Confined nearly exclusively to existing railroad tracks, passenger and commuter train services must secure the most direct and efficient routes available on steel rail networks, and enter into complex scheduling and operational agreements with railroad companies and their respective freight hauling activities on the shared tracks. All passenger service, and the vehicles employed to carry commuters and other riders, must be adapted to use on existing train tracks. With no options or opportunity to alter or add to the track systems, passenger train services must be adapted to the existing track locations when constructing station and access facilities. The confined accessibility of railroad tracks and property leads passenger rail services to purchase and develop significant parcels of land for stations, access and auto-parking facilities wherever existing train stations are inadequate or nonexistent.
The location of freight train tracks and rights of way does not often support the access and quality interests of passenger services: Nor do the environments surrounding train tracks tend to support passenger comfort or any other aspect of riders’ experience. Historically located in the oldest and least attractive parts of town, railroad tracks often take passenger trains through dilapidated and degraded environments along significant portions of the routes they must follow.
Located at ground, or finish grade elevation, railroad tracks intersect streets, highways and pedestrian paths wherever they must cross or come in close proximity. The costs of grade separation or bridging over immovable rails are such that only the largest or most critical of crossings can be effectively separated. All other crossings must be equipped with effective safety measures to minimize the risks of collisions and other potentially devastating impacts of passing trains.