Tagtrains

Bikes on trains, Bremen, Germany edition

As part of my “continuing coverage” of how bikes are welcomed (or not) on transit, I’m pointing out how bikes are accommodated on trains in Germany.

My friend and I rode our bikes from central Bremen (the name of the city and its state) to the Valentin submarine pens in the north part of the state (the smallest state in Germany), a 22 miles journey. View an approximation of our route through a rural part of North Germany. The map shows a ferry from the west side of Weser River to the east, which we took. I think it cost 1€ per person, one way.

On our way back we took two trains:

  • A shuttle train, essentially, from Bremen-Farge to Bremen-Vegesack. Operated by NordWestBahn. 18 minutes trip.
  • A Regionalbahn train from Bremen-Vegesack to Bremen Hauptbahnhof (central station). Operated by DB Regio. 23 minutes trip. This trip required an extra ticket, just for the bicycle.

Both trains have designated spaces for bicycles as well as “seat belts” with hooks on the end for wrapping around your bike and then to a pole or to the belt itself.

Our bikes on the first train to Bremen-Vegesack.

Our bikes on the second train to central Bremen.

The train station at our final destination, Bremen Hauptbahnhof (central station).

Find more related photos:

Is this the sign of things to come for the CTA?

The Mayor of Chicago has considerable influence over the Chicago Transit Authority. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel let Chicagoans know on Tuesday, April 19, 2011, partially how he intends to wield that influence. This post is a look into the recent announcements regarding transit in Chicago.

1. Forrest Claypool “appointed” as CTA president*

During the press conference, Rahm had some choice words and expended a little of his still-growing political capital:

He shares my belief that (the CTA) is our most critical piece of infrastructure. Forrest has the experience to capitalize on the CTA’s strengths and the creative mind to guide its future.

He didn’t mention our roads, highways, or airports. While Mayor Daley may have shirked finding the best funding solutions for the Chicago Transit Authority, saying it’s the state legislature’s responsibility, Rahm and his choice for president staking a bigger role in leading the CTA. Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2011

2. Gabe Klein at CDOT

The Chicago Department of Transportation supports the CTA in many respects. It owns the downtown subways and subway stations. It can renovate or build stations for the CTA. For example, CDOT is currently renovating the Grand/State Red Line station and building the completely new Morgan/Lake Green/Pink Line station. Gabe is a very transit-friendly DOT commissioner. In Washington, D.C., he helped launch a streetcar project to supplement the city’s bus and subway networks.

Robert Thomson, or “Dr. Gridlock” from the Washington Post, defended Klein from a letter writer with a windshield perspective on traveling within the city:

Klein was trying to restore an old balance that would allow everyone to move around more easily. “People think about having to move X number of cars,” he said. “We’ve tried to think about how we’re moving people. . . . We want to provide people with attractive choices.” Washington Post, December 11, 2010 (just days after Gabe announced his resignation)

3. Ray LaHood and the Red Line Extension

Rahm says he’s gung ho about extending the Red Line from 95th to 130th, a project that will cost over $1.2 billion. The plans are waiting for funding. On his campaign website, Rahm expressed his interest in the project: “Rahm will make it a major priority of his administration” and mentioning how he would leverage every available funding opportunity to get it built.

During his visit on Thursday to Chicago, reporters asked U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about funding this project. As I expected, he offered no clear answer:

LaHood made no commitment to fulfill Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s stated plan to line up federal funding in his first year in office to extend the south branch of the CTA Red Line from its current terminus at 95th Street another 5.5 miles to 130th Street. [LaHood said he] would invite incoming CTA President Forrest Claypool and Gabe Klein, whom Emanuel selected to head the Chicago Department of Transportation, to Washington to lay out their project priorities and present cost estimates for the work. Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2011

Currently, the CTA has not applied for funding for this project so Ray couldn’t provide any different answer.

See all of my 500+ Chicago Transit Authority photos.

*It should be noted that the Transit Act requires the board to choose the president, not the Mayor of Chicago. From (70 ILCS 3605/27) (from Ch. 111 2/3, par. 327): “The Board may appoint an Executive Director [president] who shall be a person of recognized ability and experience in the operation of transportation systems to hold office during the pleasure of the Board. The Executive Director shall have management of the properties and business of the Authority and the employees thereof, subject to the general control of the Board…”

Italian train network looks modern and decrepit simultaneously

Italian trains and stations look modern and decrepit simultaneously. One of a thousand observations on my trip to Europe in December and January.

MODERN: Roma Termini (main station) has at least 50 automatic ticket vending machines that accept credit and debit cards and display text in multiple languages.

DECREPIT: Many train cars have copious graffiti. This train appeared as if it hadn’t moved in weeks, like the one on the right in this photo.

