The Paris RER System

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jis

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Paris pioneered the particular form of RER system that it has. Here is an excellent video on its development, current state and future plans. The sheer size and scope of it is mindboggling...



Frankly it seems quite unlikely that we will ever get anything remotely close to it in size and scope anywhere in the US in near to mid term future.
 
The key part to have this kind of rail network in the US is "transit oriented development". As long as commuter train stations will mostly be surrounded by parking lots and not by actual dense housing / businesses (either offices or commercial), that won't happen.
 
The feature of the RER's development that always has intrigued me was that they jumped right from a completely obsolete steam powered SNCF service running from a rundown terminal to an attractive and convenient modern operation. Its contemporary BART in the meantime struggled.

I was in Paris for the last rush hour with steam...
 
The key part to have this kind of rail network in the US is "transit oriented development". As long as commuter train stations will mostly be surrounded by parking lots and not by actual dense housing / businesses (either offices or commercial), that won't happen.
Ironically maybe, transit oriented development is no new concept. Large chunks of what is now the London Underground for example were developed in the early part of the 20th Century by private corporations with real estate interests in mind. The rail service was never expected to be profitable, but it permitted them to build extensive new suburbs on greenfield sites and make living there attractive and desirable.
 
Roissy Express: A Journey Through the Paris Suburbs by Francois Maspero and Anaik Frantz, is a study of the communities linked by the RER. It's not about trains but a fascinating look at the places and people where the trains stop. It's worth a read and will be an interesting counterpoint to the video in the original post because it addresses what transit does for and to people. A video about the book. And an article, also in French.
 
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Paris has followed a philosophy of dispersal of main arrival points within the city connecting multiple stations together by Metro or RER- systems. This is almost exactly the opposite of that is done in major US cities like New York.
I don't know if it was a conscious policy, or merely bending to the reality that for historical reasons, there are multiple major LD stations and that it would be extremely costly to attempt to consolidate them. The cost benefit ration for doing the connection for regional rail is far higher than for LD trains.
 
It doesn't surprise me the next generation of RER trains will have a combination of single level and double deck cars in the trainset. A lot of countries in Europe seem to be moving in that direction with new trains, whether it's Germany or Spain to name a few, they call such trains high capacity trains. A six car train of the RER NG can hold 1,563 and the seven car variation can hold 1,861 passengers. The NGs are currently testing as we speak.
 
I don't know if it was a conscious policy, or merely bending to the reality that for historical reasons, there are multiple major LD stations and that it would be extremely costly to attempt to consolidate them. The cost benefit ration for doing the connection for regional rail is far higher than for LD trains.
In contrast to Paris, New York has taken the trouble to destroy most of its stations beyond GCT and Penn and is currently actively engaged in destroying Hoboken, while coming up with enormously expensive plans to expand Penn Station, instead of better integrating Hoboken. In another universe one could imagine a through trunk through Hoboken being built to Flatbush Avenue to siphon off pressure from Penn Station. That was my point.
 
Paris has followed a philosophy of dispersal of main arrival points within the city connecting multiple stations together by Metro or RER- systems. This is almost exactly the opposite of that is done in major US cities like New York.
Also happened in London although less by design philosophy than a desire to keep major stations and tracks out of the City. First the Underground was created to link the various stations, now we have the RER like Elizabeth Line providing that function at least for a few stations.

currently actively engaged in destroying Hoboken​
What evidence do you have for this?
 
What evidence do you have for this?
I am told so by the NJ-ARP folks who keep track of such things. Admittedly I have not been personally involved in those for about 8 years now. But I have no reason to mistrust the NJ-ARP folks on this. They are on the ground trying to improve service in NJ.

The NJ-ARP folks tell me that there have been actually two internal studies in NJT regadring the possibility of downgrading Hoboken further and transferring more traffic into Penn Station New York via the so called Secaucus Loop. One was done during the ARC Project which was killed by Governor Christie. The second one is with the current Gateway Project. Actually it was somewhat impossible to meet the FRA threshold to get the second set of tunnels funded absent the transfer of significant traffic from Hoboken to Penn Station to gussy up the traffic through the tunnels.

