Friday, March 30, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
This project in France of Jaime Lerner would show up in Curitiba as the corridors project. In keeping with the allowance of densification in downtown, there needed to be a new place to grow. It would be decided that this would occur on corridors and tie the transport together with the land use.
(translated from Portuguese) the managing idea of the project was the creation of a composed infrastructure for a zone of great concentration of activities and of raised habitational density. The concentration of the urban activities had as purpose to revitalize(sic) “the street”, considering it with a primordial function of the life of the community. The proposals for the Structural Axles of Curitiba keep some similarities with this project.
The same attitude demonstrated in these projects of architecture, with emphasis in the distribution of spaces and its relations with the structure and infrastructure of the buildings, if transposed for urbanism, in the interrelation between zoning and system of collective transport....The main quarrel of the Preliminary Plan was which proposal of growth would have to be adjusted for the future of Curitiba. The idea of city delimited for a green cinturão, seemed impracticable ahead of the possibility of a indeterminate growth. The orientation of development from linear axles, in contraposition to the concentrical city of the Agache Plan, seemed most adequateGiven the ability of cities to extend indefinitely, the corridor system would address this issue allowing corridors to grow up while not sprawling. In 1971 Jaime Lerner became mayor of the city. Trained as an architect and with the help of a dictatorship, he was able to impose his vision on the people for better or worse. After over 40 years of planning, Curitiba is what it is, it's what would happen if an architect and smart growther took over a city. But folks should not come back from that city just thinking, "what a cheap bus, lets do it here". They should be repeating the three premises of the Curitiba plan: use of the ground, collective transport and circulation. And in the United States, you might as well build rail, because that is what developers write checks for and building a busway to Curitiba standards costs the same as rail.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
Sunday, March 25, 2007
What the New Urbanists are trying to do is bring that neighborhood structure back. You might hate the modernest architecture and the silly color schemes but that isn't what New Urbanism is all about (although its a hot type right now and all builders will want to claim new urbanism in their projects). A lot of projects are on greenfields where people have their own yards and the ability to walk in their neighborhood with interconnected streets and connections to transit. The projects you hear about are the infill projects where developers are fighting to make building density and mixed use legal again since it has been outlawed in many cities by post war zoning codes. That causes quite a rile in newspapers and media but doesn't tell the larger story of the movement.
In New Urbanism there is a strategy for design called the transect. It talks about the densities that should be employed from center city to the rural. You'll rarely see anything but single family homes in the T1 or T2 settings(The transect goes from T1 which is the most rural to the T6 which is New York City type density). So while many might think that New Urbanists and Smart Growth types are all about shoving density down your throats, its really all a misconception of how the movement operates and how it values neighborhood design that goes back to the streetcar suburbs that had grid street patterns and good transit options. If more people had the choice of walking, biking or taking transit we would have less of an issue with peak oil or oil at all.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Non Level Boarding - You can't build a bus that lines up exactly with the curb. And taking a bus like Oakland has and just painting it rapid isn't the same. I'm not sure why the equity people are letting them get away with this given that LRT is first class and BRT is obviously third world.
Ride Quality - You can make roads as smooth as possible but in terms of ride quality its night and day. Buses lurch forward, trains glide on the rails. I took buses in Austin to school for 5 years, it wasn't always pleasant during stop and go traffic. Now I take BART and Muni Metro and its amazing the difference.
Operating costs - Operating costs on LRT are lower. It's proven by the data in the National Transit Database. You can hook trains together, buses are limited to 60 meters and no one would allow anything longer on the roads. Labor is the biggest factor in costs and buses cost more because there must be more of them in order to reach the capacity of LRT. This is something critics often ignore.
Attraction of Passengers - When the Yellow line opened in Portland, it was the ultimate test. It basically replaced a bus line that had operated the same route giving a somewhat real comparison of ridership between the two. Guess what happened? 100% ridership increase. That's right, the line doubled its ridership by putting in LRT.
Attraction of TOD - Buses don't do it because developers don't trust them. Even fixed guideway BRT isn't trusted. The reason is because that road can be opened to cars, and that bus line could be moved. Rails in the ground signify people are in it for the long haul and investing in their future.
