Thursday, June 18, 2009

Consummate Salesmen

I don't believe Walter Hook for a second. Any time anyone says their way is the only way for any situation I get skeptical. Case in point:
There is no other solution for American cities. If you look across the globe, the only cities that have actually shifted people from private cars back into public transit are cities that have built bus rapid transit.
The BS detector is huge on this one. Not only is Curitiba losing people to private vehicles because of the crush loaded conditions, the chief of the system has admitted they have to build a subway. Might I also add, there are many cities that aren't in third world countries that have amazing transit systems to emulate. Such as Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, and Madrid etc....(H/T Frank M) How about a yellow tram that's six segments and comes every minute like in Budapest?

Budapest_Combino3

There's way more capacity there than on an articulated bus. 173 feet of tram every minute. And it would certainly do some heavy hauling across Manhattan. Anyone want to take some civic leaders to Budapest with me? As Daneel states:
The big order was for the world's busiest tram line, along the Grand Boulevard (lines 4/6). This is nothing to be proud of, the daily 200,000/hourly max. 10,500 passengers would be in the capacity range of a subway. But an orbital subway was never built, so pairs of "Industrial Articulateds" transport the masses in close succession. So when finally new vehicles were ordered, they were for the world's longest passenger trams (precisely 53.99 m; only the CarGoTram freight trams in Dresden/Germany are longer [59.4 m]). The new series 2000II got the nickname Óriáshernyó (=giant caterpillar).
Budapest_CombinoInterior

But another quip I have with Walter is his flip flopping and misleading statements. In his BRT post on Streetsblog, Hook nonchalantly states that BRT can cost as little as $8 million a mile.
Very good BRT systems have been built for as little as $8 million a mile. With the same capital budget, we could build more than twice as much proper BRT as light rail, probably 5 to 10 times more, with no loss in the quality of service, the capacity, or the speed.
First off he's comparing cheap non-BRT Rapid bus to full LRT. That is hardly an even comparison. The Healthline BRT in Cleveland which is the closest thing we have to that type of BRT on city streets in the United States was $29 million per mile ($200/6.8mi). The Portland Streetcar cost $24m/mi. If we just took lanes from cars and inserted the rails instead of rebuilding whole streets the capital costs would be comparable and operating would be much less. More riders, less drivers.

Look, if you want a big network of Rapid Bus or BRT in a major city go ahead and do it. Los Angeles has been fairly successful when they aren't trying to expand like Krispy Kreme in 2000. That is an excellent model to emulate for routes that need better transit service right away. But let's not pretend that BRT or Rapid Bus works on the corridors that actually need rail or a Subway like Second Street.

Finally, there is this:
Hook is hoping it works. He says at least one American city should have a well-designed BRT, one that really does feel like a train.
If you want something that feels like a train, then why not build a train. I'll never understand why cheap is always the best option to some people. You get what you pay for.

13 comments:

thm said...

To the claim about shifting people from cars into transit: it's worth keeping in mind that postwar France destroyed its streetcar systems in much the same way that the US did; there are only 3 French tramway systems that have any remnant of their historical roots (Marseille, Saint-Etienne, and Lille). The French opened their first modern system in 1985, in Nantes. (Subpoint: BRT advocacy often goes on and on about the (single) busway in Nantes, omitting the fact that they also have 3 tramway lines.) Which is to say, the French got started on building modern light rail AFTER the US did; San Diego's opened in 1981.

Cavan said...

When will this misguided drivel stop?

There is no way you could have transformed DC from the afterthought of the east coast to the major center of culture and vibrance that is now with BRT. The Metro is the key to our growth and transformation. Plain and simple. Most people who ride the Metro won't (not just don't but WON'T) ride buses. You can't transform American cities with buses. Buses are a piece of the solution, not THE solution.

Toast2042 said...

