How the Car Destroyed America: Episode 1
This is The Red Line Podcast's very first episode, a history of cars and how they destroyed the American city. We cover the development of cars from Henry Ford's assembly line to the boom of the motor industry. Listen in agony as car infrastructure and the suburb-to-big-city commute ruin whole communities and take our downtown from a bustling hub of life to a parking-lot-riddled desert punctuated by massive highway systems. We explain the rise of the American suburb, how it's a radical type of housing development, and the long shadow it has cast on society as we know it. Learn about the fundamental and unsolvable inefficiencies of cars, the peril of induced demand, and take a smooth segue to what The Red Line Podcast is all about: public transportation!
Light Rail vs. Bus Rapid Transit (Battle of the Titans): Episode 2
Bus rapid transit in the U.S. is often touted as a cost-saving alternative to light rail. We cover the history and context of both systems in depth: light rail arose as a cost-effective way to reconstruct the rail systems of yore in a modern era of government. Bus rapid transit has a rockier history, starting in the U. S. but only really getting off the ground in South America; it then came back to the U. S. in cost-cut form. We explain what has gone wrong with modern American BRT and ask the raging question: should the competition between light rail and BRT even be a competition at all?
Streetcars - Past, Present & Future: Episode 3
The streetcar was once a mainstay of local transportation. Electric streetcar networks used to span the United States, with many thousands of miles of track. We discuss this history, the decline of streetcars, and wonder what life would be like if we'd kept these systems (like Toronto did). But don't distress—streetcars are back! Starting with the Portland streetcar, the U.S. has been fraught by a streetcar-building fervor. Is this a good thing? Are we building sensible transit? What benefits do streetcars bring to the table? Listen in to find out.
The Case for Free Transit: Episode 4
Dropping fares on public transit systems has been a hot topic lately. Free fare has been common in smaller systems for a long time, but just recently, large cities like Kansas City, Denver, and Salt Lake City are experimenting with the idea. We go over the numerous benefits of free fare in many U.S. systems, remind the public that New York's transit shouldn't be free, and take stock of some potential problems with and criticisms of cutting fares out of the transit equation. Free fare just might be the future!
Little Transit - Systems for Any Town: Episode 5
Public transit isn't just for big cities like Salt Lake. We examine the bus networks of Cache Valley, Utah and Great Falls, Montana. We pick apart the key factors that made these systems successful, and we offer some suggestions to improve service and quality of life for riders. (Great Falls's system (pop. ~65,000) is more successful than Boise, Idaho's system (pop. ~340,000)!)
History of UTA - Salt Lake's Awesome Rail: Episode 6
The Salt Lake Valley had a long history of streetcars. Now, we have the wonderful Utah Transit Authority, providing bus service since 1970 and rail since 1999! Join us for a wild tour of ancient and recent history, exciting rail expansions, and some coverage of future plans!
State-Sponsored Amtrak in Utah (feat. Mike Christensen): Episode 7
Transit options in Utah are pretty great in the Salt Lake Valley (Provo to Ogden) thanks to our wonderful Utah Transit Authority, but what if one wants to travel elsewhere in the state? Mike Christensen, MCMP, CNU-A, AICP proposes Link Utah, a plan to run state-sponsored Amtrak (a mode of operation which we explain) up, down, and across the whole state. It's a cost-effective way to change the transportation game for Utah and fill in serious inter-transit-agency gaps, completing mobility for residents and tourists alike.
Commuter Rail and How We Can Make it Better: Episode 8
Commuter trains nowadays are usually a rush hour service provided to relieve highway congestion—but it wasn't that way pre-WWII! Back then, sprawling rail systems were the preferred way of getting around urbanized regions. Today, we have both legacy commuter rail systems (that survived the post-WWII ridership crash) and "New Start" systems. We discuss history, what these systems look like today, and—most importantly—what we can learn from Europe about building true regional rail, which runs all day and isn't just for commuters.
New Urbanism - Moving On from the Suburbs: Episode 9
This time, it's Urbanism, the miracle cure to the cancer that is car dependency. From walkable neighborhoods to good public transportation, urbanists believe that cities should be good places to live in. After a lengthly news segment, we discuss the Congress for the New Urbanism's charter, the current state of urbanism in the U.S., and our own local experiences.
