with activity-based costing. The cost of whatever effort the Navy has to put into chasing those feisty little buccaneers is probably a fairly small part of the overall naval budget - and it would have to be spread out proportionally over all imports, exports, and cruises being protected.

And don't forget that if protection is necessary, there must be some sort of threat. Presumably without the protection that threat would be realized in the form of pirated or otherwise pilfered petroleum - the cost of which, of course, would ultimately show up at the pump. So you'll need to adjust your cost of protection accordingly.

But to the subject at hand: like most other public entities, public transportation requires public participation. No news there. I can't remember the city in Brazil, but there is one that operates without a subsidy.


One? One in the whole freakin' world? Nice.

For the rest of the world public transportation has been judged to be worth the support.


Sure. For some existing infrastructure for alternatives is less developed. For some the price of buying and operating cars is higher. In some countries and Massachussetts the preferred solution for all of their problems is to tax the ever-living crap out of their citizens and have the nanny state take care of it all. Hell, some people like Uzo. Greg, you know that kind of argument won't get you nowheres here in Fort Worth. People here don't give a mouse's bottom what the smarty-pants in France are doing about transit. Or really much of anything else for that matter.

Consider: What police department operates without a subsidy? How about a sewer system? Library? Parks?


Apples and orangutans, GH. I think people can do a decent "with/without" analysis in their head for a police department and probably for sewer systems as well. People have some fairly concrete notion about the benefits. And people are comfortable by now with a feeling for the benefits of libraries and parks - even if you can argue that it's just because they're accustomed to having them more than it is that they are cost-effective in whatever they provide. Trains just don't have that advantage around here.

If we live in a city, we live in a collective.


If you say so, comrade!

We choose to bind ourselves with the others and pool certain resources and make the place as nice as we can. Granted, it's not explicit and there's no written contract. Perhaps there ought to be so we would understand what we get ourselves into. Maybe then more citizens would take an active role.

But Fort Worth does need to decide on some growth strategies unless we're just going to kick back and let it happen without any planning. And the transit mode question is real. It's just more complicated than stating "bus" or "rail."


Again, I'm all for trains. But we've got to come up with better arguments or we don't have a prayer.

#34 tcole

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 10:51 AM

Basically someone supplied and the demand rose, not the usual way it works, where someone only supplies a product because overwhelming market demand is there.


Jonny:

Time for some education son. As I have stated and demonstrated on another thread many months back, NEVER in the annals of human economic activity has supply EVER driven demand. And it did not in your examples. The demand was present, as evidenced by the sales/leases of those properties that were developed. Now, the creation of the rail did act as a complimentary element which elevated the perceived value of any developed RE units (and profit potential to the developer) to thus spur a "motivation" to provide a supply of said units to satisfy that demand. In economics parlance, the price delta of the units that could be supplied (a perception) has forced a shift in the supply curve which makes it profitable for the developer to supply a smaller number of units actually demanded, but a supply nonetheless. I think that demand exists today for urban neighborhoods in FW. Rail might elevate the perceived value in the ST in such a way as to accelerate their development, but that development does not in itself ensure that sufficient demand will thus arise for the rail. We do not see a developed demand for high end urban living in S. Dallas even though DART has provided a supply of rail transit. The reason; there just is not sufficient demand for an urban neighborhood there to begin with - at least not at levels that would make such development economically feasible. In essence, any perceived price delta is not sufficient to shift the supply curve enough to make the enterprise worthwhile.

Basically, the fallacy of your argument is that you are trying to logically prove that supply of "X"(rail transit) created demand of "Y"(urban neighborhoods) which therefore creates demand for "X"(rail transit). If that were true, then the erection of a major international airport in Wink is going to thus create a demand for international flights to and from Wink which will thus yield demand for the airport as evidenced by travelers using said international airport. As a very bright economics professor of mine at Rice once quipped, "the notion that supply drives demand is analogous to attempting to push a quarter across a glass tabletop with a wet noodle." Whereas the wet noodle (supply) could be easily pulled by the quarter (demand) across the table - in essence, demand ALWAYS drives supply.

#35 ghughes

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 11:47 AM

Well stated, tcole. We probably ought to post a copy of that to the Rail Market discussion, too. It would go a long way toward explaining the (lack of) performance.

Have you ever considered making yourself available to our City Council as an advisor? From the look of some recent decisions (such as the Target grocery store subsidy) they could use some help in understanding economics.

