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Posts from the Transit Category

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Greater Boston’s Bus Transformation

Greater Boston’s bus system is undergoing a long overdue transformation. From redesigning the network to pursuing electrification to completely re-imagined streets primed for better bus service, the experience for thousands of daily riders in the region is looking better than it has in decades. The evolution of bus lanes and BRT elements is visible throughout the region in municipalities like Somerville, Everett, Chelsea and Boston where street are transforming to support public health and an integrated transit system as a pandemic recovery strategy as well as to combat climate change, traffic congestion and to build a better, more equitable region.

Massachusetts is emerging as a national transit champion by giving street space to the bus and looking to build BRT, even as there is more work ahead to connect gaps in the network. Leadership from elected officials, community members and other regional collaborators has turbo-charged all the bus improvement projects, showcasing what can be done in only a few years and inspiring a future that prioritizes buses and the people who rely on them.

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Bus Lane in Bloom: Flower Street and the Urgency of Speeding Up LA Bus Service

Slow, unreliable bus service is a major problem for transit riders in Los Angeles. Since 1994, average LA Metro bus speeds have dropped more than 12 percent. Bus riders account for nearly three-quarters of all LA Metro fixed-route transit trips, but bus ridership is steadily falling.

While LA has a few bus lanes, they are sparse, and implementation has typically proceeded at a snail’s pace. For a city where so many residents ride buses bogged down in traffic -- and whose mayor, Eric Garcetti, now leads the global coalition of “climate mayors” -- bus lanes should be much more extensive.

Over the summer, LA transit riders caught a glimpse of what a more urgent approach to prioritizing bus service can do. With a large section of the Blue Line light rail shut down for rehabilitation, LA Metro and LA DOT, encouraged by LA Councilmember Mike Bonin, quickly implemented a 1.8-mile bus lane segment on Flower Street to speed trips for as many as 70 southbound buses per hour during the evening rush.

The bus lane transformed a frustrating slog into satisfying service, shaving time off bus trips and substantially improving reliability. Even with light rail repairs wrapped up and trains back in service, Flower Street remains a major bus corridor, and officials are evaluating whether to make the bus lane permanent. Beyond Flower Street, LA Metro and LA DOT are in the early stages of planning a more comprehensive bus lane network. As Tafarai Bayne, chief strategist with CicLAvia, explains in this Streetfilm, riders on major bus streets like Vermont and Western urgently need dedicated transit lanes too

One of the lessons of Flower Street is that faster implementation of bus priority projects is possible, providing a template for accelerating bus lane rollout throughout the transit network. In this Streetfilm, advocates, agency officials, and Councilmember Bonin discuss how the Flower Street approach could translate to faster bus service on other streets in and around Los Angeles.

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The Smashing Success of NYC’s 14th Street Busway (featuring Zardoz)

Since just about everyone around the world has been asking where is Streetfilms' coverage of the 14th Street Busway, the true answer has basically been: just about everyone else did such a pretty good job documenting (and mostly loving) it, that I really felt this one didn't need my input or care. The world really is changing. And social media - particularly Twitter - really branded it a great change for the city on Day One: for transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists using the corridor.

But then my kid found and starting playing with this sock puppet from over 10 years ago. And, well, Zardoz, our fun and enthusiastic sock puppet correspondent was born.

From 6am thru 10pm only buses, trucks, delivery vehicles and EMS/FDNY are able to use it as a thru route. All others must turn off after only traveling one block. This still allows for drivers and car services to access the entire street, but they need to exit which has led to a vast improvement of bus speeds. But not only that but a more human environment. It can be very quiet at times. You can hear birds sing, people talk to each other. With due care you can easily cross the street almost anywhere on the corridor without fear of being killed.

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Downtown DC Bus Lanes to the Rescue

Like many large American cities, Washington is losing bus ridership as transit speeds slow and service falters. DC needs a bus turnaround, and you couldn’t pick a better place to start than H Street and I Street downtown.

These are two of DC’s busiest bus corridors, peaking at 70 buses an hour and serving routes that carry 20% of MetroBus ridership. But buses on these streets travel as slowly as 3.6 mph.
 
Enter the DC Department of Transportation’s red bus lanes.
 

This summer, DDOT is testing out a new approach to quickly implement bus priority treatments at low cost. The red lanes clear space for buses during peak hours on several blocks congested with car traffic. They cost only $10,000 but will speed trips for tens of thousands of riders.

 
In this Streetfilm, five members of the City Council joined DDOT staff and advocates with Greater Greater Washington to ride the bus lanes and experience the difference they make.
 
The H and I Street lanes are the latest entry in the growing practice of “tactical transit.” Though still relatively rare, a number of US transit agencies are testing out nimble implementation methods, using low-cost materials like paint and signage to increase the speed and reliability of bus trips practically in a matter of days.
 
