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You Don’t Have to Trash BRT to Make the Case for Light Rail, and Vice Versa

In cities considering a light rail project, it’s common for transit opponents to suddenly cast themselves as big believers in bus rapid transit. They don’t really want to build BRT, they just want to derail the transit expansion. The light rail advocates then have to make their case not only on the merits of the project, but also in relation to the strawman BRT project.

That’s the position supporters of Seattle’s big transit expansion ballot measure, ST3, find themselves in right now. Taking on the faux pro-BRT crowd in a recent post, Anton Babadjanov at Seattle Transit Blog argues that building a BRT equivalent of the proposed light rail lines wouldn’t be that simple or cheap:

How do we get this? We can’t simply reallocate a general purpose lane for this. This is a political non-starter. While it is relatively cheap to implement, no car commuter wants to lengthen their commute so that “somebody else” can have a better transit or carpool trip. People have never supported this en masse.

The only option we have is to build the new right-of-way — either widen the freeway or build the lanes in a separate structure using viaducts and tunnels as appropriate.

Babadjanov concludes that building BRT with new rights-of-way could save 20 percent compared to light rail, but its capacity would be lower. It’s a reasonable argument for the specific situation Seattle transit advocates are in right now. But I’ve seen the post’s headline — “BRT Is Not Cheaper Than Light Rail” — shared online as though it applies in every situation, which is just not true.

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • NYPD Still Fails to Apprehend Most Hit-and-Run Killers (News)
  • Slow Pace of Street Redesigns on Staten Island Isn’t Making a Dent in Traffic Deaths (Advance)
  • Six of the 10 Deadliest Staten Island Intersections Are on Hylan Boulevard (Advance)
  • Ken Thompson Deputy Eric Gonzalez Will Serve Remainder of Term as Brooklyn DA (Bklyn Paper)
  • Danny Lin Gets Up to 5 Years for Driving 55 on the Bowery and Killing Robert Perry (News)
  • Unlicensed, Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Guler Uger-Yaacobi Sentenced to 1-3 Years (Post)
  • 1 Vanderbilt Subway Platform Upgrades Will Enable Up to 6,000 More Boardings Per Hour at GCT (AMNY)
  • Where Should NYC’s New Food Carts Go? (Post)
  • A Look at Staten Island’s Toxic Car Culture (Advance)
  • The South Street Bike Path Got Spruced Up With Some Color Under the FDR (AMNY)
  • Who Needs Functional Streets When You’ve Got a Chopper (Post)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA


Bike-Share Already Getting More Use Than Park Slope’s Free Parking Spots

Citi Bike is getting a lot of use in Park Slope. Image: Viktor Geller

Citi Bike use is high and rising in Park Slope. Image: Viktor Geller

The new bike-share stations in Brooklyn south of Atlantic Avenue are getting a lot more use than your average free on-street parking space, according to recent Citi Bike data compiled by Carroll Gardens resident Viktor Geller [PDF]. Geller addressed the report to Brooklyn Community Board 6, which is holding a hearing on Thursday in response to complaints about bike-share stations replacing curbside car parking.

Citi Bike and DOT publish usage data online each month. In the neighborhoods in CB 6, stations were just installed this summer, and Geller’s data shows usage is still on the rise.

Stations in some neighborhoods are used more intensely than others. In Park Slope, it’s typical for two or three bike-share trips to begin or end at each dock each day. In Red Hook, the average is lower — more like one bike-share “event” at each dock per day. But even so, since each car parking space is equivalent to about eight bike-share docks, that means about eight bike-share trips either begin or end each day in the space one car would occupy — and that’s in the area with the least amount of use.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

Livable Streets Events

This Week: Hudson Greenway Detour, Bike-Share in Brooklyn

This summer the Parks Department presented a plan to route cyclists away from the waterfront greenway and onto a hilly, poorly-lit path between 72nd Street and 83rd Street. The greenway can get crowded along the water on summer days, but most of the time the current path doesn’t pose a problem. Nevertheless, as presented, the Parks Department’s proposal would impose a permanent detour for cyclists without providing an adequate replacement.

You can weigh in on the plan later today, when the Parks Department shows an update on the plan to Manhattan Community Board 7.

In other community board action this week: Defend the new bike-share stations in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens or help plan the next phase of bike-share expansion in Crown Heights.

Check the Streetsblog calendar for the full list of this week’s events.

Watch the calendar for updates. Drop us a line if you have an event we should know about.
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How Cities Like Cleveland Can Grow and Tackle Climate Change

City leaders from around the world are meeting right now in Quito, Ecuador, for the summit known as Habitat III — convened by the United Nations to map out a strategy for sustainable urbanization as more people flock to cities.

If the next 1 billion urban residents live in sprawl like this, the planet is in serious trouble. Photo: Future Atlas via Flickr.

If urban growth is funneled into sprawl like this, the planet is in serious trouble. Photo: Future Atlas/Flickr

Demographers forecast enormous populations shifts to urban areas in the coming decades. The nature of this growth will have profound effects on the climate. Will it be walkable and served by transit? Or will it be haphazard sprawl?

Another factor is whether a region’s ecology is well-suited for a bigger population. Marc Lefkowitz at Network blog Green City Blue Lake says cities like Cleveland have the right natural characteristics to sustain more people. But regional growth isn’t happening the right way:

In an article, “Where to put the next billion people” Harvard’s Richard Forman and Arizona State University professor of sustainability science, Jianguo Wu, note that “for people and nature to thrive, the arrangement of land systems and water across the urban region must be managed holistically.”

For water-rich regions like Cleveland, this holds true. But a regional plan should probably be developed this time to “limit the loss of valuable (farm) land.”

