This links to the thread
in SLAM about possible post-PO technologies and systems, but it's here 'cause it's lot of pictures.
Contrary to rumor, mass transit DOES exist in the US. And, as we were discussing electric powered trains and I just happen to one such to work every day (well, every work day) I thought it would be interesting to add to the discussion.
The train line in question is the South Shore and South Bend railroad, which is not
exlusively a passenger line - it's a real railroad that also runs frieght over the same rails although the frieght trains are pulled by diesels for reasons I won't address in this post. This railroad has its originas in the 19th Century and currently linked South Bend, Indiana to the Chicago Loop along the south shoreline of Lake Michigan (hence the name).
This is the train pulling into the station. As you can see, along this portion it travels along a viaduct which has been raised above ground level. This eliminates many grade-level crossings which increases safety and allows for a higher speed. This is not the case everywhere on the line - in Michigan City, Indiana the train goes down the middle of the streets like an oversized trolley.
Very few accidents, depsite that. One day I'll ride it down that way and take some pictures.
Anyhow - the square superstructes support the overhead catenary wires, which is how current is delivered to the train. There are some definite drawbacks to this system, as well as some plusses, and it might be interesting to discuss possible alternatives. We're stuck with it, though, due to historical reasons. Current is transmitted from the catenary to the train itself through the pantographs, the folding structures on the roof of the trains.
Although the train itself is new, and much of the other hardware has been replaced through maintenance, the technology is really 19th Century - yet it still works.
And yes, here in the US we even link multiple transit systems! Note that not only is a passenger being dropped off, but there is a bus stop here as well as parking racks for bicycles. This station also has space dediated to motorcycle and carpool van parking to allow multiple means of getting to this train. This is vital to any rail mass transit - trains are only practical if used by a LOT of people on a regular basis. You can to make sure the passengers can get to the station.
This is about 1/4 of the parking facilities on the main lot. I just couldn't fit it all into one picture. In addition to this lot there is another. They are full every day
, and sometimes run out of space (in a country that loves
it's cars, SUV's, and trucks!) These are cars that are NOT driving 40 miles on the road twice a day - which adds up over the course of years.
This parking lot happens to be free (actually, maintenance costs are taken from ticket fares, so every ride you pay something towards it). Others on the line charge $.50 to park for the day.
There is also a police station incorporated into the station, which provides a nice level of security which is good for those of us using it either very early or very late in the day.
This illustrates some of the energy-saving features built into this structure from the design stage (the station is less than five years old). I wish I could have shown you the ceiling fans in the lower station, to provide air circulation and cooling in summer, but the pictures didn't come out and in the post-9/11 world people can get weird about even a regular commuter photographing a train station. However, this photo illustrates the abundant natural lighting, and the use of windows that can be opend to provide air circulation and avoid the use of powered air conditioning in summer. Even with our recent 30 C temperatures it has remained tolerable in this area. In winter, all the glass provides a very nice greenhouse effect which eliminates the need for a lot of heating, although heat lamps are available and visible on the ceiling on the left. There are a couple more such structures along the track, providing shelter in poor/cold/hot weather.
This also illustrates the pairing of highway and rail line. However, this rail line was NOT built in a freeway median - instead the freeway (which was built decades after the rail line) has taken over the rail right-of-way (and a little extra). There is no reason these two systems can't exist in parallel.
Here's a view from the platform, with the train approaching visible down the track. More views of the catenary and support, as well as the yellow, textured safety zone. This is a rubberized material over concrete, which protects the edge of the plaform and provides stable footing in winter with less cleaning and salting needed.
In sum, the technology for electric passenger rail is still alive in the US and is being used even now. When the price of gas goes up so does ridership. The relationship is such that the controlling agency even has a pretty good idea of the number of addtional pasengers to expect in a day by how much the price increases. If oil continues to rise in price I would expect to see this system utilized even more heavily.