High-speed rail not a consideration in Atlanta airport’s master plan

By David Pendered

The future of high-speed passenger rail in the southeast is so uncertain that it is not a significant factor in the long-range master plan being devised for Atlanta’s airport, according to an airport official.

Hartsfield Jackson logo

Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Credit: HJAIA

“Given that there are not firm high-speed rail plans, that is not included here,” in the airport’s master plan now being devised, said Tom Nissalke, the airport’s director of environmental and technical services.

This assumption on high-speed commuter rail, and a myriad of other forecasts that are driving the master plan, are to be presented Dec. 4 in a meeting that’s open to the public at Atlanta City Hall. The Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee is hosting a two-hour work session on airport related matters.

Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms asked Nissalke about the impact of high-speed rail on the airport’s future during his update Wednesday to the Transportation Committee.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has put the issue of high-speed commuter rail in Georgia on a front burner. Reed has been talking up the potential of what he calls a “trail of prosperity,” a high-speed commuter rail system to link Atlanta with Savannah.

Nissalke said the Federal Aviation Administration prepares the impact statements that drive the forecasting models.

“If there is an high-speed rail attracting passengers away from aircraft, it’s a very small number,” he said. “Given that there are not firm high-seed rail plans, that is not included here. … But we will be taking that into account.”

Nissalke also told the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee on Wednesday that Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport is expected to continue to dominate passenger air travel in the southeast.

No other airport in the region is positioned to overtake Atlanta, he said. Atlanta needs to be mindful of upgrades at airports in cities such as Orlando and Miami, but they are not likely to be game-changing events.

The number of passengers who use Atlanta’s airport is expected to rise from 92 million in 2011 to 120.7 in 2031, Nissalke said.

Questions about how the airport can accommodate a growth rate above 30 percent during that time frame are to be addressed in the master plan, he said.

“It will create a financial plan to determine who’s paying for what, and when,” Nissalke said.

The presentation of the master plan will be its second major public unveiling. The plan, which remains a work in progress, was the subject of an open house on Aug. 14 that attracted about 40 people, according to a report on the airport’s website.

Click here to see the report on the open house.

The opening of the fifth runway, in May, completed the recommendations of the 1999 master plan. The airport in January began a new master plan to manage Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport through 2030. The new plan is to be complete in late 2013, Nissalke said.

 

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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16 comments
writes_of_weigh
writes_of_weigh

First - the good mayor, while I'm certain has most of the best of intent, on the subject of effective, world-class, modern transit and rail-centric  development for the denizens of Atlanta, and the greater metro area to boot, he must be more adept at defining for what he wishes. While the metro wide workforce grinds it's way to and fro each workday morn and eve, stuck in the morass that defines "mobility" in Atlanta, and indeed much of  interconnected north Georgia, it's elicits little surprise that much wistful "dreaming" occurs and is blathered and bloviated over as regards a more rapid commute, to suggest that "high speed commuter rail" is a solution to decades of inattention to the metro areas traffic woes.....well one might just as well wish for "Scottie", erstwhile tending the transporter room controls aboard the starship Enterprise, to "engage" and beam us up.....er, to.

To clarify, this very week, discussion has occurred on some transpo-tilted forums, as to the defining of H-S-R vs Higher Speed Rail vs Amtrak speed rail(?) (an obvious oxymoron) vs 100+ m.p.h.  passenger train operating speeds(prevalent on certain Southeastern U.S. rail routes in the mid-twentieth century) when personal time was important and a factor in much of daily life activities and actions. Now some seem, in general discussion, to pile on their hopes for gridlock solution(s) as high speed (fill-in-the-blank)(light rail(?)(trolley(?)). At least he recognizes that a higher velocity rail vehicle just might be requisite in the tool-box for any pending fix for either the airports future or the States. See, Senator Reed just might not be implausible after all.

I wonder what Doc Broun and others of his ilk(and potentially with a "hat in the ring") might have to say about  this subject?

