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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 Cities Stopped Panicking About Fare Evasion and Made Transit Faster

All-door boarding could significantly speed up bus rides for millions of New Yorkers, but MTA officials have refused to endorse it as citywide practice, citing “the very real threat of fare evasion.”

Transit agencies in other cities, meanwhile, aren’t hiding behind that excuse.

Speaking at TransitCenter last night, transportation officials from Boston, San Francisco, London, and Oslo shared how their agencies put the rider experience at the center of fare modernization efforts. They see the possibilities to provide fast, convenient service, and they are seizing them.

“Fare payment isn’t the point of running a bus system, [the point] is getting people to the places they want to get to,” said David Block-Schachter, the chief technology officer at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which like the MTA is currently accepting proposals for a new fare payment system.

Unlike the MTA, however, MBTA is making sure its fare collection upgrade makes all-door boarding “inevitable,” Block-Schachter said. “Our solution is putting the technology in place to enable those policy decisions to be made further down the line.”

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SBS Launches on 23rd Street – Placard Holders Remain Oblivious to Bus Lanes

"Flexible bollards" at Sixth Avenue aim to keep motorists out of buses way. Photo: David Meyer

At Sixth Avenue, “flexible bollards” keep motorists from violating the eastbound bus lane. Photo: David Meyer

Select Bus Service launched on 23rd Street in Manhattan this morning, the twelfth SBS route in the city and the sixth to start up under Mayor de Blasio.

With dedicated lanes, off-board fare collection, and consolidated stops, SBS should mean faster crosstown service for the riders who make 15,000 trips on the M23 on an average weekday.

The bus lanes extend eastbound from mid-block between Tenth and Ninth Avenues to Second Avenue, and westbound from mid-block betweens First and Second Avenues to Eighth Avenue. DOT’s initial 23rd Street proposal limited bus lane enforcement to either rush hours or 7 a.m to 7 p.m., but the agency adjusted its plans after local community boards asked for more bus lane hours. The bus lanes will be in effect 24/7, with the exception of a single westbound block between Seventh and Eighth avenues, which is a commercial loading zone outside of the morning and evening rush [PDF].

This morning riders took advantage of all-door boarding along the route, but illegally parked cars were a problem. Vehicles with government placards filled the north curb between First Avenue and Second Avenue, forcing delivery trucks into the bus lane and buses into the general travel lane.

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Why Is the MTA OK With High-Speed Car Tolls But Not High-Speed Bus Fares?

Without a fare system that facilitates proof of payment, bus riders will be stuck with the same slow boarding process for another generation. Photo: Ben Fried

MTA officials revealed today that the MetroCard will linger until 2022, though the agency still intends to phase in a new fare payment system starting in 2018. What remains unknown is whether the new system will enable electronic proof of payment, a fare collection method that promises to speed up NYC’s snail-paced buses.

The matter came up briefly during an MTA board meeting, after New York City Transit Vice President for Procurement and Material Steve Plochochi requested approval for an extension of the agency’s contract with Cubic, the company that built the MetroCard system.

Plochochi affirmed that a new fare payment system is still on track to begin deployment in 2018, but said the agency does not want to take a “cold turkey” approach and replace the MetroCard in one fell swoop.

Other than that, Plochochi didn’t divulge anything about the agency’s thinking with regards to the MetroCard replacement. “I really can’t go into details of the proposals,” he said.

Transit advocates have pressed the MTA to commit to a fare system that will facilitate electronic proof of payment on buses. By allowing riders to quickly tap a farecard or mobile device at any door, the technology could significantly shorten the boarding process and speed up buses systemwide.

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Streetsblog USA
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Transit Vote 2016: Indianapolis’s Chance to Get a Real Transit System

indyconnect

The Indy Connect plan would dramatically expand frequent transit routes (in red). Maps: Indy Connect. Click to enlarge.

The presidency and Congress aren’t the only things at stake when voters go to the polls next month. In several cities, people will also be deciding the future of their transit and transportation systems. With the odds of increasing federal transit funding looking remote in gridlocked Washington, these local ballot measures take on even more importance. Before the election, Streetsblog will be looking at what’s at stake in some of the big transit ballot initiatives, starting with Indianapolis.

Indianapolis is a growing city, but the region’s bare-bones transit system is not keeping up. Bus routes that provide service at least every 15 minutes are almost non-existent. Only about 2 percent of the city’s commuters take transit to work, compared to 8 percent in Cincinnati and 18 percent in Pittsburgh.

Voters will have a chance to change that in November when they decide on a major expansion of the region’s transit system, funded by a .25 percent income tax hike. If it passes, the Indy region will dramatically expand frequent bus routes, extend service hours, and build three bus rapid transit lines.

Kevin Kastner, who writes at Urban Indy, says right now the bus system does not provide service that people want to use.

“Every 30 minutes is the best you can do,” he said. “The bus I rode this morning, I don’t want to say it was falling apart, but it was in about as bad a shape as a bus can be.”

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All-Door Boarding Works. Why Won’t the MTA Commit to It on Every Bus?

The results are in: M86 buses are moving 8 to 11 percent faster since SBS implementation. Image: DOT

The results are in: M86 buses are moving 8 to 11 percent faster since the implementation of all-door boarding. Image: DOT

Buses on the M86 are moving faster and people have noticed — ridership on the crosstown route is on the upswing again after declining for years.

The improved performance is due mainly to two changes the MTA and DOT launched last year: off-board fare collection with all-door boarding, and “queue jumps” at two locations that let buses move up to the front of the line at traffic lights. With faster boarding and less time in traffic, buses are traveling eight to 11 percent faster, and ridership is up about 10 percent from the previous year, according to the agencies [PDF].