Tramways require removing lanes. Busways require building lanes. More lanes are good and less lanes are bad. Only a tram can drive on a tramway but cars can drive on a busway if needed. Therefore busways agave more utlity than tramways.

This assumes that more cars is always the right answer, of course. Less cars mean less freedom and only terrorists want us to have less freedom.

You're not a terrorist, are you?

;)

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Toast you assume you have room for more roads. NYC does not have that luxury, so they need to create more capacity in the street. That means trams.

Pedestrianist said...

"Less cars mean less freedom and only terrorists want us to have less freedom."

I'm going to pretend that was funny.

Matt Fisher said...

I'm sure this guy Walter Hook will talk about how we here in Ottawa supposedly have better transit (using buses only) than in Calgary or Edmonton or Toronto.

This same destruction in the U.S. and France happened in the U.K. and Canada too. I used to think the Transitway was so good, but now I say it's not as good as rail. LRT would have been better, even if it meant lower standards than buses. I just don't get why they consider cheaper BRT to be better. I don't get all their rhetoric about "flexibility".

Overall, the BRT boosters are wrong to call their favourite transit mode "rail on rubber tires" and "just like rail, but cheaper". There is no reason to justify using BRT as a substitute in my view, even if it means lower upfront costs. That's not to say I am "anti bus".

Oh yeah. Only one city in England, Blackpool, has continued to run trams, and is one of three cities to still run double decker trams.

Toast2042: Great joke. :)

Alon Levy said...

Pan, in New York what they're actually doing is replacing car lanes with BRT lanes.

njh said...

Pan, I think Toast was explaining the viewpoint that leads to such articles. I agree, too. If you start with the premise that more lanes makes a better america, then everything else falls out.

Someone, somewhere, realised that more lanes means more money for them, then spent lots of time finding ways to justify that. If I, a non-expert, can come to this conclusion, the elite surely realised it many years ago. This elite consists of a self-propagating economicform made from concrete manufacturers, car companies, oil companies, developers, local government and so on. They all say the same thing because this process is how they got there in the first place.

There is no need for a conspiracy, merely a signalling game formed via think-tanks and press-releases. Because they are the ones in power, they can justify their position much more easily, hence the difficulty in getting traction.

(aside, it is a standard debating tactic to criticize your enemy for those aspects you see as a weakness in yourself. Thus the claim that public transport advocates have their snout in the trough is probably a reflection of their own fear of being found out.)

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Alon, is that everywhere or just where they can? And is it a stripe in the road or a real barrier? We find here in San Francisco that stripes don't really work.

NJH, I had a feeling toast was just joshing us. I don't really think its a conspiracy either, just a well formed money making machine.

Matt Fisher said...

Perhaps to justify more lanes, they must be telling us that it's in our best interests. I say, not in mine! :)

Anonymous said...

Though it still sounds like the loading the deck tactics that Cox or O'Toole use.

Alon Levy said...

Pan, it's a mixture. On Fordham, they're experimenting with physical separation. On other corridors, like Fifth Avenue, they just have painted bus lanes, but they crack down on cars violating the bus lanes. It's actually effective - the buses just cruise there.

The real crawlers in New York are the Manhattan crosstown buses. Even the wide crosstown streets in Manhattan have two lanes per direction, making exclusive bus lanes harder to implement than on the north-south avenues, which have four. In addition, the stop signals in Manhattan are designed to facilitate north-south traffic. Mind you, Fordham had three lanes per direction before it was redesigned for BRT, so it's more an issue of politics and conflicting signal priorities...

Matt Fisher said...

I'm skeptical of a number of BRT proposals. For instance, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, they are proposing a busway in where I think there should be LRT (but not of the highest end, maybe?), as a supposedly cheaper substitute. The thing is, BRT proponents ignore that Winnipeg is the home of the headquarters of a major bus manufacturer, New Flyer Industries.

If this were the case, they could try to follow a model as used by the trams in Strasbourg. But that's my opinion.