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Posts from the Bus Rapid Transit Category

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A New Blueprint for Streets That Put Transit Front and Center

This template shows how transit could be prioritized on a wide suburban-style arterial. Image: NACTO

A template for transit-only lanes and floating bus stops on a wide street with parking-protected bike lanes. Image: NACTO

The National Association of City Transportation Officials has released a new design guide to help cities prioritize transit on their streets.

How can cities integrate bus rapid transit with protected bike lanes? How can bus stops be improved and the boarding process sped up? How should traffic signals be optimized to prioritize buses? The Transit Street Design Guide goes into greater detail on these questions than NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide, released in 2013.

Before the publication of this guide, city transportation officials looking to make streets work better for transit still had to hunt through a few different manuals, said NACTO’s Matthew Roe.

“The kinds of problems that the guide seeks to solve are exactly the kinds of design problems and questions that cities are trying to solve,” said Roe. “How do you get transit to get where it’s going quicker, without degrading the pedestrian environment? Some of that has to do with the details of design.”

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Keep L Train Passengers Moving With Great BRT

Full-BRT---Brooklyn-Side

Claiming street space for full-fledged BRT can help L train riders weather the impending Canarsie Tube closure and meet the long-term transit needs of northern Brooklyn better than a waterfront streetcar. Click to enlarge. Map: Sahra Mirbabaee/BRT Planning International

The news that Sandy-related repairs will require closing one or both directions of the L train under the East River (the “Canarsie Tube”) for one to three years has understandably caused panic among the estimated 230,000 daily passengers who rely on it. Businesses in Williamsburg that count on customers from Manhattan are also concerned about a significant downturn in sales. When the Canarsie Tube was shut down on weekends only last spring, it was bad enough for their bottom line, and this will be much worse.

Fixing the Canarsie Tube is imperative, but it doesn’t have to result in a massive disruption that threatens people’s livelihoods. The key to keeping L train passengers moving is to create new, high-capacity bus rapid transit on the streets.

Since the potential closure went public, several ideas have been floated to mitigate the impact. None of them do enough to provide viable transit options for L train riders. Only setting aside street space for high-capacity BRT can give riders a good substitute for the train. This can be done in time for the impending subway closure while also creating long-term improvements that address surface transit needs in northern Brooklyn much better than a waterfront streetcar ever could.

The Inadequacy of Current Proposals

While some L passengers will be able to switch to other subway lines, a huge number will face significant inconveniences. Passengers from Bedford Avenue to Union Square, for example, will face up to three new transfers.

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Eric Ulrich Flip-Flops on Woodhaven Boulevard Redesign

After coming out strong for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard, City Council Member Eric Ulrich has done a 180.

Eric Ulrich

Eric Ulrich

“The plan that they proposed, it stinks,” Ulrich told the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, according to the Queens Chronicle. “I don’t think it’s good. I think we have to go back to the drawing board.”

The Woodhaven redesign, which calls for dedicated bus lanes and pedestrian safety infrastructure, enjoys widespread support from elected officials — a roster that once included Eric Ulrich. In April 2014 Ulrich and Joan Byron co-authored an op-ed for the Daily News that called for “world-class” bus rapid transit on Woodhaven, with dedicated lanes and signal priority:

Taking this opportunity to incorporate even more advanced Bus Rapid Transit features will benefit not only those who ride the Q52/Q53, but everyone who drives, walks or rides on this congested and dangerous artery.

Later that year Ulrich told Streetsblog that something has to be done on Woodhaven to prevent traffic deaths and injuries, because “whatever we’re doing now obviously isn’t working.”

So what happened?

Well, the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, which Ulrich was addressing, has been raising a stink about the project for all the usual reasons — that it will slow down traffic and divert motorists to side streets.

According to the Queens Chronicle, Ulrich said he became disillusioned with the plan in part because it would eliminate left turns at Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue. But the left-turn ban helps achieve two goals Ulrich said he supported: faster buses and fewer injuries. It lets buses proceed without waiting for left-turning drivers, and it prevents conflicts between turning drivers and people crossing the street.

At the intersection with Jamaica, 38 traffic crashes resulted in 52 injuries and two fatalities from July 2012 to December 2014, according to Transportation Alternatives.

