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Thread: Problems with busways/BRT

  1. #26
    maudit anglais
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    All amalgamation really did was turn a two-tiered municipal government (The Region of Ottawa-Carleton) into the single tier “City of Ottawa”. Amalgamation hasn’t really had a huge impact on transit service delivery in Ottawa as it was a regional responsibility before amalgamation. Rural areas are located outside the transit service delivery area and don’t pay for transit on their property taxes. Therefore there has not been a big push to extend transit into the rural areas. There is much more pressure to serve growing suburban areas located within the urban area (but outside the inner area Greenbelt).

    As mentioned, BRT allows buses to circulate in the outer areas before hoping on the Transitway (fully grade separated roadway) to get downtown. In theory this is great as it provides a single-seat ride from suburbs to downtown, which is great for commuter riders but is inefficient in terms of the amount of buses and drivers needed to operate the system. It also results in a byzantine route structure which is difficult for even regular users to comprehend. Reverse commuting or commuting to places off the Transitway can be a hard slog, even during peak periods.

    When the Transitway was originally planned/built they skipped the expensive downtown bit in order to build-up a more extensive system in the suburbs. The downtown segment operates on-street, along dedicated bus-lanes. It’s the downtown portion of the network which is the weak link as it is now practically at capacity and can be greatly affected by traffic congestion, accidents, weather, etc. The City has recently completed a Planning and Environmental Assessment Study for the conversion of a part of the Transitway from BRT to LRT technology and the construction of a downtown tunnel. It really is more of a Rapid Transit project as the LRVs will operate in long trains and be completely separated from traffic. LRT provides the flexibility to have future extensions operate at-grade in the outlying areas.

    Don, yes the tunnel will be built using TBMs (Ottawa’s limestone bedrock is actually very good material for tunnelling). The tunnel will be about 3 km long, starting at LeBreton Flats and ending somewhere south of the University of Ottawa. It will be a deep-level tunnel in order to get under building foundations, major infrastructure and the Rideau Canal.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner View post
    All amalgamation really did was turn a two-tiered municipal government (The Region of Ottawa-Carleton) into the single tier “City of Ottawa”. ...

    As mentioned, BRT allows buses to circulate in the outer areas before hoping on the Transitway (fully grade separated roadway) to get downtown. In theory this is great as it provides a single-seat ride from suburbs to downtown, which is great for commuter riders but is inefficient in terms of the amount of buses and drivers needed to operate the system. ...

    When the Transitway was originally planned/built they skipped the expensive downtown bit in order to build-up a more extensive system in the suburbs. The downtown segment operates on-street, along dedicated bus-lanes. ...

    Don, yes the tunnel will be built using TBMs (Ottawa’s limestone bedrock is actually very good material for tunnelling). The tunnel will be about 3 km long, starting at LeBreton Flats and ending somewhere south of the University of Ottawa. It will be a deep-level tunnel in order to get under building foundations, major infrastructure and the Rideau Canal.
    Not that it relates to BRT in general, but I don't think one can discount the NCC (National Capital Commission - federal level) as a tier in the Ottawa area - their powers can be quite overwhelming at times.

    Thanks for the TBM info! This is quite a different approach from the ill-fated N-S LRT that was cancelled at a huge cost just after the last election, as it called for LRT at grade through the downtown (with horrendous traffic signal problems due to the short blocks and one-way streets that would lose a lof of their efficiency).

    What still concerns me is how you connect the high-order rail in the downtown to the rest of the sprawling network - a huge bus terminal in LeBreton Flats and similar on the east side? Right now it seems like every bus goes downtown, so are we now expecting an additional transfer for virtually every trip? At least with a TBM you can avoid a lot of the construction disruption, but there will still be issues there at the ends as it is extended into the existing transitway. It certainly needs to be done, but it will not be easy.

  3. #28
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Don View post
    What still concerns me is how you connect the high-order rail in the downtown to the rest of the sprawling network - a huge bus terminal in LeBreton Flats and similar on the east side? Right now it seems like every bus goes downtown, so are we now expecting an additional transfer for virtually every trip? At least with a TBM you can avoid a lot of the construction disruption, but there will still be issues there at the ends as it is extended into the existing transitway. It certainly needs to be done, but it will not be easy.
    The first stage goes from Tunney's Pasture to Blair so yes, there would be a temporary bus terminal at Tunney's Pasture (until the LRT is extended) for buses coming from the west/southwest and riders would have to transfer to continue downtown. The terminal at Blair would be more permanent as it is likely to be the end of the line for quite some time.

