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Posts from the Bus Rapid Transit Category

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Here’s the Plan to Keep Transit Riders Moving During the L Shutdown

The Regional Plan Association is proposing a network of dedicated bus lanes to carry North Brooklynites to Manhattan's main job centers. Image: RPA

The Regional Plan Association has mapped out a network of transitways as well as a bus service plan to handle passengers displaced by the L train shutdown. Image: RPA

The Regional Plan Association has released a new plan to beef up bus and train service for L train riders who’ll need robust transit once the western part of the line shuts down for Sandy-related repairs.

“Fixing the L Train and Managing the Shutdown” [PDF] includes concepts that have been floated before, like a 14th Street transitway, while adding new details like a full service plan for buses replacing L train service. DOT and the MTA, which have remained tightlipped about their intentions and alarmingly reluctant to cooperate, will need to team up to implement these ideas and keep hundreds of thousands of people moving.

At a press conference yesterday, three local elected leaders — Assembly members Joe Lentol and Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Daniel Squadron — said they support the RPA plan.

The ideas in the report are anchored by the goal of ensuring that displaced L riders are not relegated to a three-seat subway-to-shuttle-to-subway ride. That means providing direct BRT service to job centers in Midtown and Lower Manhattan, ensuring the shortest possible trip times to other destinations in the city, and adding capacity on nearby subway and Long Island Railroad lines.

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Scores of New Yorkers Turn Out to Reimagine 14th Street

Photo: Brad Aaron

Photo: Brad Aaron

A capacity crowd of around 80 people gathered at a community center in Chelsea last night to brainstorm the future of 14th Street.

The forum was the second 14th Street PeopleWay workshop, hosted by Transportation Alternatives, to help prepare for the crush of people who will need a new way to get around when the L train tube under the East River is closed for Sandy repairs.

TA Director of Organizing Tom DeVito prefaced the breakout session by explaining why designating 14th Street exclusively to transit, biking, and walking is the only realistic way to get the job done.

“Ride-share companies are eager to take advantage” of the situation, DeVito said. In September Uber proposed that the city suspend taxi regulations in order to spur more Uber trips along the corridor. “This is a recipe for catastrophe,” said DeVito. With 250,000 people taking the L train every day, he said, “That’s just not feasible.”

Data show that at peak travel times 14th Street handles 490 cars an hour in the eastbound lanes, and 430 cars per hour westbound — or eight cars and seven cars a minute, respectively. DOT can minimize the auto traffic impact on surrounding streets with traffic-calming measures — including neckdowns, chicanes, and mid-block crossings — according to TA.

The M14 is already the eighth busiest MTA bus line, with 32,868 daily riders. It’s also one of the city’s slowest lines. TA estimates that a car-free transitway on 14th Street could enable buses to travel smoothly while arriving every 30 to 60 seconds during peak hours.

To complement proposed bus improvements — dedicated lanes; off-board payment; at-level, ADA-compliant boarding; and transit priority at signals — the PeopleWay concept includes protected bike lanes and Citi Bike “super stations.”

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How to Keep Buses Moving on the 14th Street PeopleWay

Passing lanes, spread out stops, off-board fare collection, and at-level boarding could all help keep buses moving on 14th Street. Image: BRT Planning International

This rendering of a potential eastbound BRT stop at 14th Street and Irving Plaza includes a lane for buses to pass each other. Image: BRT Planning International

As the city and MTA consider how to move thousands of L train passengers across Manhattan when the subway line shuts down for Sandy-related repairs, momentum is growing for a 14th Street “PeopleWay” free of private motor vehicles. But with 10,000 passengers during the peak hour in the peak direction, prohibiting cars alone won’t prevent 14th Street from becoming a bus parking lot, according to Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook at BRT Planning International.

