Riding out of town on a rail

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On April 24, INCOG, the regional planning agency, is presenting a program to "begin a community dialogue about transportation options, including rail," although from the description, it looks like rail will be the predominant topic:

What about RAIL?

Public Open House
Jazz Hall of Fame at Union Station
Tulsa, OK
April 24, 2008
6 p.m. - 8 p.m.

What would it take to implement a successful regional transportation system with multiple transportation options, including rail?

What is the relationship between development and rail?

How have other cities addressed these questions?

You are invited, along with experts from Denver, Austin, Portland, and the Federal Transit Administration, to discuss these questions and others to begin a community dialogue about transportation options, including rail.

at Union Station
111 E First Street
Tulsa, OK 74103
Map and Directions

Refreshments provided by Tulsa Now

6:00 p.m. - Open House Begins
6:15 p.m. - Formal Presentation
7:00 p.m. - Discussion and Questions
7:45 p.m. - Closing Remarks

That's a Thursday night, so our City Councilors won't be able to attend.

As I've said before, I'm a rail fan. I went car-free during my years in the Boston area, relying on the subway system, buses, and my own two feet. As I wrote in a January column about rail transit, Tulsa doesn't have the urban form to make it possible for Tulsans to plan their lives around a commuter rail line. You would need frequent service and a feeder network of public transit lines -- whether bus or streetcar or jitney -- to take people between the commuter rail station and within comfortable walking distance of where they want to go, anytime they want to go there. Otherwise, people will prefer to use their cars, even if it means an increasing piece of their budget goes to buy gasoline.

MORE: Paul Weyrich, a founding father of the modern American conservative movement, served on the Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, and he supports their recommendation for "an increased role for public transportation, including electric rail and bus vehicles." The commission was authorized by the latest Federal transportation act, and its final report was submitted to Congress on January 15, 2008. You can read the STPRSC's final report, "Transportation for Tomorrow," online. Weyrich has a website devoted to streetcars and light rail: The New New Electric Railway Journal.

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webworm Author Profile Page said:

Sorry, but won't be able to be there. Maybe with a light rail system; or perhaps some electric buses or trolleys, we could get the cost of transporting one person around town from the current $12.00 all the way up to twenty bucks. I'm tired of sending my tax dollars down town to City Hall (!) and watching them being burned up in the diesel smog coming from our empty buses. Just another local gem to be privatized...

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

I beg to differ about the empty busses. The busses I ride to and from work every day are full. Always. These are rush hour times, but every city has rush hours. No bus on any route could boast that every bus is full 100% of the time.

I like the idea of alternative fueling. I believe a number of our city busse are CNG.

webworm Author Profile Page said:

....ummm, Jeff, it's not "busses", it is "buses". Look it up if you have a dictionary. Appears your knowledge of our english language is on a par with your knowledge of public transportation. Sure, some buses are full occasionally. That's the way it is supposed to work. But we still subsidize the system to the tune of twelve bucks per rider, including you. I could solve the problem very quickly if I were the Emperor Of Tulsa. I can't do anything from here, so I just complain; and I vote.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Mr. Webworm: I apologize if my misspelling offended you. Thanks for pointing out the error.
In my defense, it was more a function of hurried typing. A note I might make I do have a dictionary.

I wish we all could finally get past the Pit Bull personal attack method of debate. Now we both look stupid.

webworm Author Profile Page said:

...well, this is not a personal attack. I have a mutt terrier and his name is Bertie. I have nothing against you except the bus thing. They are empty. We are subsidizing a failed attempt to provide transport for Tulsans. We need to change the system. And, as for the "busses" thing, take a look at a McDonald's bill board. They forgot to look in their dictionary.

As Fake Steve says, "Peace, and out."

charlestace Author Profile Page said:

I guess you guys would just do away with public transportation in every city in the industrialized world. That's because all public transit systems are heavily subsidized. It's sheer weirdness to think that the answer is to privatize local transit, for that alleged solution has already failed miserably. Every local transit system has its roots in one or more privately-operated systems which failed and required governmental takeover as an alternative to complete shutdown,

Privatization hasn't worked. Why would it work now?

The question then: "Do we want public transit at all? If so, do we want a skeletal system which accomplishes little except to drain funding, or do we want a system which might actually benefit the community?"

In Mr. Bates' Urban Tulsa piece, he set up a straw man: light-rail lines running down every major street in Tulsa (and never mind that no similar system exists anywhere else).

Mr. Bates then uses his ridiculous construct as proof that public transit can never work in Tulsa.

Well, if you build the system like a damn fool -- e.g., light-rail lines down every and every arterial street -- then guess what? You're right! It's too extravagant! It won't work!

However, properly funding Tulsa's bus system, then using the buses to serve arterial streets and light-rail/commuter-rail stations is feasible.

Railroad tracks are still in place all over this area. Compared to most cities, Tulsa has had relatively few tracks torn out. Exceptions would include the old Midland Valley route into north Tulsa; also, the tracks along the south side of the Arkansas into Bixby are no longer in place. But anything else that was ever available is STILL available, and would be a wonderful starting grid for a useful rail-transit system. Having the right-of-way and trackage already in place greatly reduces the initial cost of implementing such a system.

The need is evident right now, but perhaps you are supposing that gasoline is going to go back to a dollar a gallon. In that case, yes, there is little need for public transit, except to transport the poor (and you don't care at all about the poor, do you?).

webworm Author Profile Page said:

Whoa, Charlie! Talk about overstatement......I am only concerned with the mess in Tulsa. I have ridden on a lot of public transport in many places in the US and Europe. They are not all subsidized; most are publicly owned and some actually make money. But the important points have to do with Tulsa and the "poor". The numbers in Tulsa mean to me that we, the taxpayers, could easily save money by paying taxis or a jitney service to deliver the "poor" door to door. And small vans could take care of the rest. The problem is how to get rid of a giant slug that is sucking up our money and polluting our city. Your economics fail to impress, because the price of gasoline has nothing to do with the way our public transport is being run. And, if you think a light rail system is the answer, well then I have a couple of bridges to sell to you!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 7, 2008 8:31 AM.

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