Photo by Flickr user jimfrazier
We already pointed out the resurgence of freight rail in this post in February, but now the rail boom is in the news again. This time a Harvard professor, John R. Stilgoe, is predicting the revival of rail for both freight and passengers. He points to indicators such as Warren Buffet buying stock in a freight railroad company, high gas prices driving people away from cars, and success of commuter rail systems.

We can point to our own indicators of a boom. The Florida House of Representatives’ budget includes $700,000 for a feasibility study for a freight rail corridor from South Bay to West Miami, which the Miami Herald referred to as the “Sugar Train“; the House also gave their support for a commuter rail system in Orlando. This is at a time when the state is cutting the budget everywhere else. The number of Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) being proposed around Tri-Rail stations seems to be increasing weekly. Sheridan Stationside Village, Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, and Delray Beach TODs are all pushing forward at a time when the housing market is dismal and even general development is being pulled down with it. Fort Lauderdale is funding their new streetcar system despite the property tax amendment cutting their revenues.

Overall, rail is looking up while the economy looks down. The argument that you cannot get Americans out of their cars is no longer valid. Now is the time to get people out of their cars and onto the rails. Wake up or miss the train.

3 Responses to Rail Rising

  1. carlos miller says:

    Wouldn’t that $700,000 be better spent studying ways to improve rail transportation for humans rather than industry?

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  2. M1EK says:

    Those TODs have been pushing forward on about ten different occasions on ten different plans over the last ten years. Total number of housing built: zero.

    Don’t believe it for a second. Low-quality commuter rail service that requires shuttle buses to go anywhere on the other end isn’t going to be attractive to potential tenants, meaning not profitable enough for developers.

    You could probably get something built there just because they’re not making any new developeable land in the area, but it ain’t gonna be TOD like you see on a good light rail line in Portland or even Dallas.

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  3. JM Palacios says:

    carlos, it’s important to move freight efficiently too, and rail is better than trucks for moving goods. It’s all for the people anyway. We buy or use the goods, so it benefits us.

    m1ek, you have a valid point that some of the TODs have been around awhile. Did you read the Sun-Sentinel article linked to under Delray Beach? Though that idea has been around for a few years, Palm Beach County is taking steps to push it forward now. Even if these ideas have been around awhile, with the economy and housing markets the way they are now, they should all be getting cancelled or postponed. Yet we keep hearing about them moving forward. Yes, anything like this will take some time. But if there’s no money to be made, private investment will go away. It hasn’t, and that is my point.

    The connections to Tri-Rail should get better as planned east-west rail lines come in. The Boca Raton TOD article even mentioned a possible light rail connection to FAU and businesses!

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