Gadgetbahns Galore!: Episode 10
This time, in honor of our tenth episode, we dive into the weird and not-so-wonderful world of gadgetbahns. So, grab your Tesla plushies and prepare to descend into the realm of monorails, skybusses, and the effervescent PRT.
Microtransit: Episode 11
Microtransit services are emerging across the country amid a wave of tech hype. Cities, transit agencies, and private companies nationwide are launching microtransit pilots left and right. Today, on The Red Line Podcast, we examine the microtransit trend and discuss whether it lives up to the marketing.
Transit Hubs Part 1 - Central Stations: Episode 12
Union stations, transit malls, intermodality, and the all-important Transit Oriented Development: we explain the importance of central hubs to transit systems, hate on Salt Lake Central Station and complain about New York's transit leadership, and provide detailed and constructive advice for how to make transit hubs better.
Transit Advocacy ft. Curtis Haring: Episode 13
Today, we chat with Curtis Haring, Executive Director of the Utah Transit Riders Union, about what UTRU is up to, the future of transit in Utah, and how people all over the country can get involved in local advocacy.
Transit Hubs Part 2 - Neighborhood Mobility: Episode 14
Everyone (including us) loves to talk about the big, network-defining hubs that are center city stations. In the background, though, are the unsung heroes that are local transit hubs; the places that make a transit network, well, work. These hubs not only provide convenient and pleasant multimodal mobility: they also foster placemaking and development in their surrounding neighborhoods.
Transit to the MAX - A Portland History: Episode 15
Portland, the urbanist mecca of the Northwest, has long been famous for being ahead of similar cities in building out transit, walking, and cycling infrastructure. Take a tour of Portland's transit history, and see their future be guided by a successful and strong-to-this-day freeway opposition movement. We discuss the present MAX light rail system and how Portland will address its issues with the upcoming MAX tunnel project. Portland's future is incredibly bright. Don't forget to subscribe and become a real estate developer in the Portland metropolitan area.
Honolulu, Aloha Rapid Transit: Episode 16
Introducing the US's latest, greatest, delayed, and cost-overrun rapid transit project: Honolulu Area Rapid Transit. Oahu has been attempting to build a metro for many decades (since the Great Society programs of the 1960s), but the island was not able to assemble, fund, and break ground on a project until 2011. We introduce the history and geography of Oahu, talk about the success of Mayor Fasi's bus system, and tour the past, present, and future of the HART project. The first phase of Honolulu's much-needed metro system is right around the corner!
The Trolley Problem: Episode 17
Lithium-ion batteries are here to save public transportation! Just kidding, the problems with vehicle-scale batteries go from bad to worse when the technology is applied large, heavy buses. Battery-electric buses are the US government's latest investment of choice, and we discuss why these buses are inferior to the much older and much more reliable trolleybus. Trolleybuses with charging-in-motion are better for the environment, better for the roads, and best of all, cheaper! They are the electrification solution that denser urban areas with mid to high bus traffic need, with battery-only buses serving a secondary role.
Transit Maps and How They're Made (ft. Will Watkins): Episode 18
Special guest and amateur draftsman Will Watkins of Park City, Utah joins us on a tour of the history of the transit map, a pedestrian feature of transit systems that we really shouldn't take for granted. We show off (tell about?) everything from the historic anchors that were the Tube maps to eccentric panoramic maps of San Jose and Utah. Visionaries like Harry Beck have established the design choices that make a transit map readable and good for its purpose, but not every agency has entirely caught on. Follow along in the timestamps below to see what we're talking about!
Safety on Transit: Episode 19
Safety, through both physical design and staffing, is a key part of any successful public space. We discuss common safety challenges facing transit systems today, as well as both innovative and simple solutions that various agencies are trying out: improving the layout of stations, increasing frequency, making safe walking routes around bus stops, and most important of all, providing a staff presence on metro and light rail systems. Parallel to this discussion, we look at how the media spins safety issues for transit as compared to other mobility options (namely cars), and how narratives should be spun such that they result in improvements, not unwarranted scares.
