Posts Tagged ‘BRT’

You Are Doing It Wrong

The whole point of BRT is to encourage pedestrian-scale development. If your new BRT busway requires cross streets to be closed, then you are doing it wrong:

In an abrupt reversal, the city has dropped all opposition to closing Flower Street to accommodate the New-Britain-to-Hartford busway. Mayor Pedro Segarra’s decision came after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations between city officials and aides to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is committed to drive the busway to completion by early 2015.

The decision cuts off what shaped up to be a struggle over the future of Flower Street, a short north-south street that links the city’s Frog Hollow and Asylum Hill neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups were counting on the city to block the state transportation department from shutting off pedestrian and bike access, and appeared angered after the city pulled out of the fight.

A state hearing officer this month will decide whether the Department of Transportation may permanently keep bicyclists and pedestrians from crossing Flower Street between Farmington and Capitol avenues. The DOT says it will be too dangerous for anyone to cross two lanes of busway traffic alongside the Amtrak line, and instead has built a pathway to detour Flower Street riders and walkers to Broad Street.

Broad Street isn’t much of an alternative. It is a high-speed arterial for accessing interstate-84. Though I suppose it is better than this monstrosity:


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Costly BRT

Here is the cost breakdown of the proposed BRT network in Santa Clara County:

As you can see from the chart, this is fake BRT because there is only a small bit of dedicated bus lanes. But even that small bit is going to cost a huge amount: 1/4 billion dollars for a just 4.87 miles of dedicated bus lanes. One main reason for the cost blowout is an unwillingness to reduce any parking or automobile capacity — meaning the road gets widened in numerous places.

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It is nice to know that America isn’t the only country afflicted with selfish car drivers:

The Delhi High Court on Thursday modified its earlier order and directed the Transport Department of the Delhi Government to allow vehicles other than buses to ply in the 5.7-km-long Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor between Ambedkar Nagar and Moolchand flyover in South Delhi till the petition seeking opening up the corridor for three-wheelers and four-wheelers on a permanent basis was decided.

The petitioner has sought permission for plying of other vehicles in the corridor arguing that while the carriageway along the corridor got jammed in busy hours due to shrinkage of its width due to the carving out of space for the bus corridor, the exclusive stretch for the bus transport always had empty space to accommodate more traffic.

As the NY Times notes, fewer than 20% of Delhi residents travel by private auto.

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Mountain View Votes Against BRT

Two years ago, Berkeley sabotaged a BRT plan in the East Bay. Now, will Mountain View be the South Bay version of Berkeley?

The [Mountain View] City Council spent two and half hours discussing a plan for dedicated bus rapid transit lanes on El Camino Real on Tuesday, coming to the same position it came to after a similar discussion in June — opposed. The council took a 4-2 vote in the study session, with council members Mike Kasperzak and Margaret Abe-Koga in support of the dedicated lanes and member John Inks abstaining.

The plans would reduce El Camino Real from six lanes to four, and add two dedicated bus lanes down the middle of the street and bike lanes on each side. With two bus stations located on the median, one at Castro Street and one at San Antonio shopping center, BRT buses would run every 10 minutes, 18 hours a day.

Plans for BRT on El Camino Real are part of an ambitious “Grand Boulevard” effort. It would convert the highway from a  automobile strip-mall thoroughfare into a more bike/ped friendly environment. The bike and bus lanes are projected to quadruple the number of bike trips, and generate 18,000 new transit trips. BRT would also serve as a feeder to Caltrain and any future HSR stations.

But Council seems to have other priorities, and is more concerned with maintaining the route for high-speed auto traffic.

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Back in 1997 when work began on the Southside Plan, many had high hopes to reverse mistakes of the past. This is a student-dominated neighborhood, where 70% of residents don’t even own cars. Reverting 1-way high-speed arterials back to 2-way neighborhood streets was a no-brainer. Building a bike network was also a no-brainer too.

But then a funny thing happened. As the Plan dragged on and on for the better part of two decades, the transit, bike, and ped elements are all but eliminated. And so now in reading the Plan that Council adopted last week, it is hard to find any changes at all.

For example: Dwight and Haste are retained as 1-way speedways, though the study suggests Bancroft and Durant be “considered” for 2-way operation (planners use the word “considered” to mean “nice idea, but won’t happen”). Similarly, the bike network is largely unchanged. Don’t expect to find bike lanes on Telegraph, Bancroft, or Piedmont Ave.

The only positive aspect of the Plan is conversion of Dana and Ellsworth back to 2-way operation with bike lanes. These are relatively short segments in residential blocks. Nobody should mistake this for bold thinking.

The Plan also uses extravagant language to promote AC Transit and other transit services. But then Council killed the AC Transit BRT, making nonsense of the Plan’s transit goals too.

So there you have it: 15 years of planning to come up with a do-nothing option.

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That’s One Expensive Bus

The whole point of BRT is the lower cost, right? Hartford, CT just received FTA New Starts funding for a BRT system.

The capital cost is $572 million for all of 9.4 miles.

Oh, did I mention it is to run on an abandoned rail ROW?

