Friday, April 14, 2006

New Links to Transit Blogs

I thought I was keeping up on these blogs, but a recent search revealed many of which I was unaware. I am linking to them on the right, and noting them below. Select your favorite city and have a look.

Portland, Oregon: This is a good, up-to-date review of what goes on with the extensive Tri-Met Light Rail System, as well as their busses. Tri-Met was just out of the running for a "Best Agency Ripper" last July. Maybe a review of this blog will elevate them this summer.

San Jose, California (VTA): People are frustrated enough with VTA that there are two blogs! One is current and written by a citizen, the other seems to be more infrequent, but written by an insider. Together, they both justify last July's "Worst Agency Ripper" Award.

General Transit Blog: The grabber says, "Transportation for the Masses" and it is that for sure. There are many articles of interest from all over.

Salt Lake City (UTA): Now that Utah is following up a very successful Light Rail Operation with a Commuter Rail effort, it will be interesting to keep up with current developments in Utah. Once again, by reading this blog we will learn whether last July's "Ripper for Best Agency" Award was justified to UTA.

Boston (The "T"): This Blog has a rather ominous title. Bad Transit, indeed! Read about the Boston situation and make up your own mind.

Hopefully, these sites will link back to Riptrack, but regardless, they will be read.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lessons from a Transit Strike

Transit strikes happen. When they happen in New York, Chicago, Boston, or Philadelphia, the nation takes notice. The transit strike in Denver didn't measure quite as high on National Radar. But it should have made a much bigger blip in other places like Detroit, Kansas City, and Austin. Why? Denver is a western town that has only in the past five to ten years or so been able to see the benefits of Light Rail. And this strike made those benefits crystal clear.

The Denver Post reports the increase in traffic and the attitudes of drivers during the strike. "Stop and Go Nightmare" and "Red Light Blues" are two of the descriptive expressions used.

After the strike, another Denver Post article reported on opinions about the benefits of Light Rail. Scroll down to see what one Light Rail patron had to say.

But the real capper was an editorial from Diane Carman. Scroll down to Items 2 and 5. Diane nails the "anti-FasTracks crowd" as wrong! You may recall that FasTracks was the ballot issue in last November's election in the Denver area where voters were asked to approve a Sales Tax increase for continued rail commuter construction, including both Light Rail and Commuter Rail. It was approved above the same "rant and rave" that is heard in every election where the voters are asked to spend money for rail transit.

So here's the lesson for those of you in Detroit, Kansas City, and Austin. Read Diane Carman again and understand fully what she is saying. The lesson is there. It is this:

There are VERY strong and intrenched special interest groups that DO NOT want Light Rail or Commuter Rail to be built. Car Manufacturers and Dealers, Insurance Companies, Paving Contractors and Suppliers, and even small businesses like Tire Dealers band together and tell you that no one will ride these trains, that they are expensive, and that they won't make a difference. They will refer to statistics that point out misleading information about the percentage of traffic removed from streets and roads.

They are wrong.

People WILL ride Light Rail or Commuter Rail when they won't ride a bus. The riders on these trains WILL reduce auto traffic. And, the ultimate cost to the commuting population WILL go down.

To those urban areas still debating this issue, learn from Diane and from Denver. Spend the money for rail. Make life better.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

It's Been a Year! Already!!

It has flown by! It dawned on me today that Rip Track has been part of the blog scene now for a few days over a year. By and large, it has been a good year, and I have to say that I have learned alot. Some things I expected never happened. Some things happened that surprised me.

I am still amazed at how many blogs about Amtrak are written from the Railfan's point of view. Don't get me wrong, I love riding passenger trains, and have done strange things like going to Los Angeles and intentionally avoided renting a car, just to see how things would go (they went VERY well, by the way!). But during the firing of David Gunn, and subsequent battles in our US Congress, very little of consequence seems to be written about the very events that will profoundly impact the scores of "Train Trip Travelogs" that appear. Somehow, word has to get to the appropriating politicians that there is a real economic benefit in putting passengers on rails. Check the web for stories about recent rides on the California Zephyr versus stories about what the House and Senate are now doing with Amtrak Appropriations and you will see what I mean. We have to be louder and more coordinated.

I am disappointed that more AREMA Members have not come forward and contributed. There are real concerns with AREMA among members who have the nerve to discuss their specific concerns in confidence. I truly believe that a web vehicle for discussion of these concerns is extremely valid, and thought it might happen at Rip Track. So far, no go. I do acknowledge that part of the problem is that search engines may not refer someone looking for "AREMA" to Rip Track. I am hoping that word of mouth will fill that void, and that Rip Track can become the "vehicle" that I had envisioned.

On the other hand, I have been very encouraged by comments received from Contractors and Suppliers, at least that is what I infer from the comments I read. Many EXTREMELY thoughtful observations and conclusions have appeared here. That is good news! Some of these comments appeared during the award of the "Rippers" last summer, for Best and Worst Agencies. Those comments will be combined with my personal observations and considered during this year's "Ripper Awards".

I have also been encouraged by Dan Zukowski, The Country Pundit, Passenger Rail, Live From the Third Rail, and others. I have been saddened by a few blogs which have ceased publication. Thanks to all of you.

So, I'm looking forward to another year! I hope that Amtrak will be fully funded, that Transit Agencies across the country will find answers to why they pay more money for the same material, and that Contractors will be able to bid Rail and Transit jobs without adding contingencies for what is commonly known as the "Insert Specific Agency Here Factor". I hope that AREMA Members finally find this blog. And, I hope that Rip Track is part of this improvement process!

Thanks for your reading, for your input, and for your support over the past year.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Almost Didn't See This Myself!

Back on Friday February 17th, I posted AREMA Recommends, Consultants Must Specify! Click the link and then, check out the anonymous comment. I generally don't check my own posts for more than a couple of weeks back, for some reason I did, and I'm glad I found that comment. Good idea, well thought out. Definitely worth it for you to check out, too.