There are many more but let me continue by saying that these comparisons to third world countries systems are way off base. This is proven by the Hartford Example. Hartford is building a BRT line and guess what the cost per mile is according to the FTA. $55 million a mile where they paved over a rail right of way. Why not build rail? Eugene just completed an BRT line that is single tracked. They are saying you can do it too! But they never tell you the tricks. Below is a comment from Lyndon Henry responding to arguments for BRT in an article by US News and World Report. Enjoy.
Don't fall for the BRT sham. It's too good to be true.
The promotion of "BRT" as some kind of "just as good but cheaper" alternative to LRT is a swindle.
The Bogota Transmilenio "BRT" system featured in the article would easily cost more than LRT in fully allocated lifecycle costs while delivering far fewer benefits. Transmilenio consists of a fully segregated 4-lane busway with specially designed extra-long buses operated by dirt-cheap Third World labor. Loadings are far beyond
what US urban travellers would tolerate and ADA compliance is dubious. Average speed is 26 km/hr, or about 16 mph - about as fast as a slower LRT.
The busway was installed by appropriating existing street lanes for transit - no wonder it's hailed for its "low cost"! Where is there a large American city in which the transit agency can simply appropriate four lanes out of a major central-city arterial for dedicated transit use?
The costs of surface Transmilenio are almost invariably compared with those of an underground metro - and, gee, the surface busway always seems to come out ahead. Duh. How about comparing with the cost of a comparable surface electric LRT?
Not mentioned in the article is the fact that Bogota has an extremely transit-dependent population - Colombia's per-capita motor vehicle ownership is approximately 6% that of the USA. And the country is very poor, with per-capita income about 1/5 the US average. Factoring this into the $350 million cost of Bogota's Transmilenio busway system results in an equivalent cost of about $1.3 billion in the USA, or about $55 million per mile for Bogota's 24-mile system. That's about on a par with some US LRT systems with subway sections - such as Minneapolis' s Hiawatha line.
Why is it that just about every "BRT" promotion I see boils down to a huge flim-flam for dummies?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Given that some industrial lands are still viable as such, pushing out the industry by routing light rail through it can either be good or bad depending on what your goals are for the corridor. Some places such as Oakland might be better served by saving industrial zones to keep jobs and tax base. Of course if there is a station adjacent, what is better for the city and region? Is it that short term tax base or the long term ridership goals of the transit agency? Is it the housing and reduction of VMT through TOD or is it being able to keep vital industry such as shipyards in Oakland's case. Where else are the ships going to go? It's an interesting dichotomy that is only beginning to pop up in planning and land use for these systems.
So how do we figure which industrial uses should be changed over? The Pearl was a railyard that was abandoned and snatched up by developers. It's proximity to downtown made it very valuable after all the details were worked out. Now its the hottest address in the northwest. Minneapolis citizens however are worried that they will run out of industrial land uses unless some of them are protected from rezoning. I want to say that is short sighted and there is plenty of land for industrial uses, the old ones disappeared for a reason, but i'm not sure if i have all the facts to make that claim yet.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The Central Subway for some of its faults is a good project section. It begins to address the North South rail deficiencies that plague the City and completes the second of three segments that will connect North Beach to Downtown and Bayview. I personally can't wait to use it.
Extra Note: Here is a link to a PowerPoint for converting the Geary Subway to BRT then LRT.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Boston's "Big Dig" (Central Artery) Interstate highway tunnel project cost a whopping $14.6 billion (that's billion with a B) for about 8 miles. It carries approximately 200,000 vehicle-trips a day.
Assuming all these vehicles travel the full 8 miles, with an average occupancy of 1.6 persons, that's about 2.6 million passenger-miles a day – and includes both local, commute-type trips as well as lots of through, intercity trips (so they're not readily comparable to Boston's local mass transit). According to the latest study (2005) from the Texas Transportation Institute, the Boston urban area experiences about 90 million vehicle-miles/day, or roughly 144 million person-miles (using the average occupancy shown above).
Thus the "Big Dig" project carries only 2.6/144 = a "puny" 1.8% of total urban area road traffic! And for a nearly $15 billion investment! Yet this project – far from being denounced for this ostensibly minuscule travel impact (and in stark contrast to the incessant denunciation of rail and mass transit) – has been widely hailed and favorably cited by the Road Warrior community ... including Wendell Cox (a major advocate of urban roadway tunnels as a "solution" for congestion and alternative to public transport investment).
