A more realistic (IMO) AHC: US Metro/Regional Transit as good as in Europe.

People seem to be wrapped up in HSR because they are more "modern and shiny" but they are very much a niche in the US. Outside the NEC (and a few small areas) the US simply doesn't have remotely the population density to support it. Metro transit is far less of a niche. Although cities are too spread out for HSR in the US there are still a lot of cities in the US and the population there is dense enough for them to be used heavily and track to be "wasted" by mile after mile of places with zero passengers.

I think Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha could be all hooked up together using light rail, trams, and busses and with fairly frequent schedules. If you somehow could get Wisconsin and Illinois to have some kind of agreement (very difficult) you could even hook it up with the Chicago area (which also could build up its mass transit, Instead of having a highly expensive (and probably doomed to be uncompleted) HSR from SF to LA you could have two regional systems: One in the LA/SD area and another SF/Oakland. Any others you can think of and how do you see them hooking up?
 
Hard to say honestly... Possibly NY to Miami in a possible perfect world, but the crap for that would never make it past congress, or hell, even all the different regulations within states. Simply put, HSR would never really work in the US unless we away from car culture to a certain extent and begin to re-urbanize and reduce suburban sprawl. Then, you'd probably see the railways rise back up again... Well, that and the gas market tanking and forcing cars to ration, go electric, or just begin investing in public transportation, but that's a whole different thing. Reality is, radical changes would have to be made for HSR within the US to be viable, and until we stop spreading out, it probably won't ever really happen.
 
Hard to say honestly... Possibly NY to Miami in a possible perfect world, but the crap for that would never make it past congress, or hell, even all the different regulations within states. Simply put, HSR would never really work in the US unless we away from car culture to a certain extent and begin to re-urbanize and reduce suburban sprawl. Then, you'd probably see the railways rise back up again... Well, that and the gas market tanking and forcing cars to ration, go electric, or just begin investing in public transportation, but that's a whole different thing. Reality is, radical changes would have to be made for HSR within the US to be viable, and until we stop spreading out, it probably won't ever really happen.

This is US Metro/Regional Transit not HSR. NY to Miami is not regional. We are talking NYC/Jersey City/Newark and whatever realistically can hook up to that. I don't know the NY area enough to say how far from NYC is viable as one regional system.

 

Devvy

Donor
Didn't see this thread when it popped up until you linked it on the HSR thread. For what it's worth, I mostly agree with you. We may have different opinions regarding high speed rail, but I agree that urban/regional rail could be organised a lot better in the USA. There are several examples of state borders (and thus politics) playing havoc with an effective rail system. LIRR and NJT would ideally be merged to operate across New York, linking Newark Airport as well as reducing Penn Central platform requirements. Massachusets/Boston commuter rail could easily run to Providence and in to New Hampshire, but state borders are in the way.
 
One idea I had, among several other derived from @TheMann, included an alternate take on the famous Pacific Electric.

Long story short, my idea would be that PE would improve during the 1920s and 1930s, then work with city planners to design the LA suburbs. In the center of the intended suburb, Pacific Electric would build a depot that served as a sort of branch for a pre-existing PE line. Then, the commercial, religious and government centers radiate out; followed soon thereafter by parks and pools and other recreational places; then lastly are the homes connected by both roads and sidewalks.

I had the idea of commuters in the LA area during the 30s and 40s using PE to reach downtown for work or shopping. Whereas the automobile would be what's mainly used for more leisurely affairs like a day out in the city.

TTL's Pacific electric eventually sets a precedent that is embraced by first other light rail operations in the US, then also by commuter rail services like Chicago's Metra or Philly's SEPTA.
 