MODERN: But then Italy has something the United States will not have for several more years (go Florida!): a high-speed train. This one travels up to 300 KM/H (186 M/H). I caught my train going 247 KM/H from Roma to Milano.

In Chicago, I think there’s more of a balance to the train state of affairs: not so modern, but not so decrepit either. New stations opened on the Brown Line but without the fancy glass ceilings from the early renderings (had to cut costs). Train cars are 40 years old (new ones in testing). Subway stations have dismal lighting (coupled with the dirty windows it’s hard to tell the difference between the platform and the tunnel areas). Metra just started accepting credit cards at the downtown stations in 2010.

Great photo vantage points for trains

Urban expressways are a good way to divide cities and remove housing and businesses. But for the highways with trains running through or alongside them, they provide a clear view of the trains from above on an overpass or tall structure.

Here’s a collection of photos taken from above the tracks.

A Red Line train to 95th slows as it crosses under the 33rd Street overpass into the Sox-35th station.

A Blue Line train enters the portal at the Circle Interchange. Next stop: Clinton.

For many years, Metra showed TV commercials; slogan and jingle was, “Meeeetra, the way to really flyyyyy!” This train is being pushed into the Ogilvie Transportation Center.

Where are your favorite “railfan” vantage points?

Other overpasses in cities I like:

  • 97th and Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York. During rush hours, you’ll see a Metro North train every 30 seconds (or less, even).
  • Pedestrian overpass at Hiawatha Avenue and 24th Street East in Minneapolis where you’ll see the sleek Bombardier-built Metro trains. Another photo.
  • Numerous streets and pedestrian bridges over the Metra Electric lines in Chicago. During rush hour, the trains operate on a CTA-like schedule. Photo from 18th Street pedestrian bridge.
  • Roosevelt Road in the South Loop, Chicago, Illinois. You’ll see lots of Amtrak and Metra trains on 10 different tracks.

For a fair division of commuting space

UPDATE: Transportation writer Jon Hilkevitch (“Hilkie”) published an article today about crosswalk enforcement in Chicago based on a new state law the Active Transportation Alliance helped pass that removes ambiguity about what drivers must do when a person wants to cross the street (they must STOP).

But I’m updating this post because he also writes about the crazy pedestrian situation I describe below at Adams and Riverside. I’ve quoted the key parts here:

The situation can be even worse downtown, where a vehicles-versus-pedestrians culture seems to flourish unchecked. Simply walking across Adams Street outside Chicago Union Station at rush hour can feel like you’re taking a big risk, as pedestrians dodge cars, buses and cabs and then must maneuver around the panhandlers and assorted vendors clogging the sidewalks near the curb.

It’s a mystery why such mayhem is tolerated by city or Amtrak police. The highest volume of pedestrian traffic downtown is right there at Adams and the Chicago River outside the station, according to a study conducted for the city.

“The cabdrivers have no concern with pedestrians trying to cross Adams in the crosswalk,” said Richard Sakowski, who commutes downtown daily on Metra from his home in Oswego. “They cut in front of other drivers cursing and yelling, pull from the center lane to the curb and stop in the crosswalk, not caring who they might hit. It is a very dangerous situation that the city does not care about.”

Chicago officials disagree, yet they have for years studied the problems around the downtown commuter rail stations without taking major action.

The city has received more than $10 million in grants to develop an off-street terminal on the south side of Jackson Boulevard just south of Union Station to address traffic safety issues and the crush of taxis and buses vying for limited curb space, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

“No timetable yet, but construction could begin in the next few years,” CDOT spokesman Brian Steele said.

Read the full article.


Every weekday afternoon in Chicago, over 100,000 people need to get to Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center to get on their Metra trains and go home. If you’re watching them walk, it seems like they don’t have enough room. The multitude of private automobiles with a single occupant and the hundreds of taxicabs also traveling towards these train terminals block the tens of buses that are trying to get commuters to the stations or to their neighborhoods.

Let’s look at Adams Street between Wacker Drive and Riverside Plaza. Riverside Plaza is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare (privately owned) alongside the west bank of the Chicago River and connects both train stations.

People “wait” to cross to the south sidewalk on Adams Street at Wacker Drive because they want to get to the entrance of Union Station. I use wait lightly – they creep out into the street and jog across whenever there’s the slightest opening (against the crosswalk signal).

Those who didn’t cross Adams Street at Wacker Drive now have to cross at Riverside Plaza. Thankfully, there’s a timed signal here for the crosswalk that stops traffic on Adams Street. It doesn’t always work because taxi drivers park their cabs on all segments of Adams Street here, sometimes on top of the crosswalk stripes themselves.

