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Posts from the Transit Category


Growing Coalition Urges de Blasio to Fund Discount Fares for Poor Residents

Community Service Society President David Jones (podium) speaking this morning alongside Rider Alliance Executive Direction John Raskin (left) and Public Advocate Letitia James. Photo: David Meyer

Community Service Society President David Jones (podium) speaking this morning alongside Rider Alliance Executive Direction John Raskin (left) and Public Advocate Letitia James. Photo: David Meyer

Advocates are turning up the heat on Mayor de Blasio to fund discount MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.

The Riders Alliance and the Community Service Society led a rally on the steps of City Hall this morning calling on Mayor de Blasio to fund discount fares in his FY 2018 budget, which will be drafted early next year. A majority of the City Council — 27 members — now support half-priced transit fares for New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 64 who fall below the federal poverty line. Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer are also on board [PDF].

Most New Yorkers agree. In CSS’s annual “Unheard Third” survey, 73 percent of respondents said they support discount fares, though the question did not mention the cost of the program.

Providing half-priced fares to the 800,000 New Yorkers living below the poverty line would likely cost around $200 million, CSS President David Jones said this morning. Jones, whom de Blasio recently appointed to the MTA board, argued that discount transit fares will help de Blasio achieve his goals of reducing economic inequality. “For low income New Yorkers and the working poor, the cost of riding the city buses and subways is moving further and further out of reach,” he said.

The Transit Affordability Crisis,” a CSS and Riders Alliance report released in April, showed that low-income New Yorkers, particularly in black and Latino communities, rely on transit more than affluent New Yorkers. Riders have been asked to assume the burden of rising MTA debt service, pension obligations, and para-transit costs, with fares rising 45 percent between 2007 and 2015 and set for another 4 percent increase next year. Each fare hike is especially hard for poor New Yorkers to absorb.

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Streetsblog USA
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Transit Vote 2016: Seattle’s Huge, Imperfect Transit Expansion

We continue our overview of what’s at stake in the big transit ballot initiatives this November with a look at Seattle. The first installment of this series examined Indianapolis.

The transit expansion plan on the ballot in Seattle this November is a big one.

Seattle's "ST3" plan would add 62 miles of grade-separated light rail. Map: SoundTransit3

Seattle’s “ST3” plan would add 62 miles of grade-separated light rail. Map: SoundTransit3

Known as ST3, the proposal calls for a 62-mile expansion of grade-separated light rail extending across three counties, including about four miles that will run underground in central Seattle. Also included: bus rapid transit routes along two highway corridors, and $20 million to plan transit-oriented development.

The total package comes to $54 billion, which will be paid for by a mix of property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes. And it will take more than 20 years to complete.

Sound Transit estimates that under this plan, ridership will nearly double by 2040 to 800,000 daily trips, and that 361 million miles of driving will be averted each year [PDF].

There are some downsides to the plan, which has drawn criticism for devoting too much to park-and-ride transit in car-centric areas. While expanding the transit network could create new walkable communities across the region, different suburbs have shown varying levels of commitment to transit-oriented development.

ST3 calls for spending $661 million on parking at suburban stations, which works out to $80,000 per space. And much of the suburban light rail will run along highway rights-of-way, which is a bad fit for walkable development.

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


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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Streetsblog USA
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Sprawl Is a Global Problem


Even in the places with the best transit systems, there’s a steep drop in transit access once you venture outside the central city. Graphic: ITDP

Sprawl isn’t just a problem in car-centric America. Even cities with the world’s best transit systems are surrounded by suburbs with poor transit access, according to a new report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. As billions of people migrate from rural to metropolitan areas in the next few decades, these growth patterns threaten to maroon people without good access to employment while overwhelming the climate with increased greenhouse gas emissions.

For 26 global cities, ITDP looked at the share of residents with access to frequent, high-capacity rail or bus service quality, rapid transit within 1 kilometer of their homes, or roughly a 10- to 15-minute walk. Then ITDP looked at the same ratio for the region as a whole. The results suggest that coordinating transit and development will be a major challenge in the fight against global warming.

In Paris, for instance, fully 100 percent of residents have access to good transit. But the city of Paris is home to only 2 million people in a region of 12 million. And looking at the region as a whole, only 50 percent of residents live within walking distance of good transit. That still manages to beat most other regions ITDP examined.

In New York, the highest-ranked American city, 77 percent of residents live within reach of high-quality transit, but region-wide only 35 percent of residents do.

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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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Streetsblog USA
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Finally Some Relief for Memphis Bus Riders

The shameful state of Memphis’s bus system is one of the more outrageous stories in American transit.

Buses in Memphis are in such bad shape, there have been a number of fires. But help is on the way. Photo via Memphis Bus Riders Union

Buses in Memphis are in such bad shape, they’ve been known to catch fire. But help is on the way. Photo via Memphis Bus Riders Union

When we checked in with the advocates at the Memphis Bus Riders Union in March, they told us the local transit agency, MATA, was running buses so poorly maintained that they were known to catch fire. In the midst of this crisis, local business leaders had marshaled enough cash to restore the city’s historic trolley system, which mostly serves tourists. Meanwhile, MATA was struggling just to maintain bare-bones operations, with a 17 percent service cut looming.

