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Eric Doherty
Vancouver, Canada
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Somehow I missed this sad news back in June. I still consult Mees' A Very Public Solution regularly - I think it is still the best English language resource on the network effect. Paul Mees convinced me that you can't do competent transit planning without understanding the network effect.
Toggle Commented Oct 13, 2013 on Paul Mees, 1961-2013 at Human Transit
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JMH, Maybe the conclusion we should reach is that it is time to stop building and widening roads, and re-allocate the money to transit, cycling and walking.
Toggle Commented May 18, 2013 on the driving boom is over at Human Transit
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The City of Vancouver has asked the provincial government to change the regulations to allow longer buses (They have already been changed to allow longer trucks, even on crowded city streets). I think these longer buses have a big future, particularly in combination with dedicated transit lanes and full on bus rapid transit lines. And if it a line is busy enough to justify big buses, then it is probably busy enough to justify using electric trolley buses to reduce noise, pollution, GHGs, and to increase acceleration. In Canada a big question is snow performance; the Swiss deal with this issue with multiple electric drive units on double articulated buses and I assume the German bus referred to in the link does too. Snow performance might be better with these double articulated buses than with the existing diesel single articulated buses with only one drive axle at the back.
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2012 on a future for very very long buses? at Human Transit
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Love it. And I think it is best seen and titled as a parody of car ads. "If transit was advertised like a car" What it really shows is how ridiculous car, SUV and pickup ads are.
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If you ride transit outside of the central area of Metro Vancouver you will know that buses can take far more than two bikes off peak - as long as there are no transit supervisors around. The inside wheelchair / stroller space is used, exactly like on rail transit in the region. Yes, this is against the rules, but it works. No fancy racks are needed to take five bikes when only two fit on the rack. Carrying bikes on transit should not be separated into bus and rail. The inside spaces are basically the same. Why would you allow bikes on an 80 foot long light rail vehicle and not on an 80 foot long bus? On both, cyclists should be expected to quickly yield the space to wheelchairs or strollers. And on both good design and lots of wide doors helps the same space work for multiple purposes. This is of course does not apply to crowded peak period, peak direction, travel. But there is more to life than rush hour.
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Taxation and funding issues do tend to be messy. But the main point it that roadway expansion competes with and undermines transit. Agencies need to be very clear that 'balanced transportation spending' means undermining transit ridership and cost effectiveness. I also wonder about the issue of rail transit, seems to me that Houston is the kind of place crying out for bus rapid transit. (And where it would be hard to find more than a couple of places where new rail lines really make sense)
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Great to see reliability being given serious consideration. But is reliability being measured in a way that is meaningful to transit riders? And are the results being reported to the public?
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This is good news! The map is certainly easy to read. I think the next step should be to produce a full network map with the frequent network presented so it really stands out. The two maps could be presented side by side at major transfer points. Of course, some of the explanation is wishful thinking. "People traveling along FTN corridors can expect convenient, reliable, easy-to-use services". Anyone who rides the #20 knows that "reliable" is an aspiration that TransLink is still working on. Frequent and unreliable does not equal freedom.
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For busy routes, the B-line model (TransLink, Vancouver Canada) may have something to offer. Stop spacing is about 1km, with occasional closer spacing at major destinations such as hospitals. But the local buses on the same route have frequent stops, about 5 -7 local stops for each B-line stop. For my local bus, I would want better reliability (or at least real-time arrival displays) before wider stop spacing. As it is, I almost never wait for the bus; I just start walking if it is not is sight. With the short stop spacing I can usually catch the bus if it comes by before I get to the intersection where I usually transfer. It makes a lot of sense to look carefully at how people are using transit on the different segments of each route, and try to understand why, before applying a blanket policy. Wider stop spacing everywhere seems like too simple a rule.
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If network connectivity is a crucial factor, then creating a low-capital cost rapid transit network using existing rails and roads may be the way forward for automobile dominated cities. I think Ottawa provides a good example of this, their great success in building ridership was done with a network of temporary bus lanes. Later, the expensive and largely grade separated bus rapid transit lines built on the success of the cheap and simple. (Yes I know there is a lot more to this story, including a dominant employer who started charging for parking while reducing parking supply.) A can of paint and a stencil that says "bus lane" can achieve a lot. So can a train on an existing track. This is not about bus vs rail, it is about networks and good policy.
