Title

INNER ZONE COMMUTER RAIL AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR LIGHT RAIL: LESSONS FROM BOSTON'S RIVERSIDE LINE

Authors

J G. Allen

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

1999

Subject Area

mode - rail, mode - tram/light rail

Keywords

Ridership, Railroad commuter service, Patronage (Transit ridership), Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Light rail transit, Level of service, Inner zones, Commuter rail, Boston (Massachusetts)

Abstract

Several closer-in commuter rail routes face a stagnant future as they are presently operated. The core markets best suited for commuter rail have moved farther into the suburbs, yet transit authorities are politically reluctant to rationalize their inner-zone lines and stations. As a result, most managements sustain these lines at a minimum level, without making major investments in their future. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority-Boston's Riverside Line converted a poorly used commuter rail line into a modern light rail line in 1959. At affordable cost, the transit authority was able to achieve a quantum leap in service frequency and ridership. The Riverside experience shows that poorly performing inner zone commuter rail lines can be revived as light rail if market conditions are favorable. Philadelphia's Schuylkill Valley Metro, now in active planning, follows the Riverside Line's lead, as do existing operations in Karlsruhe, Saarbruecken, Newcastle, Manchester, and Buenos Aires. Promising opportunities for conversion of commuter rail to light rail may exist elsewhere in Philadelphia and in Chicago.