Tag Archives: railroad

“Record 10.7 Billion Trips Taken On U.S. Public Transportation In 2013”

Record 10.7 Billion Trips Taken On U.S. Public Transportation In 2013.

Much good news here, but I think APTA buries the lede.  “Most since 1957” sounds good until you adjust for population growth – many more rides per capita than now.  And no, I was not riding transit that year.

To me, the bigger deal is that since 1995 transit ridership is up 37.2% while population is only up 20.3%.  That means the number of trips per capita is rising and that’s a good thing.  Transit is even outpacing VMT which grew at 22.7% over the same period.

One thing thing that bugs me is the emphasis on mode.   Except for the fact that commuter trains generally serve suburbs and heavy rail usually serves large cities, mode doesn’t tell you a lot.

(Also remember that these are “unlinked trips” – if a passenger’s journey to work requires her to take a bus to the subway, that’s two trips.)

Fire! Huh heh heh. Yeah.

Metra Tower A-2, image (c)Marshall W. Beecher

This is awesome. I was a regular Metra UP-West line rider when I lived in Chicago and used to see this on evenings just like the one in the image. The interlocking (a railroad junction) A-2 was always a hoot to pass through at night in the winter (which would describe my usual 5:09 departure from the North Western Station) when they had these going.

You could tell who was a regular rider and who was a tourist – “OMG! THE TRACKS ARE ON FIRE!!!

Um, actually, no.

Well, actually yes, but it’s OK.

Generally, heaters like this have been replaced with gas-fired hot air blowers to keep switches clear but, like position-light and color-position-light signals — both shown here! — they’ve mostly disappeared.

This image is looking almost due east from Western Ave, which passes under just about the spot where there is a gap in the fires.  Metra UP-West  trains use the four ex-C&NW tracks to the left that start at what was the North Western station.  The Metra Milwaukee West- and North Districts, and the Metra North Central Service (and Amtrak’s Empire Builder and Hiawathas) all cross from the right in the distance, on three (or four?) tracks that started a Union Station, through the interlocking and then head NW using ex-Milwaukee Road tracks which would be to the left of the photographer. 

The Pennsylvania position-light signal (three yellow bulbs in a vertical configuration indicating “clear”) is there because the Pennsy’s Panhandle route also joined this line from the right just behind the photographer.  Their passenger trains from that line once made their way to Union Station this way although most Pennsy trains (like the Broadway Ltd) took a different route to get to the south side of Union Station.

There is a plan to move this interlocking (“A-2”) a mile or so in the direction of the image towards the Loop (making it “A-1”) so that they can have more room to spread things out.  This should mean that trains will be able to get through the junction a little faster.  Trains from Union Station crossing here are limited to about 15 mph. 

Oh, and behind the photographer is the Metra California Ave yard that maintains cars and engines from the UP lines and behind and to the left, is the Metra Western Ave yard that does the same for the Milwaukee Districts and North Central Service.

Here’s a map and link to lots of nerd pics.

Rapid Transit in NYC

Those of you in the Infrastructure class saw most of this already …

Beach Pneumatic – Alfred Beach’s Pneumatic Subway and the beginnings of rapid transit in New York

Jim E and I were yakking after class about NYC and how much of an outlier it is compared to the rest of the country — e.g., the IRT Lexington Ave line carries more passengers in a day (1.9M) than Boston’s MBTA (~1.3M)  and more than the Washington, DC, Metro system (~750k) and  the SF Muni (~700k) combined [1]) —  and the conversation did, of course, roll around to rapid transit.

I used to be on a train-related mailing list with a fellow named Joe Brennan who does similar work as me but at Columbia College in NYC.  He put together a great web-based “book” about the history of rapid transit in New York and surroundings (remember, Brooklyn was a separate city before 1898 and Queens was a county full of rural towns).  If you’re into that kind of stuff (I am, obviously, and so is Jim and probably Patrick) it’s a good read if a little long.

I think I like the work because it’s much more historical than it is nostalgic and lord knows there is plenty of railroad nostalgia stuff out there.  :eyeroll:

There are a few other “outlier” examples cluttering my head but I’ll save that for another post.

Bottom line is that when you hear someone say “Yeah, well in New York City they …” you should be skeptical of whatever the person says next!

Sidewalk Census

Short article on a program beginning in San Diego, Calif, where they are mapping all city sidewalks.  They assume that there are 5,000 miles of them, because there are 2,500 miles of city streets … but they really don’t know.

San Diego Doesn’t Know How Many Sidewalks It Has

Interestingly (or “amazingly”, if you are as cynical as I am) the City of Norman has already done this, at least for most of the city.  I can’t, however, find a map though I saw it at the city’s presentation on the Comprehensive Traffic Plan.  I did find this report, however, on progress expanding the sidewalk network.  Progress on getting existing sidewalks ADA compliant as well.

2013-08-26 CPT.pdf 

Note, too, mention of creating a Railroad Quiet Zone from Acres St to Post Oak Rd.  Some grade crossings are already compliant with what is needed, Duffy St being one.  Next time you pass that way, note the medians and “four quadrant” gates.