TA found that more people lost their lives on Woodhaven from 2011 to 2013 than on any other Queens street. A major benefit of the Woodhaven SBS will be physical improvements, like pedestrian islands, to prevent injuries and save lives.

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New Evidence That Bus Rapid Transit Done Right Spurs Development

More American cities are considering bus rapid transit, or BRT, as a cost-effective method to expand and improve transit. One of the knocks against BRT, as opposed to rail, is that it supposedly doesn’t affect development patterns. But a new study [PDF] by Arthur C. Nelson of the University of Arizona and released by Transportation for America finds that BRT lines can indeed shape real estate and attract jobs — if the projects are done right.

Bus rapid transit can spur private investment in cities, but it needs to have features that help make it "fixed," like dedicated lanes and level boarding platforms. Image: University of Arizona

BRT can spur walkable development and job growth in cities, but it needs to be designed to a high standard with features like dedicated bus lanes and level boarding platforms. Photo: National Institute for Transportation and Communities

Nelson and co-author Joanna Ganning examined real estate investment, commercial rents, and multi-family housing development around BRT routes during the early 2000s and the first half of this decade. They found that in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and other cities with high-quality BRT lines, real estate near the routes tends to be valued at a premium and is capturing an increasing share of development.

For example, in downtown Cleveland, offices within a quarter-mile of the Healthline BRT rent at prices 18 percent higher than downtown office space outside walking distance of the line. In Eugene, Oregon, the premium is 12 percent.

Proximity to BRT lines appears to be growing more appealing over time. Between 2000 and 2007, Census tracts within a quarter mile of BRT routes captured about 11 percent of total office space development in the regions the authors studied. From 2007 to 2015, that share grew to 15 percent.

“This is not trivial,” said Nelson during a presentation at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board this morning. “My sense is that this distribution will keep gaining share.”

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DOT: Full Woodhaven Boulevard Upgrades Coming Sometime Next Decade

DOT's proposal for the 2017 launch of the new Woodhaven Boulevard SBS will feature far fewer miles of main road bus lanes than originally expected. Image: DOT

Woodhaven Boulevard SBS will launch in 2017, but several miles of center road bus lanes have been pushed to the indefinite future. Image: DOT

DOT and the MTA will roll out enhanced bus service on Woodhaven Boulevard in 2017, but several miles of the promised bus lanes won’t come until the 2020s, agency representatives said yesterday.

While DOT says the Woodhaven overhaul will be built, the city is providing no certainty as to when the Department of Design and Construction will complete the street reconstruction required to deliver the whole project. The vagueness surrounding the construction timetable casts doubt on the future of the full six miles of center road bus lanes DOT had committed to.

Yesterday, at a presentation to the project’s Community Advisory Committee [PDF], the agency said enhanced bus service would begin running on Woodhaven in 2017, including 1.3 miles of dedicated bus lanes next to medians that separate the center roadway from service lanes. Those bus lanes are superior to ones that run next to the curb or the parking lane (which will also be added in 2017), because they’re less susceptible to getting blocked by illegally parked drivers. Earlier this year, DOT said that design would apply to six miles of Woodhaven Boulevard.

Yesterday the agency had no timetable for implementing the rest of the center road bus lanes, which will accompany the reconstruction of the street by DDC. However, Riders Alliance organizers who attended yesterday’s meeting were told to expect the full project to be completed sometime in the 2020s.

Detailed design and engineering will continue next year, with Select Bus Service beginning in 2017. In addition to main road bus lanes and median stops between Park Lane South and Rockaway Boulevard, the 2017 phase will add curbside bus lanes to several other sections of the corridor, as well as off-board fare payment and signal priority for buses.

The BRT for NYC Coalition says the 2017 project will be an important step in convincing Queens residents of the merits of bus rapid transit. “We look forward to the 1.3 miles of BRT and the meaningful results in safety and commute times it’ll offer for Queens,” said Masha Burina of the Riders Alliance. “We’d like to see a timelier implementation of [main road bus lanes] throughout the corridor and anticipate a productive relationship with the DOT/MTA to ensure all of Woodhaven Boulevard receives high-quality BRT as soon as possible.”