Senator Reed - Indeed!

gblatham
gblatham

Many true high speed lines around the world have proven quite effective when competing head-to-head against commercial airline service. In fact, there are several examples where airway alternatives have eventually disappeared. However, this should have little to do with our discussion.

 

1. The primary competition - for both airlines and railways - is the private automobile. Rail-based passenger service should concentrate upon tapping into THAT market (at least initially).

 

2. When we consider that conventional intercity passenger train service between Atlanta and Savannah hasn't even EXISTED for 41 1/2 YEARS, why must we think planning efforts begin with the formation of a new-from-the-ground-up high speed line?!

 

3. The airport should embrace the NEED for rail-based connections - of  ALL types - and reserve the rights-of-way within its property for trackage and station facilities, even if expanded train service seems to be stuck in the formative stage.

 

4. Why is "intermodalism" such a foreign (and frightening) concept? Moreover, why should the general public allow special interests (such as those being protected by Tom Nissalke and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) to drive planning efforts?

 

5. Presuming Mr. Nissalke's statement concerning the F.A.A. is accurate, that agency's failure to REQUIRE railroad connectivity in ALL future airfield plans simply indicates an institutional failure on the part the U.S. D.O.T. to oversee the work of its component parts.

 

My disgust knows no bounds.

 

Garl B. Latham

Dallas, Texas

 

 

SteveVogel
SteveVogel

“If there is an high-speed rail attracting passengers away from aircraft, it’s a very small number,”

Well, of course not.  There's very little HSR that can attract airline passengers.  He does need to look at the Northeast Corridor, though, where Amtrak is king.  And Spain, where despite its economic woes, rail has gained a significant number of passengers at the expense of air travel.

If you build it, they will come.

Mason Hicks
Mason Hicks

 @SteveVogel When one considers that the majority of flights in the Continental US are for trips of less than five-hundred miles; In France and Western Europe, traveling by plane for such comparatively short distances is extremely rare... The TGV has had a profound affect on local scheduled airline service in France. However, in the US, I doubt that high speed rail would be quite as devastating to the airline industry. I'm sure That if the infrastructure was in place, or being convincingly developed, I'm sure that the major air carriers would send many of their winged money-pits out to sit in the desert and opt to place their brands onto the sides of high-speed trains to make their connections. Air-to-rails multi-modality has not really succeeded in Europe to the level that they had hoped. I believe that the terrain is much more suited for such in North America. I agree with both Garl and Steve that the short-sightedness of Mr. Nissalke and the Atlanta Airport Planners is most disappointing... 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  @SteveVogel

 The conversation about upgrading access to rail transit in the mobility-challenged Atlanta region should start with implementing critically-needed regional commuter rail service within 130 miles of Atlanta, cultivating and building up ridership on that regional commuter rail service on tracks that are able to accommodate future high-speed intercity passenger rail service as needed and then expanding that regional commuter rail service into high-speed intercity passenger rail service as demand dictates with the most likely and probable starting point for high-speed intercity passenger rail being on the current once-daily Amtrak Crescent line that runs between New York and New Orleans by way of Atlanta where intial ridership is likely to be the absolutely highest. 

 

The most pressing need for passenger rail service in the corridor south of Atlanta is NOT high-speed intercity service between Atlanta and Savannah, but is high-frequency commuter rail service on the two Norfolk Southern rail right-of-ways that parallel both sides of the often-severely congested I-75 between Atlanta and Macon (not necessarily on the existing tracks, but on new tracks that can accommodate BOTH high-quality, high-frequency regional commuter rail service and eventual high-speed intercity while not interfering with existing and future increased freight rail operations).

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  @SteveVogel

 You all are very much correct that the short-sightedness of Nissalke and Atlanta Airport Planners is most disappointing, but it is understandable as I wouldn't expect anyone connected to the airline industry to work with anything that they think will draw business away from their bread and butter.