#36 mosteijn

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 12:18 PM

Thanks for the explanation, tcole! I honestly have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to economics (money as a whole, for that matter). Perhaps it's just because I'm inexperienced in the whole way the consumer world works since I haven't had a chance to be a part of it yet. I guess I'll have to wait till I fail economics 3 times to finally understand :mad:

So, if the demand for urban living can be a factor in light rail, how long is it going to take for Fort Worth to be "urban" enough for light rail to be justifiable? And how in the world do places like Tacoma and Salt Lake City have voter approved light rail before Fort Worth?

#37 Margo

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:15 PM

Jonny-

Salt Lake City and Tacoma's "invisible hand" moves faster than Fort Worth's "invisible hand." Hopefully, Fort Worth will learn from the light rail mistakes made in Houston.

-Margo

#38 tcole

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:25 PM

Jonny:

If Paschal offers economics as an elective, I would encourage you to take it in your HS experience. Furthermore, I would recommend that you take at least 1 basic econ and 1 accounting class in college, regardless of your major - it will serve you immeasurably in your life regardless of what you plan to do.

As to why SLC or Tacoma may have light rail while we do not - their voters were more amenable to the arguments for than the arguments against. Further, there may exist some economic conditions that would justify light rail there in the form of better density due to scarcity of available and developable land. Both examples lie in valleys hemmed in by mountains on one side and major bodies of water on the other. So, until the cost of development out (sprawl) exceeds the cost of development up (urbanity), rail really is tough to justify. In FW's case, the new Venice-like proposal for the Trinity River and perhaps some expansion of that toward the Cultural District could very well over the next 2 or so decades create a change in demand through perception that would create an urban environment where rail would become more and more attractive as a transportation alternative. Houston is beginning to see this in their "inner loop" area due to perception which is creating denser and denser real estate development. Eventually - within that area (and that area only) rail will make sense as an alternative transportation option.

But other factors then arise that may be too detailed to get into without emulating the great Dis. Basically, if a community is going to engage in the construction of something like rail transit, a good many constituencies (voters) have to be addressed and satisfied which often create the proverbial "camel" when it comes to the final design for said project.

#39 mosteijn

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:36 PM

If Paschal offers economics as an elective, I would encourage you to take it in your HS experience. Furthermore, I would recommend that you take at least 1 basic econ and 1 accounting class in college, regardless of your major - it will serve you immeasurably in your life regardless of what you plan to do.

Actually, a semester of basic economics is mandatory here :mad: I know it's going to be beneficial, but I can guarantee you I will make bad grades in that class.

#40 ghughes

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:36 PM

Margo: Houston's mistakes? Please add detail. I thought their mistake was having a suburban congressman with a hostility toward Houston Metro. So they've had to fund the rail startup with purely local dollars. But I haven't followed it since they started running.

#41 tcole

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:40 PM

Greg:

Perhaps Margo is referring to the lack of ability to cope with the transit trains by Houston drivers. I saw some stat the other day that rail/auto accidents in Houston (specific to their light rail system) run 20-25X greater than similar cities with similar systems.

#42 normanfd

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:58 PM

The biggest problem with Houston's system is that their rail cars and passenger vehicles keep colliding with each other at a phenomenal rate.

#43 ghughes

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 02:46 PM

If it's really the kind of multiple that tcole mentions, there must be a design flaw at a system level for the rail.

I will grant that, when it comes to driving, Houston is the Boston of Texas. But it can't just be driver error producing that kind of result. That is, unless Houston's overall accident rate is 20 times the national average. Which I doubt.

#44 Margo

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 03:16 PM

Thomas-

I was actually referring to the light rail expansion funding issues in Houston. I believe in Nov. 2003 or possibly Mar. 2004 I read where the light rail expansion funding passed by an extremely narrow margin. I'm not sure why 48 % of Harris County citizens were content to have a rail line that only served the downtown area and medical center.

I hope I see the day when light rail runs between DFW and Houston. Can you imagine? If that rail route is ever resurrected, I'm sure Southwest Airlines will lobby against it as they did in the mid 90's.


-Margo

#45 tcole

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 04:38 PM

Margo:

You are referring to the Texas TGV project which was high speed rail, not light rail. And Herb's opposition was justified b/c the initial proposal called for the state to levy tax impositions on air passengers (I cannot remember if it was direct or indirect in the form of fuel surcharges) to subsidize the initial loan guarantees for the rail initiative. At the same time, why would Southwest not attempt to protect its market share of travelers within Texas? B/c Texas TGV was seeking state funds/loan guarantees; Southwest was well within their right to lobby as well against it. Had Texas TGV attempted to go at it with purely private capital, SW as well as the other airlines would have had to compete in the travel marketplace. But it is disingenuous to argue that SW was somehow acting suspiciously by lobbying in the political arena where TGV was making its proposals. My best friend worked on the offering documents for their underwriting proposal and he grudgingly admits (he is the ultimate RR fan) that the costs probably were just too high given the economies of scale at the time. The project was about 25 years early in his opinion (I think more like 40).