    Even if BRT were to remain, the downtown problem will force OC Transpo to shift away from the current radial network to a hub and spoke system. There just isn't enough room downtown to run the number of buses required beyond 2018 or so. A bus tunnel would likely be just as, if not, more expensive to construct.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian
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    Tranplanner,

    For a ton of information and informed opinion on the possibilities & pitfalls of BRT, LRT, streetcars, and transit systems in general, including examples of all of these done right and done wrong, check out http://www.humantransit.org. The author has designed and consulted on multiple transit systems, and studied many more. Thanks to what I've learned there I'm warming to the idea of busways, especially "rail-ready" busways, for corridors that don't require the capacity of rail, don't yet have the funding for full rail, or don't have the travel patterns that best support rail.

    For a nice detailed breakdown of a rail corridor's costs by trackage, signals, tunneling, etc., go tohttp://studio.design.upenn.edu/hsr/node/81. Download the "Appendices" and peruse Appendix A.

    As for Curitiba, they still have the entire original busway system, and are studying conversion of the busiest corridors to light rail, with consideration also of subway, b/c the busways are at or approaching (and on some lines over) capacity. OT: Robert Moses was a major consultant on the design Curitiba's highway system, of which Sr. Lerner's busways are a major component. I don't know if Moses was involved in the busway part, considering his disdain for transit and people who use it.

  5. #30
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by B'lieve View post
    Tranplanner,

    For a ton of information and informed opinion on the possibilities & pitfalls of BRT, LRT, streetcars, and transit systems in general, including examples of all of these done right and done wrong, check out http://www.humantransit.org. The author has designed and consulted on multiple transit systems, and studied many more. Thanks to what I've learned there I'm warming to the idea of busways, especially "rail-ready" busways, for corridors that don't require the capacity of rail, don't yet have the funding for full rail, or don't have the travel patterns that best support rail.

    For a nice detailed breakdown of a rail corridor's costs by trackage, signals, tunneling, etc., go tohttp://studio.design.upenn.edu/hsr/node/81. Download the "Appendices" and peruse Appendix A.

    As for Curitiba, they still have the entire original busway system, and are studying conversion of the busiest corridors to light rail, with consideration also of subway, b/c the busways are at or approaching (and on some lines over) capacity. OT: Robert Moses was a major consultant on the design Curitiba's highway system, of which Sr. Lerner's busways are a major component. I don't know if Moses was involved in the busway part, considering his disdain for transit and people who use it.
    I follow Jarrett's blog and agree it is good reading.

    I don't think I've really been advocating one technology over another, they both have applications, and as a consultant I have worked on both BRT and LRT projects. I've just been trying to answer questions which have been asked about the situation in Ottawa.

    From my experience in Ottawa I would dispute how "rail-ready" you can really make a busway. Ottawa's busways were supposedly designed to be readily convertible to LRT but it hasn't quite worked out as planned - design compromises made 30 years ago and advances in LRT technology have conspired to make the conversion much more difficult and expensive than was originally foreseen. In addition, as Don alluded to earlier, you have the major issue of having to shut down the Transitway system for several years while you convert it. I agree that BRT has benefits where maximum flexibility is required to serve dispersed travel patterns and ridership levels don't (and likely never will) warrant the investment in rail infrastructure. BRT is also really advantageous where labour and operating costs are low (e.g. developing countries).

  6. #31
    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner View post
    BRT is also really advantageous where labour and operating costs are low (e.g. developing countries).
    This is basically what I was wondering. Anyone else have a thought on busways as a form of mass transit in cities in developing countries? Would it be better to pinch pennies and put in rail or just get something up and running?

  7. #32
    Cyburbian
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    It's my belief that the main difference between BRT and LRT is a question of when you want to spend money. BRT systems have lower construction costs but on average higher maintenance costs (the buses don't last as long, busways need to be re-paved, etc). Whereas LRT systems have the opposite (high construction costs, but relatively low maintenance, seeing as vehicles last longer and rails don't need to be re-laid every five years or so).