 

When it comes to rail transit and overall multimodal transportation planning, the entity that should be (but is obviously NOT) leading the way is the State of Georgia.

 

It is the State of Georgia that should have brought regional commuter rail service online two decades ago during the period of then endless, non-stop explosive growth and it is the State of Georgia that should be leading the way in connecting the region to the Atlanta Airport by way of at least regional commuter rail and bus and making plans to eventually connect the region to the ATL Airport by high-speed rail rather directly with plans for a high-speed rail station on the grounds of the airport or indirectly with dependable and high-frequency regional commuter and local heavy & light rail service connections to the nearest high-speed rail line.

 

Though, starting with Mayor Reed's recent remarks about establishing a high-speed rail line between Atlanta and Savannah, everyone seems to be jumping the gun a bit too prematurely about establishing high-speed rail service on one questionable corridor to Savannah when severely-needed regional commuter service is still many years away from being even a serious thought, the current existing regional commuter bus service (GRTA Xpress, CCT, GCT) is just barely hanging on by a thread and the existing severely-neglected heavy rail service (MARTA) appears to be in a severe death spiral. 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  

 I also completely understand where you are coming from with the suggestion that future high-speed passenger rail lines be placed in the right-of-way alignments of Interstate highways in the U.S. as is practiced with high-speed rail lines in Europe.

 

Though along with the very big concerns that I noted earlier about placing high-speed rail lines in the right-of-ways of Interstate highways, there are big concerns that direct high-speed passenger rail trains would not necessarily have the ridership and frequency, especially early-on, to justify the cost of building an alignment for high-speed rail trains in the within the ROW of Interstates that was completely separate from the combined alignments of regional commuter trains and more conventional intercity passenger trains in the ROW of existing freight trains (and historical intercity passenger trains).  

 

There's a very big concern about Interstate highway alignments of high-speed rail lines pulling precious investment dollars and development capital away from the existing freight rail right-of-ways where those dollars are so critically-needed.

 

There's also a very big concern that aligning high-speed rail lines in the right-of-way of Interstate highways between major stops in larger cities would not necessarily enable stops to be added as needed in smaller suburban, exurban and rural communities between major stops in larger cities, especially if some high-speed intercity passengers trains run only as infrequently as once-a-day in each direction (as is the case currently with the Amtrak Crescent intercity passenger train that operates by way of Atlanta on the NS right-of-way between New Orleans and New York) or as little as a few times a week as might be the case on a possible high-speed rail alignment between Atlanta and Savannah.

 

Though make no mistake, locating high-speed rail lines within the right-of-ways of Interstate highway between major urban stops is an idea that should be looked at.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  

 Mr. Hicks, as usual, you have written another excellent post full of great stuff about trains, especially on the technical side of things.

 

Your suggestion of tunneling high-speed trains underground through parts of densely-developed areas is an EXCELLENT suggestion.

 

Tunneling trains under densely-developed/populated areas is an excellent concept that can and should most certainly be strongly considered and applied in the process of expanding and upgrading rail service in the United States.

 

Tunneling rail tracks underground through densely-developed areas is a concept that would really work well here in Metro Atlanta where our railroad right-of-ways run directly through densely-developed urban neighborhoods and compact walkable downtowns of suburban, exurban and rural historic railroad towns.

 

By tunneling train tracks underground through densely-developed areas we could create new opportunities for linear parks and recreational trails in the right-of-ways of rail tracks on the surface above the tunneled freight and passenger rail tracks.

 

Tunneling train tracks underground through densely-developed areas would also allow additional freight and passenger railroad tracks to be added to rail right-of-ways without disturbing the very popular mature tree buffers that line most surface railroad right-of-ways through the densely-developed residential areas that line railroad right-of-ways through urban areas.  

 

Underground, railroad right-of-ways could be widened and expanded horizontally without disturbing the mature dense development that line them through urban areas. 