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One of the quirks of Berkeley City government is its 35 citizen commissions. They advise City Council on topics ranging from foreign policy to waste management. As in every other budget cycle, staff is recommending some commissions be eliminated to save time and money. With the severe economic downturn, staff may get their wish:

The cost to run the commissions: $1 million a year, [City Manager] Kamlarz estimated in 2008. Meanwhile the city is looking to mend a $12 million deficit, mulling cuts in police, libraries, public works and virtually every other department. The City Council is likely to discuss cutting some commissions in May.

If there is one Committee deserving elimination, it is Berkeley’s “Community Environmental Advisory Committee”. Three years ago, as the City was studying BRT, this group of concerned environmentalists passed a resolution to oppose the BRT project. They sent a sternly-worded letter to Council expressing their disapproval. Buses, in their view were polluting, and would threaten the safety of bicyclists! (never mind the BRT project included Class II bike lanes).

Really, what else is there to say? When a taxpayer-funded “environmental” commission favors automobiles over buses, favors automobiles over bike lanes, it loses all credibility.

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My, what a confusing message from the Sierra Club’s Northern Alameda Chapter!

On the one hand, the Club supports Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Berkeley. And, it endorses Measure R, an advisory measure in favor of transit-oriented development (TOD) around Berkeley’s downtown transit.

On the other hand, the Club has endorsed candidates utterly opposed to BRT and transit-oriented development. This blog already reported on Kriss Worthington. Besides Worthington, Councilmember Jesse Arreguin has also received the Club’s blessings.

Arreguin, who’s positions on TOD are so extreme, some enviros have dubbed him Jesse ‘Arreguinejad’ (after the Iranian President) is the point-man for the anti-TOD crowd. Whereas his opponent, Eric Panzer has amazing credentials: a degree in Environmental Science, and he works professionally as a City Planner.

So here the Club has an awsome opportunity to endorse a candidate that really “gets it” with regard to alternative transport — and help get rid of Arreguin. But noooooo!!!! [/Belushi]

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Back in 2001, the Northern Alameda Chapter of Sierra Club (SF Bay Area) stunned cyclists by opposing a ‘complete streets’ project on Marin Ave. Running through the cities of Berkeley and Albany, Marin Ave isn’t some major commercial thoroughfare, but rather a quiet residential street massively over-built for the traffic volume. The superfluous lanes contributed to speeding and dangerous passing. As such, the Sierra Club resolution disregarded the pressing need for traffic calming, and bike/ped improvements.

Due to outcry by neighbors and cyclists, the Sierra Club rescinded its resolution, and did finally endorse the traffic calming project. But the whole sorry episode of Marin Ave generated considerable mistrust among advocates that the so-called environmental group wasn’t entirely supportive of the Sustainable Transport concept.

Flash forward a decade, and so little has changed.

Up for re-election in Berkeley is Councilmember Kriss Worthington. He was the key swing vote that killed the BRT project in Berkeley. He was the key swing vote that killed the ‘Complete Streets’ project for Telegraph. His candidate statement even boasts of killing the “bad” BRT.

So, guess which District 7 candidate gets the Sierra Club endorsement?


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In voting against AC Transit’s BRT project, Berkeley has played up its stereotype as a community of affluent hypocrites. It unearthed ugly, negative stereotypes about bus riders that was shocking to hear in Berkeley of all places. And it exposed insurmountable political roadblocks to the Complete Streets agenda.

The BRT proposal went far beyond improved bus service. It was a textbook example of the ‘Complete Streets’ concept. The Plan would have incorporated Class II bike lanes, traffic calming, and ped safety improvements. The Plan addressed many problems in the blighted Telegraph Ave corridor, particularly the lack of landscaping. And, yes, it was genuinely popular with the electorate. Voters overwhelmingly favored BRT proposal by 80% in at least two citywide referendums (three if Measure “G” is counted).

But the high approval ratings was not enough as City Council killed the project anyway. It is a political variation of the 85% rule.

The “85% rule” in this instance refers to the crazy requirement in CA vehicle code that the fastest 15% of cars on the road sets the speed limit. The political analogue to this rule holds that the most extreme 15% segment of a population holds veto power over major policymaking.

Getting near unanimous support for any program is incredibly difficult. Consequently, the 85% rule holds Berkeley Bike and Ped Plans in check. The city government is in complete dysfunction bending over backwards to placate every single nutjob and nimby.

It is truly a sorry state of affairs. Whereas Berkeley was once a leader in the slow streets movement, City Council has actually banned the use of speed humps, in order to appease a militant faction of disabled activists. The most effective tool in the traffic calming toolkit is gone.

Or consider the hazardous condition of sidewalks in the Gourmet Ghetto. They become so overcrowded that it spills over onto the traffic median. A common-sense plan to expand sidewalk real estate was derailed when diehard nimbys made their usual ‘FUD’ complaints.

So what needs be done to turn things around? For starters, Berkeley has to elect more adults to City Council. Unfortunately, that prospect appears unlikely to happen in the 2010 ballot. So for now, Complete-Streets advocates will have look longingly at cities like Portland and New York and daydream what might have been.

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