Didn't see this thread when it popped up until you linked it on the HSR thread. For what it's worth, I mostly agree with you. We may have different opinions regarding high speed rail, but I agree that urban/regional rail could be organised a lot better in the USA. There are several examples of state borders (and thus politics) playing havoc with an effective rail system. LIRR and NJT would ideally be merged to operate across New York, linking Newark Airport as well as reducing Penn Central platform requirements. Massachusets/Boston commuter rail could easily run to Providence and in to New Hampshire, but state borders are in the way.
One idea I have is to have the Feds have an agency that helps negotiate such agreements across state borders. Metro areas have the population density that can support public transport and that is where the money should go.
 
One thing I think people don't get. The only shot HSR has outside of the NEC is if you have a well working metro system. If you don't have that FIRST there is no reason for anyone to use HSR as they will have to rent a car at the railway station anyway unless they are planning to stick strictly to the downtown area.
 

Devvy

Donor
One idea I have is to have the Feds have an agency that helps negotiate such agreements across state borders. Metro areas have the population density that can support public transport and that is where the money should go.

Either federal or an easier way of forming joint bodies (inter-state compacts?). Not sure how complicated it is over there to set up bodies with multiple states overseeing.

One thing I think people don't get. The only shot HSR has outside of the NEC is if you have a well working metro system. If you don't have that FIRST there is no reason for anyone to use HSR as they will have to rent a car at the railway station anyway unless they are planning to stick strictly to the downtown area.

Most of us do get what you're saying, we just disagree with it. Partly it comes down to a car vs train judgment - if the car is more expensive (highway tolls) and slower (due to congestion or distance), then the train might be worth parking at a station and taking a train. There are a multitude of factors, I'm not saying the train will always win, but neither will the car. Also it will depend on whether you see HSR as primarily abstracting passengers from the car, or from the plane (for which people already park and leave their car at the airport), or new demand generation.

But as per your own words...

This is US Metro/Regional Transit not HSR [thread].

Otherwise all we are doing is having the same debate in yet another thread! :)
 
Adding capacity to NYC is one of the obvious ideas--another subway tunnel under the Hudson to complement the PATH trains, a PATH extension to Staten Island, maybe a tunnel from SI to Brooklyn. Or a much earlier East Side Access and Penn Station Access to organize NYC's railroads more rationally, rather than requiring passengers to get out and walk from Penn to GCT.

On a much smaller scale, Huntsville, AL once had an urban passenger rail system of sorts--a commuter system using repurposed NYC elevated railway cars to ferry workers on Redstone Arsenal to and from temporary housing at the edges of the base during WWII. Unfortunately, the temporary housing was on the southeast corner of the base--an area which remains sparsely populated to this day. But if it had been built differently, in the northern part of the base adjacent to Huntsville proper, it might have survived long enough to be reactivated and expanded during the city's great building boom in the 1950s and 1960s--so that the city of Huntsville, AL could have had, if not a full-on subway, at least a grade-separated tramway.
 
Either federal or an easier way of forming joint bodies (inter-state compacts?). Not sure how complicated it is over there to set up bodies with multiple states overseeing.
You probably want at least federal negotiators to help settle disputes. Bordering states tend to be rivals.
 

Riain

Banned
One thing could the to slow the decline of Light Rail in US cities throughout the 20th century so that many are still extant in 1973 when the oil shortages occurred. If still extant, even in a considerably reduced form the oil shocks would force more people onto the system and give them a boost just as the tide is turning away from cars due to horrific congestion and pollution in car clogged cities. This would give light rail a base from which to grow rather than having a bunch of greenfields projects that are a nightmare to get off the ground.

There were a bunch of reasons for this decline, so it should be possible to move a few things around so that the holes in the Swiss cheese don't line up the way they did IOTL.
 
One thing could the to slow the decline of Light Rail in US cities throughout the 20th century so that many are still extant in 1973 when the oil shortages occurred. If still extant, even in a considerably reduced form the oil shocks would force more people onto the system and give them a boost just as the tide is turning away from cars due to horrific congestion and pollution in car clogged cities. This would give light rail a base from which to grow rather than having a bunch of greenfields projects that are a nightmare to get off the ground.

