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Commuting doesn't make sprawl, and urbanization doesn't equal sprawl. Commuting started with railways and tramways, not cars, but sprawl definitely started with cars and zoning laws. The difference is stations: the concentration of traffic flows to/from stations provides for a concentration of settlements (and rising property prices near stations). HSR stations placed into existing sprawl suburbia could in time concentrate them into proper villages/cities. Though the effect would be stronger if there is local mass transit linking up with the HSR station.

To me commuters have a time and not a distance limit.

There are travel costs, too. In an earlier discussion, someone quoted numbers that there are commuters on the Paris-Lyon line (that would be in your two hours radius), but not many.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 12:59:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite: these kind of HSR commuters may be important relative to the local economy of the town near the HSR station, but they are a drop in the bucket as far as the total Paris commute goes.

And since they promote clustering, by preferentially using local facilities convenient to the HSR, that is intrinsically anti-sprawl.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 01:04:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2-hour commutes are a drop in the bucket even relative to total HSR traffic.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 01:12:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I said anything about a two hour commute as typical, though 1.5 hr commutes are far too common in many larger sprawl dominated metro areas. More likely to attract a commute portion of trips are one hr and less, and since they will be priced primarily to fill up seats left empty by debarking before the major job center, they are naturally limited.

More important in terms of spatial organization are when satellite facilities can be placed outside the core of a headquarters agglomeration ~ eg, location of back office and production facilities in support of Silicon Valley firms in California in the Central Valley of California, accessed via HSR, rather than in the Pacific Northwest, accessed by air.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 02:25:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Two hours were in Jace's original comment as the limit for commuting, and I replied with the Paris-Lyon example to argue that no, the two-hour travel times by HSR aren't commuter territory.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 3rd, 2011 at 04:13:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, commuting doesn't create sprawl. Speaking strictly from a US perspective, cheap, undeveloped land, unrestricted development, cars as feeder vehicles and a transportation trunk of some sort are all factors. I don't think I'm going out on much of a limb when I say that role of this trunk corridor is key in initiating sprawl. In the US, that corridor generally has been the Interstate Highway system:

Among the projects that spurred the most development in Fairfax County was the Capital
Beltway (I-495 and I-95), the 64-mile-long Interstate freeway that circles Washington, D.C.
Planned during the 1950's as part of the Interstate Highway System, the first section of the
Capital Beltway opened in 1961 and the entire highway was completed in 1964. (from Happy to Grow: Development and Planning in Fairfax County, Virginia)

Turning to the Northeast Corridor in New Jersey, the older cities that first developed with the railroad (and therefore before the car) are anything but affluent. Newark, Elizabeth, Rahway and on down to New Brunswick don't have rising property values, quite the opposite in fact. Then there are the more distant stops (80-100 km to NY) like Princeton Junction, Hamilton and Trenton that now have significant commuter ridership into New York.

Hamilton is a case in point. The station was built in 1999 on the site of an old factory. There is no town there, just a parking lot with 2,800 spaces. It is however right next to an interchange with Interstate 295. There were 1.5 million passengers trips to/from Hamilton in 2007 (tied for third most on the line). Just looking at weekday traffic, you can generate 1.4 million trips with 2,800 cars each day - in other words, pretty much all the feeder traffic comes in and goes out by car. This station has been a success because the railroad provided reduced travel time relative to commuting on the highway alone which in turn led to the car-based development of what very recently was farmland. That to me is the creation of sprawl. I can see this exact same process repeating with HSR unless there are restictions in land development.

Will this area one day fill in and become more urbanized? Perhaps. But look at what's happened to cities like those I already mentioned when it does fill in as well as age: growth stagnates, property values decline. The growth and money instead flow to the outer suburbs. This is once again an example of what has happened in the US and not Europe. The absolute key point here is that we've always had more open land available as well as reasonable travel times to continue to drive this process along.

