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Posts tagged "buses"

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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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Utrecht: Planning for People & Bikes, Not for Cars

Utrecht is a city with unbelievable momentum for altering how its city center integrates with people. They've been slowly pushing the car out for decades in favor of bicycling and transit. But in the last few years it has turned up the dial.

For one, they are removing multiple roadways and converting them to bikeways, featuring green spaces and restoring the city's canal which was removed in the 1970's for a highway. They are on the verge of having 33,000 bike spaces with the opening of a to-be 12,000 space facility under Utrecht Centraal, which you are legally allowed to bike thru! They are encouraging more bike use with new routes and the Dutch way of bicycle streets. And they have built the symbolic Dafne Schippersbrug, a technological feat of creative imagination that features a multi-use path that lands on top of a school.

You have got to see it all and that is one reason why this Streetfilm clocks in at 13+ minutes, the 2nd longest video we have produced of all time (only Groningen - also in the Netherlands - is longer).

It was such a joy bicycling around the city. Everything felt reachable by bike or transit. That's why 98% of residents own at least one bike and the city center boasts a 60% bike mode share. Transit abounds, whether it's buses, trains or trams (a new one is opening as we speak).

The lesson for the world is that Utrecht has put the health and well being of its citizens first, not car travel. That transportation plays an integral role in doing that so making traveling simple and easier by bike or bike/transit/walk combo is far better than having people driving around in metal boxes polluting, hogging road space and making it dangerous to road users. Cars create far more problems than they solve. And hopefully Utrecht can export that lesson to the world.

Sure, you cannot make your city become Utrecht overnight. It takes decades of planning and smart policy. But if your city isn't so friendly to people, bikes and transit you can get started today. And then maintain that commitment to change.

The most incredible thing I learned? Utrecht works so well that taxi/car service/Uber is hardly a thing there.

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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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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.

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Ride New Orleans: Setting the Transit Agenda

Since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the city's transit recovery has been sluggish and asymmetrical. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) made the decision to prioritize streetcar restoration and expansion at the expense of bus service, limiting economic mobility for residents. As a result, even today the average New Orleanian with a car can reach 86 percent of the region’s jobs in 30 minutes or less, but the average New Orleanian relying on transit can only reach 11 percent of those jobs in the same time period.

The advocacy group Ride New Orleans formed in 2009 out of a growing sense that the comfort of the average New Orleanian wasn't being prioritized by the RTA. In just a few short years, the group is already setting the transit agenda. Ride has organized bus riders into a powerful force, releasing influential State of Transit reports and sparking policy changes at the RTA such as increased bus frequency and overnight service.

But perhaps most importantly, they've strengthened communication channels between riders and the transit agency. The RTA recently released its Strategic Mobility Plan with a specific to do list of improvements. It largely is informed by contributions from transit riders.

But don't just take our word for it - watch for yourself!

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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."

StreetFilms
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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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Oslo: The Journey to Car-Free

In 2015, the newly elected city government of Oslo, Norway, announced its intention to make the downtown car-free by 2019. I immediately put it on my list of places to check out for Streetfilms. Last fall I made the trip, not knowing exactly what I'd find.

There are a number of reasons Oslo is looking to shift away from driving and get cars out of downtown. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, and leaders see more efficient streets and transportation as essential to managing this growth. But the biggest factor is that air quality in Oslo and many places in Norway is deteriorating. In winter, especially, air pollution from diesel vehicles can reach dangerous levels and keep vulnerable children and seniors restricted indoors.

Oslo already has car-free blocks and car-light pedestrian zones that are full of people even late at night. And I knew it was a good sign when I stepped off the bus from the airport and immediately stumbled upon construction of a new rail line. But to make such a large area car-free entails going above and beyond a few projects here and there -- it takes a comprehensive strategy.