There were a bunch of reasons for this decline, so it should be possible to move a few things around so that the holes in the Swiss cheese don't line up the way they did IOTL.
It would certainly help not to have to start from scratch. Start up costs tend to be really high.
 
I think the first thing that needs to change is the idea that public transit is only for poor people and people who can't afford cars. The best way I can see is to put it like "Mass transit is so that people have the freedom to get where they want without the stress, hassles and costs of driving" and then develop whatever for of transportation is most appropriate for the demand, from bus routes to subway lines or heavy commuter rail.
 

Riain

Banned
I think the first thing that needs to change is the idea that public transit is only for poor people and people who can't afford cars. The best way I can see is to put it like "Mass transit is so that people have the freedom to get where they want without the stress, hassles and costs of driving" and then develop whatever for of transportation is most appropriate for the demand, from bus routes to subway lines or heavy commuter rail.

Is there a perception that commuter rail and metro rail/trams are for poor people? Certainly I'd say buses are for poor people, particularly longer distance and suburban services, but in Melbourne there is no stigma attached to regional-commuter (medium speed), Metro and Tram services. I haven't been to the US for 6 years now, but I've used the Metro services in LA, Washington DC, NY and AMTRAK (including Acela) on the NEC and don't recall it being particularly full of poor people.
 
People seem to be wrapped up in HSR because they are more "modern and shiny" but they are very much a niche in the US. Outside the NEC (and a few small areas) the US simply doesn't have remotely the population density to support it. Metro transit is far less of a niche. Although cities are too spread out for HSR in the US there are still a lot of cities in the US and the population there is dense enough for them to be used heavily and track to be "wasted" by mile after mile of places with zero passengers.

I think Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha could be all hooked up together using light rail, trams, and busses and with fairly frequent schedules. If you somehow could get Wisconsin and Illinois to have some kind of agreement (very difficult) you could even hook it up with the Chicago area (which also could build up its mass transit, Instead of having a highly expensive (and probably doomed to be uncompleted) HSR from SF to LA you could have two regional systems: One in the LA/SD area and another SF/Oakland. Any others you can think of and how do you see them hooking up?

Hard to say honestly... Possibly NY to Miami in a possible perfect world, but the crap for that would never make it past congress, or hell, even all the different regulations within states. Simply put, HSR would never really work in the US unless we away from car culture to a certain extent and begin to re-urbanize and reduce suburban sprawl. Then, you'd probably see the railways rise back up again... Well, that and the gas market tanking and forcing cars to ration, go electric, or just begin investing in public transportation, but that's a whole different thing. Reality is, radical changes would have to be made for HSR within the US to be viable, and until we stop spreading out, it probably won't ever really happen.

This is US Metro/Regional Transit not HSR. NY to Miami is not regional. We are talking NYC/Jersey City/Newark and whatever realistically can hook up to that. I don't know the NY area enough to say how far from NYC is viable as one regional system.


Didn't see this thread when it popped up until you linked it on the HSR thread. For what it's worth, I mostly agree with you. We may have different opinions regarding high speed rail, but I agree that urban/regional rail could be organised a lot better in the USA. There are several examples of state borders (and thus politics) playing havoc with an effective rail system. LIRR and NJT would ideally be merged to operate across New York, linking Newark Airport as well as reducing Penn Central platform requirements. Massachusets/Boston commuter rail could easily run to Providence and in to New Hampshire, but state borders are in the way.

As a side note, one of the places where HSR would work is in the southwest because there’s enough cities that are far away but not so far that flying makes sense, and the areas in between are sparsely populated enough that you can run a train pretty much straight between them at full HSR speed. LA-Las Vegas might be the best example, there’s actually a private company building an HSR line in between them right now IOTL. There’s enough of an obvious reason that people would want to travel between Las Vegas and SoCal (cheaper living, it’s Vegas, etc.) to make that viable. Extensions to San Diego and Phoenix might be viable from there. I’m gonna say out as far as Albuquerque/Santa Fe probably isn’t because they’re small and at that distance it starts to make more sense to just fly. Dallas/Fort Worth to Austin would probably make sense, too.

