Transit Demand and Commuter Rail Growth

This paper describes how, when Pushkarev and Zupan published Transportation and Land Use Policy in 1977, the data indicated that cities the size of Toronto and larger could be expected to provide commuter rail service. The critical variables were a downtown of seventy million square feet or larger. Therefore, the commuter rail systems which grew in Los Angeles (Metrolink), San Diego (Coaster), Dallas - Fort Worth (TRE), San Francisco, San Jose (Caltrain), Seattle (Sounder), Washington D.C. (VRE, MARC), and Miami (Tri Rail) were predicted by that research and the commuter rail lines planned for Charlotte and Minneapolis will meet that criteria by opening day. Commuter rail has proved more “In Demand” than that prediction. Albuquerque, Austin, Columbus, Denton County, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Nashville, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, St. Paul, Salt Lake City and San Antonio are among the cities planning or developing commuter rail lines. What caused the broader demand? Why commuter rail? For most cities the low cost per mile makes commuter rail an obvious alternative. Cities that outgrew freeway only transportation, but did not project sufficient cost-benefit or demand for light rail, leaned toward commuter rail. In many cities that were considering transit alternatives, the presence of an easily accessible freight rail line made commuter rail even more tempting. Dallas- Fort Worth and Nashville both took advantage of short line freight corridors for their initial line. The safety and engineering issues were similar to projects in main line freight corridors, but the potential for delay and frustration were not. The trends which will continue to increase the prevalence of new start commuter rail systems are both simple and misunderstood: autos, income, population, freeway congestion, and basic economics of urban site rents. The interstate freeway “New Start” period for cities of 50,000 or more has ended. Yes, freeways will be widened, toll roads will continue, but never in United States. The slowing of this capacity side has become obvious to many in public policy sectors. Each of these trends points to the faster growth of commuter rail in the next two decades than has been seen to date.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 5p
  • Monograph Title: Rail Transit Conference Proceedings, 2005

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01002158
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 1931594155
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 20 2005 12:57PM