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Posts tagged "BRT"

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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.
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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.

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Unsustainable: Traffic 2018

New York is facing its most serious transportation challenge in decades.

Subway reliability is way down, and the bus system is shedding riders at an alarming rate. And because transit is so unreliable, today New York is accommodating growth in cars, in the form of the tens of thousands of Uber and Lyft vehicles we now find on our streets each day.

It's difficult to even list all the reasons why shifting transportation growth into cars in New York City is a bad thing. Choking the economy with congestion, safety concerns, making slow bus service even worse, poorer air quality - you name it.

For our latest Streetfilm, we spoke with leaders in New York's transportation, labor and business communities to get their take on this alarming trend - a problem "screaming for a solution."

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Meet Some of the “100 Most Influential Urbanists” via Streetfilms!

Recently, Planetizen named their 100 Most Influential Urbanists of all-time, based on public voting off of a list of 200 nominees. Jane Jacobs won. As she should have.

Whether you believe the list is correct or has some people ranked too kindly or not at all, it has been circulating like mad on Facebook and other social media. Of course, when I took a look at the list, my first thought was how cool it was that Streetfilms had interviewed or featured dozens of them.  So if you want to learn or see many of these individuals in action, take a gander at the films below!

2. Jamie Lerner

The renowned urban planner became mayor of Curitiba and implemented their BRT system which we explore in this popular Streetfilm. But I selected the more intimate video we did on the story of Curitiba's first pedestrian street since it has lots of him.

 

4. Jan Gehl

In fact, there are many Streetfilms that have featured Gehl over the years. The film below is one of four I made - in five days - while in Copenhagen in 2010.  But our first with him was the most important: an influential video we cut of him  evaluating a horribly un-friendly-to-people Times Square in 2005 with Mark Gorton! In many ways it helped ignite the livable streets renaissance that NYC has been moving towards since.

 

10. Charles Mahron

About five years ago, Streetfilms first met Chuck, and we could tell he was an original thinker with ideas about our cities we needed to help spread. I thought he would make an interesting subject and followed him to a few cities.

 

12. William H. Whyte

Holly Whyte passed before I became deeply immersed making videos about urbanism and transportation. But since I always admired the simple language he used in his book "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces", I wanted to honor him with this montage of my favorite shots that matched the words in his book.

 

13. Donald Shoup

The undisputed expert of parking policy was part of our plan early on to highlight how ample free parking was a hurdle to having better cities. We interviewed him the first time he came to NYC and the 2nd time we did I decided it was time to take out some matchbox cars and show visually some of his concepts.

 

16. Janette Sadik-Khan

As NYC DOT Commissioner, we were perfectly positioned to watch the meteoric rise of Janette Sadik-Khan and how she introduced progressive public space initiatives and changed Times Square, Madison Square & brought us Summer Streets and more! She easily holds the record for appearing in more Streetfilms than any other person and  you might as well chalk all of this up to her,  Here we feature one of her first sit down interviews in 2008 with Mark Gorton about her work.

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The New Bus Campaigners

Half of transit trips in America are made on buses.

But over the past several years, nearly every major US city has witnessed dramatic declines in bus ridership.

Some blame may go to low gas prices and new services like Uber. But transit advocates think bus service is declining because of longstanding policy neglect, and that something can and ought to be done about it. They’re pushing elected officials and transit agencies to apply changes like bus lanes, all-door boarding and traffic signal priority.

These kinds of policy changes require political attention and will, which will only be obtained through a groundswell of public support. To give voice to bus riders, a new generation of bus campaigners are now canvassing buses, bus stops, and transit hubs to hear from and organize riders. We were able to spend some time with organizations in New York City (Riders Alliance), Boston (LivableStreets) and Chicago (Active Transportation Alliance) to find out what is new there and how they are encouraging volunteers and city leaders to make improvements to their systems.

Buses are a relatively inexpensive and flexible form of transit that American cities could be making much better use of. Thanks to many new advocacy campaigns, we think we’ll see buses turning around.

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Checking out Silver Line Demo in Boston and more!

For the second year in a row, Streetfilms is working closely with TransitCenter to produce a series of videos about how people are organizing, planning, and winning better transit in American cities.

As such, I was recently in Boston talking to the Livable Streets Alliance about what they and their many local partners are doing to help speed up bus service. I happened to be in town during the two-week Silver Line Demo, a trial period during which riders can board the bus at all three doors, not just at the front.

As you can see, it was a rather dramatic change:

When I travel, I usually notice a heck of a lot more than what I am on assignment to document. So I grab what I can. While waiting for a meeting on this trip, I found myself wandering around Boston's car-free Downtown Crossing during lunch hour. It's always been a comfortable public space, and it keeps getting better.