Anyways, I don’t want to derail this, so better commuter rail. To do this, the best way is probably going to be to prevent American suburbanization. One way of doing this might be if China and India started developing far earlier than IOTL, like right after WWII (KMT victory/no partition butterflying the license raj might do it) because it would make the price of oil spike like crazy like it IOTL in the 90s to the present due to greater Asian demand. Alternatively, just a really big and long-lasting crisis in a major oil producing country or two could have a big impact. If that happens, suburbs and boat sized cars suddenly look a lot less attractive. With greater density, governments at all levels might see a greater advantage in pushing commuter rail.
 
As a side note, one of the places where HSR would work is in the southwest because there’s enough cities that are far away but not so far that flying makes sense, and the areas in between are sparsely populated enough that you can run a train pretty much straight between them at full HSR speed. LA-Las Vegas might be the best example, there’s actually a private company building an HSR line in between them right now IOTL. There’s enough of an obvious reason that people would want to travel between Las Vegas and SoCal (cheaper living, it’s Vegas, etc.) to make that viable. Extensions to San Diego and Phoenix might be viable from there. I’m gonna say out as far as Albuquerque/Santa Fe probably isn’t because they’re small and at that distance it starts to make more sense to just fly. Dallas/Fort Worth to Austin would probably make sense, too.

Anyways, I don’t want to derail this, so better commuter rail. To do this, the best way is probably going to be to prevent American suburbanization. One way of doing this might be if China and India started developing far earlier than IOTL, like right after WWII (KMT victory/no partition butterflying the license raj might do it) because it would make the price of oil spike like crazy like it IOTL in the 90s to the present due to greater Asian demand. Alternatively, just a really big and long-lasting crisis in a major oil producing country or two could have a big impact. If that happens, suburbs and boat sized cars suddenly look a lot less attractive. With greater density, governments at all levels might see a greater advantage in pushing commuter rail.
Except for at the time of WW2 the U.S. was the major oil producing nation. Even today the U.S. is one of the top oil producers in the world. The fields in the middle east only really started getting big after WW2 and those for the first couple of decades mostly exported to Europe. The Soviets also held large fields but those really don't matter to much to the U.S. because not exactly much access to those.
 
Except for at the time of WW2 the U.S. was the major oil producing nation. Even today the U.S. is one of the top oil producers in the world. The fields in the middle east only really started getting big after WW2 and those for the first couple of decades mostly exported to Europe. The Soviets also held large fields but those really don't matter to much to the U.S. because not exactly much access to those.

It is, in fact, the number one oil producer right now. top ten oil producers 2020. Surprised the Hell out of me too.
 
Some years back, I started a timeline where powerful railroad interests lobbied for passage of a national excise tax on automobiles in 1906 or so. At the time, the tax was assessed by engine size, with revenue used to improve roads. I was going to have this lead to fewer cars (because of the added taxes), smaller cars (because the tax structure favored smaller engines) and more emphasis on commercial vehicle development (commercial and farm vehicles were exempt).
Ended up like most of my timelines, stalled after a couple entries because of distractions in real life.
A scenario that throttles the early widespread adoption of cars would probably slow the decay of regional and metro rail services. If you could mix in a deregulation of railroads to allow more adaptibility and innovation, maybe you can stall the collapse of light regional/metro rail long enough that suburbs are planned around a local station stop.
One more thought, throughout the 50's and on, light and medium industry moved out of city centers and into industrial parks separated from residential areas. If you can get mass transit to move workers to-and-from their jobs quickly, cheaply, and reliably you might keep use if mass transit "normal" for the working class.
 
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