While not all transit projects pencil out, there are a lot of them that are held to a higher standard than road projects. For the Big Dig project, that $14.6 billion dollars would have bought 486 miles of Light Rail at 30 million per mile. Of course that's just a simple estimation, but imagine what that could have done for travel in Boston Proper. How many trips over 1.8% could have been made by transit. The larger question is how much VMT could have been reduced by this investment. This should be brought out and hung before the urban road warriors. More roads for more sprawl doesn't cut it anymore.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
From 1984 just after the rail renaisance started to 2004, Light Rail gained 274 %, Regional Rail 57 % and Rapid Rail 40-some percent but buses lost half a percent despite 20 per cent more service, That was devastating for costs.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Update: Looks like a $6 Billion Dollar Plan for Reserved Guideway Rail Transit. More details to come...
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
A University of Arkansas study wins an award for its transit vision.
Sacramento Looks into Streetcars.
Cincinnati Looks into Streetcars.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Light rail between Minneapolis and St. Paul will be an eternal money pit subsidized by the taxpayers of Minnesota and a waste of federal taxpayer dollars.
It will not reduce congestion on I-94. OW - Nothing will reduce congestion. Build a freeway and it produces sprawl which feeds more congestion.
It will lose money every year like the Hiawatha Line. OW - You lose about $10,000 a year driving a car, you have to pay to operate it don't you? And someone has to pay to build and fix roads and parking lots right?
It will replace current bus service that already uses University Avenue. OW - And will probably lower the operating costs per passenger of that line like Portland has, allowing more money to be put into bus service.
It will narrow, congest and eliminate lanes of traffic on University Avenue. OW - This is a straw man. It will increase the overall capacity of the road.
same as usual...
Friday, March 9, 2007
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Monday, March 5, 2007
Sunday, March 4, 2007
There is also an article in the Kansas City Star whereabouts Dave Scott is calling for a realistic light rail plan that is mostly streetcars. While I like streetcars and have been a proponent of them I can't say that I agree with his plan. I think streetcars operate well in really dense environments as circulators and can be applied as line haul systems if when they get out of the CBD they have their own right of way. People won't ride them if they stop every block or at every light outside of town.
We need to get practical in a hurry. Our system will need to be “ultra-light” rail. Heavy-rail and many light-rail systems have required dedicated rights of way, grade separation, large stations, tunnels and bridges — all things we don’t have or can’t afford. Instead, we will need to primarily use our streets for right of way, making our system look more like our old streetcar system than many of today’s more expensive rail systems.
This opinion is probably that of many city leaders. This is why we keep hearing about BRT. "We can't afford it and we want to do it cheap." Whatever happened to doing it right the first time? These are century investments we are talking about here, not just a strip mall that can be redeveloped in 20 years. If they really wanted to do it they would build a system that was bare bones but the essentials and add on later. They could put ADA lifts in the vehicles instead of building large elaborate stations and hold the consultants and engineers accountable for extra pennies and decisions that are not needed. While I agree Kansas City needs light rail, i think they should do it right the first time and build a system that people will ride.
Friday, March 2, 2007
Atlanta's boosters say that unless drastic steps are taken to unclog the highways here, the city won't be able to compete with fast-growing places such as Phoenix, Denver, San Diego, Charlotte and Dallas — all of which have made long-term commitments to major transportation improvements.What the article fails to mention is that all of those cities are investing not only in roads, but heavily in light rail networks. Dallas, Denver and San Diego have a head start but Charlotte and Phoenix are planning large systems as well. This is in comparison to Atlanta which has a smaller heavy rail system. The problem is that it was never built out as planned and shows the difference between Washington DC Metro's build out which they have achieved as planned and Atlanta which stopped short of its goals. Now Atlanta is known as the road capital of the United States.
But we know that spending a bunch of money on roads won't relieve congestion. Lyndon Henry did an analysis of the big dig and found that for the $15 billion investment they made the new road only takes 1.8% of the total vehicle miles traveled of the whole region. Isn't that the same argument that the road warriors have been using about rail? Yet at a hypothetical 30 million per mile, Boston could have built 500 miles of light rail. That would have taken more than 1.8% of VMT for sure. Wendell Cox and company have been against government waste but their goals are sure. More roads and oil dependence are the answer. The USA Today article might not get it, but the transit space race is a key part of cities reducing their dependence on the automobile and creating more sustainable cities.