Commuter Rail Dreams

bikerailI just returned from a week of cycling across California (from the Sierras to San Fransisco). This is the second time I’ve done this trip… and I love it so much, I’ll probably do it again.

When I did the ride 2 years ago, the host hotel in San Jose was a Hampton in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t close to anything, so being without a car forced us to choose between cab fare and a long walk for lunch and dinner the day we arrived. This year, the host hotel was the Holiday Inn near the airport. It is surrounded by restaurants, but best of all, it is next to the VTA rail line. We used the train to go to the mall (I forgot my swimsuit… I always forget something), then we went in the other direction to go downtown. It was great to be car-free!

The trains had bike cars between the passenger cars. The photo was taken during an off-peak hour, but closer to rush-hour there were lots of bikes hanging in there.

Imagine what a transit alternative like this could do for bike commuters here. How nice to have the option of riding 25 miles, or riding a few to a rail station, then a few more to the office… to escape the heat, or the torrential downpour.

Would it relieve traffic congestion in Orlando? Who knows. Transit ridership is up all over the country because of gas prices. But some people will never give up driving.

I’d use it, for sure. Heck, I’d even use it to extend the range of my long weekend rides — it’s a bit of a killjoy riding back into town through 15 miles of urban sprawl, acres of hot asphalt and grumpy, errand-running motorists on Saturday afternoons.

Will we ever get it? We probably won’t know until the next time the legislature is in session. But we can follow the plans and progress here:

4 replies
  1. rodney
    rodney says:

    I will have to say that alternative transportation modes are both necessary and economical for me. Since I work at the airport, I can easily acquire a ride from a co-worker to the terminal and fly to wherever.

    Atlanta, GA is a favorite destination of mine. I wonder if family is the main reason for that? You bet it is! The MARTA system has been around for many years and is very effective. Once I arrive in ATL, I board the MARTA rail and ride to just north of the downtown area.

    From there I take an express bus (various providers) to a park and ride lot about 3 miles from the out laws domicile. Saves them the aggravation of traffic and gas both ways. It takes about the same travel time as in a cab or car, but you have the advantage of using the HOV or high occupancy vehicle lane on the interstate. (oops, wasn’t supposed to let out that secret)

    How economical you may ask? Good question. Lemme see…..hmm. $1.75 for the rail and $3.00 for the express bus. The return trip has $3.00 for the express bus, rail transfer included. Arrive in Orlando and take the Lynx to three blocks within the house for $2.00.

    Grand total round trip…..Tah Dah $9.75! I think it costs that much just to turn on the cab meter 😀

    In the past I thought the transit system was just for those who either didn’t have money or couldn’t afford a car. The Lynx system is good at moving folks around, but they don’t cater to us night owls all that well.

    Interesting article I read. I think the proposed rail system would benefit all. Tri-Rail in south Florida seems to make good use of the system. Imagine all the available time you get from riding the transit vs. operating a motor vehicle.

    I would like to be carless, especially after the two recent repairs, but a car-light society would be very beneficial to the entire population. After all, we still have not learned that heavily traveled roads need more lanes, which only begets more cars! America has to get over the love affair with the car!

    Count the number of single occupant vehicles out there today and you will have to take sick days from work. I understand that for some, alternative transport may not be viable, but for those that can, should take the opportunity.

  2. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Golly, we’ve already got this in the DFW area. I use the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) regularly in winter – it saves on battery light use and is nice when there’s a fierce crosswind or it’s extra cold. In the summer, an occasional homeward segment in an AC train car really beats the heat.

    I’ve never seen TRE too crowded for an extra bike. Cost – $45/year with my employer’s subsidy (yes, per YEAR). It makes jumping on the train a no brainer when it’s convenient.

    The only downside is that transit around here doesn’t necesarily go WHERE you want to go WHEN you want to go. The bike makes this much less of a problem.

  3. Keri
    Keri says:

    Great comments, guys! Yeah, I think transit and cycling can go hand in hand, they extend the range and usefulness of each other.

    One of the issues that’s come up in other cities is the light rail tracks create new crash hazards for cycling on city streets. The initial commuter rail line here would run on existing tracks! So we wouldn’t have that issue.

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