As to why 48% of Harris County voters would vote against additional local funding, it may be that those individuals came to a logical conclusion that Houston's population and commercial densities outside of downtown and the midtown corridor to the Med Center simply would not sufficiently support light rail transit. Or, they may have looked at the figures Greg provided showing op expenses running north of 7X revenue from rider ship.

#46 Margo

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 05:21 PM

Thomas-

Thank you for the specifics on the DFW/Houston rail. I never meant to imply SWA acted inappropriate. I wholeheartedly understand why they lobbied against such rail.

I travel between the two cities 3-4 times a month. I struggle with the decision to drive or fly. I cannot begin to tell you how many hours I've spent in the SWA terminal at Hobby and Love. SWA flight cancellations have significantly increased since 9/11. I've noticed a trend with their cancellations. Beware the half hour flights departing from Hobby or Love. They are usually the first flights that are cancelled.

Several times when I've driven, it's taken me longer to get from the Houston Galleria area to Huntsville then it has taken me to complete the last leg of the drive from Huntsville to D/FW. I've concluded there really is no easy way to get to Houston.

SWA has a great reward program. I'm well supplied in SWA Rapid Reward tickets. The Wright Amendment severely limits my ability to redeem the tickets. Traveling from Love to NYC (via Long Island) is an all day affair and requires the use of 4 "free tickets."

Perhaps my newborn nephew's children's children will benefit from the rail system between DFW/Houston and the abolishment of the Wright Amendment.

-Margo

#47 John T Roberts

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 08:39 PM

Margo, when you drive, have you tried I-35 to Waco, then TX 6 to US 290 to I-610? That will put you on 610 just a little north of the Galleria. I have made that route faster than some of my trips on I-45. However, I haven't driven it in a few years, so I don't know if there is any road construction that might delay your trip.

#48 tcole

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 09:38 PM

Margo:

John is right - sort of. It really all depends what day and what part of the day you will be traveling into/out of Houston. I lived there for 7 years and will probably be moving back next year (and still travel down there quite a bit). If you are leaving Houston after about 3 pm on weekdays, fly. Prior to 3 pm weekdays, take I45 out (290 has some construction outside of CyFair). If leaving on a Saturday, any driving route will work - no traffic. Sundays, particularly afternoon, take 45.

When going to Houston, if you are going to be ariving in the afternoon, take the I35/6/290 option except fridays when 45 is probably better. Saturdays are virtually the same as if leaving Houston. Sundays are best to stick to the I 45 route. Also, if driving into Houston after a 3 day weekend/holiday (ex. Labor Day), make sure you hit the outskirts of Houston (from any direction) before 2:30 pm or after 8:30 pm.

In essense, if you are traveling from FW to Houston (and vice versa), and you stick to these guidelines, your door to door (in my case AH to River Oaks) is going to be about 20 minutes faster driving than flying out of DAL, and dead even if out of DFW. If you live in Dallas flying makes more sense as does it if one leg is going to be a departure from Houston post 3 pm on weekdays.

#49 normanfd

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 12:04 AM

While we're still off topic here, I might mention that for those who are travelling recreationally with no time constraints have other options as well. My favorite route is to take SH 171 from Hillsboro to Mexia, and then FM 39, which parallels I-45, until either due west of Madisonville or Huntsville from which you can alternately get back on I-45 or find another route through the many newer farm to market roads connecting to the major highways serving Houston from the northwest.

Farm Road 39 is a welcome alternative to I-45. Not only does it run a parallel route, but it has almost no traffic, runs along a railroad right-of-way with no serious curves or steep grades, but also it has no stop lights. You will have, at most, the occasional stop sign in the center of towns along the way--none of which is more than just a few hundred people in population (my favorite is, of course, Normangee).

The route is also very scenic.

#50 hipolyte

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 07:49 AM

The off topic digression actually makes a valid point 'on topic'. The point is that the highway system is laid out in such a dense web, that there are multiple ways to move from any given point to any other by automobile.
Is that bad? I like to drive, so I enjoy all the benefits of the roadway system. Could, in the beginning, anyone have predicted the awsome amount of money it would take to build it, or possibly have been able to justify the expense to the public? I doubt it.
The justification doesn't really have anything to do with it in my opinion. Nor does the cost. People build what they want to build, and it's the 'want' that matters.
I still like the old plan ( from the 50's or 60's?) that called for making downtown pedestrian only. Surround Fort Worth with underground parking lots and mass transit hubs, make the current street grid into wide tree lined avenues and parks, and provide moving sidewalks, or some such people moving scheme.
How's that for off topic?
B)




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