 

Tunneling train tracks underground through historic urban neighborhoods and compact walkable downtowns that line existing railroad right-of-ways would also create development opportunities for compact retail-heavy mixed-use transit-oriented development in the surface right-of-way above the train tunnels.

 

For instance, take the extremely busy CSX/Western & Atlantic freight railroad right-of-way for which future regional high-speed commuter rail service are proposed between Atlanta and Chattanooga and possible future intercity passenger rail service (and high-speed intercity passenger rail service) are proposed between Atlanta and Chicago.

 

Imagine that regional commuter rail service and intercity passenger rail service are eventually added to that CSX/W&A right-of-way northwest of Atlanta along with expanded freight rail capacity to accommodate more freight trains on a stretch of track that is amongst the busiest stretches of track on the entire planet for freight trains between Atlanta and Cartersville.

 

Imagine that as both passenger rail and freight rail operational capacity are dramatically increased along that CSX/W&A right-of-way northwest of Atlanta that the trains are tunneled underground through densely-developed Northwest Metro Atlanta from the unincorporated village of Vinings in Southeast Cobb through the Cumberland Mall area, Smyrna, the historic downtown of Cobb County seat Marietta, Kennesaw and Acworth.

 

Historic Vinings village in particular is an example of a place where the concept of tunneling an extremely busy stretch of train trackage underground as Vinings is a where there would unquestionably be the most fiercest objections to the prospect of expanded rail operations of any kind on that heavily tree-buffered single track that runs through that increasingly urban densely-developed inner-suburban village.

 

Tunneling the CSX/W&A underground as it runs through Vinings (and beyond) might also make the prospect of a regional commuter rail station much more attractive to that very densely-developed inner-suburban/urban community which already struggles with very-frequent train operations on the surface, particularly at the railroad crossing where a busy Paces Ferry Road intersects with an extremely busy CSX/W&A single track in downtown Vinings village.

 

Tunneling the current and future trackage of the CSX/W&A underground would also free up the existing surface right-of-way to be used for mixed-use transit-oriented development over transit stations and tracks in the historic downtowns of Vinings, Smyrna, Marietta, Kennesaw and Acworth where that type of use is most-desired as a revitalization tool for their existing town centers.

 

The surface of the CSX/W&A right-of-way could also be used as a recreational trail/linear park between transit station stops in each of those historic downtowns. 

Mason Hicks
Mason Hicks

@The Last Democrat in Georgia

Wow, "Last Democrat" you have a lot to say... I am afraid that I will not be able to address a lot of it... I am very sensitive to urbanism issues, along with issues of community walk-ability and livability. But these elements do not really apply to the high speed rail conversation as it concerns major alignment options. It is sincerely hoped that the urban departure and destination points for the high speed service would have all the multi-modal services and connections, along with smart growth qualities and rational urbanism elements that make for good community practice, but high speed rail is about very fast trains racing across the open countryside, as a more rational way of traveling between urban centers, and from one state to another..

The design firm that I work for is heavily involved both in the urbanism issues of urban multi-modal station planning as well in design for high speed rail. In fact we invented station architecture for the TGV...

Traditional intercity rail, such as replacing what we used to have throughout the US, should of course follow the existing rail ROW. That way, the town centers, which were originally built around the rail stations, but were later decimated by the introduction of the by-passing Insterstate Highway system can be regenerated into TODs (Transit Oriented Developments), which link directly to walk-able neighborhoods and districts, which are equally linked with usable transit, complete streets, and just as importantly well planned bike routes, and green-ways. TOD is actually NOT a new idea...

