This is Semaj_d's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Semaj_d's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Recent Activity
For what it's worth, I have to confess to having "bought" the same story of the Transitway and high ridership. Indeed, I even put into my own Master's thesis. I had concluded BRT to be a success in Ottawa (albeit one that had run its course, something which Jarrett still refuses to accept). Yes, you read that right. I can tell you it was more than a little galling to discover a few months later that this was all a myth and that I had been guilty of perpetuating it. But of course I was using the same sources as everyone else. My professor's professor (Robert Cervero) used them for instance in his book The Transit Metropolis. Once I finally got my hands on the time series data, I realized the truth (and frankly I was more than a little shocked at just how empty the myth really was). The limited ridership stats that everyone else were using were never false (although the 10,000 pphpd number is kind of suspect for c.1990) - they were just presented in isolation, without reference to the past before the Transitway.
1 reply
@Simon Well as I wrote the "main bit" of the Transitway network was in fact finished by about 1990 (for those familiar with Ottawa, that would be the West Transitway "trench", the Southwest Transitway to Baseline and Algonquin College, the Central Transitway along the Rideau Canal and the East Transitway along the Queensway). The final piece of the initial network, the Southeast Transitway, built in stages in the early 1990s, was and still is far less used than the others since it heads generally south whereas the principal travel axis in Ottawa is east-west. It's also worth noting that in accordance with BRT theory, the segments were brought into use as they were completed, whether they connected to other segments or not. That means that if ridership is linked to transitway construction, we should see a gradual ramping up during all but the very beginning of the construction period - which we don't. We don't even see it holding steady. Ridership didn't begin increasing again until 1999: 1996 is artificially depressed due to a transit strike. When you take that into consideration, ridership basically bottomed out from 1995 to 1998. We could get into a long discussion into what drives and drove ridership in Ottawa, but it should be pretty clear that the Transitway is not, in and of itself, responsible for Ottawa's high ridership. A fair case could actually be made that high ridership was responsible for the decision to construct the Transitway, rather than the opposite. But the key point is that even while Ottawa was losing ridership, it was still high relative to everywhere else. It's that high ridership that has long been used to "sell" the Transitway concept to other places and people, but the sales point has no foundation in reality.
1 reply
@Jarrett "All claims for how rail will be faster than BRT in Ottawa will be absurd, because the comparison is between an existing rail tunnel (now being built) and a NON-existing bus tunnel. Existence is not a detail!" With respect to this, there's the Calgary comparison: Calgary's 7th Ave light rail transit mall does not clog up like Ottawa's downtown bus lanes do, and they face the same issue of traffic lights. Its capacity is at least as great as Ottawa's BRT. Furthermore, the very failure of BRT on the surface is arguably one of the strong drivers for a rail tunnel: the false belief in this "traffic light hypothesis" caused many to argue for a tunnel, bus or rail. People didn't want to take the chance of rail failing as well, despite evidence from places like Calgary. Indeed, at a transit forum organized by the City of Ottawa a senior Calgary transit planner (originally from Ottawa) argued in favour of a surface LRT line instead of a tunnel and to use the savings to extend LRT further out along the transitways. So your claim has a grain of truth to it and unfortunately we'll never get to test it due to BRT having "poisoned the well" when it comes to surface rapid transit. Had Ottawa not made the disastrous mistake of choosing BRT over LRT thirty years ago, today we would be enjoying swift and efficient LRT on the surface downtown just like Calgary enjoys, and instead of expending vast sums on conversion and a needless tunnel, plus the attendant bus diversions and disruption, we'd be extending the system further afield. The unfortunate truth is that the Transitway and BRT have set back Ottawa's transit system by at least two decades.