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Lets start with the tried and true - improve transit frequency and reliability towards Zurich standards (4-8 min frequency with astoundingly good reliability). The high tech partial solution is to put in real time digital displays so you know when to walk, and when to wait (because you don't have Zurich-like frequency and reliability yet). What works for short trips also works for the start and end of longer trips. Grid-like networks are the easiest way to provided everywhere to everywhere transit service.
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On density and transit ridership it seems very important to point out how hotly contested this issue is, and how different methodologies produce starkly differing results. In Transport for Suburbia (2010) Paul Mees has done a fine job of pointing out how weak the correlation often is, and how hard it is to study density in a way that produces consistent and meaningful results. He also point out that some claims about the correlation are based on errors that have since been corrected in later publications. False certainty is a dangerous thing in transportation planning. My take is that other factors such as service frequency and reliability are often far more important than density, and these other factors can be changed much more quickly than density.
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This all sounds like a good argument in favor of shoulder bus lanes. Most shoulder bus lanes are not suitable for other vehicles, and are therefore not subject to the same conversion pressure. If transit vehicle are not stuck in traffic, then congested 2+ lanes are not such a big deal. But all politicians have to do to convert to 3+ lanes is to wait for an oil price spike and then declare an emergency. They might not have to wait that long.
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Jarrett, you have hit the nail on the head. The numeric rules for transit and density are incoherent because they are based on the idea that density is THE dominant factor. In Metro Vancouver (Canada), the relative attractiveness of alternatives seems to have far more to do with mode choice than density. We have some significant high density nodes where transit service is very poor and access to the freeway network is good, and transit ridership is therefore low. In Ottawa, if I get my information right, there are low density suburban areas with direct bus service to the downtown core that have remarkably high transit ridership. It seems that the deliberate policy of making parking expensive downtown is a big part of this success. Density is an important factor, but it is only one factor among many (including road building, parking policies and transit fares).
Toggle Commented Jan 24, 2011 on basics: conceptual triangles at Human Transit
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My observation from Vancouver Canada is that buses (or any large transit vehicle)traveling in the curb lane at high speed is going to adversely affect the pedestrian experience. In particular I am thinking of the diesel 99B line buses on Broadway. It is not so bad with the electric trolleys providing frequent stop service on the same route. Perhaps curb side transit lanes are more appropriate for frequent stop, lower speed service where there are sidewalks and pedestrians. Imagine sitting in a sidewalk cafe right next to a 60km/hr curb lane express bus or rail line with 2 min headways.
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I agree that trolley cars are probably a non-starter. However, express buses, and dual mode highway buses and trucks could be using trolley wires very soon. (or again as mentioned above for trucks.) The existing technology is good enough for many applications. Vancouver BC used to have express trolley buses on Hastings Street that passed the local trolley buses. Diesels replaced the trolleys when the express bus route was extended beyond the end of the wires. The second set of wires is still there, now only used for moving empty buses. The poles and support wires look to be exactly the same as on the streets with only a single set of wires. Two sets of wires probably costs about the same as one to install. The challenge is connecting and disconnecting the poles without getting in the way of other vehicles. But automated connection and disconnection would probably not be too far away if a government threw say $100 million into research and development. Designs already exist - such as a single pole with two contacts and sensors to locate the wires. Anyone on the list have $100 million sitting around, or even $20 million to start?
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I think that in most networks there are only a few places where such a map would be very useful. I would like to have one for the downtown core of Vancouver BC, but it would not add that much for most of the network. You really need lots of maps, I have missed connections because I could not find the bus stop at a 'bus loop' where the loop and surrounding streets are full of different stops. Bay 11 is off on a side street because there are only 8 bays in the loop. And when I get off at a station, I really want a map that shows every street and but line in the immediate area. But the frequent service network should be the map you see most often.
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@Jarrett "What matters is cost per unit of capacity, i.e. "operating cost per passenger" You are missing a huge segment of cost on some systems (thinking about the 'Skytrain' automated light metro lines in Vancouver Canada). Unless that is just a typo, and i.e. should have been e.g. What matters is the overall cost per passenger, including all capital costs and interest. Focusing only on operating costs amounts to a serious bias in favor of capital intensive rail projects. And maximum capacity matters too, once in a while, where street space or other surface rights of way are a limiting factor.
