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Posts from the "Bus Rapid Transit" Category

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MTA Maps a Five-Borough Network for Select Bus Service

Present and planned Select Bus Service routes, mapped with subway lines. Click for full-size. Image: MTA via Observer

At a press event yesterday to announce service restorations and upgrades, the MTA also went public with a citywide plan to expand Select Bus Service. With tunnel-boring mega-projects consuming billions of capital dollars apiece, the agency is featuring low-cost bus improvements more prominently in its strategy to increase transit capacity.

Stephen Smith at the Observer reports:

The Second Avenue subway was featured prominently, but one board member conceded that it’s “simply not possible to build more lines and have them during someone’s commuting lifetime” (a depressing admission of defeat for an agency beset by gargantuan construction cost premiums over peer cities like London, Tokyo and Paris), pivoting to the MTA’s transit expansion strategy while we wait for funding on the rest of the Second Avenue line: Select Bus Service.

While the routes that the MTA displayed yesterday are, for the most part, the same as the “phase two” corridors unveiled in 2009, it’s unusual for the agency to put itself front and center when the subject turns to bus improvements — a topic typically handled in conjunction with NYC DOT. With uncertainty about the direction DOT will take when City Hall changes hands, it’s good to see the MTA making a highly visible commitment to SBS.

The new SBS map shows additional corridors along with existing SBS routes and subway lines, for a more complete picture of how the enhanced bus network integrates with rail.

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Streetsblog Chicago 29 Comments

Chicago to Pursue Center-Running Bus Rapid Transit on Ashland Avenue

After a year of study and outreach, today Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Transit Authority, and the Chicago Department of Transportation announced plans for center-running Bus Rapid Transit on Ashland Avenue. Once implemented, the project could set a national precedent for high-quality BRT, improving transit speeds as much as 80 percent during rush hour, according to today’s announcement.

By converting one general traffic lane in each direction to dedicated bus lanes, the design prioritizes transit on the highest-ridership bus route in CTA’s system. Limited stops, signal priority for buses, and pre-paid fares will also keep buses in motion instead of spending time stopped at stations and traffic lights (though it looks like passengers will be allowed to pay fares on the bus if they choose, according to the announcement). The vast majority of curbside parking and loading zones would be preserved.

The plan calls for a $160 million, three-phase implementation covering 16 miles of Ashland, from Irving Park Road to 95th Street. The first phase would run from Cortland Avenue to 31st Street, and today’s announcement marks the beginning of detailed design and public outreach for that 5.5-mile segment.

“Bus Rapid Transit is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to expand and modernize our city’s transit network for the 21st century and is an important component of my plan to create a world-class transit system,” Emanuel said in the statement. “We will work with our local communities to best determine how to maximize the positive impacts BRT would provide to riders, while boosting local economic development and improving quality of life for all city residents.”

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Streetsblog Chicago 19 Comments

Taking the Guesswork Out of Rating BRT: An Interview With Walter Hook

Rio+20 - June 19

Transoeste BRT in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Michael Oko.

There’s a new global benchmark for rating bus rapid transit projects. Yesterday the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy released the BRT Standard 2013, which lays out the requirements for bus routes to qualify as BRT and scores 50 systems in 35 cities around the world as basic, bronze, silver, or gold based on various criteria. The idea, which ITDP has been refining since a beta release in 2011, is to provide a concrete definition of what BRT is, and a reference for politicians, planners, and advocates who are interested in creating new BRT routes, as well as to rate the quality of existing systems.

People Creating Change: Walter Hook

ITDP CEO Walter Hook. Photo by Colin Hughes.

The standard rates more than 30 aspects of bus corridor design, awarding points for elements that improve system performance. Dedicated bus lanes, level boarding, pre-paid boarding and signal prioritization are considered basic requirements for BRT. Additional elements that score points include multiple bus routes running on the same corridor; passing lanes at stations; low-emission buses; attractive, weather-protected stations; real-time arrival info signs; integration with bike sharing and more.

