Public Transit
October 23, 2013

Annals of Transit 14: BRT trumps LRT … Hong Kong genius … UN report

An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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THE TECHNOLOGY DEBATE: BRT VS LRT

From Forbes

Bus rapid transit, in which buses in dedicated lanes perform like rail lines, can not only spur development, but can do so far more efficiently than light rail and streetcars, according to a study due out later this month from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. …

“Per dollar of transit investment, and under similar conditions, BRT can leverage more (development) investment than LRT or streetcars.”

The institute’s report is scheduled to be available Sept. 27 here.

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THE UNIQUE GENIUS OF HONG KONG’S TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM

From The Atlantic:

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation … is considered the gold standard for transit management worldwide. In 2012, the MTR produced revenue of 36 billion Hong Kong Dollars (about U.S $5 billion)—turning a profit of $2 billion in the process.

How can Hong Kong afford all of this?  The answer is deceptively simple: “Value Capture.”

Like no other system in the world, the MTR understands the monetary value of urban density—in other words, what economists call “agglomeration.”  … The Hong Kong metro essentially functions as part of a vertically integrated business that, through a “rail plus property” model,  controls both the means of transit and the places passengers visit upon departure. …

This model of transit management works partly because Hong Kong is a closed system: There are no suburbs from which people can commute by car, so there are strong incentives for everyone within the territory to use the system. This feature, combined with other regulations, has kept car ownership low: 6 of every 100 vehicles in Hong Kong are for personal use, whereas the number in the U.S. is closer to 70.

More here.

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MORE THAN JUST MOVEMENT

Planning and Design for Sustainable Urban Mobility argues that … urban planning and design should focus on how to bring people and places together, by creating cities that focus on accessibility, rather than simply increasing the length of urban transport infrastructure or increasing the movement of people or goods.

Urban form and the functionality of the city are therefore a major focus of this report, which highlights the importance of integrated land-use and transport planning.

DOWNLOAD: (7,323 Kb)

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An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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CONSERVATIVE POSITION: INVEST IN TRANSIT

From DC Streetsblog:

Here’s a refreshing take on metropolitan economic health from the right side of the aisle: The conservative Free Congress Foundation says it’s time America got serious about investing in transit in its metro areas.

This think tank, founded by conservative Paul Weyrich (also co-founder of the Heritage Foundation), released a report [PDF]  last week extolling the economic benefits of transit investment and healthy  cities. The Free Congress Foundation is also holding congressional hearings on  its findings on the Hill, bringing some much-needed conservative support for  walkable, connected cities to Washington politics.

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WOULD THIS WORK FOR US?
From the New York Times:
The Austrian capital is switching from buses powered by liquefied petroleum gas to a novel, first-of-its-kind fleet of electric buses that run unplugged, go anywhere, and recharge their batteries using the overhead power lines of older trams. Twelve of the buses, each of which can carry 40 passengers, are in service. …
The red and white buses partly recharge in 10 to 15 minutes between runs by pulling into an existing tram station and hooking up to electric current via a pantograph, an arm on the roof that carries the electricity. While electricity itself is not environmentally friendly unless it comes from renewable sources, city officials figure the buses — which are made by the Rampini company in Perugia, Italy — will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions 300 tons a year.
At night, the batteries recharge fully at the depot. Because the buses have modest range requirements, they use a smaller battery, which makes them lighter and less expensive than those that require larger batteries.

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BART STRIKE: RIDE-SHARING BOOMS

Transit strikes can have impacts far beyond the duration of the strike.  In Vancouver it resulted in a spike in cycling that continued after the settlement.  In San Francisco, the current BART strike has resulted in a massive boom in ride sharing made possible by new technology.  Here’s an example from Avigo:

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8,825 % Growth in Ridesharing Activity During BART Strike

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That could mean a lot of customers not coming back to BART, and potential growth of ride-sharing in other markets as word gets out and the technology is scaled up.