    I definitely think that the economic development aspect is valid, seeing as a lot of people (in the United States, at least) still have a certain stigma about using buses (thus less ridership), something which does not seem apparent with rail systems. Because of this, I haven't seen any instances of BRT systems spawning large TOD projects like in Portland, San Francisco, etc. (but if someone has evidence to the contrary, please point me to it). Regardless of whether or not BRT is actually a "glorified bus system", that's still how many people perceive it, whereas a light rail or streetcar system is different because of the novelty factor. Whether or not this is a good thing is a different argument.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Here's info on Eugene, Oregon's BRT system, with some good links thrown in: http://www.ltd.org/pdf/WEEE%202010/FAQ%20handout.pdf

  9. #34
    Quote Originally posted by RPfresh View post
    Anyone else have a thought on busways as a form of mass transit in cities in developing countries?
    If you have crap and corrupt enforcement of traffic rules (Hello, Kuala Lumpur) then busways and bus lanes are nothing more than a waste of paint....

  10. #35
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    Bus Rapid Transit

    BRT is the way to go.

    -Cheap
    -Easy to Build
    -Adaptable
    -User-freindly

  11. #36
    On the other hand

    Buses are uncomfortable
    BRT doesn't stimulate new development
    It's hard to integrate with fixed rail
    It's too easy to cheat and let the BRT disappear in congested areas

  12. #37
    Cyburbian
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    Here’s my take on BRT vs. LRT.

    In North America LRT has a much larger impact on new development because developers/buyers see the LRT as permanent, while a BRT can theoretically be moved at anytime. This MAY not be the case if the BRT facilities (lane, stations etc.) are at the same level of quality as an LRT system, but most BRT systems are chosen because they are cheaper than LRT and therefore won’t be of the same quality. However a BRT system on completely separate roads like Ottawa’s may be seen as permanent.

    The initial construction costs of a BRT system MAY be cheaper than an LRT, but the operating costs will be higher. A typical LRT vehicle can handle over 400 people with one driver. A typical BRT vehicle can handle about 140 people per driver. Therefore at peak periods you’ll need three times as many drivers. If labour is cheap this may not be an issue but in North America/Europe - depending on the size of your system (you’ll have to do the math) - the extra cost of driver salaries can add up to millions of dollars a year and will eventually make the BRT system more expensive than the LRT system.

    For on-roads systems the spacing of the vehicles is important because they are affected by traffic lights. Most traffic lights work on a 1 minute 30 second phasing. If your ridership gets to a level that requires more than one BRT vehicle every one-and-a-half minutes at peak periods then the buses will start stacking up at the stations and will cause delays along the whole system.

    LRT’s are perceived to be quieter, cleaner and more comfortable which generally translates into a higher ridership number. If your goal is to get cars off the street then an LRT will probably be the best way to do that.

    The result of all this is BRT’s are generally suitable for a narrow band of communities that have outgrown buses but don’t expect to ever grow to the point of needing LRT’s. LRT’s are better for communities that are trying to encourage growth or are facing rapid growth and need to get more people onto transit and out of their cars.

  13. #38
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    The technology exists for automatict pre-emption of traffic signals for BRT or LRT vehicles operating in a regular right of way. I am dismayed that it has not caught on yet as it could be used also by first responders who need to cross busy roads during peak hour.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  14. #39
    Cyburbian
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    The problem with pre-emptive signals is that for busy intersections by helping the flow in one way you'd screw it up in the other. Also, if you have LRT/BRT vehicles every two or three minutes at peak periods you'd by tripping the pre-emptive light constantly. Pre-emptive signals would work for transit vehicles at small intersections and where the vehicles are never closer together than about 5 minutes.

  15. #40
    They supposed installed pre-emptive capacity on Boson'ts Silverline, but it is definitely not used, even at signals where there seems to be no other vehicle within a mile or two.

  16. #41
    Cyburbian
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    Does anyone think it is possible for B.R.T. vehicles to be placemakers in the same way streetcars can be?

  17. #42
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    Also, if you have LRT/BRT vehicles every two or three minutes at peak periods you'd by tripping the pre-emptive light constantly.
    2-3 minute headways??? you're living in transit dreamland! We thing we're doing good with 15 minute headways during peak hour.