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@Sean "yes, cost is a bit factor. But absolute capacity is still a limitation for buses. Taking minimum headways into account, long trains take less space than buses" Maybe, but not by much. And how often is that a real factor in the US or Canada? Victoria BC Canada ran into a problem with a shortage of bus stop space for conventional buses, they just went to double deck buses. If space at station platforms, or length of vehicles in general was a big factor I would expect to see a lot more double deck buses and rail vehicles (yes, very common with commuter rail since the frequency is so low). The fact is that it is usually not that hard to expand station platforms on the surface, and signal timing is not usually a limitation to the length of platoon that can get through an intersection if you have good signal priority. My suspicion is that the labour cost issue usually kicks in first. And the longer the bus, the higher the ridership before rail and BRT costs converge.
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Jarrett, I think you are explaining one of the advantages of rail incorrectly, or at least not in clear direct language. "Capacity is one of the best technical reasons to build rail. If you routinely need to move more customers per driver than buses can do, you need rail so that you can run much longer vehicles. Capacity is the reason that the Los Angeles Orange Line probably will need to be rebuilt as light rail at some point." A more accurate statement would be: "Cost is one of the best technical reasons to build rail. If you routinely need to move very high volumes of passengers, rail allows you to run much longer vehicles and reduce labour costs for drivers without having unacceptably long wait times between vehicles. Labour cost is the reason that the Los Angeles Orange Line probably be rebuilt as light rail at some point." PS Anyone who thinks Jarrett is biased against rail should really hate my recent post on BRT http://thecanadian.org/k2/item/226-doherty-bus-rapid-transit
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If this was a map of Vancouver BC I would ask the question "So what if the schedule says it runs every ten minutes or less, when we all know that some of the busiest routes are completely unreliable?" Have any cities in North America instituted effective programs to make their frequent networks reliably frequent, rather than hopefully frequent? In Vancouver there was supposed to be a headway based operations pilot on Main Street, but it seems to have been abandoned.
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There are situations where transit improvements reduce or eliminate traffic congestion. And these 'test tube' situations tell us something about the larger picture. For example, the University of BC and connecting roads saw a significant and long lasting reduction in traffic congestion after introducing a universal transit pass for all students. Parking was already expensive at UBC, by student standards. UBC is a test tube situation since it is on the end of a peninsula, so traffic is easy to study. You are just not going to normally see significant changes if you add one transit line in the middle of a complex urban region. You need to look at 'test tube' situations like peninsulas or areas with only one bridge. Something might also be learned from areas where very large changes to transit have happened quickly. Has anything been documented from Bogota when the Transmillenio lines opened up? On the other hand, traffic congestion is a useful phenomena. Transit does not have to be super fast if car travel is slow.
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Carl wrote: "The quotes in the article appear to suggest that rather than build the four rail lines, LA should have just operated Rapid bus lines on the same corridors . . . in a city of LA's density, the spines should be rail." Carl, I think you missed something important. The concept of transit 'spines' in a dispersed city like LA (or Metro Vancouver BC) does not make that much sense. (Unless you are envisioning some strange creature with a network of spinal cords). Sure there are routes that carry more people, or serve longer distance trips, but it is how the network functions as a whole that is important for attracting ridership. A grid-like network of medium capacity rapid transit lines (BRT or rail) carrying say 10,000 people per direction per hour max can carry more people than a few 'big pipe' lines with capacities of 30,000+. (In Vancouver the design capacity of the heaviest used metro line is about 30,000 pphd). And for many people the door to door speed would be faster, even if the travel speed of the rapid transit vehicles is lower. Like Vancouver BC where I live, in LA there is no one dominant destination. People are going from everywhere to everywhere, the transit network needs to do the same (wherever there is enough potential ridership). So I would suggest comparing something like 10 BRT lines and better bus service region wide to the next four possible rail lines (Just a guess as to how far the money would go). Money is the limiting factor, not the number of potential rapid transit routes.
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Rob Fellows wrote "you have to make the case that it's not worthwhile to maintain the roads we've already built" 'Fix it First' policies go hand in glove with shifting funds from roadway expansion to transit. Add in policies to get heavy trucks off the road in favor of more efficient modes, such as short sea shipping and rail, and roadway maintenance and repair costs go way down. (Or you get a new source of revenue from weight based damage cost charges). Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil by Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl (now in paperback) has some good content on the potential of shifting spending from roadway expansion to transit and other efficient modes.
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Hmm, Any cartoons of people who expect that a transit signal priority system will perform well the first week it is in service (without all the trial and error work that went into refining the previous scheme over a period of years)?
Toggle Commented Jun 10, 2010 on respect for signal engineers at Human Transit
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