DOT said the Woodhaven timetable is consistent with how other SBS projects have been implemented:

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Tish James and Queens Pols to DOT: Finish Strong on Woodhaven BRT

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Public Advocate Tish James with City Council members Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer on the steps of City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Public Advocate Letitia James joined Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Member Donovan Richards, and Queens transit activists on the steps of City Hall this morning to push the de Blasio administration to follow through on its plans for better bus service along Woodhaven Boulevard.

Earlier this year, DOT presented plans for bus lanes and pedestrian safety improvements along 14 miles of Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard [PDF], from Jackson Heights to the Rockaways. The project would speed up the Q52 and Q53, which serve 30,000 passengers each weekday but currently spend just 57 percent of the time in motion. New pedestrian islands and medians are also expected to reduce injuries on one of the deadliest streets in the city.

The rally comes at an important moment. While Richards and several other council members have called for full-fledged Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven Boulevard, the reallocation of street space from cars to buses is encountering some resistance in the neighborhood of Woodhaven.

With capital construction not set to begin until 2017, the implementation process is going to last at least two more years. The rally was a reminder that support for overhauling Woodhaven Boulevard runs deep, sending a message that DOT and City Hall shouldn’t buckle to pressure to water down the project. The BRT for NYC Coalition has now collected 7,000 signatures in favor of it.

For sections of Woodhaven and the Rockaways where high poverty rates couple with long commute times, said Richards, the project “is a transit equity issue.”

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Joe Addabbo Tells Voters to Fight Bus Lanes on Street Where He Drives Daily

The overhaul of Woodhaven Boulevard in southeast Queens promises to make buses faster and more reliable while preventing injuries and deaths on one of the most dangerous streets in the city. Naturally, State Senator Joseph Addabbo is mobilizing constituents to oppose the project and keep Woodhaven the way it is.

Joe Addabbo, Jr.

Addabbo has been agitating against the project most of the year, writing in the Queens Chronicle this April that “[r]ush-hour traffic would suffer significantly and, as someone who sits on that roadway every day during those times, I shudder to think it could get worse.”

In an email to constituents yesterday, Addabbo rattled off the typical litany of horrors you hear any time the city proposes repurposing street space from cars to other modes of travel: intolerable congestion, traffic diverted to other streets, plummeting sales for local business, and, somehow, even more danger for people on foot.

Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard have such a high rate of traffic injuries and fatalities because the current design is geared only toward moving as many cars as possible. On some stretches, the street is wider than 150 feet. As a result, speeding is rampant and people get hurt on a daily basis. From July 2012 to December 2014, eight people were killed in crashes along the proposed BRT route, and 1,432 were injured, according to city stats compiled by Transportation Alternatives.

The Woodhaven BRT design concept calls for pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances. The reduction in general traffic lanes and left turns to make room for dedicated bus lanes, spun as a negative by Addabbo, is expected to yield substantial safety benefits, as fewer drivers weave dangerously across lanes and try to shoot through gaps in oncoming traffic to turn left.

For the 30,000 passengers who ride the bus on Woodhaven and Cross Bay daily, trips are projected to get 25 to 35 percent faster, according to DOT and the MTA. Prior experience with SBS projects suggests this will be good for local businesses. On Fordham Road in the Bronx, bus ridership increased 10 percent and retail sales shot up 71 percent after the implementation of SBS.

In opposing the Woodhaven project, Addabbo is bucking the political consensus on the City Council. Earlier this year, seven council members called on DOT and the MTA to consider “full-featured BRT” on Woodhaven and Cross Bay. Among the signatories was Eric Ulrich, who holds the council seat that Addabbo vacated.

DOT and the MTA have been hosting workshops about the project since last year and will be launching a fresh round of public meetings this fall. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2017.

Here’s the full message from Addabbo’s office telling his constituents to oppose the project:

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Koch Brothers Tentacles Reach Out to Squelch Albuquerque BRT

Albuquerque has a plan for bus rapid transit. But is it getting a fair hearing? Photo: City of Albuquerque

Albuquerque has a plan for bus rapid transit, and there’s a hired gun out to kill it. Photo: City of Albuquerque

Albuquerque, like many cities, is looking at bus rapid transit as a cost-effective way to improve mobility and create a more walkable city. Its BRT plan calls for frequent service on a center-running bus lane along Central Avenue, the city’s busiest bus route, which passes through the heart of downtown.