So Oslo is working toward its goal on many fronts. The city has been aggressively removing car parking, for instance, and by the end of 2017, expects to no longer have any on-street parking in the city core. Off-street parking is also being addressed -- all new developments are required to be car-free.

Ruter, the local transportation authority, plans to absorb all travel growth with buses, trains, and trams in addition to shifting some current car trips to transit. Car-share services are beginning to proliferate as more people go without a personal motor vehicle. Oh, and there's this nifty plan to help people pay for electric-assist cargo bikes!

Bike lanes are getting built or upgraded throughout the city. You won't find ample, Copenhagen-style protected bike lanes yet, but the on-going removal of car parking is clearing space for many wide, red curbside bike lanes. Despite the lack of true protection they feel safe, and unlike in the U.S., you will not find cars parking in them. Over four days, I probably could count the number of cars I saw blocking a bike lane on one hand.

The city's bike-share, Oslo Bysykkel, has recently been completely overhauled with more stations, better bicycles, and a more convenient user interface. You can unlock your bike by smart phone as you approach the station, just take it and go.

Will Oslo's city center go completely car-free by 2019? Momentum is certainly on the city's side. So sit back and take in these scenes of a city making ambitious changes to its streets, as well as interviews with public figures like Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen, who discusses why reducing the footprint of cars is so important to the future of her city. I hope you enjoy watching this Streetfilm -- I think it carries important implications for other cities around the world.

StreetFilms
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Riders First: How Buses Are Moving San Francisco Forward

The unsung hero of San Francisco is the humble city bus, which moves more than 400,000 people through the city every day. This didn’t happen by accident –  the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) have taken a systematic, rider-centric approach to improving bus service across the city.

This policy and implementation effort, dubbed “Muni Forward,” has been bolstered by a $500 million dollar injection of funding approved by voters in 2014, which enabled new capital investments to improve transportation access in an already service-rich city.

Muni Forward comprises a suite of service improvements, including dedicated bus lanes (“red carpets”), the first implementation of all-door boarding in a major American transit system, stop consolidation, transit signal priority, and the branding of a Rapid Network of bus routes in high impact corridors.

Though some of the bus lane projects have been controversial in San Francisco, it’s important to acknowledge the smart policy-making and intent behind Muni Forward.  The city is attempting to optimize its transit resources by prioritizing transit on streets, making transit easy to use and conducting a rolling review of routes and stops.

Bus ridership has increased in recent years as population has continued to grow, which has been essential as congestion has worsened and cost of living continues to rise. Even as the Bay Area increases its investments in BART rail extensions andPhase 2 of the Transbay Transit Center, Muni Forward demonstrates the city’s recognition of the essential role that buses will continue to play to ensure that Bay Area residents can get where they need to go.

The SFMTA’s comprehensive approach to improving bus service across the city should be a model for other cities across the country.

StreetFilms
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In Oslo, the Bus Experience is Efficient & Simple for Riders

While in Oslo shooting a Streetfilm on the city's ambitious plans to become as car-free as possible for 2019, I got to interview Frode Hvattum, Head of Strategy for Ruter. I asked a quick question about Oslo's amazing efficiency in having frequent train and bus schedules, but especially about how most City Center buses have three or four doors for boarding and also how the ease of using cell phone apps for proof of payment helps riders get on the bus quickly.

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Santiago, Chile: 2017 Sustainable Transport Award Winner

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy gives out the Sustainable Transport Award each year to a city that demonstrates "leadership, vision, and achievement in sustainable transport and urban livability." Over the past year, Santiago made major improvements in pedestrian space, cycling, and transit. Santiago will receive the award at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in January, and will be the site of MOBILIZE 2017, ITDP’s annual Sustainable Transport Summit.  For more information, visit staward.org.

Take a spin through Santiago's streets as former mayor Carolina Tohá describes the stunning transformations.  This fantastic video was shot and produced by Claudio Olivares Medina and the team at Bicivilizate. You can follow Claudio at @bicivilizate.

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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."