Notwithstanding the efficient alternative that passenger rail services offer to long distance commuters, the impacts of commuter trains’ passing through street and highway crossings over swaths of urban and suburban settings during rush hours tends to create more localized automobile traffic congestion than it relieves. As a component of more extensive systems of mass transportation services, passenger rail service can contribute significantly to relief of urban traffic congestion when the numbers of riders who replace their auto commuting with some form of mass transportation alternative reach the level of hundreds of thousands per day in local urban and suburban environments.
While most commuting is regional, or at least between suburban and urban destinations and locations, traffic congestion tends to have more localized impacts on streets, freeways, business districts and neighborhoods. At present ridership levels, Metrolink and other passenger rail services offer relief from traffic congestion only to their own patrons, while disrupting the flows of vehicle traffic at each street crossing they pass through, several times per day, if not several times per hour. Evaluated system- or region-wide, Metrolink and Amtrak services that create as much or more localized traffic congestion, and dramatically increased safety threats as they could possibly eliminate, must realistically evaluate the positive and negative impacts of continued passenger rail services.
An eighty-mile-per-hour collision at an intersection directly adjacent to a propane storage facility such as one just outside Los Angeles, California, would not have to involve one of the dozens of propane tanker trucks crossing the tracks each day to cause an explosion; when the same speeding train could easily send any vehicle flying through the facility like a missile. These are two inherently dangerous conditions, coexisting a few yards apart.