The city has applied for funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Smarts program. With $80 million in federal funds matched by $20 million in local funds, service could begin in 2017.

But the local conversation about the project has been hijacked by outside groups with an anti-transit agenda. The most outspoken critics are a couple of men with financial ties to — are you ready? — the Koch brothers, fitting a pattern recently seen in NashvilleBoston, and a lot of other places.

The first is Paul Gessing from the Rio Grande Foundation, the group leading organized opposition to the project. The Rio Grande Foundation is part of the State Policy Network, which the Center for Media and Democracy describes as “mini-Heritage Foundations” that are “major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.”

Naturally, the Rio Grande Foundation trotted out professional transit basher Randall O’Toole — of the Koch-backed Cato Institute — who tweaked his anti-rail road show in this case to criticize the bus plan.

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How Bus Rapid Transit Can Save Lives on One of NYC’s Most Dangerous Streets

Woodhaven Boulevard needs BRT not only to move transit riders faster, but also to save lives and prevent traffic injuries. Map: Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

Lives are at stake in the redesign of Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard, making the implementation of bus rapid transit on this southeast Queens corridor all the more urgent, according to a new analysis from the BRT for NYC coalition. Crash stats bring home the point that new pedestrian islands and other safety measures in DOT’s Woodhaven BRT project are critical to reducing the carnage on one of the most dangerous streets in the city.

Woodhaven Boulevard regularly appears near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the city’s most dangerous streets. More pedestrians were killed by motorists on Woodhaven from 2011 to 2013 than on any other street in Queens, Tri-State reported in March, outpacing notorious roads like Queens Boulevard and Northern Boulevard. Citywide, only Flatbush Avenue and the Grand Concourse saw more pedestrian deaths.

An analysis released today by BRT for NYC coalition member Transportation Alternatives pinpoints the intersections with the most crashes on Woodhaven [PDF], based on NYPD crash data from July 2012 to December 2014. They are:

  • 101st Ave & Woodhaven Blvd: 42 crashes, 62 injuries, 1 fatality

  • Jamaica Ave & Woodhaven Blvd: 38 crashes, 52 injuries, 2 fatalities

  • Queens Blvd & Woodhaven Blvd: 32 crashes, 42 injuries, 0 fatalities

  • Atlantic Ave & Woodhaven Blvd: 32 crashes, 55 injuries, 1 fatality

  • Rockaway Blvd & Woodhaven Blvd: 30 crashes, 18 injuries, 0 fatalities

Among the victims was Yunior Antonio Perez Rodriguez, 35, killed by a hit-and-run driver after he stepped off a pedestrian island near Jamaica Avenue in December 2013 — just months after another man was killed trying to cross Woodhaven at the same location.

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Cuomo Signs Bill Allowing NYC to Expand Bus Lane Camera Program

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Saturday that will speed up bus trips by expanding the number of bus lanes where the city can deploy camera enforcement. The law now enables New York City to use cameras to keep car drivers out of exclusive bus lanes on up to 16 routes, an increase from just six today.

34th Street before cameras were added. Video still: Robin Urban Smith/Streetfilms

34th Street before cameras were added. Video still: Robin Urban Smith/Streetfilms

Under the bill, which passed the Senate and the Assembly in June, the city can choose the 10 additional bus routes that will receive camera enforcement. That’s a change from the state legislation that first authorized bus lane cameras in 2010, which spelled out which routes could get cameras.

The city and the MTA have expanded Select Bus Service — the enhanced routes that usually include dedicated transit lanes — beyond the limitations of the previous bus lane camera legislation. As a result, bus lanes on Webster Avenue operate without camera enforcement. Absent this new legislation, planned bus lanes on Utica Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard, and along the Q44 in Flushing and Jamaica would have also gone without cameras.

The new legislation allows the city to install cameras on non-SBS bus lanes, like on Fifth Avenue and Fulton Street, as well. It also enables the city to operate the cameras on weekends, but continues to limit camera enforcement to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., when most bus lanes are in effect. The fine would stay at $115.

While the law is a very basic step to ensure the city’s bus lanes can operate as intended, there was some doubt as to whether Governor Cuomo would go along with a de Blasio administration legislative priority. In a statement, however, the governor enthusiastically endorsed the bus lane camera expansion.

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