All Aboard Florida trains to cause massive traffic jams? A look at the facts & the citizens' response - Bob Lawry

Publish Date: 
Monday, May 26, 2014 - 4:00pm

Citizens tear apart Bob Lawry's seemingly reasonable article in the TC Palm May 22 - see responses at the end of this article.

Opponents of the proposed All Aboard Florida high-speed train service between Miami and Orlando claim that more frequent trains along the Florida East Coast Railway will cause major traffic tie-ups at crossings all along the line.

But is this true? Let’s look at facts about AAF train operations.

Crossing blockage times will be a function of train length, train speed and operation of the crossing protection devices. Unlike some of FEC’s freight trains that can be 1.5 miles to 2 miles long, AAF trains will be only about 900 feet long. And, unlike those freight trains that can weigh 10,000 tons or more, AAF train sets are lightweight and their power is nimble.

Speeds for AAF trains will range from 60 mph below West Palm Beach, 80 to 110 mph between West Palm and Cocoa, and to 125 mph between Cocoa and Orlando. The potential times for crossing blockage by AAF trains are much less than one might think from just observing passing freight trains.

Using the formula “time equals distance divided by rate of speed,” a 900-foot-long train moving at 40 mph will occupy a crossing for 15.34 seconds; at 60 mph it will occupy the crossing for 10.23 seconds; at 80 mph it will occupy a crossing for 7.67 seconds; and at 125 mph it will occupy a crossing for 4.91 seconds.

Crossing protection activation/deactivation will add to these times. The added crossing blockage time from activation as a train approaches to deactivation after train passage can vary depending on location, traffic patterns and train speed at the location. The railroad will comprehend all this when installing and programming crossing protection.

For estimation purposes, a reasonable estimate of added time is 40 seconds (it could be a little less or a little more) for crossing protection factors. Adding 40 seconds to the times above gives crossing blockage times ranging from 55 seconds for trains traveling 40 mph to only 45 seconds for trains traveling 125 mph. This corroborates information provided to The Miami Herald, in which AAF indicated that typical crossing blockage time during passage of a train would be 52 seconds (Miami Herald editorial, Nov. 13, 2012).

AAF plans one departure per hour each from Miami and Orlando. Thus, two AAF trains will pass any location between those points each hour. Multiplying the times above by two shows that the average crossing time blockage by AAF trains will range from 1.5 minutes per hour for trains at 125 mph to 2 minutes per hour for trains running at 40 mph.

These times correspond to less than two additional red traffic-light cycles per hour along any stretch of highway.

Crossing blockages due to AAF train operations are hardly the stuff of massive highway traffic jams!

Bob Lowry, Indialantic, consults in the selection and use of materials used to manufacture semiconductors and other electrical components used in military, space and medical electronic products. His “closet” hobby is railroads, and he is a member of the Florida East Coast Railway Society.

Citizens respond

What about calculations for the additional and longer freight trains that will be running day and night along these rails?
In Indiatlantic there will be no impact from AAF, so please come visit our Treasure Coast towns to see how AAF blasting through our downtowns and our backyards and the dangerous at-grade crossings will impact our safety and quality of life.
Add in the time for the bridge crossings in Stuart and Jupiter. AAF already admitted the train would have to slow down going through several downtown areas because of sharp turns, which is where most of the traffic is, so on paper calculations may look like no big deal, now take a ride along the actual route and apply the math. More than just traffic congestion will become more evident. Taxpayers footing this scam is a whole other issue.
The author ignored the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The train bridges on the New River, Loxahatchee River, and the St. Lucie River. The time the bridge takes to complete its cycle from locking down well in advance of a train and opening long after it passes creates an enormous problem for boaters, businesses, and residents located west of the trestles. The facts provided by the Jupiter Inlet Navigation District indicate a typical 20 minute wait for a passing train with some lasting as long as 1.5 hours. Florida Inland Navigation District will begin to study the St. Lucie River bridge.Why don't you analyze these facts?
Lowry is out in left field. Crossing protection devices with notice will take more time to go up and come down. And, his failure to mention the BIG plans for the FREIGHT, the FREIGHT. Without a doubt it will come. Panama Canal expansion, expansion of Port of Miami, Port Everglades , construction of acres of refrigeration, tunnels, terminals, ye gads. FREIGHT, FREIGHT, FREIGHT! Build the tracks along the turnpike. Do not destroy our cities or our way of life.
You cannot model railroad capacity with middle school math. There are more variables that need to be considered that complex simulation and modeling software has to be utilized to get the true impact. I can guarantee you that FECI and AAF has these models and if the picture was a rosy as your middle school math, wouldn't you think they would be busy publishing that data as opposed to hiring consulting firms to put together color branded and spin doctored PR content with Jumbo Jets and iPhones that brag about how many TEMPORARY construction jobs they will create?
I believe the Federal requirements for a rail bridge closing are at least 7-8 minutes before the arrival of the train add in the crossing time and re-opening and you are talking somewhere around 13-15 minutes for these shorter faster trains. Now there is expected to be at least 2 per hour so that is a conservative closing estimate of almost 30 minutes of the hour in an ideal situation. This is not taking the South Florida TRI Rail or freight into consideration. It is just too much train traffic period. Than there is the question of the FEC continuing to service the existing Ports and other freight customers along the railroads service area. It just is not possible for this to work easily or in most cases effectively.
I am not so worried about the extra freight into the Port of Miami as there is no reason for there to be any additional freight than there is today. The non-perishable freight will go to the existing Ports in the Gulf or further up the East Coast. Nor will the large ships frequent Miami as there are many other considerations which include Federal regulations which preclude these ships from visiting other US Ports without first visiting a foreign Port. It just won't be a major factor period. This whole project, including the $2.5 billion improvements to the Port of Miami, is so poorly thought out it is beyond logical comprehension. This type of boondoggle only survives in the political world where the public foots the bill. I doubt if Fortress had to pay for this, and they have plenty of money, it would never even be considered as they don't expose their money to this type of risk.