Weinstock and Hook say bus stop design will be key to keeping buses moving.  The above image shows their proposed design for a station at 14th Street and Irving Plaza, which they anticipate will be the busiest westbound stop on the corridor. The stop has space for four buses, with a passing lane so buses that have completed their stops don’t get stuck behind those that are still boarding. To make space for passing lanes, the corresponding eastbound stop would be on another block.

A bus with no passengers takes about 18 seconds to pull up to a stop and open and close its doors. With about 85 buses an hour needed to meet the demand created by the L train closure, according to Weinstock and Hook, bus stops will be occupied 25 minutes out of the hour, leading to congestion along the corridor.

Even with passing lanes and effective stop placement, Weinstock and Hook’s analysis shows that buses would be delayed at almost every major intersection. To further improve bus speeds, they suggest at-level boarding and off-board fare collection, ideally with pre-paid fare zones rather than ticket inspectors.

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A Closer Look at How the L Train Shutdown Will Disrupt Transit Trips

This diagram shows the alternate routes commuters would have to take to travel between L Train stops. Image: BRT Planning International

Without L train service in Manhattan, trips that used to be a one-seat ride between these origins (y-axis) and destinations (x-axis) will involve multiple transfers and/or long walks. Image: BRT Planning International

The 18-month shutdown of the L train between North Brooklyn and Eighth Avenue may be three years away, but officials still have to move quickly to help hundreds of thousands of L passengers get where they need to go. So far, city officials and the MTA have yet to provide much in the way of specifics.

To get a better sense of how transit service should adapt for the L shutdown, Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook of BRT Planning International analyzed how the loss of the L train west of Bedford Avenue would affect trip times if no measures are taken. Trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan that are currently a one-seat ride will become far more convoluted and inconvenient, as you can see in the top matrix.

Translated into time lost, the effect is most severe for L train riders who cannot conveniently connect to other subway lines at Myrtle/Wyckoff or Broadway Junction. You can see in the matrix below (which includes travel times between a sample of L train stations and other stations) that people by the Brooklyn stops west of Myrtle/Wyckoff are most affected.

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B44 Moving 15-30 Percent Faster After Select Bus Service Upgrades

Total travel times have gone down since the implementation of Select Bus Service on the B44 route. Image: DOT/MTA

Total travel times have improved 15-30 percent since the implementation of Select Bus Service on the B44. Image: DOT/MTA

As bus speeds decline in NYC, the few routes that are getting dedicated bus lanes and off-board fare collection are bucking the trend. The newest evidence comes from the B44 route along Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn, where buses are moving 15-30 percent faster since NYC DOT and the MTA upgraded the line to Select Bus Service, according to an update the agencies released yesterday [PDF]. Ridership on the route increased in 2015, going against the borough-wide pattern, following years of ridership losses before and during SBS implementation.

SBS upgrades make routes faster and more reliable via camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection, bus bulbs that expand waiting areas and enable bus drivers to make stops without pulling in and out of traffic, stop consolidation, and traffic signals that prioritize buses. On the B44, which runs between Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg, total northbound travel times improved 31 percent during the morning peak and 20 percent in the evening after SBS launched. Southbound travel times improved by 19 percent in the morning and 15 percent in the evening.

The SBS improvements reduced the amount of time B44 buses spend motionless at stops, traffic lights, and stuck behind general traffic. While total time in motion before and after SBS remained relatively steady on the B44, it now accounts for 57 percent of travel time, compared to 45 percent before implementation.

The most substantial reductions in travel time occurred where dedicated bus lanes were installed, primarily north of the intersection of Nostrand and Flatbush Avenue. Between Flatbush and Fulton Street, where most of the bus lanes were installed, northbound travel times improved by 37 percent in the morning and 33 percent in the evening. (The lack of bus lanes on the southern part of the route shows: The agencies note that overall B44 speeds are lower than on other bus lines where DOT installed dedicated lanes along the entire route.)

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Streetsblog USA
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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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Streetsblog USA
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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 four 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 four 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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