The role of all modes of passenger rail in building and strengthening communities and neighborhoods in urban and metropolitan areas is well-established. However, as new priorities are placed on connecting urban, suburban and rural communities together, passenger rail services are finding a new and dynamic role in meeting the mobility needs of areas that were previously considered outside rail’s natural habitat.
This inclusion of non-traditional rail communities is being made possible by new ways of organizing and delivering passenger rail options. New regional rail routes – such as the River LINE in Southern New Jersey, Austin’s Capital MetroRail, the SPRINTER in Southern California and the recently-opened A-Train in Denton County, Texas – are innovatively bridging the gap between the more established light-rail and commuter rail modes. Often utilizing abandoned or under-utilized rights-of-way along with off-the-shelf diesel multiple unit (DMU) vehicles, these operations are both cost-effective and easy to implement, and offer new opportunities to introduce passenger rail options in areas where lower densities would previously been prohibitive.
At the same time, intermodal facilities find just as much importance in rural and suburban communities as massive terminal stations in large cities. Increasingly, these modern union stations are integrated into regional airports, where connections between a wide range of travel modes are facilitated, including local bus and rail transit service, intercity passenger rail and bus routes, air service and more.
Meanwhile, as new high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects are planned and deployed in coming years and decades, many of them will stretch through smaller urban and rural communities en route to larger metropolitan areas. How these new rail applications impact and serve in-line communities is a vital aspect of their ultimate success, and offer significant opportunities to expand the reach of passenger rail.
RAIL Magazine’s 23rd Edition, covering regional rail routes: http://web1.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/anmviewer.asp?a=1983&z=41
RAIL Magazine’s 21st Edition, covering modern union stations:
RAIL Magazine’s 24th Edition, covering the nexus between rail and air:
New Jersey Transit’s River Line: www.riverline.com
Austin’s Capital MetroRail: http://www.capmetro.org/metrorail/
NCTD Sprinter: http://www.gonctd.com/sprinter
Denton A-Train: http://www.mya-train.com/index.php
Rich Sampson is the Editor of both RAIL Magazine and Community Transportation Magazine, published by the Community Transportation Association of America. In addition to producing both publications, Rich oversees the Association’s Fast Mail and Fast Mail for RAIL e-newsletters, RAIL’s Potomac Express blog and the @RAILMag1
Twitter feed. For more information, visit www.railmagazine.org