In a city where other bus lanes have taken nearly a decade to implement, this project signals a much quicker way to deliver better service for bus riders and should serve as a model for many other bus priority improvements to come. 

 

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Utrecht’s Vredenburg is the busiest cycle path in all of The Netherlands!

In Utrecht you'll see the most mesmerizing site: Vredenburg carries 33,000 cyclists on an average day! 60% of trips into the city are by bike.  Private cars are banned from the road, all you will see is mega helpings of people on bikes, plus pedestrians, many bus lines and the very occasional taxi (taxis aren't very popular in Utrecht.)

On the plane ride home while going thru nearly 2,000 shots I took in Amsterdam and Utrecht, I realized so much of this good footage will not figure in the final product of my mega doc from Utrecht. So I thought best to put up a fun montage using some of the best shots. After all, I tweeted just one 30 second shot of footage overhead and that was watched nearly 400K times. So I figure there are probably many thousands that would love to just sit back and watch the bicycles flow by, sometimes their operators seemingly floating in air. If you go I warn you: one night I just sat for a half an hour sans camera taking it all in.

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Portland’s Tilikum Crossing: A Bridge for People, Not For Cars

In 2015, Portland, Oregon opened North Americas's longest car-free bridge The Tilikum Crossing, a bridge that allows travel for pedestrians, bikes and scooters as well as light rail, streetcars and buses!

It's a superb transportation marvel, not only elegant but it's surrounded by one of the most multi-modal places in the United States connecting logical routes not only right now but providing for the future as Portland's Southwest waterfront continues to go thru its ambitious development. It also connects to the equally exquisite aerial tram to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) which at its base boasts the largest bicycle valet service in North America!

Being around the area on a few summer days it's easy to see all this beauty and planned car-free options in action.

Here's Streetfilms' love letter to the Tilkum which easily makes the case for other cities considering transportation options near bodies of water. There are many great reasons to do it the same way. The bridge is nearly silent except for the periodic serenade of public transit. The footprint of the bridge is small since interconnecting off-ramps and large roads taking up valuable real estate is not needed, which in turn makes it much cheaper than a bridge with cars. The comfort for those using active transit (bikes and walking) was carefully considered with bike lanes on both sides, and wide pedestrian/running areas in either direction. Also, the fact that it can accommodate three different modes of transit: streetcars, light rail and three bus routes should be a huge selling point.

And the final wonderful feature: the LED lights on the span change colors based upon the temperature and water level of the Willamette River! Believe me on a beautiful summer night you want to stay on it forever.

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Transit Advocates Ask Albany to #FixTheSubway!

On Monday with Congestion Pricing still hanging in the balance and full funding of the MTA Capital Plan unknown, the Riders Alliance and advocates from many groups bussed up to Albany to talk to dozens of elected officials about the urgency of getting of getting it passed.

Riders Alliance held a press conference and had inventive, fun ways to interact with legislators, their staff and visitors in the capital, including giving out cans of sardines and parading a large bus around the halls.

StreetFilms
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Boston Area Bus Pilots Move Region Closer to BRT

It was a momentous 2018 year for bus riders in greater Boston as municipalities around the region took bold steps to pilot elements of BRT in collaboration with the MBTA. Empowered by grants from the Barr Foundation, the municipally led regional effort showcased small but salient service and street design improvements that garnered public and political support for better buses and the vision of Gold Standard BRT. The demonstrated BRT elements included dedicated bus lane segments, queue jumps, transit signal priority and level platforms, and were enhanced by creative art installations and community group partnerships.

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Transit Alliance: Moving Miami Forward

Transit in Miami is in shambles. Bus service is increasingly slow and unreliable and bus ridership is plunging in response. While use of Miami-Dade County’s lone rapid rail line has not fallen as drastically, transit officials are barely able to track their own service- including numerous missed train runs per day. Despite this, county officials endlessly debate where to build expensive new rail lines, with barely a nod to the transit system’s obvious problems.

Enter Transit Alliance Miami. In just two years, the organization has developed data to illustrate the depth of Miami-Dade’s transit crisis and has started to develop an agenda to take the region forward. It begins with reversing the decline in today’s bus system, not with billions for new rail lines that would be delivered to an inept operation. If Miami can fix its transportation institutions and really deliver on the service it already offers, the foundation for future transit expansion will be far more secure.

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Sustainable Transport Superheroes Swap Notes

In the midst of a record number of pilots in Massachusetts showcasing how bus service can be improved to actually provide rapid transit, two advocates fighting to bring transport justice sit down to swap wisdom about what it takes to transform transportation. Rehana Moosajee, former City Councilor and Head of the Mayoral Committee for Transport from Johannesburg, who oversaw implementation of Africa's first BRT - Rea Vaya, and Michelle Wu, a progressive sustainable transport champion on the Boston City Council, join in a conversation. This interview between two sustainable transport superheros demonstrates how city leaders can galvanize change.
StreetFilms
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Los Angeles: The Great American Transit Experiment

Los Angeles is in the midst of building an unprecedented number of rail transit projects. Some are slated for potentially high ridership parts of LA’s urban core. Others are more dubious.