Streetsblog recently caught up with ITDP CEO Walter Hook via telephone to get more info on the new guide.

John Greenfield: Congratulations on releasing the BRT Standard. So this is kind of like the LEED [green building rating system] for bus rapid transit, correct?

Walter Hook: Yeah, that’s basically the idea, with the additional caveat that the BRT Standard is also positing a minimum definition for what constitutes BRT at all, which is not really an element in LEED. I mean, LEED doesn’t say, “You’re not a green building if you don’t hit any of these things.” The BRT Standard now has a minimum definition. That’s new from last time.

When the U.S. promoted BRT they didn’t promote it with a very clear definition. So a lot of mediocre bus improvements were implemented that tarnished the brand.

JG: What is your minimum standard for something to be called BRT?

WH: It’s a fairly complicated formula but essentially it has to have a dedicated lane of at least four kilometers. If it’s on a two-way road, it has to run along the central median. If it’s a curb-running bus lane on a two-way street it’s pretty much ineligible. So there are a couple of baseline things, but there are a lot of details and nuances.

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Streetsblog Chicago 41 Comments

Chicago Unveils Proposed Designs for Downtown BRT Corridor

CentralLoopBRTWashington

Washington Street BRT configuration with protected bike lane.

Chicago just got a step closer to first-class bus rapid transit. Today the CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation released proposed lane configurations for the Central Loop East-West Transit Corridor, a downtown circulator route connecting Union Station with Navy Pier, as well as renderings for a new transit center next to the train station. The corridor would include bus-priority lanes on two miles of streets: Canal, Washington, Madison and Clinton. This downtown BRT service is slated to launch next year.

The Loop BRT corridor would also serve the Ogilvie Transportation Center and multiple CTA train stations with more than 1,700 buses per day, making it one of the country’s busiest bus routes, according to the agencies. The streets with bus-only lanes would incorporate red pavement marking to delineate the lanes, level boarding, queue jumps for buses at key intersections, and other features.

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London Mayor: Get Bigshots Out of Cars, Onto Transit “Like Everybody Else”

When was the last time Chris Quinn or Bill de Blasio rode transit to work? Left photo: NYT/Redux. Right photo: NYT.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose entertaining quotes about Mike Bloomberg have been ricocheting around New York’s political circles today, could teach a thing or two to the candidates running for mayor here in NYC. Yesterday, “Boris from Islington” called in to a radio talk show with a recorded question for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg about Parliament’s profligate spending on cars for political leaders. It’s a question New Yorkers can appreciate.

“Get all those government ministers out of their posh limos and on to public transport like everybody else,” Johnson said. “How can we possibly expect government to vote for increases in infrastructure spending, which we need in this city in upgrading the Tube, which we all need, when they sit in their chauffer-driven limousines payed for by the taxpayers?”

Imagine, for a second, if any of New York’s crop of mayoral contenders stood up for transit riders like this. Instead, the NYC hopefuls are driving around the city, trying to convince New Yorkers, most of whom depend on transit to get around, that they feel their pain.

Although residents outside Manhattan struggle with long commutes on pokey buses, the candidates vying for votes in Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have yet to mention Bus Rapid Transit on the campaign trail. At the same time, streets where you can walk or bike without fear of getting run over by a speeding driver have apparently become something to campaign against.

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Streetsblog Chicago 10 Comments

How BRT Can Build Chicago’s Economy as Well as Improve Mobility

Ashland and 18th Street bus rapid transit

A rendering of a bus rapid transit station at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Image: Chicago Transit Authority/Kevin Pound

As planning advances for Chicago’s first full-fledged Bus Rapid Transit routes, public officials and advocates are starting to make the case that new, high-quality bus service is about more than getting people from point A to point B quickly and reliably. Those mobility benefits will be significant, but if BRT succeeds at improving transit trips for Chicagoans, it can also bring about a range of other benefits, spurring development and adding new housing choices where people can live without the financial burden of car ownership.