Here's a short montage of people out in the middle of the day:

While in Cambridge getting some footage of buses, I came across what I'm calling a "sidewalk-assist" Copenhagen left turn. It's not the first one I've seen by any stretch, but I had enough time to get good footage showing it in action. The intersection is very difficult for cyclists, and it's great to have this option if you feel you need it:

The entire intersection is complicated, with lots of people walking and biking to a major transit station nearby. There are L-O-N-G wait times for a green light, no matter how you're getting around. If I had transportation superpowers, I would make one of the connecting streets car-free to create a more regular intersection and get a new pedestrian plaza in the bargain.

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NYC Buses: Time for a Turnaround

New Yorkers take 2.5 million rides on the city's buses every day. While NYC's buses provide essential transit, especially in areas beyond the reach of the subway, they are among the nation's slowest and least reliable.

Now a coalition of transit advocates are promoting practical strategies to improve the performance of NYC buses systemwide.

Transit advocates knew something was wrong when they observed declining bus ridership despite increasing population, a growing economy, and record-high subway ridership. To figure out what could be done about it, they spoke to industry experts and researched successful efforts in peer cities to identify common sense solutions to NYC's bus problems. This research is summarized in their report "Turnaround: Fixing New York City's Buses".

The bus system faces big challenges, but these challenges have clear, proven solutions. By transforming how riders get on and off the bus, designing streets to prioritize buses, adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule, and redesigning the bus network and routes, policy makers in city government and the MTA can turn around the decline of the city's buses and attract riders back to the system.

We'll get to see how serious public officials are about tackling these problems on October 6, when the City Council transportation committee holds an oversight hearing on how to improve the quality of NYC bus service.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the second in a series of four films examining transit in American cities. If you enjoyed this one, check out the first film, "High Frequency: Why Houston is Back on the Bus."

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The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

Just when you think you've seen everything in the transportation world, you encounter something different. That happened to me on an infrastructure tour in Cambridge, England, when my guides showed be this guided busway.

The video only shows a short segment of The Busway, but it's fascinating. The wheels of the bus run between grooved concrete slabs along an old rail line. The system also handles drainage without burdening the sewers: Stormwater is absorbed by the ground.

At 16 miles, the Cambridge guided busway is the longest one in the world. Bus speeds can reach up to 55 mph.

A busy biking and walking path runs right next to the route. You won't find railings separating the busway from the trail. There's no honking or flashing lights like you would find in the USA -- just common sense.

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Talking with Guillermo Dietrich, Buenos Aires’ Head of Transport

A few months ago, I was fortunate to spend a few days observing the tremendous street changes that have occurred in Buenos Aires (documented in our Streetfilm above). I also got to meet and interview Guillermo Dietrich, the architect and force behind shaping a city that has dramatically improved transit (via MetroBus BRT), walking (with 100 blocks of 6 mph shared streets in the downtown) and bicycling by adding miles of bike lanes & a free bike share system (Mejor en Bici). The Streetfilm has been very successful and I thought it'd be good to follow up with some questions to help fill in more of the Dietrich's personal story.

1 - You’ve accomplished a remarkable transformation in Buenos Aires in the last five years. Where did you get your inspiration from to change the streets?  

A lot of our work is based on international experience but always adapting solutions to our own reality.

To build the on- street protected cycle network we took as reference the examples of different cities such as Bogotá, Barcelona and Paris, among others. Those examples were crucial when planning the network, however the design itself is of our own authorship. Every city is different, each place has its own topographic characteristics. Plannification must take in consideration of those qualities.

The improvement and increase of pedestrian areas in order to encourage walking is based on what is called pedestrian “desire lines”. The study of the desire lines is an international tendency adopted by cities like New York, London, San Pablo, Madrid and Tokio, among others.

One of our main aims is the priority of public transport. We had introduced a network of Bus Rapid Transit that was inspired in different experiences around the world, especially in Latino America such as Bogotá or Curitiba. However we came out with our own brand: “Metrobus”. The critical components of a well-planned BRT solution are the importance of political will and support, flexibility (not all BRT corridors are the same) and an open mind in listening to the points of view of all stakeholders involved.

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Guillermo Dietrich (center) with Clarence Eckerson Jr. (left, Streetfilms) and Paula Bisiau (right, Director of Healthy Mobility)

2 - Metrobus BRT has dramatically changed the way people get around Buenos Aires and has cut commuting times. Are you seeing evidence of residents switching from driving to transit?