These are the same kind of improvements that the NYC Bus Turnaround coalition wants to apply across the whole system. But while DOT has indicated that it supports more queue jumps, the MTA has refused to get behind the idea of all-door boarding on every bus.

Faster boarding is a big deal because the current boarding process, where riders dip a MetroCard or pay in cash one by one, significantly slows down buses. On the B44, for example, buses used to spend more than a quarter of the time stopping to pick up and drop off passengers. After the implementation of all-door boarding and off-board fare collection, that process became 40 percent faster [PDF].

As the MTA considers bids for its new fare payment system, advocates have called on the agency to ensure the system has the necessary technology for all-door boarding. That technology, electronic proof of payment, would allow riders to “tap-and-go” at bus stops or as they board.

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MTA: Don’t Ask Us to Do More for NYC Bus Riders

NYC's buses are the slowest in the nation. Image: TransitCenter

NYC’s buses are the slowest in the nation. Image: TransitCenter

Bus ridership in New York City has steadily declined since 2002, and bus riders put up with the slowest average speeds in the nation. But the MTA is in no hurry to fix the problem.

At a City Council hearing this morning, MTA representatives touted the agency’s piecemeal efforts to improve bus service while pushing back against recommendations from transit advocates to address the entire bus system.

Advocacy organizations with the NYC Bus Turnaround Coalition have called for a citywide overhaul of NYC buses. While the scale of their proposal is large, many of the solutions they put forward can be implemented in, say, a single Andrew Cuomo term as governor.

Today, transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez and other council members pushed MTA and DOT officials to adopt a comprehensive approach to solve the problems facing the city’s bus system. The MTA insisted that it’s already doing what it can to turn around bus service.

Transit advocates want the MTA to do more, faster. “What we’re calling for in this campaign is much more widespread implementation of those solutions and implementation much more quickly than we’ve been seeing,” TransitCenter’s Tabitha Decker said at a rally before the hearing.

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How Bad Is Bus Service on Your Route? Check This Web Site and See

Just how bad do bus riders have it in NYC? Today the transit advocates with the Bus Turnaround campaign launched a web site that lets you look up any route in the system and see how it performs. Spend a few minutes on the site and you’ll see why ridership has fallen 16 percent citywide since 2002.

There’s a fun (if you can call it that) visualization of the headaches a New Yorker must deal with on a typical bus trip — unpredictable arrivals, slow boarding, frequent stops — and a hypothetical look at the same trip on an improved system where buses are on time, direct, and don’t get bogged down in traffic.

The main feature of the site, though, is a report card for every route, with data on bus speed, bunching, and ridership. You can look up the buses you ride on regular basis or click on routes anywhere in the city. One pattern that emerges — the routes that the most people rely on are doing the worst.

The report cards are based on MTA Bus Time information — a testament to the power of open data.

The Bus Turnaround website was announced at a morning rally where advocats, electeds, and straphangers called for the MTA and NYC DOT to make citywide improvements to the bus network, ahead of a City Council hearing on the subject. Stay tuned for coverage of the hearing later today.

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Queue Jumps: A Simple Fix to Speed Up NYC’s Buses

With the City Council set to take on NYC’s declining bus service tomorrow morning, here’s a look at one of the many strategies DOT and the MTA can employ to speed up the city’s slowest-in-the-nation buses: queue jumps.

Queue jumps give buses a green light before other vehicles at an intersection, often via a dedicated “queue jump lane” that allows buses to skip to the front of the line. Using footage from Seattle, Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson put together this short to demonstrate the concept.

There are already a few queue jumps in NYC — on the M86 Select Bus Service route, for example — but there should be a lot more of them. In its recent Mobility Report, DOT showed that it can now pinpoint specific street segments where buses get slowed down. These are locations where targeted improvements like queue jumps can make a big difference.

If DOT and the MTA think big about how to turn around NYC bus service, they’ll identify intersections all over town where buses should get a queue jump.

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Will the MTA Deliver Bus Service That People Want to Use?

“You have to have a mass transit system that people want to use,” Governor Cuomo asserted at a transportation-themed press event today. At least he got that much right.

USB ports aren’t going to turn around NYC’s troubled bus system.

Cuomo’s transit announcements tend to glorify grand edifices like a new Penn Station train hall, boondoggles like a roundabout AirTrain link to LaGuardia by way of Flushing, or bells and whistles like charging ports and Wi-Fi on buses. The nuts and bolts of transit service “that people want to use” don’t get much attention from the man in charge of the MTA.

The neglect of core service is most apparent in the deterioration of New York City’s bus system. Since 2002, bus ridership in New York has fallen 16 percent, even as population and jobs have rapidly grown. At an average weekday speed of 7.4 mph, the MTA operates the slowest bus service in America. Riders can’t rely on buses to come at regular intervals instead of clumped in bunches with long gaps between arrivals.

In a recent report [PDF], TransitCenter prescribes a comprehensive approach to turn around NYC bus service, recommending changes to streets, signals, bus routes, fare payment, and dispatching that will make buses run faster and more reliably.

A coalition of advocates has urged NYC DOT (which controls the streets and signals) and the MTA (which controls the rest) to embrace those recommendations. At a City Council hearing tomorrow, both agencies are expected to testify about how they plan to tackle the problem of poor bus service.

So far, the response from DOT has been promising, TransitCenter reports, but the MTA has not acknowledged the scale of what needs to be done.

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