    Obviously these signal pre-emptions would not work everywhere, but on major artierials these would work fine. Maybe I am spoiled by having our major artierials being some 8-13 lanes (Woodward, Gratiot, Grand River, Michigan, Fort) across? We have plenty of room to fit BRT (or LRT) and regular auto/truck traffic on these babies.

    Our main issue is implementation and operating costs. For operating, the costs can be mitigated as buses run on these routes already. Finding money to implement is next to impossible.

    PI, for places like Curritiba the BRT system certainly was a placemaker.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  18. #43
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    2-3 minute headways??? you're living in transit dreamland! We thing we're doing good with 15 minute headways during peak hour.
    2-3 minutes would, furthermore, be substantially under-utilizing the capacity of a dedicated busway. IIRC, and if need be I can check tonight, the Adelaide system is designed to operate with headways of slightly under one minute. And they STILL can't match the capacity of any form of rail by their own admission.

    Furthermore, those who assert the merits of BRT to include "adaptability" are apparently unaware that that is the main weakness of bus systems and a major problem in a transit system. It's a bit like bragging that a basketball player is "really short".

  19. #44
    Cyburbian
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    BRT headway

    For another data point, the Ottawa Transitway is typically referenced as having around 200 buses per hour per direction (see http://www.ottawa.ca/residents/publi...ransit_en.html which notes 180 observed in the PM due to loading constraints downtown, but 225 in the AM peak), which would be an average headway of around 18 seconds. It's been a long time since I've had a ride on the system there but as I recall the stations have pretty long platforms and bypass lanes to help with the capacity. Although there are also many articulated buses, it's hard to get a substantiated agreement on the passenger capacity, though figures of 10,000 per hour are widely quoted.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by AWesome View post
    BRT is the way to go.
    ...
    -Adaptable
    I really am not sure how people keep thinking this is a good thing.

    Imagine: You are an investor in real estate looking to build a new business or apartment. This is going to be a long term investment; this isn't just your kids' college fund, this is your retirement fund, your kids' retirement fund and your grandchildrens' college fund all rolled into one. If this investment gets sunk any time in the next several decades, you are going to be hurting.

    Which piece of infrastructure would you rather build your location next to:

    A: An "Adaptable", "Flexible" transportation system that can be relocated or removed on a moments notice to respond to factors that are totally unpredictable and completely out of your control

    B: An "Old-Fashioned" piece of fixed infrastructure which represents a large investment by the city in developing a completely immobile, totally inflexible and unchangeable piece of transportation that the city cannot relocate or remove without extreme and improbable levels of expense, which is designed to carry more potential customers than the current neighborhood can possibly handle without major expansion.

    I think it's pretty obvious which one of these two is going to excite the investors, and it isn't the ephemeral, flexible option. Did these people completely skip that entire section when they were learning pop economics?

  21. #46
    Cyburbian
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    "Rail-ready" B.R.T. makes sense to me as a way to gradually intensify land uses along a corridor. B.R.T. should be considered the down payment on future transit investments.

  22. #47
    Cyburbian
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    "Rail-ready" B.R.T. makes sense to me as a way to gradually intensify land uses along a corridor. B.R.T., though, should be considered the down payment on future transit investments.

  23. #48
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    "Rail-ready" B.R.T. makes sense to me as a way to gradually intensify land uses along a corridor. B.R.T., though, should be considered the down payment on future transit investments.
    Sure, and if you are in an authoritarian dictatorship, that might actually work.
    In the real world of democracy and politics though, BRT is NOT "rail-ready", nor is it anything other than just another bus in the crowded places where it needs to be on dedicated facilities.

  24. #49
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    Sometimes a lane is marked as a bus lane not to keep other traffic out but rather to disguise the intended stopping of the bus within the lane to load and unload (nub stop operation) forcing said other traffic to merge into the next lane or wait behind the bus. This speeds up the bus' departure from the bus stop.

  25. #50
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    The Metro Orangle Line BRT in LA's San Fernando Valley has been extremely successful because it is on an exclusive ROW and good headways. The major drawback is the time it takes to travel. Because people take time to adapt to change and were not used to seeing these large buses cross a brand-new 2 lane busway, they would mistakenly turn into it or run red lights and hit the buses.

    Therefore, some knee-jerk politicians stepped in and forced the buses to slow to 25mph at all crossings. What I still don't understand is why Metro doesn't put in regular RR crossing gates, which would allow the buses to travel much faster through them. Does anyone know why?

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