by Chair Rod Diridon, Sr., US High Speed Rail Association, Emeritus Executive Director, Mineta Transportation Institute,Chair Emeritus, APTA High Speed Intercity Rail Committee.
Ridership is up dramatically on all modes of public transportation especially rail transport. The wonderfully aware and responsible millennial generation have decided to try to save the world for humanity by being sustainable. They, the Pope, and the vast majority of our population know that climate change is out of control and 40+% of that terrible threat comes from carbon-powered transportation. In addition, in the Sunbelt areas with expanding populations moving more employees and products, traffic is becoming seriously problematic with congestion reaching near terminal gridlock levels.
The states, with some help from the federal government, are working hard to find remedy’s and are expanding all modes of transit. Light, metro, commuter, and intercity rail ridership is up dramatically. Finally, high speed rail is now under construction in California and serious planning is moving ahead in the north east corridor, Florida, Texas, and from Chicago to St Lewis. But the missing link in those systems is the first and last mile that delivers the commuter from home to rail transit and from the job-end delivery station to the employment location. Those two aspects seem generally overlooked as the rail systems are planned.
First, at the commuter-shed end there must be Transit Villages built atop and around the rail stations and parking at high densities. This is done throughout the world but less so in the US. The construction of a cement podium a level above the station, tracks, and parking creates a new area for living, a new tax base for the community, and avoids unserviceable urban sprawl. Overlooking the expanse of grass atop the podium would be the high rise towers juxtaposed at angels to preserver sight lines. The future commute, as with other countries, will be by elevator to the rail station then by rail to work.
But the other important missing link is the employment-end, last mile which is where Automated Guideway Transit comes in. AGT can connect the rail station in a general industrial and commercial area via continuously moving automated pods or vehicles that provide cross-platform transfer access from the arriving rail system directly to the employment location stop by coding that stop into the vehicle. These lighter, elevated system are less expensive to build and operate and can use current boulevard medians diverging into major employers reception areas to allow direct access for employees or visitors without having to brave the terribly congested and unpredictable roadways.
The technology for AGT and for Transit Villages is tried and proven in other countries many of which are now in compliance with the old Kyoto Accords for air quality. All we require to accomplish that seamless system for the US is the political courage to zone the increased density at the commuter-end stations and negotiate with the public for either the tax support or public-private partnerships to build the AGT connectors at the employment end. If we intend to leave a livable world to our children, we best find that political courage very soon.
Hope that works. Good luck!