However, this is not was high-speed rail is. High speed rail is a point-to-point connection between major or semi-major urban centers. When I suggest that high speed rail lines be aligned along interstate Hwy or freeway right-of-way, (already pedestrian no-man's lands...) I am speaking in a solely rural context. Of course, I'm also speaking of high speed rail under the European definition. What technically qualifies as high speed rail in the States, is actually standard traditional rail service in Europe (SNCF's "Corail Intercities", for example) High speed rail lines (TGVs, running on LGVs in France) or "very high speed" under the US definition, would avoid any and all urban conditions at all cost. When an LGV approaches an urbanized area, it will bypass it, dive under it in a tunnel, or fly over it on a high speed viaduct. 

Being as high speed would follow the Interstates only when it is running at  high speed, it cannot contribute to suburban sprawl. The train will not stop at the exits outside Dalton, Dublin, Cordele, Banks Crossing for a Burger King run. The Burger King is already on the train... Or, if the urbanized area happens to be the trains destination, then it either joins the rail network, or as in more recent developments in France, passes at speed underneath the outlying suburban areas in high speed tunnels before slowing down to join the rail network closer to the urban heart.  High Speed rail departure and destination points would typically be cities, large enough to now be served by scheduled airline service. In fact, as I alluded to in my first comment my good friend @SteveVogel Steve Vogel, my major goal for high speed rail service in North America would be to reduce the number of short haul and commuter flights that now clog our sky routes, Thereby leaving most of the flying  to longer distance routes which are more profitable for the airlines and will probably never practically be replaced by the train... I believe that we have succeeded in taking this thread completely off topic...

It's now bed-time in Paris so I'll say Good-night to you, Sir... 

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  

 And while it would initially be much more developmental in nature than a major tourist draw in the early going, your suggestion of running tourist-oriented trolleys on the Beltline right-of-way instead of light rail lines is also an excellent idea.

 

Starting with running trolley service on Beltline would be the best way to proceed early-on as the proposed path of the Atlanta Beltline does not quite matchup and would not quite connect with the rail stations on the MARTA system for a light rail system to be successfully initially without ridership being cultivated so that any rail transit lines on the Beltline would be sustainable over the long run.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  

 As you stated, it is an excellent idea to make rural interests stakeholders in the planning for future high-speed intercity passenger rail lines.

 

Those rural political interests, who while diminished in political power in Georgia Politics with the continuing rise of the ultraconservative power structure out of the fast-growing Atlanta outer suburbs and exurbs, still hold a great deal of political sway at the state level.

 

Routing those future high-speed intercity passenger rail lines, along with regional commuter rail lines, through those outlying areas around the state on the existing freight rail line right-of-ways that run directly through those sleepy, but historic, small rural cities and towns that are desperately in need of and seeking the type of economic boost that would come with the development of extensive passenger rail transit service throughout the state would greatly help to cultivate the political support that would be needed to get such an ambitious transportation initiative up-and-running.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  

 And it is not economically-struggling rural areas like the I-16 Corridor that exhibits the most anti-passenger rail sentiment as most economically-depressed rural areas throughout the state relish and even constantly literally beg for the opportunity to be connected to the massive growth, prosperity and power structure of Atlanta by way of intercity, interurban and regional commuter rail service like back in the old days.

 

The economic boost that statewide passenger rail service would likely bring to sleepy and depressed rural areas throughout the much of state outside of the Atlanta region that makes passenger rail a very attractive high priority of increasingly desperate rural interests.

 

It is by far the economically prosperous and socially-ultraconservative posh outer suburbs and exurbs of the Metro Atlanta region (ESPECIALLY Cobb, Cherokee, Gwinnett, Fayette, etc) that have historically and consistently exhibited the most hardcore vitriolic anti-rail and anti-transit sentiment out of the fear of the out-migration of blacks, crime and urban blight being brought to their historically predominantly-white far-flung communities by way of MARTA-style passenger trains from the urban core.