Also NJT has discontinued all through service from the NEC and NJCL to Hoboken and downgraded service from M&E into Hoboken over the years. Basically half-hourly through service from Summit has been reduced to once in two service with a change at Newark Broad. Hourly through service from Gladstone has been reduced to once in two hours with two changes at Summit and Newark Broad. On the plus side there is through service every two hours from MSU to Hoboken via the Montclair Connection. This is not conducive to improving usage of the service by any means, and it only succeeds in reducing overall usage.
 
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Ironically maybe, transit oriented development is no new concept. Large chunks of what is now the London Underground for example were developed in the early part of the 20th Century by private corporations with real estate interests in mind. The rail service was never expected to be profitable, but it permitted them to build extensive new suburbs on greenfield sites and make living there attractive and desirable.
It's much the same here - Streetcar Suburbs and mainline suburbs in the US.

I recently read somewhere (or perhaps saw a video?) that residential development is actually not a large driver of transit usage, but commercial and institutional facilities were much larger drivers of ridership (and transfer points as well) from my recollection.
 
In contrast to Paris, New York has taken the trouble to destroy most of its stations beyond GCT and Penn and is currently actively engaged in destroying Hoboken, while coming up with enormously expensive plans to expand Penn Station, instead of better integrating Hoboken. In another universe one could imagine a through trunk through Hoboken being built to Flatbush Avenue to siphon off pressure from Penn Station. That was my point.
And don't forget the CNJ terminal in Jersey City that saw B&O's fleet including the original Capitol Ltd. and National Ltd. plus local service. It's now the
Liberty State Park. and still has ferry service to lower Manhattan. According to the link, sounds like the old rail access is being preserved. Maybe one day someone will have the bright idea to restore rail service there!

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Back to the RER I think part of the uniqueness of it is that it was built in a highly centralized country with a primate city which has very dense urban core which was rapidly spreading - especially jobs - and already heavily served by rail transit which was buckling under the pressure of ridership at the time. Add to that a tradition and history of grand projects and you get something like the RER built rapidly.
 
Back to the RER I think part of the uniqueness of it is that it was built in a highly centralized country with a primate city which has very dense urban core which was rapidly spreading - especially jobs - and already heavily served by rail transit which was buckling under the pressure of ridership at the time. Add to that a tradition and history of grand projects and you get something like the RER built rapidly.

Very well put with 'highly centralised' being the main driver of major projects in France.
 
MODERATOR'S NOTE: A number of excellent posts on the Chicago METRA suburban system and how it could evolve to be like RER have been moved to its own thread at:

https://www.amtraktrains.com/threads/the-chicago-metra-suburban-system.84604/
Please post further discussion of possible improvements to the Chicago suburban system to this new thread and leave this thread for discussing the Paris RER system.

Thank you for your understanding, cooperation and participation.
 
Also happened in London although less by design philosophy than a desire to keep major stations and tracks out of the City. First the Underground was created to link the various stations, now we have the RER like Elizabeth Line providing that function at least for a few stations.
Whereas modern trains can be turned quite efficiently, in steam days this was a much more cumbersome process and in addition to the space needed for tracks and platforms, the old terminals had steam locomotive servicing and stabling facilities in immediate proximity, as well as stabling tracks for passenger cars, dedicated tracks for freight, mail services etc. The land usage footprint was thus quite sizeable and it was also a matter of expediency that the early LD routes did not attempt to realize such projects in dense inner city areas. Acquiring the land and dealing with objections would have cost years and huge heaps of money. So they preferred to go where land was cheaper and easier to buy.

The cities have of course since then grown around the stations, making them feel very urban.

Today most of these stations make do with much less land, the railroads having made some extra money by selling off the excess land to property developers.

One notable exception that comes to mind was in the UK in the city of York where an opening was actually cut into the ancient city walls (with a nice gothic arch to make it look authentic) and a lot of land cleared within the old medieval city to create a terminus station. Later this was abandoned in favor of the present thu station outside the city walls, and the old station site redeveloped for other purposes (although part of the main station building is still there and used by the local city administration). The arch in the city wall is also still there, but that tracks are long gone and nobody except railfans and history buffs know its significance.

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