In order to decrease the use of cars we need to offer alternatives. That's why one of our sustainable mobility plan’s objectives is the priority of public transport, which it is the most efficient transport mode.  Over the last six years the percentage of people who use cars as their main transport mode has decreased from 17% in 2008 vs 12% now.

 3 - Speaking of driving, prior to being Head of Transport, you were the CEO of Dietrich, one of Argentina’s largest car dealerships.  When you took this job how did your view of streets change?  

During my time at Dietrich, naturally, my work was framed in the enterprise’s search for profit. We were selling cars, and I worked to accomplish that objective. However, when I decided to be part of the Government, my work shifted in a total different direction. Being in charge of the Transport Department my main aim is to improve citizens way of moving. At the beginning of this journey I understood that public space and streets are for people. When we (myself and Transport Department team) started with the sustainable mobility plan we knew that public transport should be a priority, and that some cars use would be discouraged. Why? Because it’s the way that most people choose to travel around the city (more than 80% of Buenos Aires citizens). Working in public sector involves the pursuit of common good.

4 - Is there advice you can give other cities struggling to more fairly balanced their modes of transportation?  Any advice on what to say to drivers? 

Wherever you go you´ll find congestion. Car drivers must know that traffic increases every year. This is impossible to avoid. There is no city in the world where congestion does not increase. That's why we need to encourage rational use of cars. To accomplish that aim, we must offer citizens less polluting and more efficient transport systems. Metrobus, and our bike sharing system are both part of that work.

Today it's beyond debate whether we should or shouldn’t encourage public transport as a priority. Our policy is to reward people who chooses transport modes that are less polluting, more economic and more efficient than particular cars.DSC08331

 5 - What are a few things we can look forward to in the coming years from Buenos Aires?

In 2015 Buenos Aires will launch four new Metrobus corridors in order to reach 56 km that will connect the main transport hubs of the city. We have already worked on the renovation of two important hubs and we will continue working to transform three new ones.

We will also expand our bike sharing system. In the short term, we will be installing new infrastructure and technology in order to respond the exponential growth of trips and demand for public bicycles. Technology is also being used to optimize our traffic light system. We have six control centers from which we monitor lights. For example, we can expand green light in order to avoid congestion. We will be adding technological tools to improve the whole system.

Regarding urban mobility, we are studing different car sharing systems around the world. We want Buenos Aires to have its own system with electric cars.

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Buenos Aires: Building a People-Friendly City

Buenos Aires is fast becoming one of the most admired cities in the world when it comes to reinventing streets and transportation.

Just over a year ago, the city launched MetroBus BRT (constructed in less than seven months) on 9 de Julio Avenue, which may be the world's widest street. The transformation of four general traffic lanes to exclusive bus lanes has yielded huge dividends for the city and is a bold statement from Mayor Mauricio Macri about how Buenos Aires thinks about its streets. More than 650,000 people now ride MetroBus every day, and it has cut commutes in the city center from 50-55 minutes to an incredible 18 minutes.

That's not the only benefit of this ambitious project. The creation of MetroBus freed up miles of narrow streets that used to be crammed with buses. Previously, Buenos Aires had some pedestrian streets, but moving the buses to the BRT corridor allowed the administration to create a large network of shared streets in downtown where pedestrians rule. On the shared streets, drivers aren't permitted to park and the speed limit is an astonishingly low 10 km/h. Yes, that is not a misprint -- you're not allowed to drive faster than 6 mph!

Bicycling has also increased rapidly in the past four years -- up from 0.5 percent mode share to 3 percent mode share and climbing. Ecobici is the city's bike-share system which is expanding to 200 stations in early 2015. Oh, and add this amazing fact: Ecobici is free for all users for the first hour.

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Transportation Videos & Photos from Montevideo & Buenos Aires!

I was very fortunate to be able to take a long vacation to South America and was in the cities of Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Asuncion. Of course with me a vacation can never be truly 100% relaxing when there is transportation observations to be made and I was able to squeeze in some Streetfilms work here and there.  Here are some short videos and photos with commentary.

The first video above (apologies for some sound, it was a very impromptu shoot without using all my gear) is from Montevideo, Uruguay. I was very surprised to see so much bicycling and very new bike infrastructure. And also: bike share! My wife and I had a few hours to rent bikes and were able to meet up with Matias Kalwill, creator of the app Bikestorming which aims to increase urban bicycling, who took us for a very quick city loop. I thought viewers would be happy to experience biking in another country, even if not given the usual Streetfilms treatment.

Public Space Takeover! While in Buenos Aires (an official Streetfilm on their MetroBus and other transportation accomplishments coming soon) we were fortunate to capture residents flooding the Avenida 9 de Julio (widest Avenue in the world) to celebrate Argentina advancing to the World Cup final. How exciting it was to be in the middle of it as it all occurred. Instant public space by the people!

