Chattanooga Needs A Regional Rail - And Response (5)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I read with interest the recent articles about improvements and expansion at the Chattanooga Regional Airport and the push to get more people to use our regional airport. I am a big supporter of the airport and will always make every attempt to fly out of Chattanooga, rather than Atlanta or Nashville whenever possible.   

One thing missing from any of the discussions was a possible rail link from the airport to downtown or possibly to other municipal areas. This would be a major boon to travelers, the airport and for the city also.

If you travel around the U.S.A. or Europe, most airports are served by a passenger rail link from the airport. Wouldn't it be nice if visitors or business people to our city could fly into our airport and then catch a rail link to the Chattanooga Choo Choo downtown, or possibly the Chattanoogan, like you can in other cities? Or take a rail link from outlying areas or other cities to fly out of our airport?

I don't know if we will ever have high speed rail linking us to Atlanta or other metro areas in my lifetime, but in the meantime, what about regional rail? It could connect to those hubs that Amtrak serves, like Memphis, Atlanta and Birmingham. Surely with all of the tracks running through and around Chattanooga, a deal could be worked out with the freight companies to share the tracks. Even commuters could use regional rail in lieu of clogging the ridge cut everyday at rush hour.

It just seems a shame that the Choo Choo city no longer has any choo choos at all.

John Fricke
Chattanooga 

 * * * 

Before we jump on the rail bandwagon please provide an example where passenger rail is economically viable in the United States.  AMTRAK runs at a loss every year.  Subway systems around the country rely on city subsidies to continue operating.  If rail can operate without putting an extra burden on the taxpayers then great. But all the examples I can think of in the United States show rail cost the taxpayers a lot to maintain and continue operation and in most cases passenger rail only provides novelty transportation to tourist or to a few people who live near the rail terminals.   

If there is a rail system that operates independently of subsidies from any government entity in the United States please provide the example and develop a plan from that system.  What Chattanooga does not need is another drain to pour money down and that is what passenger rail is in most areas of the United States.   

Please do not compare U.S. transportation needs to European transportation needs.  If you drive the distance from Knoxville to Memphis in Europe (unless you are in Spain of Portugal) you will pass through five different countries.  The distances involved in travel in the U.S. versus Europe are vastly different.  And passenger rail works when it is over short distances with large dependent populations.  

Wesley Garner
Cowan, Tn.
Former Chattanooga resident 

 * * * 

Once again, what is known as the 'happy medium' would be the mantra to follow in regards to a comprehensive transportation plan for Chattanooga which includes regional rate. 

First and foremost, this discussion is already taking place through the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency with a program entitled 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.  

As an invited attendee for the second rounds of meetings post public forums, the discussion was thorough, comprehensive, and brought never before mentioned foresight of what Chattanooga will be like without major changes, repairs and additions to the current infrastructure.  My personal opinion from what I gathered in the meeting was that the status quo cannot go on without major repercussions. 

Although I am an advocate for the use of rail (heavy or light) in the city historically known for trains, I have to agree with Mr. Garner that a true regional system would be cost prohibitive, maintenance intensive, and if we are honest with ourselves, Americans are too in love with the automobile. 

Now, let me offer an idea that involves taking an integral part of Chattanooga history and reinventing itself for our modern use... 

Streetcars. 

Chattanooga once hosted nearly 300 miles of streetcar lines which sped the masses to locations as distant as the top of Signal Mountain, the crest of Missionary Ridge, and event to Chickamauga Battlefield.  The one and only reason streetcars are not currently utilized in lieu of the current electric shuttles is the simple fact no one truly knew the extent of how downtown would be redeveloped in the early 1990s, so the route needed to have the ability to be changed with relative ease.  This is no longer the case.  We need to look toward a mode of transport in which the people of Chattanooga will be just as likely to utilize as a genuine mode of transport, yet will appeal in an even greater way to the millions of visitors to our city. 

This is one bandwagon whose time has come.  We need to join the ranks of cities like Tampa, Charlotte and even New Orleans who within the last 10 years reopened Canal Street to streetcar service once again.  

Sometimes, history repeating itself can be a wonderful change. 

Justin Strickland
Author: Chattanooga's Terminal Station 

* * * 

Chattanooga needs a regional rail from the airport to downtown about as bad as Michael Vick needs a new puppy.  Now the rail from Chattanooga to the Atlanta airport is a different story.  You have a better chance of winning the lottery and being struck by lightning in the same day than you do flying to/from Atlanta through Chattanooga and making it on time without delay due to "maintenance." 

Ross Andar
Chattanooga 

* * * 

Justin Strickland, you have just hit the nail on the head (or should I say the spike). In the changeover from streetcars to busses, part of the property retained by CARTA’s predecessors and now CARTA include the original rights of way for the streetcar lines. Therefore, the lines could be reinstituted without the expense or necessity of land acquisition. Historically lines ran east and south of downtown as well as to Rossville and Chickamauga. As shown in Charlotte, new lines promote growth and development in about a five block corridor to each line. What a great prescription for revitalization, renewal and growth of the historic trolley neighborhoods in Chattanooga, as well as the city in general. 

Wilson von Kessler
Lookout Mountain, Ga.

* * * 

Regional rail for Chattanooga and then comparing it to Charlotte, N.C.? Seriously? 

First, light rail to an airport with no major airline service? Try getting into or out of Chattanooga in any kind of bad weather. 

Let's just briefly compare Chattanooga with Charlotte, NC.

Chattanooga, TN.         vs         Charlotte, NC

City Pop.                      171,279 (2013)                        775,202 (2012)                 4.55 times larger

USA Pop. Rank             138                                          17

Metro Pop.                  529,222                                   2,442,564                            4.62 times larger

Land Area                    135 sq. miles                         297 sq. miles

Median Income
Family             $43,314                                   $59,452
Household       $35,817                                   $48,670
Per capita        $23,756                                   $29,825

Sports                          Chatt. Lookouts                    Carolina Panthers - NFL
                                      AA - Baseball                       Charlotte Bobcats – NBA
                                     Chattannoga FC                   Charlotte Hounds – Major League Lacrosse
                                    semi-pro soccer                     Charlotte Checkers – Hockey
                                                                                    Carolina Speed – Indoor Football
                                                                                    Charlotte Eagles – USL Pro Soccer
                                                                                    The Metrolina Speedway
                                                                                    NHRA Dragstrip – zMAX Dragway
                                                                                    U.S National Whitewater Center
Notes:
Charlotte – 2nd largest financial center in the USA after New York.
                   10 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the city.
            Charlotte/Douglas Airport – 6th largest airport in the USA and the world.
Air Canada, Lufthansa, largest hub for US Airways. Features non-stop flights to many US airports, plus Canada, S. America, Central America, Europe, and Mexico.  

Charlotte is served by three Amtrak lines – The Crescent, the Carolinian and the Piedmont. 

Charlotte’s light-rail, The LYNX, comprises 9.6 miles of north-south line. The Gold Rush is a trolley line running roughly east-west which is 3.1 miles long. 

Chattanooga - Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee River, TVA, BCBS, UNUM, VW, Amazon, Wacker, Gold Bond, Mars, Wrigley 

Chattanooga - A great place to live. But let's fix the combined stormwater/sewer system downtown ($250 mil TDEC consent decree), the gang/drug/crime problem, the deteriorating street system, and infrastructure issues caused by our growth and economic upturn among other issues facing the city before we embark on light rail, trolleys and the such. 

Larry Grohn
Chattanooga City Council - District 4


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