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Light rail transit versus subway

New methods of urban development oriented around transit suggest quality, thoughtful land use planning and building, prioritizing and facilitating mass transit, bicycling, rollerblading, walking and where useful as in Farmington, Utah, horse riding. This moves community development away from car-centric designs. It also goes beyond previous transit-adjacent development which ignored all but the mass transit portion of planning.

The maximum recommended distance to the nearest high-capacity transit station is a less than half hour walk. Higher density building near the station increases the number of people who can be serviced in this shorter distance.

The components required for best use are:

  • quality public mass transit access
  • dense street and trail networks
  • walking neighborhoods
  • non-motorized networks
  • mixed use development at street level and above
  • more compact short commute regions
  • optimized road use and parking.

In cities like Toronto and Los Angeles, there have been debates on the preference of building subways or light rail transit for the first component. Mayors like Toronto's Rob Ford attempt to convince council members that world-class cities offer subways, not surface transit like streetcars. This is despite the fact that subways usually cost at least twice as much and serve half the number of people. Plus subways keep people underground like rats where they cannot see what is happening outside or be enticed as customers to restaurants, shops and venues.

For people to be lured away from driving cars, it must be enjoyable and easy for them to get where they need to be to do what they need to get done. Walking is the cheapest healthiest way as long as it is safe, comfortable, other people are around doing the same thing, the necessary resources are within walking distance, and the environment is not too extreme--trees for shade, benches for resting, places to get food and drink.

Cycling can add some distance to the range or be supplemental to mass transit as long as easy walk-on and off is provided for bikers. With less personal vehicle use, more valuable urban area is maximized for socialization and economic benefits instead of roads and parking.

Since surface modern light rail transit won out in Toronto, better networks of more stops can be built instead of just a few subway stops. It could become a model system of more stations, close together, promoting development, as long as the city makes provisions for walkers and bikers as well. Imagine a city of walkable areas with thriving apartments, retail and street life where you do not even want to own a car.

Watch Reason TV's video on using the Los Angeles rail system with their interesting statistics on rail travel versus other transportation modes.

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