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[Photo: Dave Dobbs]


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Want to Support Rail Transit?
Your Contribution Can Help Our Efforts in 2007...

Produced by the Light Rail Now! Publication Team
December 2006

Do you want to see more and better rail transit and rail public transport in today's world? Would you like to further rail transit in your own community?

If you answered affirmatively ... well, now's the time to energize those dreams with dollars! ... With a tax-deductible contribution to the Light Rail Now Project!

In the USA, the Light Rail Now Project is the only organized effort (that we're aware of) dedicated to promoting light rail transit (LRT) – including streetcars as well as "heavier" interurban or semi-metro-style LRT – as well as other modes of modern, advanced, standard-rail transit technology, on a worldwide basis. In this, we work cooperatively with other organizations promoting progressive, multi-modal public transport issues, such as the American Public Transportation Association, the Center for Transportation Excellence, the Surface Transportation Policy Project, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, the Rail Users Network, and the Light Rail Transit Association.

The Light Rail Now Project also is the only American organization (as far as we know) specializing in providing both civic transit advocates and transit industry professionals with key information to enable adequately informed responses to rail transit critics and adequately informed decisions in alternative analyses and other aspects of transit project planning.

One thing we've learned by long, hard experience – corroborated most recently by the successes for rail transit in the USA's November elections: Rail transit projects don't just sprout into being from magic ... making them happen takes work – lots of work.

Our role is to provide useful information and analysis to the visionary local community leaders, activists, public transit planners, and transit agency professionals and decisionmakers who nurture these projects and seek public support. Not only is there resistance to change among a motor vehicle-dependent voting public, but popular misconceptions about rail transit are widespread. And then there's the brigade of anti-rail, anti-transit "professional critics" – well-financed by elements profiting from highway construction and urban sprawl – who maintain a relentless barrage of attacks, peppered with Urban Legends and "Numbers Voodoo" (deceptive manipulation of statistical information), all aimed at convincing us that, despite all appearances, rail systems (and mass transit generally) are supposedly a collosal "failure".

The struggle against public inertia, popular misconceptions, and the chicanery and dysinformation campaign of professional opponents with vastly greater resources often seems very daunting indeed. But fortunately, even though it's an uphill struggle, the Light Rail Now Project has been making progress – such as the accomplishments described in our article Reflecting Surge in Worldwide interest in Rail Transit, Light Rail Now Website Activity Soars.

2006 has been a very busy year for the Light Rail Now Project – with a number of additional accomplishments, and a nationwide score of huge steps toward rail transit improvement and expansion (especially in rail transit ballot initiatives). For example...

Help for rail transit initiatives and decisions

Over the past year, the Light Rail Now Project has continued to be a major force in educating the public on rail transit, providing support for rail transit electoral initiative campaigns, and providing key information and analysis which have helped influence planning decisions.

· Approval of new-start LRT projects in Tucson, Kansas City – Website material and other assistance from the Light Rail Now Project has proved an important resource particularly for transit advocates in their successful efforts to win voter support for these new LRT projects.

· Approval of LRT expansion in Salt Lake City – Feedback suggests that website material and other assistance from the LRN Project likewise proved an important resource particularly for transit advocates and transit agency professionals in their successful efforts to win voter support this past November for Proposition 3, approved by 64 percent, raising the sales tax by a quarter-cent to pay for rail expansion and road projects.

· Charlotte (Southeast Corridor Project) – At the request of several Charlotte community organizations, the Light Rail Now Project has been providing information, expertise, guidance, and analysis to justify an electric light rail transit alternative for Charlotte's Southeast (independence Blvd.) Corridor in preference to the "bus rapid transit" plan favored by the transit agency. The LRN Project's work included several technical memos and a major analytical document, Charlotte's Southeast Corridor: Light Rail Transit vs. "Bus Rapid Transit".

In its September meeting, Charlotte's Metropolitan Transit Commission voted to put the "BRT" plan on hold for five years while officials and planners there try to find a way to justify LRT instead. Charlotte's Citizens for Efficient Mass Transit (CEMT), in its Summer 2006 newsletter, reports being "encouraged" by the decision, and notes that

...we see the delay as a window of opportunity to gather more facts and figures in support of our claim that light rail is by far the better choice in the Southeast. We believe that we have already made a start in that direction by presenting documents supplied by the national organization Light Rail Now, and by information submitted by well-known transit expert E. L. Tennyson [a technical consultant to the Light Rail Now Project].

Light Rail Now website breakthroughs

As usual, the Light Rail Now (LRN) website ( has provided a forum for a number of groundbreaking articles of substantial value to rail transit planning and advocacy.

These include the first several articles in our Electrification 101 series – which has not only broken new ground (in documenting the basic case for electrified public transport) but is unique as a resource on the internet:

· Alan Drake, Electrification of Transportation as a Response to Peaking of World Oil Production
in view of the imminent peaking of global oil production and its troubling implications, the potential for electrification in transportation appears to be far more immediate, well-proven, and readily available as an efficient and highly beneficial alternative to petroleum dependency than is adequately acknowledged, asserts Alan Drake in this commentary. Transportation electrification appears to offer the quickest, most permanent, and most profound impact with the best ancillary benefits for human health, land use, pollution, and Global Warming.