 

Though as traffic continues to worsen on busy commuter automobile routes between the suburbs, exurbs and the urban core and Atlanta has started to see the outset of losing its economic competitiveness due to an increasingly bad reputation internationally caused a stubborn refusal to deal with its infamous traffic and mobility issues, much of that historically hardcore vitriolic anti-transit and anti-rail sentiment is starting to soften dramatically throughout the ultraconservative outer suburbs and exurbs that struggle with those traffic issues on a frequent basis.

 

Though admittedly, there still is quite a ways to go until rail transit becomes a widely-accepted solution throughout the ultraconservative suburban and exurban power structure that currently completely dominates Georgia Politics.

 

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  

 And while the straightness of the right-of-way of the I-16 Corridor may be desirable for the physical operations of a high-speed rail route between Atlanta and Savannah, it is that sparcely developed and wide-open characteristic of the I-16 route that is its biggest drawback.

 

The I-16 route, while spectacular for direct high-speed automobile traffic, is not all that great for passenger rail traffic of any speed as it bypasses, sometimes by several miles, the sleepy historic downtowns of small cities and towns of rural Southeast Georgia that are most in need of passenger rail connectivity and the increased economic activity that comes with it.

 

In fact, other than the I-16 route, which IMHO should not be under consideration for any future high-speed rail line because it ignores the sagging small towns that most desperately need the economic and financial boost that would come such a highly-impacting infrastructural upgrade, there are two other existing rail routes in the Macon-Savannah corridor of the area in discussion that would benefit the most from high-speed rail operations, economically, financially and logistically.

 

The Norfolk Southern (NS) rail line that runs between Macon and Savannah would benefit tremendously from an upgrade that would help it to be able to accommodate high-speed rail service because that line currently supports a relatively heavy amount of freight rail traffic that travels between Atlanta and the Port of Savannah.

 

That NS line, which connects Macon and Savannah by way of the very small rural Southeast Georgia towns of Gordon, Tennille, Wadley, Midville, Millen and Springfield while providing important logistical access by way of rail to the nearby slightly larger rural Southeast Georgia towns of Sandersville, Louisville, Swainsboro, Statesboro (home to the up-and-coming and fast-growing Georgia Southern University) and Sylvania via lightly-used spur rail lines, is greatly positioned for an upgrade to high-speed freight rail operational quality seeing as though that particular rail line runs in very close proximity to the increasingly important Port of Savannah.

 

The Georgia Central Railroad line (GCR) that runs between Macon and Savannah by way of the small Southeast Georgia cities of Dublin, Vidalia, Claxton and Pembroke while running just beyond the northern edge of the massive Fort Stewart military installation, would be *PERFECT* for an upgrade to high-speed intercity passenger rail operations because it is so sparcely used by freight trains and follows a relatively straight and direct path between Downtown Macon and historic Downtown Savannah, which as Mr. Hicks mentioned in his post, is a very popular tourist draw, especially amongst Metro Atlantans who would have a direct passenger rail connection re-established to said very popular tourist draw with the establishment of a high-speed intercity rail line between ATL and Savannah.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Mason Hicks  

Mr. Hicks, you make some excellent points and bring a very unique perspective to this discussion with your residency in France and first-hand knowledge of European rail transit systems.

 

And you make a very good point about the right-of-ways of Interstate Highways likely being more physically compatible for the construction of high-speed intercity passenger rail lines given that the long straightaways of Interstate Highways were built to accommodate high vehicular speeds.

 

On the surface, Interstate Highways may appear to be better options for high-speed intercity passenger rail service because of the ability of Interstate highways to seemingly accommodate higher rail speeds. 

 

The biggest concern is that operating high-speed rail lines within the ROW of Interstate highways surrounded by sprawling automobile-oriented development would not have the same immensely overwhelmingly positive economic and social impact on fostering sustainable long-term transit-friendly development patterns as constructing and operating regional commuter rail lines and high-speed intercity passenger rail lines in the existing ROW of freight trains that are already lined by walkable transit-friendly development. 