Spooky Special: The Ghost Metros: Episode 20
When we talk about metros built after WWII, we normally think of the big three: MARTA, BART, and the Washington Metro. However, there also exist the forgotten middle children of the era: the PATCO Hi-Speedline, the Baltimore Metro SubwayLink, Miami Metrorail, and the Cleveland Red Line. Tune in to learn each of these systems' stories, plus their quirks, successes, and shortfalls. These systems point us toward a brighter tomorrow, and they show what can be created with a little political will.
REM: The Future of Rapid Transit: Episode 21
The Réseau express métropolitain (REM) is a new rapid transit line in Montréal that promises to revolutionize the way we think about metros in North America. Today, we talk about the REM and the many things it does right: reuse of existing right-of-way (including the famous Mount Royal tunnel!), cost-effective grade separation, and an innovative-yet-century-old funding model designed to ensure the project's short- and long-term success.
How to Kill a Freeway: Episode 22
What would U.S. cities be without their urban freeways? The answer: better cities. We discuss how burying, blasting, or otherwise dismantling these obsolete and, in many cases, crumbling pieces of infrastructure is a huge step towards righting past wrongs against typically-minority communities and towards a more people-friendly urban form. In the process, freeway removal projects unshackle local and state governments from costly repairs, and they open up swaths of developable and taxable land.
Transit Oriented Development: Episode 23
Today, we're having a meetup with our good friend Tod (Transit Oriented Development). Just slap down a grocery store and a couple of restaurants and you have succeeded where 99.99% of North American TODs fail. Fun fact: Transit-oriented development is not just 5-over-1s marginally close to a transit station. Listen to learn more.
The Best Intercity Rail in the Americas - An Amtrak Overview: Episode 24
Board single-file onto the United States' premier and only intercity rail network. Stainless steel coaches will take you across the country thrice per direction per day, and the Acela will get you around the Northeast faster than the highway system ever could. In the first of three installments about Amtrak, we talk about the behemoth that is Amtrak today and the broad range of services that they operate.
Designed to Fail - An Amtrak History: Episode 25
In the late 1960s, the American passenger rail system was on the verge of collapse. The railroads were losing enormous amounts of money, so Congress stepped in to create Amtrak, America's perpetually broke national passenger railroad.
Nationalization and the Rebirth of American Railroading - Amtrak Part 3: Episode 26
The Class I railroads are poor stewards of America's railroad infrastructure, and have spent the last several decades cannibalizing it in the pursuit of short term profit. Even beyond the questionable ethics of their constant downsizing, this degradation had caused the share of freight traffic carried on the rails to plummet, and made it nearly impossible for Amtrak to run reliable passenger service. It's time for We the People to take back our railroad infrastructure for a better and more sustainable future. Nationalization Now!
The Armchair Planners visit Boise: Episode 27
Boise is known for its Basque Block, huge thrifting scene, great access to nature, and crippling traffic jams. Why? For decades now, Idaho's leaders have refused to plan for growth, and Boiseans (as well as everyone else living in the Treasure Valley) are paying the price. Today, we discuss where Boise is, where it's been, and where it needs to go for a better, more sustainable future.
The Cost Snake Attacks Austin: Episode 28
Austin is making a second attempt at a grand rail transit system—their original plan narrowly lost the vote in 2000 despite robust federal funding, an arguably worse plan failed to pass in 2014, and finally, the current plan passed in 2020 by a relatively wide margin. This plan has a price tag of $10.3 billion and rising, much of that due to a long and extravagant downtown tunnel, with questionably necessary property acquisition contributing. We give an overview of transit history in Austin, discuss Project Connect itself, and poke at the beyond-outrageous prices being paid for each mile of this light rail system. The Great North American Cost Snake strikes a valiant transit effort once again!
The Second Avenue Subway: Ep. 29
The Second Avenue Subway may be the most expensive bit of subway ever built, shattering the already mind-bogglingly-high records set by its NYC predecessors. Maybe it was the unions, or contractor negligence, but we can be sure it had nothing to do with corruption, because there has never been any corruption in New York.
The Utah Edition: Episode 30
Utah is on the move, from The Gondola (tm) to UTA's looming driver crisis and the latest I-15 widening. We discuss many local transportation topic with our guest Curtis Haring of the Utah Transit Riders Union.