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An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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THE BRUTAL STATE OF TRANSIT IN THE STATES

As told here.  And has ramifications in our territory too:

Many bus drivers no longer work full time. And a loophole in federal law exempts intercity bus drivers from Fair Labor Standards Act overtime provisions, which, in essence, forces many of them to work second jobs during their “rest periods” to survive financially.

There were some 3,000 bus companies in the country four decades ago. Today there are 152,000. Most of these companies have only a few buses. Companies such as Fung Wah, with its $15 fares for trips between Boston and New York, often have no vehicle maintenance plans. They do not use central fuel depots, instead buying fuel on the highway so there is no record of their mileage. Fung Wah was pulled off the road in February after a series of crashes.

Public transportation is increasingly part of the underground economy. Working conditions are punishing and often unsafe. When Fung Wah’s fleet of 28 buses was finally grounded a few weeks ago, for example, it was revealed that three-quarters of the vehicles had cracks in the frames. Three times as many passengers and workers over the last five years were killed in bus accidents than plane crashes.

The driver for one Canadian bus company, Mi Joo Tour & Travel, crashed in Oregon last Dec. 30 after falling asleep at the wheel, killing nine people and injuring 39. The driver, it was discovered, had driven 92 hours in the seven days before the crash. These fly-by-night bus companies, union officials say, are little more than “sweatshops on wheels.”

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TRANSIT AND GENTRIFICATION IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Two hot topics.  A series in Transportation Nation, looks at How Transit Is Shaping the Gentrification of D.C.  Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.
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 SILLY SUBARU
Here is an ad that Subaru ran in Metro – the paper that is distributed to public transit users. Maybe this is from the same brilliant minds that brought us GM’s “Creeps and Weirdos” ad.

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UBC’s Alma Mater Society is hosting a community forum on the future of transit on the Broadway corridor. Featured speakers include Claire Havens (SFU Carbon Talks), Karen Fung (Vancouver Public Space Network), Yuri Artibise (Yurbanism), and Arno Schortinghuis (HUB).
Details and registration here.
 
When: Thursday, May 2 / 6:30-9:30 pm
Where: Hollywood Theatre, 3123 West Broadway

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An occasional update on items from the Transit City.

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NO ALLY AT THE TRANSLINK BOARD

Mayor Corrigan on the TransLink Board:

At the inaugural Metro Vancouver Transportation Committee meeting last week, Mayors Corrigan (Burnaby) and Brodie (Richmond) expressed frustration to Robert Paddon, Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning and Public Affairs, TransLink that the TransLink Board hasn’t stepped up to help with trying to get more funding from the province.

Corrigan said, “The board hasn’t been much of an ally at all. Members of the board are not seen pounding the pavement. The board just puts out plans asking for more funding.”

Unfortunately, Corrigan is right: the TransLink Board collectively and individually have not spent their social or political capital to promote the need for serious transit funding in this region.  Their failure, in the absence of any other leadership, makes them, by default, managers of decline – or worse, an impediment.

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DOES TRANSIT RELEIVE CONGESTION?
From Atlantic Cities:
The idea that public transportation relieves road congestion is both logical and popular, but the evidence for it is decidedly mixed. The “fundamental law of road congestion,” for instance, suggests that transit fails to relieve traffic because latent demand for road space is so great. …
That debate just got a lot more interesting with some new work (via Paul Krugman) by Berkeley scholar Michael Anderson, who argues that “the net benefits of transit systems appear to be much larger than previously believed.” By analyzing the impact of a Los Angeles transit strike in 2003, Anderson found that congestion did decrease considerably — but only on roads that paralleled heavy transit corridors. He suggests that previous research has focused too much on general metro traffic and not enough on the specific roads that transit is most likely to influence:

The intuition is straightforward: Transit is most attractive to commuters who face the worst congestion, so a disproportionate number of transit riders are commuters who would otherwise have to drive on the most congested roads at the most congested times. Since drivers on heavily congested roads have a much higher marginal impact on congestion than drivers on the average road, transit has a large impact on reducing traffic congestion. …

Anderson then extrapolates his findings to show the economic benefit of public transit to the city. Using some back-of-the-envelope calculations, he says the congestion relief provided by the Los Angeles system ranges between $1.2 billion and $4.1 billion per year. In other words, the high cost of constructing transit systems come with considerable economic gains. Anderson concludes:

Contrary to the conclusions in the existing transportation and urban economics literature, the congestion relief benefits alone may justify transit infrastructure investments.

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 CARRY ON … UNDERGROUND

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The Mayor of Calgary, quoted in The Globe:
Look, I’ll be a rhetorical politician for a minute: Investments in public transit are among the very best investments any government can make.
Think about all the benefits that accrue from that: There are environmental benefits. There are real benefits in congestion savings, which means you’re giving citizens back time that has been stolen from them. Transit is also an investment in social mobility, because if you make it easier to live and work and go to school without needing your own car, suddenly you open up the ability to participate in the economy to far more people.
But I think our provincial and federal governments have often seen transit as being at the bottom of the list.

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From Cllr. Geoff Meggs:
The Broadway Corridor has North America’s busiest bus line through British Columbia’s second largest downtown core leading to our largest university. Thousands of riders are passed up daily, and users report waits of up to five busses to get on board. To keep our economy and our population moving forward, we need better transit solutions for Broadway.
Join Mayor Gregor Robertson and me on Sunday March 10 from 2pm to 4pm at St James Community Hall to discuss how to move forward on our top regional transit priority: a Broadway Subway to UBC.
Mayor Gregor Robertson and I will go over the history of the Broadway transit corridor, our options moving forward and how we can realize a solution. We will then invite questions from the audience so we can begin a dialogue about how to get the Provincial and Federal governments on board with a Broadway Subway.
What: Public Forum on a Subway along Broadway
Where: St James Community Hall – 3214 W 10th Ave
When: Sunday March 10, 2pm-4pm
Sign up today as seating is limited.

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An occasional update on items from the Transit City – The Health Issue.

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HEALTHY TRANSPORT: BRITISH VERSION
There are lots of reports out there on the benefits of active transportation – namely, walking and cycling.  Not so much on transit.
A new report from the British Medical Association takes that on:

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Public transport
Combining active travel and public transport options can help people achieve recommended daily physical activity levels.  And public transport is the most sustainable for longer journeys, yet it can be more expensive and less convenient.  And in rural areas travel infrastructure and public transport present real problems.

Download here.
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HEALTHY TRANSIT: AMERICAN VERSION

Victoria’s Todd Littman does a synthesis for the American Public Transit Association here.

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HEALTHY TRANSIT: CANADIAN VERSION
And the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s short summary:

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BONUS ITEM

A PowerPoint on Journey to Work by Public Transit and Physical Activity in the Neighborhood Quality of Life Study from UBC’s Active Transportation Collaboratory.

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Thanks to Josh van Loon.

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Jonathan Cote, a New Westminster City Councillor and SFU Urban Studies student, is combining work and study – and he needs some advice:

The City of New Westminster recently developed a Frequent Transit Network Walkshed map through its Master Transportation planning process.  The map highlights all properties in the city that are within a five-minute walking distance from a frequent transit bus stop and a 10 minute walking distance from a Skytrain station.

I wrote a small post about this on the Urban Studies blog here.

From a planning perspective the map is interesting because it can easily illustrate which areas of the city have easy access to transit and which places may be more car dependent. This type of map also provides a very clear visual on where cities should consider growth and equally important where cities should limit growth.

So Jonathan asks:

I was wondering if you have any application ideas on how this kind of map could be used?  I think this map could be a very interesting planning tool and it would be great to get any feedback.

And I’m passing the question along to readers.  Any ideas?

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