Cost as you note is also an issue. I think one of the reasons there hasn't been more long distance commuting on the NEC on Amtrak are the absurdly high fares. A monthly ticket between NY and Philadelphia is $1242 and $972 from Trenton on Amtrak. It's $440 between NY and Trenton on New Jersey Transit. If nothing else, Amtrak's pricing is good for battling sprawl if not improving ridership.

by Jace on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 04:42:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Will this area one day fill in and become more urbanized? Perhaps. But look at what's happened to cities like those I already mentioned when it does fill in as well as age: growth stagnates, property values decline. The growth and money instead flow to the outer suburbs.
So the argument is that we should subsidize this process because of the malign effects of this process?

There is nothing absurd about the cost of Philadelphia / NYC Amtrak monthly tickets: these ticket holders are taking up seats that could be sold to people taking individual trips, and an intercity rail service with no operating subsidies are just not going to offer cheap commuter tickets. Why would they? What is the appeal of serving fewer people at lower operating ratios or even operating losses?

You seem to be treating an Express HSR as eqivalent to a local commuter rail system in order to argue that instead of spending less money on providing intercity Express HSR capacity, we should spend more money on providing intercity road capacity. I don't follow the argument.

which part of the historical cases that you are referring to are pre-1920's and which are post-1920's? Just saying 'some kind of trunk transport corridor' when in fact the cross subsidies being drained from these places are for roadworks from the 1930's to the present is begging the question ~ you are assuming there would be no difference what kind of transport that might be, even though all of your evidence is drawn from only the one type, to argue that there is no difference.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 11:28:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not arguing for roadworks. If you go back to my original comment, I said that unless we change the way we regulate land use, then HSR will contribute to sprawl. Hamilton, NJ is a prime example of how this works. The state's desire for growth in that region was likely the sole reason for building this station in the first place. The growth they got was sprawl because there is nothing but local level laws governing development. It's still far too easy for a developer to scoop up farmland, go to the local zoning board and get them to approve a huge subdivision. The appeal is too great to ignore, the local politicians see real benefits (at least short term) with new jobs and increases in tax revenues. Until this formula changes, then this process will continue.

I'm assuming that in terms of development when you have autos as feeders, the mode or type of trunk makes no difference because, as evidenced by Hamilton, it doesn't make a difference. If somehow the state improved the highways to allow a similar door to door travel time improvement, then yes, you'd get the same result. That's typically why these projects are done in the first place.

Obviously the best thing for a railroad is to have every seat filled end to end each and every time. On certain corridors like NY-Washington you have enough demand to get that, but what about NY-Buffalo or pretty much any of the Chicago corridors? If the railroad has the ability to tap significant traffic along the way, it should and it will. In the US, one of the justifications given for HSR is that it expands the catchment area of a city. That is commuter traffic, not bridge or overhead traffic.

As for Amtrak, yes they're trying to maximize yield, but if they were to do this, every seat would be filled every time. From my own experiences on this line, this is definitely not the case. Their prices are causing commuters to drive from the Philadelphia area to Trenton or Hamilton to catch NJT while their own trains are running at less than capacity. That to me is less then optimal.

by Jace on Fri Jun 3rd, 2011 at 07:34:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hamilton NJ is an example of adding a commuter rail system to respond to the subsidized roadworks.

If you go back to my original comment, I said that unless we change the way we regulate land use, then HSR will contribute to sprawl.
Yes, you said it. The discussion is not whether you said it, but on whether its a warranted conclusion.

by contribute to sprawl, in this context, where we are talking about a choice between either express hsr and spending on roadworks and air transport, you are saying that there is more sprawl as a result of hsr than as a result of the alternative road and air infrastructure to provide the same transport capacity.

and your evidence is based on a park and ride station on a commuter rail line, which is to say, like looking at the impact of putting in an urban street to judge the impact of a new Interstate expressway.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jun 3rd, 2011 at 02:15:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If stations are park & ride facilities and the feeder is not normal roads but a highway, and you can get over a million rides a year for such a station (the stupid in-the-empty-landscape HSR stations in Europe tend to get much less), then yes, I can see your sprawl scenario. However, HSR is typically too long-distance and expensive for commuting.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 3rd, 2011 at 04:07:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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