I can’t recall exactly when I first became a fan of transit but my enthusiasm for such goes quite a ways back. It was in the mid-1980s that I rode the Baltimore subway, and predating this during the mid-1970s, I rode BART or the Bay Area Rapid Transit line in and around San Francisco for the first time. Since that time I have ridden systems in Fresno, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento and San Diego.
This means of within- and between-cities passenger travel is both enjoyable and often hassle- and stress-free, and is a viable alternative to automobile travel, although admittedly, transit networks do not yet provide nearly the access cars do, but the more existing systems grow and new systems come online, the more extensive will be their reach.
Depending on system, electrified transit networks (and this includes bus as well), address or satisfy another key consideration: environmental sustainability. EV’s or electric vehicles fit the environmental sustainability bill as well, so make no mistake.
Then there is the method by which electrified transportation networks get their power: this can be via battery or through electrical distribution, fed to electrically operated transit vehicles either via overhead catenary or electrified “third-rail.” Whereas BART uses powered third-rail, the Phoenix area’s MetroRail light rail transit system’s electrical supply is received via overhead catenary. I would be remiss if I failed to mention electrical transfer through electromagnetic induction as is typical of magnetically levitated train systems.
Now as for the power supply generation itself, this can either be achieved using renewable or fossil fuel sources.
In one application, Calgary, Alberta, Canada’s C-Train, all of this system’s electricity is generated via wind turbines. It is the only North American system to get all of its propulsion power from this single source.
“Dubbed the Ride the Wind project, the C-Train system is powered by 60 wind turbines near Pincher Creek in southern Alberta,” RAIL Magazine editor Scott Bogren writes in “Alberta Rail: Canada’s Light Rail Legacy.” “Since the program began in 2001, local officials estimate that Ride the Wind has saved more than 325,000 tons of CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions.”
Wind power electricity generation being but one of the ways to produce energy sustainably, wind does have company: solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and tide, to name just four.
And from “California high-speed rail looks to renewable resources for electricity supply” there is this: “On the plus side in one sense is that full build-out of the statewide electrified rail network is not projected before 2033 which should allow more than enough time to beef up energy infrastructure to meet demand. More good news is that the trains, through their dynamic- or regenerative-braking-process capabilities will themselves in essence be electricity generators or power supplies. The energy produced from the regenerative braking process from say a braking train going downgrade, can be transferred to another train operating on level track or as well to another going upgrade or this electricity can even be fed to line- or wayside electricity storage systems for use at a later point in time.”
Transit comes in all shapes and sizes – no question. In that transit – electrified or otherwise – is not yet all that it can be in the environmental sustainability sense (nor is any other mode for that matter), that it is already way ahead of the curve land-mode comparison-wise, by virtue of this, fixed-guideway transit not only leaves the competition in the dust as far as I’m concerned but in my book is light years ahead of the rest.
As for land transportation, transit in terms of air pollution mitigation, it doesn’t get much better than this!