The non-profit Metropolitan Planning Council is undertaking a new study to determine the development opportunities along Ashland and Western Avenues, the two corridors currently under consideration by the Chicago Transit Authority for BRT routes.

The study will identify vacant land, underused parcels, and areas that lack essential amenities like grocery stores. “We want to find out where we can engage the community, neighbors, and developers, and inform them that a new rapid transit line could potentially create greater demand for this land,” said MPC Executive Vice President Peter Skosey, who noted that existing research on the link between BRT and development is scarce. “We found studies from Pittsburgh and Baltimore that showed a correlation between leasing costs and proximity to BRT, but nothing conclusive.”

MPC published a report in 2011, “Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago’s New Route to Opportunity” [PDF], which analyzed existing land uses to determine where new bus rapid transit routes could go. The report identified 10 new BRT routes based on 14 criteria, including “infill development potential.”

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What Will It Take to Enact the Sandy Commission’s Transportation Proposals?

Governor Cuomo’s post-Sandy infrastructure commission unveiled its recommendations [PDF] last week, and while it focused heavily on hardening the city’s transportation network against future storms, it also offered glimpses of how infrastructure could be more resilient in the wake of disaster, with Bus Rapid Transit playing a prominent role.

The post-Sandy "bus bridge" inspired Governor Cuomo's commission to recommend world-class BRT for NYC. Will it happen? Photo: Stephen Miller

In addition to BRT, the report from the NYS 2100 commission supported rail capacity expansions, including the Gateway Project across the Hudson River, Metro-North service to Penn Station with additional stops in the Bronx, communication-based train control on the subway, and adding tracks to the LIRR’s Main Line.

But there’s a big difference between a report and implementation. Albany will have to take steps to make most of the commission’s recommendations a reality, and early indications that Governor Cuomo will prioritize transit improvements aren’t promising.

The recommendation for comprehensive BRT isn’t just about disaster preparedness. It offers an opportunity to reach populations underserved by existing rail networks in outer-borough and suburban job centers while also providing flexible transit that can pick up some of the slack in the event of a subway shutdown.

The post-Sandy “bus bridge” between Brooklyn and Manhattan showed the value of BRT, the report states, and the success of Select Bus Service – bus improvements that have cut travel times and attracted new riders — demonstrates the opportunity to expand, both by incorporating more BRT features in SBS projects and by creating new busways throughout the city.

“The SBS system we have now has helped to introduce a new thing to New York,” said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “But at this rate, it will be a long while before we have a world-class BRT system.”

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NYU Report: NYC’s Exclusive Busways Shouldn’t Be for Emergencies Only

The city and state need to shift gears to create a more resilient transportation network in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a group of New York University transportation researchers argue in a report released this morning. Chief among their recommendations: New York must get serious about Bus Rapid Transit and create permanent, physically-separated transit lanes to keep bus riders from getting stuck in traffic.

Bus lanes that are truly separate from car traffic can play a bigger role in NYC. Photo: Stephen Miller

With the subways unable to cross the East River due to power outages and flooding, “the exceedingly intense traffic gridlock that the city experienced was reminiscent of scenes from Sao Paulo and Jakarta: emerging megacities that struggle to provide adequate capacity,” write authors Sarah Kaufman, Carson Qing, Nolan Levenson, and Melinda Hanson of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.

A wide variety of transportation options picked up the slack in the storm’s wake. Privately-owned commuter vans filled gaps in transit service, the East River Ferry doubled its typical fall weekday ridership to more than 7,400, and 30,000 bike commuters — more than double the average — crossed the East River bridges.