St. Louis Mentioned ft. @rice_rust_belt: Episode 31
Special guest @rice_rust_belt joins us for a tour of his home metro area, St. Louis. We look at the old streetcar routes, the Eads Bridge, and the state of the Metrolink system.
Museums in Motion - The New Orleans Streetcar: Episode 32
New Orleans is home to the second earliest streetcar system in the United States (second only to NYC), opening in 1835. It has a long history of steam, horse power, desegregation and resegregation, gadgetbahn electrification systems, labour disputes, consolidation, and more. One of the original lines, the St. Charles line, holds the title of oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world. We talk about the city, its streetcars, where they are now, and what they could be in the future.
Why Does American Transit Cost So Much?: Episode 33
In the final installment of the Great North American Cost Snake series, we break down the reasons the U.S. pays such exorbitant amounts for transit projects that are anything but world-class. What are the numbers? Why should advocates care about getting costs down? What policy changes would fix ballooning costs? All this, after the news.
Calgary Does Suburban Transit Right: Episode 34
Canada is built different (tm). Calgary's history resulted in a dense downtown and the flattest of sprawl, yet through the magic of Actually Running Decent Service, their transit system gets high ridership and impressive farebox recovery. The ever-expanding CTrain, paired with the Blue Arrow-now-modern BRT, is an excellent example of a world-class light rail system.
SHWEEB.: Episode 35
Today's gadgetbahn is the Shweeb, a prototype suspended bicycle-pod railway built at an amusement park in New Zealand. Whose idea was this? How did it get built? Is this just a revival of Victorian-era engineering? What did the Shweeb do with its million dollars? What does this gadgetbahn tell us about how we build bike infrastructure? All this, after the news.
Pittsburgh History - BRT Done Right?: Episode 36
A tour of Pittsburgh's transit construction, service, and expansion. The Steel City's streetcar-era competition was especially intense, with 33 different transit companies serving the region. These were bought out by the Port Authority of Allegheny County starting in 1959, and the Authority opened their first busway, the South Busway, in 1977. The "T" light rail started construction in 1980, with many expansions ensuing.
The Wonderful World of Ferries: Episode 37
Ferries, even in the era of mile-long bridges, are anything but obsolete. We discuss types and technologies, history, and successful modern ferry systems—most notably the Washington State Ferries. Also noted: one ferry in Utah; cleaner power experiments; the Staten Island Ferry, which should be a subway line.
Urban Growth Boundaries: Episode 38
A serious discussion of suburban sprawl and housing affordability: are Oregon and Kentucky on the right track by drawing a line between farms and suburbs?
Caltrain's Continuing Commute - Bay Area part 1: Episode 39
After a recent visit to San Francisco, your hosts are excited to share a whirlwind tour of each of the many rail and bus services in the Bay Area. In the first installment of this series, we have Caltrain, the San Francisco Peninsula's old (and ever-modernizing!) commuter service and the quality service it offers. Mentioned are Southern Pacific, Caltrain, Calmod, COVID, CHSR, and the second Transbay Crossing.
The Roar of the Four - Muni Part 1: Episode 40
Forged from the ashes of the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, the San Francisco Municipal Railway was among the first publicly owned transportation systems in the world. Join The Red Line Podcast as we map out the history of public transportation in San Francisco, from the earliest horsecars to the beginnings of Muni Metro in the 1960s.
Metroifying Muni - Muni Part 2: Episode 41
The year is 1962. The bond measure is BART. This shiny new East Bay commuter system must gain the support of San Francisco voters, who stand to benefit the least from the expensive and complex project. The solution? BART builds not one subway, but two, under Market Street. The second subway will be the core of what could've been the Muni Metro.
The Rio Grande Plan (feat. Cameron and Christian): Episode 42
Special guests Cameron Blakely and Christian Lenhart discuss their exciting proposal for seventy-five acres of urban development paired with grade-separated regional rail in downtown Salt Lake City.
Transbay Dreams - BART Part 1: Episode 43
A worthy successor to the Key System, Bay Area Rapid Transit is the result of decades of vision, cutting-edge engineering, and voter support (propped up by the construction of Muni Metro). We discuss the ins and outs of the project's history, troubles, and even why it doesn't run to Marin County.