· E. L. Tennyson, PE, The Cost-Effectiveness of Electric Rail ...Examples from Real-World Experience
While railway operations using diesel multiple units or similar rail vehicles self- propelled by fuel engines can be a practical means of providing rail transit at lower initial capital cost, there is a point at which electrification becomes more cost-effective and more attractive to the public.

· Alan Drake, A 10% Reduction in America's Oil Use in Ten to Twelve Years
Researcher Alan Drake proposes a 5-step plan, including an accelerated program of electric public transport expansion and railroad electrification, aimed at reducing US oil consumption, reducing greenhouse gases, improving the US economy, reducing congestion, providing transportation alternatives, and reducing the number of 18-wheel trucks on US highways.

We also began our Busting "BRT" Mythology series, including the following articles:

· LRN team, Rail Transit vs. "Bus Rapid Transit": Comparative Success and Potential in Attracting Ridership
Despite claims that "there is no evident preference for rail travel over bus", and a federal campaign to promote "BRT", evidence overwhelmingly suggests that rail transit modes significantly outperform "BRT" buses in attracting ridership.

· Norman Rolfe, Reality Check: Breakthrough Technologies institute's Dubious Claims on "Bus Rapid Transit", Electric Rail, and Global Warming
A recent paper from the national "BRT" advocacy group Breakthrough Technologies institute claims that "bus rapid transit" ("BRT") buses will produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions than electric light rail transit (LRT). However, says engineer Norman Rolfe in this analysis, BTI's methodology exaggerates the relative ridership of "BRT" vs. LRT, and makes invalid energy comparisons. In reality, a system using electrically powered vehicles will produce less "greenhouse" gases than one using internal combustion engine vehicles.

· LRN team, LA's "Orange Line" Busway – "Just Like Rail, But Cheaper?" A Photo-Report Reality Check
Promoters of "Bus Rapid Transit" ("BRT") have been promulgating the claim that this mode of bus deployment is "just like rail transit, but cheaper". But how does Los Angeles's new "Orange Line" actually measure up in comparison to light rail and other rail systems? As usual, "a photo is worth a thousand words" ... so selected photos may help to illustrate the "Orange Line" facility and pertinent issues associated with it.

Other leading-edge articles of salient value to the transit planning and rail advocacy community published within the past year include:

· LRN team, Randal O'Toole's "Great Rail Disaster": ideological Train Wreck Disguised as "Research Study"
Randal O'Toole's "Rail Disasters" tracts have been widely disseminated by anti- rail extremists, and presented as a kind of Holy Writ or magical touchstone of purported "research" validating extravagant denunciations of rail transit. Yet, when examined in detail, O'Toole's methodology is revealed as a mélange of disastrously flawed methodology and deceptively manipulated and selected statistics.

· Lyndon Henry and Samuel J. Archer, Projected Ridership for New Light Rail Starts: issues of Accuracy and impact on Congestion
Contrary to the claims of rail critics, most forecasts of ridership for new LRT services are reasonably accurate, according to this paper presented at APTA's Rail Conference in 2001. Moreover, say the authors, while the impact of new LRT services on total regional traffic in an urbanized area may be small, the impact in specific corridors served can be quite significant, especially during peak periods of travel.

· Dave Dobbs, Your Campus Does Light Rail Run Through it? Light Rail Transit Access to North American Colleges and Universities
Rail transit, especially light rail, is ideally suited to provide high-quality and understandable connectivity between college and university campuses and their regional transit systems. This analysis by Dave Dobbs provides examples illustrating how many major campuses across North America are connected by light rail to their respective cities' public transportation networks.

· Bill Becwar, Portland Light Rail Case Study Busts the "Pork Barrel" Myth
Rail critics, facing an undeniable increase in light rail projects being built in the US, contend this is merely the result of "federal pork" (i.e., extravagant luxuries of no real value). However, data for Portland's highly successful LRT system easily dispel this absurd myth.

· LRN team, Streetcar vs. Bus: Operating cost comparison

· LRN team, Photo-Report: Little Rock Streetcar – Simple Design = Low Cost
A photo-report which details how Little Rock's River Rail heritage streetcar operation provides an excellent model for this type of light rail transit system.

· LRN team, USA: More Evidence of the Powerful Mobility Benefits of Public Transit
Evidence from public transit strikes in Los Angeles (2003) and San Francsico (1997), and from the 9/11 crisis in Washington, DC, demonstrates the significant role of public transit in alleviating traffic congestion compared to the level of congestion that would otherwise be experienced without it.

Supporting contributions to professional literature

Certainly, some of our foremost accomplishments have been to facilitate a number of important contributions to the professional rail transit literature - literary material which helps bolster the base of technical knowledge and arguments for rail transit.