 

 Another concern is that constructing and operating high-speed intercity passenger rail lines in the autocentric right-of-ways of Interstate highways would retard the redevelopment and revitalization of the walkable transit-friendly historic urban neighborhoods and walkable suburban, exurban and rural historic town centers that line the existing right-of-ways of freight rail lines and instead likely encourage even more sprawling traffic-inducing automobile-oriented development around Interstate highways while dramatically lessening the positive land-use impact of the high-speed rail lines and possibly even rendering them unsustainable over the long run.

 

Though there are no high-speed intercity passenger rail lines located within the right-of-ways of expressways in North America, the existing passenger rail transit lines that are located within the right-of-ways of expressways and freeways sometimes struggle to attract riders and sustain themselves as the stations are often located in the middle of said expressway or freeway surrounded by automobile-oriented infrastructure and often isolated from the surrounding communities that they serve and unable to foster walkable transit-friendly development.

 

Passenger rail lines located within (or directly and immediately adjacent to) the right-of-ways of existing freight rail lines often have the most success in terms of ridership and having overwhelmingly positive impacts on fostering more sustainable long-term land-use patterns. 

 

Passenger rail lines located within the right-of-ways of existing freight rail lines also help to spark walkable transit-friendly, transit-oriented development around multimodal stations on their respective lines and create much more sustainable land-use and transportation patterns all the way around when utilized fully and properly.

Mason Hicks
Mason Hicks

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia  @SteveVogel 

First of all, I agree that the Atlanta-Charlotte route perhaps should be given the highest priority; but sometimes... some - times; the best development plan may be the easiest one to build... I say this with with some degree of consternation because it could easily be miss-read or miss-applied... High speed intercity rail and commuter rail are not compatible; at least not in the context that is applied here in Europe. Here in the Paris region, you will often see TGVs and RER commuter rail trains literally running side-by-side, but the TGV is just beginning or ending it's journey and is not operating at anything close to high speed. It does this across the country that on the LGVs (Ligne à Grande Vitesse (high-speed line)). In this context, we should also not be talking about high speed rail in the context of modifying existing Class1 carrier-owned ROW, that is simply looking in the wrong place. If one follows Norfolk-Southern's Main-Line ROW as it passes between Seneca, SC, across the border, thru Toccoa and Gainesville he would quickly understand that this will never ever be a real HSR corridor; despite it having been identified as such by the USDOT. For HSR ROW, we need to be looking instead at the Interstate highways. It is already designed for higher speeds That's often how it's done in Europe; either an LGV follows an Autoroute (or just as often, the Autoroute is later built alongside the LGV...). For the Atlanta-to-Charlotte service, the route should follow closely along I-85, with a station directly tied into  Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) Airport, and later at Charlotte Douglas International, befor proceeding into the city... I would love to see a joint university-level engineering and urbanism study by Georgia Tech, Clemson, and UNC Charlotte looking into this in depth, much in the same way that the University of Pennsylvania studied the Northeast Corridor. That study partly prompted AMTRAK to develop it's new master plan for a revised NEC ( ttp://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/453/325/Amtrak-Vision-for-the-Northeast-Corridor.pdf).With respect to the Atlanta to Savannah potential HSR route. The I-16 Corridor is long, straight, wide-open, relatively heavily traveled and sparsely developed, I doubt that Mayor Reed was specifically referring to the I-16 corridor, but it's there for him to do so... Also, that corridor is the breeding ground (admittedly bad choice of words...) for those who constantly preach the anti-passenger rail gospel. Making them potential positive stake-holders could be worth something politically. It would be a HSR route to a vacation destination, but I should remind you that in Charlotte, the public interest that lead to the development of the Lynx Blue Line Light Rail Service was originally spurred-on by a two-mile tourist trolley route that a private enthusiast started. I've said more than once that someone should do this along the Atlanta Beltline ROW, back when there was still a track on it; but it goes to show that even in passenger rail infrastructure development short first steps can have a lasting impact...   

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