The greatest negative impact of superimposing at grade rail facilities into existing developed settings is the host of disruptive effects on the rights of way of existing traffic, pedestrian, commercial and community activities long established in the location. When automobile, pedestrian and commercial activity patterns are disrupted or curtailed by rail systems and vehicles, cohesive settings and community activities are likely to be disrupted, if not eliminated.
The acquisition of Right of Way for public projects requires the payment of fair compensation to the affected property owner. The cost of the acquisition may also include payment for negative damages to the remaining adjacent property. In addition, the eminent domain process itself may take several years to complete the litigation process. Factors such as these greatly increase the cost of, and delay the construction and implementation of, at grade rail commuter transit systems.
In an effort to avoid these costs and delays, many transit system developers attempt to construct their system within existing public rights of way such as public streets. This choice has historically resulted in continuing incidents and occasionally fatal accidents between the commuter vehicles and automobiles, trucks and pedestrians. No effective solution to this risk has been determined.
When new rail facilities are placed in their own rights of way rather than imposed on existing streets, the acquisition, condemnation and clearing of right of way for track corridors often disrupts existing neighborhoods and settings in ways which are not mitigated or compensated for by new opportunities or service to the local areas. Indeed, assembly of rights of way, and imposition of at grade rail facilities seldom, if ever, enhance or improve the local settings through which they pass.
Co-opting or transforming of other rights of way or activity settings for the singular purposes of at grade rail operations degrades the existing settings and systems to such degrees as to challenge to primary objectives and rationale for building the rail systems.
A typical example of the results of competitive right of way planning may be observed along the Gold Line Extension in East Los Angeles, where through traffic lanes along ninety percent of its First and Third Street rights of way have been reduced to one lane, in each direction. This is in addition to the new rail crossings at each of the numerous and frequent cross street intersections along the route.