The following research studies, presented in April 2006 at the Joint international Light Rail Conference in St. Louis – co-sponsored by the US Transportation Research Board (TRB), the international Association of Public Transport (UITP), and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) – included support from the Texas Association for Public Transportation, sponsor of the Light Rail Now Project:

· L. Henry, Applying the Versatility of Streetcar Technology to North American Urban Transit Applications
The cost of high-performance electric light rail transit, usually designed for higher-speed regional service, has climbed such that this mode is now often perceived as less accessible to the resources of smaller transit agencies or less suitable for some lower-traffic corridors. Streetcar technology, however particularly the Rapid Streetcar concept may offer some versatility in addressing these drawbacks, reducing the costs of new starts while providing higher levels of service than bus alternatives. Furthermore, streetcars may offer versatility for addressing the needs of cities to improve urban livability and fulfill urban redevelopment objectives.

· L. Henry, Comparative Performance of Public Transport in U.S. New-Start Rail Cities vs. Bus-Only Cities
This analysis has found that U.S. urban areas with new-start rail systems, as well as bus services, on average, have outperformed bus-only urban areas in terms of growth in ridership and passenger-miles, both absolutely and in terms of these measures per capita. Furthermore, financial performance of total public transport in the cities operating both rail and bus transit was also found to be superior to that of the cities with buses only. Measured in "constant" dollars, operating and maintenance expenses per passenger-mile declined for the cities with both rail and bus, but rose in the all-bus cities. in 2003, overall operating cost per passenger-mile in the cities with new-start rail transit systems was only about 74% of that in cities operating only buses.

A slightly expanded version of this study, including additional information and analysis by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy institute, and co- authored by both Litman and Henry, is available as follows:

· Lyndon Henry and Todd Litman (2006), Evaluating New Start Transit Program Performance: Comparing Rail And Bus (Victoria Transport Policy institute website)

Presentation of the following research study at APTA's 2006 Rail Transit Conference in New York City in June 2006 also included support from the Texas Association for Public Transportation and the Light Rail Now Project:

· L. Henry, Sharing of Rail Transit infrastructure by Streetcars and Larger Light Rail Vehicles: Design and Operational issues

Portland LRT Portland's MAX LRT system is a superb example of what LRT can accomplish in an American city. Light Rail Now has covered Portland public transport issues in nearly two dozen articles. In November 2003, LRN helped support professional papers presented at the National Light Rail Conference in Portland.
[Photo: Dave Dobbs, Nov. 2003]

Railway and transit photography freedom

The Light Rail Now Project has continued to play a leading role in opposing assaults on the critically important practice of public photographic documentation of transit operations and features. This includes criticizing actions by various authorities within and outside the public transport industry to target and harass railway and transit photographers. This harassment may be leading to the outright criminalization of rail and transit photography on a broad scale – which we perceive as a major blow to the public transport industry as well as ordinary public freedom.

LRN's efforts have garnered increasing public attention. One of the most important has been recognition and citation of the website's articles by Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher in his "Raw Fisher" column in the Washington Post of 3 March 2006 ("Department of Photo Security – Redux"). Fisher cited Light Rail Now in the context of a series of articles prompted by the police harassment of a young female photography student at a Washington-area regional rail station last spring.

Light Rail Now – a worthy investment

If you still are seeking a reason to underwrite the Light Rail Now Project, here's a wrap-up of our record to consider:

· Much of the material on Light Rail Now is absolutely unique, groundbreaking, and unprecedented. The LRN website is a major international resource for planners, agency personnel, political officials, decisionmakers, community leaders in North America and across the globe, and continues to be a major force in educating the public on rail transit, supporting rail transit electoral initiative campaigns, and influencing planning decisions. Our website continues to experience phenomenal growth at most recent count, exceeding 32,000 unique, individual PC visitors a month, averaging nearly 1,000 unique visitors a day.

· As we've pointed out, the LRN Project has demonstrated definite success in efforts to sway important planning, legislative, and electoral decisions in favor of rail transit solutions.

In summary, we believe that the Light Rail Now Project has amply demonstrated a track record of astounding success – especially given our relatively minuscule resources – and the project's status as a very worthy charitable investment for those with an interest in improving the quality of life of urban areas and furthering public transport and rail travel opportunities. Underwriting can be deductible as charitable contributions or business expenses. if you believe in these goals – now's the time to invest in our project.

As we noted in our article Reflecting Surge in Worldwide interest in Rail Transit, Light Rail Now Website Activity Soars,

It's important to keep in mind that underwriting for the Light Rail Now Project supports both the Light Rail Now website and ancillary resources, including outreach activities aimed at assisting leaders and activists in communities planning or involved with LRT to bolster public transport, and in particular, to help support LRT and other rail transit projects and campaigns, nationally and internationally. This resource will grow in importance as increasing numbers of cities mount initiatives for various types of rail transit. Judging from the recent trend, more and more rail initiatives can be expected to be on state and local ballots across the USA in coming years.

if you want to make a difference in the ongoing effort to develop and expand rail transit, materially assisting our efforts can go a long way. Underwriting is affordable and easy. Here are several ways to contact us about underwriting:

· Email us at:

· Mail us at:

Light Rail Now Project
9702 Swansons Ranch Road
Austin, Texas 78748

· Phone us at:


Light Rail Now! website
Updated 2006/12/31

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