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Why Streetcars Suck: Simple Example

Very quick hit today; not even any links, although I may fill them in later if I get a minute.

My family took the #5 down to Town Lake yesterday for the First Night festivities (the parade was outstanding - best one I've ever seen). One simple thing we experienced shows why streetcars in shared lanes are completely useless.

We're travelling southbound in the right lane of Congress (where shared-lane low-budget streetcar would inevitably operate as well). Oops, a car has stopped and is unloading a bunch of stuff with their flashers on. The bus driver quickly changes to the center lane to get around them and then moves back right.

A block later, somebody starts to pull out of one of the angle-parking spaces and stops. I was never able to figure out why - they may have been spooked by traffic. Again, the bus driver changes lanes and moves around the obstruction.

Anybody see the problem with shared-lane streetcar yet?

You get enough little blockages like that and the performance and reliability of the streetcar gets so bad that even the mystical streetcar fairy dust that supposedly makes commuters forget how to read their watch won't help.

True light rail, with reserved guideway ("running in its own lane") is a slam-dunk win for Austin. But shared-lane streetcar is a complete waste of time that actually performs worse for passengers than does the city bus that most of them won't even take today.

Unfortunately, I have my suspicions that the Wynn/McCracken rail plan will end up having to rely on mixed-traffic streetcar service for a good chunk of its proposed route (and that's only one of the two impending problems; the other being that the route absolutely must go up Congress and then Guadalupe, rather than over the east side of UT and then out to Mueller as in the useless Capital Metro proposal). So, once again, we're scrod by our pal Mike Krusee - because of his push in 2000 to destroy Capital Metro, and then his push in 2004 to force commuter rail instead of light rail, urban Austin will probably end up with no rail at all, or, at best, rail which is actually less useful than city buses.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , Transit Field Trips , Use Cases


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Of course a dedicated right-of-way is the ideal situation here, but I disagree that streetcars, compared with buses, would suck as much as you say. Your examples don't hold if there are rails involved because I think drivers would have a bit more respect for a train than a bus--especially if the train has a video camera that could be used to hand out tickets to a-holes who hold up the train due to boneheadedness or plain selfishness. The streetcar advantages of increased capacity, shortened dwell time, economic investment, etc. make up for a "growing pain" period where some delays would be inevitable.

just getting your e-mail address...don't approve.

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