1 reply
@Jarrett "The most crucial segment of Ottawa's BRT network was never completed, so the technology was really never tried." Where does this fiction come from? There seems to be some idea that just because downtown Ottawa has traffic lights that this somehow "proves" that the lack of a bus tunnel is the problem. This is classic correlation-not-causation thinking - something that you usually go to great pains to discourage others from engaging in. If you take the time - as I have - to observe what actually takes place with an open mind you come to a very different conclusion. Heck, I once thought it was the traffic lights too - but frequent observation of buses stopped at green lights (for what turned out to be varied reasons) caused me to rethink this hypothesis. Besides, it's not just downtown BRT fails in Ottawa either; it fails at Tunney's Pasture westbound in the afternoon, at Campus at all hours in both directions and at Hurdman in all directions in the afternoon. Baseline too is prone to periodic failures when there is bad weather and high volumes of students. I have taken video of the failures at Tunney's Pasture and others have taken video of the failure at Hurdman. Here's an example of the latter - from 5 years ago: Time and time again on this video you can see buses waiting at the stop line not for cross traffic but for the platform behind the videographer to clear - just like buses stopped at green lights in downtown Ottawa. And this is at a station where a large number of the buses aren't going to stop anyway - which would not be the case in a downtown tunnel. All that a bus tunnel would have accomplished is burying a bus jam. The fundamental problem with BRT that its advocates keep refusing to acknowledge is that at the volumes we see in Ottawa average dwell time exceeds average headway. Indeed all it takes are a few lengthy dwells and it can cascade for an hour. A bus tunnel would not have fixed that. To solve that problem you either have to shorten the dwell time or increase the headway. Use of light rail vehicles accomplishes both. @Simon Yes, as it happens I do: I created this graph a few years ago from Ottawa transit use data. The years since 1996 are direct from OC Transpo's website (including via the Internet Wayback machine), and up to 2000 from a separate source that also had Calgary transit data (the overlap allowed me to ensure the two series jived). In this graph I've marked where Transitway construction began in 1984 and when the initial network was complete by 1996; indeed much of the bulk of it was in place by 1990 - only the SE Twy was being constructed out to 1996 and it opened in sections during that period. The idea that the Transitway has increased ridership in Ottawa is a modern transit myth peddled by a few BRT fanatics who got started in Ottawa and many other unthinking BRT advocates since. Well I should be careful: they simply presented Ottawa's high transit ridership stats next to images of the Transitway and allowed the human brain to make a conclusion based on association rather than any actual evidence of causation. There is simply no basis whatsoever to the myth that the Transitway is responsible for Ottawa's high transit ridership. Its ridership was already high, pre-Transitway.
1 reply
"If nothing else you won't fall into common motorists' errors like [...] assuming that technology choice is more important than where a service goes" Funny then how in Ottawa, the city whose founding rapid transit designers were recently converted highway engineers with an obsession for BRT, and which has one of the highest levels of transit ridership on the continent*, is now comprehensively clearing out its decrepit BRT Transitway system. There is now fairly widespread agreement that further busway extensions are to be avoided for the most part. That's probably because Ottawans have put up with noisy, banging, clattering rides when the buses are moving and 3 km long downtown busjams every time 10 cm of snow falls. It's also worth noting that technology choice has in fact to a large extent determined where the service goes. Since no one in their right mind wants a busway anywhere near them, it has tended to get put in major road corridors and, perversely, in uninhabited riverine corridors. As a consequence, many of Ottawa's transit stations are quite isolated. But that was supposedly just fine since the express routes were supposed to make the location of the transit facility itself largely irrelevant. Doesn't quite work that way. Unfortunately, Ottawa's experience with BRT has to some extent "poisoned the well" when it comes to having rational discussions on rapid transit. Where Calgary and Edmonton are free to run light rail generally on the surface, in Ottawa light rail so far is getting treated as if it were BRT - grade separated at enormous expense with consequences relating to things such as coverage, system efficiency, urban design and location of stations. Technology choice does matter, and it matters a lot. *No thanks to the Transitway: absolute and per capita transit ridership in Ottawa began a dozen year fall starting with the Transitway's construction. Absolute ridership didn't recover for another 8 years, at which point the system promptly jammed up due to the proliferation of express bus routes. Per capita ridership has never recovered.
1 reply
Semaj_d is now following The Typepad Team
Oct 3, 2014