Take a look at the data (from the City of Chicago Traffic Information website):

  • 41,700 pedestrians, walking in both directions, were counted on Adams Street immediately west of Wacker Drive in one 10 hour segment, between 7:45 and 17:45, in 2007.
  • 14,300 vehicles, westbound only, were counted on Adams Street immediately east of Wacker Drive in one 24 hour segment, on September 20, 2006.

For simplicity, divide the number of pedestrians in half to get the actual number of people walking toward the train station in the afternoon. 20,850 commuters walk on Adams Street to get to Union Station. But trains don’t stop at 17:45. There are several more leaving every 5-10 minutes until 19:00. So add a couple more thousand pedestrians. Imagine that a couple hundred of them will be walking in the street because the sidewalk is crammed (I haven’t photographed this yet).

Now for vehicles. We don’t know how many are delivery trucks, taxicabs, or buses were counted. Only two bus routes come through here. (On Madison Street, in front of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, there are twelve bus routes and fewer walkers.) Some of the vehicles are turning right or left onto Wacker, so we can probably decrease the quantity that’s actually passing by the same count location as the pedestrian count.

Spatial mismatch

So now we know a little bit more about how many people, and by what mode, travel on Adams Street between Wacker Drive and Riverside Plaza. Walking commuters have little room (so little that some choose to walk in the street) on their standard 10-14 feet wide sidewalks and motorized vehicles get lots of room in four travel lanes. Then, the vehicles that achieve the highest efficiency and economic productivity are delayed by the congestion, in part caused by the least efficient vehicles.

Is the space divided fairly? What should change? What examples of “transportation spatial mismatch” can you give for where you live?

Is Chicago ready for Tokyo-inspired elevated pedestrian bridges at intersections? Las Vegas has several of these, as well as every Asian city with a few million residents. I first brought this up in the post, World photographic tour. Photo by Yuzi Kanazawa.

High-speed rail stimulus awards coverage and summary

President Barack Obama was in Tampa, Florida, Thursday morning to announce the winners of the high-speed intercity passenger rail funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). The best coverage of this topic is on The Transport Politic.

View a spreadsheet summarizing all of the high-speed rail corridors, their award amount, and investment projects. I prepared this document based on the press releases from the White House Press Office. With these press releases, I also created the construction summary below.

The Acela, a train traveling from Washington, D.C., to Boston via Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, is the country’s only high-speed rail, achieving a top speed of 150 miles per hour for only a few minutes. Photo by Jonathan Rissmeyer.

Construction Summary

Construction will occur in the following corridors*:

  • Northeast
    • New track and signals on the New York – Albany – Buffalo corridor.
    • New track on the New York – Montreal corridor.
    • Track will be restored/repaired on the Boston – Portland – Brunswick corridor.
    • A station will be built in Greenfield, MA, a station restored in Northampton, MA, and 11 new miles of track in CT, on the New Haven – Springfield – Burlington – St. Albans corridor.
  • Midwest
    • Two stations will be renovated in Troy and Battle Creek, MI, and a new station built in downtown Dearborn, MI, on the Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago corridor.
    • Also on the Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago corridor, a flyover, approach bridges, embankment and retaining walls will be built in Indiana.
    • Construction in Illinois on the Pontiac – Detroit – Chicago corridor includes the relocation, reconfiguration, and addition of high-speed crossovers and related signal system improvements, rail line additions at two locations, and the creation of a new passing tracks.
    • In Iowa, find four, new, remotely controlled powered crossovers on the BNSF Ottumwa subdivision.
    • Cities in Ohio will see various construction projects on the Cleveland – Columbus – Dayton – Cincinnati corridor, including new stations and upgraded track.
    • Illinois becomes the center of attention again on the Chicago – Milwaukee corridor, with various track and station improvements.
    • New stations will be built along the Milwaukee – Madison corridor, which will also see various track upgrades.
    • Illinois is the center of the Midwest rail network. The third largest award in this grant program goes to the Chicago – St. Louis corridor, for upgraded track, signals, and stations, installation of positive train control, and some CREATE projects to reduce congestion in and outside of Chicago.**
    • The St. Louis – Kansas City corridor will see upgraded bridges, crossovers, and improved grade crossings.
  • Pacific Northwest
    • On the Seattle – Portland corridor, expect construction of a bypass track, grade separations, the addition of Positive Train Control, and seismic retrofits to King Station in Seattle, WA.
    • The Portland Union Station will be upgraded.
  • South and Southeast
    • Between Fort Worth and Austin, new signals at grade crossings will be installed.
    • The Charlotte – Raleigh corridor will receive track upgrades.
    • Four new crossovers will be constructed in the Raleigh – Richmond corridor.
    • Between Richmond – Washington, D.C., trains will travel over 11 new miles of high-speed track
  • California
    • The California High Speed Rail Authority receives the largest chunk to construct track, signals, and stations.
    • On the Pacific Surfliner Corridor (San Luis Obispo – Los Angeles – San Diego), new track and crossovers will be constructed.

