Keys to Urban Rail Success

The keys to the success of urban rail are the following:

    1. High residential population densities. Core area densities tend to be many times that of more automobile oriented urbanized areas in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These high core densities support a high level of public transport usage in the core areas, and as a result there is considerably less automobile usage. Such substitution of public transport for automobiles does not generally occur in core areas with lower densities.

    2. Exceedingly large central business districts. For example, Tokyo, New York, Paris and London Each of the examples have central business districts with more than 750,000 jobs. Virtually no other urbanized area in the developed world has a central business district with more that 400,000 jobs, and most are in the range of 50,000 to 200,000. The massive central business district employment numbers and densities support a high degree of substitution by rail of automobile use that is not possible in smaller central business districts (because there is too little demand and it is too dispersed).

The prerequisites for rail success with respect to controlling traffic congestion are thus high residential population density and massive central business districts.

But there are two additional issues ---

    1. Grade separated rail: Each of the urban rail success sites relies primarily on higher speed urban rail strategies --- metros and commuter rail. Light rail provides little or none of the rail service, because to compete with the automobile requires automobile competitive speeds, something that is not possible without significant grade separation (In a fully grade separated alignment, light rail could replicate the performance of metros). As a result, light rail plays little role where rail is an effective strategy.

    2. Little Suburb to Suburb Potential: With respect to reducing traffic congestion, urban rail can do little outside feed dense urban districts and the central business district in the modern sprawling urban area. Suburb to suburb travel, for example, is not a lucrative market for Paris or Tokyo, much less Phoenix or Portland. However, as noted above, where central urban densities are very high and where central business districts are very large, urban rail can and does play a significant role.

(c) 2001 --- Wendell Cox Consultancy --- Permission granted to use with attribution.
The Public Purpose
Demographic Briefs
Government Cost Review
Gov't Employment Fact Book
Highway & Motorway Fact Book
Intercity Transport Fact Book
Labor Market Reporter
School Transport Fact Book
Transport Fact Book
Urban Policy
Urban Transport Fact Book
Competitive Tendering Website
Intl Comp. & Ownership Conference
Alternatives to Light Rail in Seattle

Contact by E-Mail
Subscribe (Free)
Corrections Policy & Rights

The Public Purpose     WENDELL COX CONSULTANCY     Demographia
P. O. Box 841 - Belleville, IL 62269 USA
Telephone: +1.618.632.8507 - Facsimile: +1.810.821.8134<