A temperate climate, abundant water and rich soils are assets that Greater Cleveland has. By contrast, the authors predict that water stress in the West and Southwestern U.S. and Mexico will limit their growth.

Cleveland could play a significant role in the fight against climate change by developing a strategy for more compact communities and with a more open and encouraging immigration policy, the report concludes.

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • NJ Lawmakers Finally Pay Attention to NJ Transit (NYT); Foxx: Feds Might Get Involved (Politico)
  • Full Service Resumes at Hoboken Terminal Today (NY1)
  • Will Cuomo and Christie Come Through With Their Share of Gateway Tunnel Funds? (Politico, WNYC)
  • School Bus Driver Strikes and Kills Carmen Puello, 43, Near Fordham Road (Post)
  • Woman Driving SUV Kills 79-Year-Old Man on Northern Blvd in Flushing; Police Blame Victim (News)
  • Pedestrian Death Toll on the UES Rises While the 19th Precinct Focuses on Bike Tickets (DNA)
  • Dump Truck Driver Backs Into 76-Year-Old Woman on UES, Severing Her Leg (Post)
  • The Cranks at Queens CB 9 Will Never Support Woodhaven Select Bus Service (QChron)
  • Medallion Owners Freaked Out That MTA May Contract Access-a-Ride Services to Uber and Lyft (Crain’s)
  • Velmanette Montgomery Outraged By Plan to Pedestrianize a Block of Schermerhorn Street (Bklyn Paper)
  • To Register Voters Online, New York Relies on the Agency That Regulates Cars and Drivers (WNYC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA


The 5th Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

With the 10-year benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms coming up on November 14 (get your tickets here!), we are counting down the 12 most influential Streetfilms of all time, as determined by Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Bogotá BRT/Transmilenio

Number of plays: 65,353

Publish date: January 28, 2008

Why is it here? Bus Rapid Transit was still an unfamiliar concept in most American cities when we published this Streetfilm in 2008. With this look at Bogotá’s Transmilenio, we showed the ingredients of fast, convenient, high-capacity BRT: off-board fare collection, center-running bus lanes, stations with level boarding — as well as Bogotá’s feeder bus system and bike parking stations, which extend access to the core BRT routes. While not every component of the Bogotá system translates to the context of American cities, this Streetfilm conveyed to a new audience how much is possible when you fully commit to high-quality BRT.

Fun fact: At one point while filming bus routes from an overhead bridge, a military police officer approached me with a rifle in hand. There were terrorism threats during our visit and the transit system was a potential target. Our guide, Gil Peñalosa, immediately interceded and straightened things out.

Read more…


DOT Floats Greenwich Avenue Protected Bike Lane to Manhattan CB 2

One possible redesign of Greenwich Avenue would convert three blocks of the corridor to one-way traffic flow to make room for a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

One option for Greenwich Avenue: a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT may create a safer cycling connection between Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue with a two-way parking protected bike lane on most of Greenwich Avenue — if Manhattan Community Board 2 votes for it.

Greenwich is a short street but an important east-west connection in an area where the Manhattan grid breaks down. Even though there is no bike infrastructure on Greenwich, cyclists already account for 35 percent of all southbound vehicular traffic during the morning peak, according to DOT, and the agency’s 12-hour weekday counts tallied an average of more than 850 cyclists.

DOT is floating a design for a two-way protected bike lane between 13th Street and Christopher Street along the north curb, leaving short blocks at either end unprotected. That was one of two options for Greenwich Avenue the agency showed to the CB 2 transportation committee meeting last week [PDF].

To make room for the bike lane, Greenwich north of 10th Street would be converted from two-way motor vehicle flow to one-way. South of 10th Street, the motor vehicle flow would remain two-way, which avoids disrupting the M8 bus route. The short block between Christopher and Sixth Avenue would have a two-way bike lane but no parking protection. At the northern end, the short block connecting to the Eighth Avenue bike lane would have no bike infrastructure, and two blocks of Horatio Street feeding into Greenwich would get sharrows.

With four feet in each direction for cycling, the bike lane would be on the narrow side, but there’s a couple of feet of street width the DOT could shift over to the bike lane if it chooses.

Read more…


CB 1 Endorses Metropolitan Bridge Bike Lane After Two Years of Delays

CB 1 members cited this "extremely dangerous" left turn (red arrow) as justification for tabling DOT's proposal for bike lanes on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge last month. Image: DOT

CB 1 members cited this “extremely dangerous” left turn as justification for tabling DOT’s proposal for bike lanes on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge last month. Image: DOT

Brooklyn Community Board 1 unanimously endorsed DOT’s bike lane plan for the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. It took a while to reach this point — the board repeatedly delayed an endorsement for more than two years.

The project will add painted bike lanes in both directions over the bridge, which connects Bushwick and Ridgewood [PDF].

DOT has revised the design multiple times since first presenting to the board in June 2014. Most recently, CB 1 voted 18 to 8 last month to table the project, demanding that DOT do something about a supposed “left turn of death” from westbound Metropolitan Avenue onto Varick Avenue. The intersection doesn’t have a record of high injury rates, however. In the past three years, two cyclists have been injured at the location (it’s not clear if left turns were involved), and no one has been killed there according to Vision Zero View, which contains crash data going back to 2009.

Transportation committee chair Vincent Gangone said last night that he was recommending the plan because DOT had committed to exploring banning the left turn. Gangone explained that he, CB 1 Chair Dealice Fuller, and District Manager Gerald Esposito had met with DOT officials. He then read the text of a letter from the agency promising to return to the transportation committee in November or December once it has fully studied the potential impacts of the proposed left turn ban.

Read more…