Friday 29 September 2023

Elevated Train: Good or Bad Option For Urban Transport In The GAM?

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By 2022, the Metropolitan Area of San Jose (GAM) will have an elevated rapid passenger train (Metro), which would help reduce traffic congestion, President-elect Carlos Alvarado said this week.

Photo of an elevated train for illustrative purposes

It is an elevated train, which would connect Paraíso de Cartago with Alajuela and Belén (Heredia), passing through San José, developed based on a plan that already has pre-feasibility and topographic studies, financial model, and tariff methodology, according to the president of the Incofer, Elizabeth Briceño.

The railway executive said it would be a modern urban train to improve the quality of life, as well as productivity, by reducing the time spent each day by hundreds of thousands of people on public transport, which often faces heavy traffic congestion.

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However, it is not clear that the elevated train is the best option to achieve these benefits, or if it would generate problems of access, insecurity and financing.

The Metro de Panamá

There are other options for urban transport, especially modern surface transport, such as the Incofer proposed by the government of Laura Chinchilla (2010-2016), a combination of surface with the elevated system.

Any option would be environmentally friendly since it would be driven by electricity and not by diesel, as is the case of trains currently in use and would take advantage of the existing rail system.

Among the pros for the plan:

  • It is rapid since it would not have to decelerate on the road, nor deal with crossings and other obstacles;
  • Zero crashes with vehicles;
  • Improve quality of life with the development of bikeways and parks below the railway

The cons of an elevated train system:

  • High cost. The investment of some US$1.8 billion dollars would be triple that of a surface train;
  • Difficult access. Disabled people or seniors would have problems with access to the elevated stations, depending on elevators, even though the plan includes an elevator per station.
  • Insecurity. The precarious businesses would appear in the areas below the train, as has been the experience of several cities.
  • Costly expansion. It would be expensive to connect to, including that of the eventual Orotina airport, due to the high cost of interconnecting the highways.
  • Structural deterioration. Requires extensive maintenance to prevent falling concrete due to the deterioration caused by water and carbon dioxide, especially if the original construction is defective.

Source (in Spanish): La Republica

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