The current condition of buses is so poor, riders can’t even be assured a bus will arrive no matter how long they wait, said Bennett Foster of the Bus Riders Union.

“Some routes are not being served throughout the day due to a lack of buses,” Foster told Streetsblog. “When a bus breaks down they don’t have another bus to send out. There are people in the city every day who experience just no buses running.”

But the advocacy of the Bus Riders Union is getting results. Mayor Jim Strickland has allocated an additional $7.5 million from the city budget toward the transit system this year. About $5 million of that will be reserved for replacing buses — an absolute necessity.

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DOT’s 5-Year Plan: Faster Buses, Smarter Parking, 5-Boro Citi Bike, Lots More

NYC DOT published a new strategic plan yesterday [PDF], marking the first time the agency has refreshed its guiding document under Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

stratplanIn addition to synthesizing a lot of work that DOT has previously announced (pedestrian safety plans, Select Bus Service routes, a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade), the update includes several new projects and initiatives. The big headline-grabber is a center-running two-way protected bike lane on Delancey Street connecting the Williamsburg Bridge and Allen Street, slated for next year.

Advocates have been calling to complete that missing link in the bike network for ages. With the L train shutdown coming up in 2019, time is of the essence to get a safe, high-capacity bikeway on Delancey to handle the swarms of people on bikes who’ll come over the bridge. The Delancey project is one of four bridge access projects DOT aims to complete in the next two years. Though DOT doesn’t name the other bridges in the plan, it says the projects in its Harlem River bridges initiative will be a priority.

There’s a mountain of other stuff in the strategic plan. While some of the goals should be more ambitious (10 miles of protected bike lanes per year isn’t enough in the Vision Zero era) and the benchmarks for success could be more specific (most timetables call for hitting key milestones either by 2017 or by 2021, the last year of a hypothetical second term for de Blasio), the ideas are solid.

In a way the document underscores the urgency of securing more funds and political backing from City Hall for DOT’s initiatives — given sufficient resources, DOT is going to put them to good use.

Here’s my compilation of new ideas and goals from DOT that I think Streetsblog readers will find especially interesting.

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Streetsblog USA
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No, Uber’s Not Going to Replace Buses, But It Can Complement Them

Not a day goes by without a raft of stories about “new mobility” providers — ride-hailing companies like Uber or car-share services like Car2Go that have tapped into recent technological advances to provide new ways to get around.

ansas City is using the private vanpool service Bridj to link two neighborhoods with weak transit connections. Image: Bridj

Kansas City teamed up with the private vanpool service Bridj to link two neighborhoods that the bus network didn’t connect well. Image: Bridj

In a new report, “Private Mobility, Public Interest” [PDF], TransitCenter deflates some of the hype surrounding these services while laying out several opportunities for productive collaboration between public transit agencies and private mobility providers.

Despite what you may have read, none of these services will replace transit — at least not buses and trains that move large numbers of people. But that doesn’t mean they can’t help transit agencies improve service, diversify their offerings, and operate more effectively.

Based on interviews with more than a hundred people working on mobility in the public and private sectors, TransitCenter’s report examines the opportunities for transit agencies to team up with mobility companies. If transit agencies keep the core values of providing “equitable, efficient, affordable, and sustainable transportation” in mind, TransitCenter writes, they can forge new partnerships that yield broad public benefits.

Here are some of the most fertile areas for collaboration.

Convenient, Cost-Effective Paratransit

Paratransit for riders with disabilities is usually among the most expensive types of service for transit agencies to provide. This can strain budgets and drain resources from other transit services. If agencies can provide paratransit at lower costs per trip, they can free up resources to run more bus or train service.

Both Boston and Washington have started to experiment with contracting paratransit to taxi and ride-hailing companies that can not only operate the service more cost-effectively, but also offer riders more convenience.

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Streetsblog USA
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America Has a Terrible Traffic Safety Record Because We Drive Too Much


Traveling by car is much more dangerous than traveling by train or bus. Table: APTA

Even though the U.S. traffic fatality rate per mile driven has fallen by two-thirds in the last 50 years, America today still has the deadliest road system per capita in the developed world. Much of the improvement from safer driving and better emergency care has been wiped out by increases in total traffic.

U.S. traffic fatalities have improved a lot on a per-mile basis, but not so much on a per-capita basis. Graph: APTA

Per mile, the traffic death rate in America has improved a lot, but per person, the nation has fallen far behind other developed countries. Graph: APTA

The American approach to traffic safety has emphasized seatbelt use, vehicle standards, and reducing drunk driving. What has been lacking is any effort to reduce driving mileage and enable more people to get around by safer means. And that’s exactly what the U.S. needs to do to make further gains in safety, according to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association [PDF].

Riding transit is much safer than getting around in a car. According to APTA, the fatality risk per mile traveled for bus passengers is 30 times lower than car occupants. For rail passengers, the risk is 20 times lower.

But federal safety policy has largely neglected how transit — or policies aimed at reducing driving in general — can play a role in reducing America’s staggering traffic death toll.

APTA argues that it’s time for a new approach. Here’s why.

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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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