Up To Speed

Beijing to Moscow has better passenger rail service than Cincinnati to Chicago

Beijing to Moscow has better passenger rail service than Cincinnati to Chicago.

A route has been identified for a new Trans-Siberian high-speed rail route that would connect Moscow with Beijing. An existing route has been in place for more than 50 years, but takes six days to complete. The new route, by contrast, would complete the trip in just two days. For some perspective, the current Trans-Siberia route (4,350 miles) operates twice per week, which is the same level of service connecting Cincinnati and Chicago (300 miles). More from The Daily Mail:

The project would cost more than $230bn and be over 7,000km long – more than three times the world’s current longest high-speed line, from the Chinese capital to the southern city of Guangzhou. The railway would be a powerful physical symbol of the ties that bind Moscow and Beijing, whose political relationship has roots dating from the Soviet era and who often vote together on the UN Security Council.

Up To Speed

Bus rapid transit systems in the U.S. not keeping pace

Bus rapid transit systems in the U.S. not keeping pace.

Many American cities, Cincinnati included, are working towards enhancing their bus systems as ridership grows. Bus rapid transit systems consistently come up as potential solutions, but rarely are they true BRT systems. More from Greater Greater Washington:

The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy publishes BRT standards that describe minimum characteristics necessary for a bus route to qualify as BRT. Those standards establish three levels of BRT quality: bronze, silver, and gold. They include features like off-bus fare collection, high station platforms, and bus frequency.

So far, only 5 lines in the United States have scored highly enough to qualify as true BRT, and all 5 rank at the bronze level. Not one is even silver, let alone gold.

According to ITDP, the best performing BRT systems in the world are Bogota, Colombia and Guangzhou, China, which score 93/100 and 89/100, respectively. They are the gold standard.

News Opinion Politics

What can Ohio’s failed high-speed rail program teach us about America’s standing in the world?

When Governor John Kasich (R) gave away $400 million intended to start passenger rail service along what is known as the 3C Corridor, it spelled the end of Ohio’s high-speed rail aspirations for the foreseeable future.

While those aspirations were well intentioned, they were also quite modest. Initial service would have had trains traveling at top speeds of 79 miles-per-hour between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. In an effort to keep upfront capital costs low, simple stations were also proposed along the corridor’s length.

In a city like Cincinnati, which boasts one of the grandest passenger rail stations in the United States, the 3C Corridor proposal left Union Terminal off the map in order to avoid the costly approach into the station through the congested Queensgate rail yard.

Cincinnati’s famous Union Terminal serves light Amtrak service and museum-goers today. Photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

America used to build big things. Ohio used to build big things. This, it appears, is no longer the case, and it makes one wonder if the United States is even capable of building inspirational and useful structures like the Miami and Erie Canal, Union Terminal, or Interstate Highway System again.

The fall from grace may not be as noticeable if it were not for the exact opposite trends playing out across Asia, where the economic scale is tipping.

Hong Kong’s $1.3 billion West Kowloon Terminus Station will serve as a dramatic entryway into the global city from mainland China. Renderings provided by Aedas.

In contrast to the modest, and failed, 3C Corridor, leaders in Hong Kong will soon realize an extension of China’s high-speed rail network into the heart of their city. A 16-mile link will be built from Hong Kong’s Kowloon district to the region’s border with Shenzhen.

Most notable is that the entire 16-mile, $8.6 billion stretch will be underground and terminate in what will become the world’s largest underground high-speed rail station. It is a critical link that will open up those on the mainland to Hong Kong via the entire 87-mile-long Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Link.

Passengers arriving in Hong Kong will not only be treated to a center city arrival at 124 miles-per-hour, but also an arrival to a truly inspirational structure meant to not only provide a critical service, but awe those exposed to it. The investments will halve the amount of time it takes to travel between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, and will be completed in 2015.

America has also been an inspirational place for people around the world, and America has always built and done things that inspire us all. It appears that current policy makers may be content with resting on those past successes instead of investing in the country’s future, and ushering the United States into another generation of global leadership.

Development News Transportation

Guangzhou’s bus rapid transit system wins city international transport award

Streetfilms, in partnership with the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), produced a new video highlighting Guangzhou’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system. The BRT system won the city the 2011 International Sustainable Transportation Award from ITDP, and currently serves 800,000 passengers each day.

The system is by far the largest BRT system in Asia, but comes in behind Bogota’s Transmilenio system which serves 1.2 million riders daily. The similarities are striking though. Both Guangzhou and Bogota include robust stations and heavily dedicate right-of-way. The systems are also being built in combination with other forms of transport instead of lieu of them.

“You must also think about multi modal integration,” says Xiaomei Duan, Chief Engineer, Guangzhou BRT Project. “For example, on this corridor we have three metro stations integrated with our BRT station, and around the BRT stations we have our bike stations.”

Guangzhou is the second largest city in the world with approximately 25 million people, and it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. The implementation of the new BRT system was done, in part, to cut carbon emissions, reclaim space for people and reduce traffic congestion.

The Guangzhou BRT system opened in February 2010 and was designed to now be completely integrated with the city’s new bike share network and metro system.