Today, transit use is down. Bus ridership is falling sharply. Rail use is flat despite strong ridership on the Expo Line, the city’s newest rail transit. L.A. is taking steps to reorganize its bus routes, but needs a variety of major street and service policy changes to make buses more attractive.

Also missing in L.A. are efforts make the city more walkable and more dense that correspond in scale to the massive rail building program. The city and region also still heavily cater to cars when decisions about transportation priorities need to be made.

“What we as a region have not yet done is have the sort of political fights that really make a transit system effective. Which are not fights over money but fights over space,” says UCLA professor Mike Manville.

StreetFilms
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Binge on Streetfilms shorts/excerpts from Barcelona, Seville & London!

When I take a trip (especially to Europe) I usually plan for a specific Streetfilm to make in each city. For example, here were my identified goals for my recent 8-day loop thru Barcelona (Super Blocks), Seville (History of Bike Lanes) and London (their Bike Superhighways and more).

But as is almost always the case, when in Europe I see lots of cool transportation thingys or nifty practices I can't resist even in the midst of documenting my main goals. So it happens, I grab a few shots and turn them into shorties or just a bit of a montage that I hope people might find useful or enlightening.

Let's start in Barcelona where I fell in love with trams on grass. Why? Because I just do that (see here). Anyway, while organizing my video to edit the Super Blocks film, I realized I also had grabbed more bicycling video in my two hour bike rental than I thought. So I knitted together this montage that went quite viral on Facebook. (Hmmm....maybe should have spent another day to ride with some bike advocates?)

Now let's jump to Seville which has an incredible bicycling story of going from nearly zero riders to closing in on 10% after installing a full network. This link is the main Streetfilm I posted which is nearing about 75,000 plays combined on Vimeo, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

But I got lots more story than that, especially some useful clips that were cut from the body of my Streetfilm for time that I repurposed as cutting room floor teasers! Above this paragraph is a short on how residents navigate the tram tracks to reposition themselves on the other side of the cycle track by following medallions/markers inserted on the pavers in the historic downtown.

Also above is a direct trim from the feature attraction featuring Manuel Calvo Salazar that I felt might be useful to planners or advocates showing how Seville positioned its bike lanes behind the many bus stops on its major roads. So that proved popular. And then below I had a few cute shots of kids on rollerblades going out on the protected bike lanes, showing how safe residents feel they are despite the narrowness in many areas.

And finally, I am also editing down my London footage as well to prepare a nice film looking at the popularity of the Bicycle Superhighway system. But wouldn't you know it, I also just happened to be in town the day a brand new public space years in the making debuted. So it was off with Iain Simmons the Assistant Director of City Transportation for the City Of London to check it out. I mean, how could I refuse even with an absolutely insanely booked schedule?

Look for my final films from Barcelona and London coming in the next few weeks!  Until then, I hope you enjoy some of this output already.  And here below is the Seville feature film if you haven't checked it out as of yet.

StreetFilms
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How Seville Handles Where Bus Stops and Protected Bike Lanes Meet

If you're jonesing for more Seville on top of the full-length Streetfilm about the city's rapidly growing protected bike lane network, here's a segment for you.

For cities considering protected bike lanes on streets that also have bus routes, this short video shows how Seville thought through the problem of making bus riders and cyclists visible to each other at bus stops.

StreetFilms
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A Street is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Boston’s Newest Bus Lane

Each weekday, half a dozen bus routes carrying 19,000 riders travel the 1.2-mile stretch of Washington Street to the Forest Hill Orange Line Station. Most people on the street at rush hour are riding in buses. Until May, the bus commute was usually slow and unreliable. When Mayor Walsh and the Boston Transportation Department converted a parking lane on Washington Street into a pilot bus lane during the morning rush hour, all of that changed. Bus travel time improvements were noticeable immediately.

Mayor Walsh announced on June 7th that the Washington Street bus lane would be made permanent, with the pilot lane marked by cones to be reinstated next week.

LivableStreets is working with the City to deploy more bus lane pilots like Washington Street throughout the city. To learn more visit www.livablestreets.info

StreetFilms
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A Year From L Train Shutdown, TransAlt Begins Series of Bike Trains

It's now a little less than a year from the imminent 15-month closure of the L train which will impact at least a 1/4 million daily subway riders. So Transportation Alternatives kicked off their first of many "bike train" rides in order to educate, cajole and help residents feel safer in attempting cycling to work.