Thursday Night Express: High Speed Rail, Rapid Streetcars, and Democracy

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Welcome to the Thursday Night Express. This is a new service joining the Sunday Train.

In Sunday Train, I try to dig into some information related to energy independent transport and share what details I can find.

And of course, some people have time to ride the Sunday Train, and some people do not have the time to spare. The Thursday Evening Express is an experiment that will pick three specific topics, primarily from the previous Sunday Train, and present three short arguments in two to three paragraphs.

I will note that this is an experiment. If you want the Thursday Evening Express to keep running in this community, then leave a comment.

Tonights Topics:

  • Downtown destinations for High Speed Rail
  • Rapid Streetcars and unified local transit systems
  • Democracy and Station Location

Downtown destinations for High Speed Rail

Trains are not airplanes, and it is appropriate for a large enough metro area to have multiple stations, including suburban stations. However, it is important that the major destination cities for a corridor include a station as convenient to downtown as possible. While the Ohio “3C” corridor is being built for Amtrak-speed train service, it is really the first phase of a 110mph rail service, connecting Cleveland and Columbus as well as Cincinnati and Columbus in two hours or less.

For the 3C to be successful, there needs to be downtown stations in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. The so-called Cincinnati Transit Center between the Banks and Downtown was billed as a multi-model transit center, but in a major blunder, was deliberately designed to exclude intercity passengers trains. A proposed site along the river near the Boathouse Inn is facing Nimby Opposition. And getting to the existing Cincinnati Union Terminal requires fighting heavy rail freight congestion.

The opponents of energy independent transport will use this problem to argue that the 3C project should be shut down. The reality is that a firm commitment to the 3C corridor a decade ago would have ensured that the Transit Center was built correctly, and Cincinnati would not be in this fix. The sooner we build the 3C, the lower the risk of similar problems cropping up elsewhere along the line.

See also:

Rapid Streetcars and unified local transit systems

“Tram-trains” are one of the advances in energy independent local transport that has been taking place overseas while the attention of the US has been diverted into bread and circuses. These operate as streetcars when running on streetcar lines, with conventional trolleywire power supply. They also operate as regular local passenger trains, at speeds of up to 62mph, when running on heavy rail lines. They are dual powered, with models available that operate on higher voltage heavy rail electrification, in either DC or AC, or on serial diesel-electric when operating out from under the wires.

Although the antiquated regulatory structure of the Federal Railway Administration makes running onto the regular heavy rail network difficult, Rapid Streetcars can be used on a combination of light rail corridor and streetcar lines, and that is exactly what I am proposing. As pictured above, the solid yellow lines is the proposed Streetcar network that has put together $85m of the $125m required to break ground. The dotted blue line stretching from the middle of the that section is the never-used Cincinnati Subway.

Using Rapid Streetcars, commuters and other passengers can come into downtown via the subway, then run directly onto the Streetcar network and do a loop to Banks and back Downtown before heading back up the Subway. There are three other proposed commuter and light rail lines that could operating in exactly the same way. With the modern Streetcars and Rapid Streetcars all passing across the Cincinnati Transit Center, it becomes possible to develop it into a true multi-modal interchange.

See also:

Democracy and Station Location

The choice of the Cincinnati terminal station for the 3C route is not an easy one, as each main option faces its own obstacles:

  • the rail corridor between the Hamilton County Line and Cincinnati Union Terminal is heavily congested. Supporting initially three and upgrading to eight priority passenger trains a day without reducing freight capacity would require expensive capital works.
  • The Cincinnati Transport Terminal was deliberately designed to not support intercity passenger rail, and overcoming that would also require expensive capital works.
  • And the location proposed near the Boathouse Inn on an abandoned freight corridor toward the Banks from the east faced NIMBY opposition from a group of condo owners trapped in a fantasy world where the oil will flow at every greater rates forever and having the 3C terminus nearby is somehow bad for property values.

In my view, the most important thing is that a final terminus is selected and that is has political legitimacy. So I propose that all of Hamilton County vote on the final terminus, between the Boathouse Inn location, the Cincinnati Transit Center, and the Cincinnati Union Terminal. Any of the obstacles can be overcome with political legitimacy – none of the obstacles can be overcome without it.

Since its a pick of three, I would also propose that people vote their first and second preference, and if no choice get a majority, there is an instance run-off using the second preferences of the third place choice to bring the decision to a majority result.

See also:

The Headliners

It is a Burning the Midnight Oil Tradition to close with a performance by the Namesake, Midnight Oil.

Tonight they play their Bedlam Bridge:


  1. to study a route.

Comments have been disabled.