A make-shift system of express buses served the most people, with subway passengers transferring to buses at three locations in Downtown Brooklyn and Williamsburg. At the two transfer points in Downtown Brooklyn, the MTA loaded 3,700 passengers per hour onto the Manhattan-bound “bus bridge,” which the report hails as “New York’s first truly exclusive busways.”  The report lauds interagency cooperation after the storm, noting that NYPD’s bus lane and HOV-3 enforcement played a critical role in keeping the way clear for bus riders.

While the long lines waiting for buses showed that “impromptu Bus Rapid Transit” can’t replace full subway service, the authors say the post-Sandy transport plan also illustrated how real BRT routes could enhance the city’s transportation options. As Capital New York noted last week, NYC’s Select Bus Service is a solid upgrade over conventional buses, but doesn’t perform well enough to qualify as Bus Rapid Transit.

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Focused on Climate Change, Will Cuomo Reconsider the Transit-Less TZB?

In August, three county executives supported Governor Cuomo’s Tappan Zee Bridge plan in exchange for a “transit task force” that would study how to strengthen transit between Rockland and Westchester counties. At the time, advocates greeted the announcement with cautious optimism, awaiting details on the task force from the governor.

Governor Cuomo has said a lot about protecting against the impacts of climate change, but not much about preventing the worst scenarios. Photo: Angel Franco/Newsday

They’re still waiting.

“It’s been three months since the announcement of a transit task force,” said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which has a clock on its website counting the seconds since the governor made his promise.

In three months, Cuomo has not created the task force or announced any appointments. A Cuomo spokesperson did not respond to Streetsblog’s inquiries about the issue.

This stands in contrast to how quickly Cuomo moved in all other aspects of his bridge plan. “We cannot wait any longer,” the governor said about the bridge in June. “Now is the time for action.”

Even before Hurricane Sandy began to consume Cuomo’s attention nearly three weeks ago, he had shown little interest in moving forward on Tappan Zee transit. Today, while the governor has begun to make climate change a signature issue, there’s still no indication that he’s reconsidering the cars-only bridge his administration has been pushing.

So far, Cuomo has spoken aggressively about fortifying against the impacts of climate change, without addressing its causes. “The number of extreme weather patterns is going up. That’s a fact,” Cuomo said at a post-storm press conference on November 1. “We can debate the cause. The effect is the same.”

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Webster Avenue SBS Will Not Have Center-Running Bus Lanes

Left: The concept for center-running bus lanes on Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Right: Offset bus lanes, the option that was selected for the Select Bus Service project. Image: NYC DOT/MTA

This spring, there was a glimmer of hope that Webster Avenue in the Bronx would get the first center-running bus-only lanes in New York. With NYC DOT and the MTA bringing Select Bus Service to Webster Avenue, the center-running option would have been the city’s boldest effort yet to implement high-quality bus rapid transit. While Select Bus Service is still in the works for Webster Avenue and bus trips are on track to improve, the project won’t include center-running lanes, which do more to keep buses moving smoothly through traffic than bus lanes next to the curb or the parking lane.

The decision was announced at the most recent Community Advisory Committee meeting about the project. Webster Avenue will instead get offset bus lanes, which should be familiar to anyone who uses SBS on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan. These bus lanes run next to the parking lane, with passengers boarding from sidewalk extensions that let the bus avoid merging over to the curb and back. (A third option, which was rejected, would have put the bus lanes curbside and eliminated on-street parking.)

Webster Avenue will also be getting Transit Signal Priority to hold green lights for approaching buses.

Center-running bus lanes would almost certainly have required dedicated signals for drivers making left turns. This change could have negatively affected the “Level of Service” projections for how many vehicles could move through a given intersection.

A DOT spokesperson said that Level of Service projections were not a factor in rejecting the center-running bus lanes, citing other reasons for the decision. Because local bus stops would remain curbside, DOT said, those buses would have had to constantly enter and exit the center-running lanes in order to benefit from them. In addition, dedicated left-turn signals would have reduced the amount of green light time for the bus lanes, and private vehicles would be have been prevented from making left turns at a number of intersections.

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