View on Google Docs or download an Excel file.

*This construction summary is about as complete as the press releases from the White House. I reviewed each press release and copied the information that indicated where construction or upgrades of new or existing project components would actually occur. I excluded planning, environmental impact statements, engineering, and design components of the above projects. I compiled the most important information from the White House press releases into a spreadsheet.

**UPDATED: For more CREATE and Englewood Flyover information, which was funded at $133 million, see page 2 of the Federal Railroad Administration’s summary handout (PDF) and this discussion on Railroad.net.

Thursday is a big day for high-speed rail in America

UPDATE 2: The Transport Politic has the most detailed and comprehensive information on high-speed rail project/corridor funding, a better looking map than Ray LaHood’s map on LaHood’s blog. The White House Press Office posted separate press releases for each project here.

UPDATE: Chicago Business (Crain’s) says Illinois to get $1.2 billion for high-speed rail projects, including money to build the Englewood Flyover connection (Project P1, see map), a major CREATE component (read more: PDF). CREATE is a multi-agency program to reduce the bottlenecks caused by mixing passenger and freight trains and at-grade road crossings.

Tomorrow, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Tampa, Florida, to announce the thirteen corridors winning a portion of $8 billion in funding for high-speed passenger rail projects.

Infrastructurist predicts four winners.

An Amtrak train heads south from Chicago Union Station. If Illinois receives stimulus funding for high-speed rail, we may see some faster locomotives and some new track emerging from the Chicago South Loop train yards.

Vice President Biden, President Obama, and Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (from Peoria, Illinois), announced the high-speed passenger rail plan for the United States in Washington, D.C., in April 2009. Photo by Scott Bernstein of the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, Illinois.

One of the winners Infrastructurist predicts is the State of Illinois on behalf of a project to upgrade the tracks and rolling stock for the Amtrak lines Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle that run from Chicago to St. Louis. This is by far the state’s most prosperous route. The Illinois DOT has increased the subsidy to this route, increasing the frequency of service. In response, ridership has grown year over year over year (although the gain from 2008 to 2009 was only 6 percent).

Will Americans soon travel with more convenience in the coming decade?

The airport link

On Friday I wrote about improving bicycle connections to the nation’s airports (daily destinations for thousands of passengers and workers). I’ll continue working towards this goal, but in the meantime I want to point out what I see as more important: Extending trains to the airport.

A revenue train built by Kinki-Sharyo pulls into the airport station. See more opening day photos from Atomic Taco.

The Sound Transit Link light rail opened to the public on yesterday, Saturday, December 19, 2009, taking travelers and passengers from downtown Seattle south to Seattle-Tacoma airport (SEA) in SeaTac, Washington*. The Seattle region now joins the fortunate ranks of North American cities with direct train access to the major airport. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, opened the Canada Line this year, connecting to YVR.

*SeaTac, Washington, is a real city! Visit the Wikipedia article to learn more. The town has only been incorporated since 1990.

Whose light rail train do you prefer?

In just one year, I’ve traveled to the grand opening for the Phoenix Valley’s (Arizona) first light rail line, visited the light rail lines in Salt Lake City, Utah, (opened before the 2002 Winter Olympics), and took the Megabus to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to check out the Hiawatha light rail. My devotion to monorail is unphased, but in the United States we build monorail lines at a rate of one per decade. To get my train fix, I ride light rail trains around the country. Each of the systems I mentioned uses rolling stock from different manufacturers.

Here you get to pick the best looking cars:

Kinki-Sharyo, a manufacturer from Japan. LF LRV (low floor light rail vehicle).

A Valley Metro train waiting at the Roosevelt/Central Avenue station in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 28, 2009, for the grand opening festivities. Kinki-Shary makes many commuter and shinkansen trains for Japan.

Bombardier, a Canadian builder. Flexity Swift car.

The Metro Transit Hiawatha line (route 55) travels northbound along the Hiawatha corridor multi-use path, approaching 24th Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Siemens, a German company. SD-100 or SD-160 car.

UTA’s TRAX light rail in the Salt Lake City valley operates trains from the Canadian-originated Urban Transportation Development Corporation (now part of Bombardier) and Siemens SD-100 series trains. The UTDC trains have butterfly doors (like some cars on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line); an example from TRAX.

Streetrunning in Jack London Square



jack london inn
Originally uploaded by akagoldfish

Amtrak California trains run in the street through Jack London Square in Oakland, California.

Street running is a common sight around the world. This particular spot has Amtrak, commuter and freight trains sharing the street with all other “normal” users. RailPictures contributors have over 2,000 photos uploaded (search by category). See more photos from this area from El Cobrador and pbo31.

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