To the extent that trolley and other at grade rail systems offer new or improved access and service to riders, they provide benefit to users and local communities alike. New rail services contribute to the revival of business districts by improving accessibility, as well as, introducing something new and dynamic into otherwise diminished settings. As key components of architectural renovations of streetscapes and neighborhoods, any type of efficient rail facilities and services can bring people into settings and areas in significant numbers, serving both riders and local businesses as well.
With both ends of the ride in mind, transportation planners should maximize the user and beneficiary clientele of rail systems wherever possible. Opportunities to enhance the settings around stations, by providing access and the presence of people to business districts, recreation areas and other attractive destinations should be among the primary objectives of service planning and design.
Station locations and designs, which do not contribute to the viability or quality of their immediate settings, challenge the rationale behind station location or the chosen rail service route. While station locations at civic centers, shopping or business districts, recreation or amusement parks, large medical or shopping centers and densely populated neighborhoods provide attractive destinations and sources of riders, tracks and systems which simply pass through low density residential neighborhoods or commercial strips without frequently utilized stations contribute nothing to local settings, and tend to have disruptive effects on the areas which they do not serve.
AT Grade Rail is often considered to be more useful in providing service in local areas. The access points for such a system are often little more than “bus stop” type structures. In some cases, the rails run in the center of the roadway and the riders must cross active traffic lanes to board the train. This reduces the service value of the train and interferes with the efficiency of the surface traffic, often resulting in a lower total level of service.
At Grade Rail systems that only board passengers at designated stations have a level of service that is determined by the accessibility and efficiency of those stations and by the speed and frequency of operations. This is true for any mass transit technology.