A transit blog gone off the rails

The Optimist's Guide to the Caltrain

As a millennial, I am totally still a young person1 and therefore familiar with the Glow-Up: a personal transformation so complete that the “after” and “before” pictures look like totally different people. It will come as no surprise to folks that know me that I love watching the same thing happen to transit systems, and there’s a great example taking shape right in my backyard. If you’re a Bay Area commuter, or just a person who read the title of this post, may have already guessed that I’m talking about Caltrain, the commuter rail line that carries me and about 60,000 other daily passengers between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Read more...

Whose line is it, anyway?

A housing project — maybe a tower, some condos, or a whole new neighborhood, is in the news. Proponents are excited at the chance to add more housing (near a new transit line, no less!) that will help address the region’s ballooning rent prices. Detractors are worried that the project will cause rents to skyrocket in the area, displacing the current residents. Who’s right? Mathematically, at least, there’s no reason they both can’t be. Read more...

Now this is podracing!

Another year, another startup claiming to have solved urban congestion — this time it’s Arrivo, which has announced “the end of traffic” and dropped a slick video of their vision for travel in the 21st century, involving private vehicles loaded onto maglev pods and rocketed along highway medians at 200 miles per hour. A surfer dude pulls on a wetsuit at Mach 0.25 before we jump-cut to the beach in time for to shed some early morning gnar. Read more...

Closing the gap, opening the region: the North-South Rail Link

Imagine for a moment that your city lacked a highway network entirely. Instead, it had a series of ordinary two-lane streets in place of Interstates X, Y, and Z, each with massively wide turns and hundreds of feet of totally undeveloped grassland on each side – in short, everything that a highway implies except the pavement. The roads don’t connect downtown, but lo, there is an pre-excavated tunnel under the city center that we can use to connect the roadways. Read more...

Boston's Red-Blue Connector is about fixing the core system

When transit advocates in Boston call for expansions of the T, the response from MassDOT and Governor Baker is that we first need to focus on fixing the core system — making sure that the vehicles, stations, and track we already have can operate at maximum efficiency. While this can sometimes feel like a “shove off, we don’t have the money”, it’s a pragmatic stance, and to their credit, the MBTA is actually in the middle of a push for such investment, with orders for new Red and Orange Line cars in the works and improved signaling and winterization schemes in the pipeline. Read more...

Disrupt Kendall Square!

A few weeks ago, my MIT inbox dinged with a piece of exciting news — President Reif announced that the university has secured the rights to redevelop a huge part of adjacent Kendall Square that is currently owned by the US Department of Transportation. Kendall is the epicenter of Cambridge’s tech community and even if you spend as much time pounding down overpriced quinoa bowls there as I do, you may not be aware that the USDOT’s Volpe Center research facility is tucked right behind the Marriott on Broadway, in an imposing but mostly nondescript building that you can’t get into without a passport and a blood sample. Read more...

Are transit networks strong-link or weak-link systems?

Do the people who plan your city’s transit system watch basketball or soccer? It’s a question that probably doesn’t come up much at community feedback meetings, and yet when we look at the way money is spent on transit in America, it might be wise to pause for a second and consider what sports metaphors are rattling around the brains of the planning community.1 On the surface, basketball and soccer may appear to be just two variants of sportsball, in which a group of people work hard to put some kind of ball in some kind of net more times than their opponent. Read more...

What is the meaning of this?

For a long time I have been very vocal about transportation issues to my very forgiving friends and family. I’ve decided that rather than subject them to this madness directly I should start a blog – this will also serve to help me practice writing clearly and organize my thoughts. I suspect this blog will mostly stay related to transit and urbanism since I spent so much time on the wonderful graphic in the header, but we’ll see what becomes of it. Read more...
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