Speaking of Avenida 9 de Julio (which is where Buenos Aires' MetroBus BRT runs) coincidentally we happened to be there on July 9th which is a national holiday. They had many car-free celebrations and festivals. They had some vintage buses to check out. I grabbed the above footage for all you bus nerds out there. Read more...

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Mark Gorton’s Rethinking The Automobile Talk Tours India

Mark Gorton is not only the co-founder of Streetfilms, he is an information technology and finance entrepreneur. His success is well recognized in India and drew crowds for his presentation, "Rethinking the Automobile: Lessons from 100 years of Urban Experience with the Automobile” by India's top thinkers, business leaders, and information technology students. In a week-long tour, organized by the Institute for Transport Development Policy, Gorton made stops in Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad, generating a buzz in the media about the harmful impacts of automobile dependency.

Mark was able to share his ideas and lessons learned from the Livable Streets movement in New York.  Along the tour we were able to see and document best practices in Bus Rapid Transit and space allocation. Watch some of Mark's observations and reactions to India's changing transportation landscape.

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Medellín: Colombia’s Sustainable Transport Capital

For many who have heard of Medellín, Colombia, the name brings to mind the drug-related violence of the 1980s and 1990s, when it was often described as the most dangerous city in the world.

Over the last decade, Medellín has worked hard to change its image. The local government is investing in education and social programs, and the city recognizes the importance of providing an integrated public transportation system as the backbone of these projects.

Medellín is becoming famous for innovative sustainable transport. Recent efforts to modernize public transit, create better public spaces and improve safety are helping transform the city. These projects include the development of bus rapid transit (called MetroPlús) and the creation of a bike-share program -- new transportation elements that are integrated with existing metro and cable car systems. In addition, the city is building 1.6 million square meters of new public space.

Medellín was awarded the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award. Streetfilms partnered with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy to document some of the changes taking place in Medellín.

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Rethinking the Automobile (with Mark Gorton)

For more than 100 years New York City government policy has prioritized the needs of the automobile over the needs of any other mode of transport. Working under the faulty assumption that more car traffic would improve business, planners and engineers have systematically made our streets more dangerous and less livable. As a result, even the idea that a street could truly be a “place” – a shared space for human interaction and play – has been almost completely destroyed.

During his decade long effort to understand and improve the streets of New York City, entrepreneur and livable streets advocate Mark Gorton has gathered together a compelling set of examples of how transportation policy impacts the quality of our daily lives. Mark is regularly invited to speak in public about these issues.

In his current presentation “Rethinking the Automobile” Mark explores the history of autocentric planning and considers how New York and other cities can change. Filled with ample video footage of dozens of Streetfilms, we’ve worked with Mark to create a version of the presentation here.

As the founder of Streetfilms, Streetsblog, OpenPlans, and the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign, Gorton has been on the front lines of the battle to transform New York’s streets. But Mark is not done fighting. He contends that the recent improvements that have been implemented in New York should only be considered as the “tip of the iceberg” and that a truly comprehensive set of changes are still necessary.

For more on Mark’s continued efforts to make our world more equitable, livable, and safe visit www.rethinktheauto.org

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Build a Better Bridge: Why the Hudson Valley Wants Transit on the Tappan Zee

New York State is on the verge of one of the largest transportation projects in the nation - the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Hudson Valley residents, business owners, elected officials and environmental advocates participated in the State DOT’s ten-year, 280 meeting planning process. Through these meetings and millions of dollars of State studies, a consensus emerged that transit was a vital component of the Tappan Zee Bridge project.

According to the State’s own documents “Without major transit investments, already unacceptable levels of congestion are forecasted to occur in the corridor far into the future.”

In the fall of 2011 Governor Cuomo reversed course, deciding that the bridge project would move forward without transit. The State now proposes to build a $5 billion bridge that is twice as wide as the current bridge and provides no relief to the increasing traffic congestion that threatens to constrain the region’s growth and diminish quality of life in the villages and towns along the I-287 corridor.

Local leaders are joined by over 20 environmental, good government and labor groups in calling on Governor Cuomo to put transit back into the Tappan Zee Bridge project. This video shows how they are fighting for this once in a lifetime opportunity to relieve congestion in the I-287 corridor and local roads, improve air quality, achieve sustainability goals, and reduce motorist travel time.

The state is accepting public comment on its Tappan Zee DEIS until March 15th. You can find more information on upcoming public hearings on this project and to tell the Governor to put transit back into the project at www.brtonthebridge.org.