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Old 02-04-2015, 11:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
I couldn't imagine the 90 mile LA metro rail system being replaced with BRT.
It would be totally overwhelmed. Light rail is so much more efficient at handling higher passenger volumes.
I couldn't either, but keep in mind that the OP is talking about Birmingham (Alabama, not UK). The two most residentially dense census tracts are between 6-8K ppsm and the CBD is dwarfed by LA-size commercial centers. I'm not saying that to disparage Birmingham or anything. Just pointing out that the situations could hardly be more different.
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Old 02-05-2015, 03:29 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malloric View Post
You'll have an eternal debate about that. BRT isn't really "rapid transit.." basically it's a dumb name. Rapid transit really requires grade separation. BRT is more meant to approximate light rail and/or streetcar transit which as a general rule does not have grade separation.
Wouldn't that fit the definition of "BRT Gold"?

Pittsburgh has a good deal of grade separation. Ditto the LA Orange Line. Parts of Boston's Silver Line.

The Brisbane busway system is fully grade separated save for three intersections where buses cross a surface street at grade - even then on a preempted signal.

We also have some examples of full grade separation for LRT and even streetcars - maybe not for the entire line but for most of it in Buffalo, a good chunk in Pittsburgh, then for important segments in Boston, SF, and Philly.

Point being, for the OP, that the type of vehicle you use is not as important as the level of infrastructure that you're providing. If it's a low density area or a medium density area with no strong job centers then buses probably make more sense because they're more flexible/deployable. In other contexts trains make more sense because you can haul a lot more people.
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Old 02-05-2015, 03:36 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Chicago76 View Post
I couldn't either, but keep in mind that the OP is talking about Birmingham (Alabama, not UK). The two most residentially dense census tracts are between 6-8K ppsm and the CBD is dwarfed by LA-size commercial centers. I'm not saying that to disparage Birmingham or anything. Just pointing out that the situations could hardly be more different.
Good point.

The only way light rail would make sense in a place like Birmingham is if the city was going to upzone everything around the stations and then really fostered that growth.

Brisbane built a busway network but then dramatically upzoned everything around it - well past the carrying capacity of the system - and the building is nowhere near finished. We have a pretty solid idea of how many passengers typical transit systems can handle each hour. We also have a pretty good idea of how many trips a typical apartment building or office building will generate . . . so it's not hard to figure out the max housing or employment density a particular type of transit line can handle.

I think for a place like Birmingham any type of high frequency transit is going to have a pretty long design life.
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Old 02-05-2015, 08:54 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malloric View Post
You'll have an eternal debate about that. BRT isn't really "rapid transit.." basically it's a dumb name. Rapid transit really requires grade separation. BRT is more meant to approximate light rail and/or streetcar transit which as a general rule does not have grade separation.
Again, I'm most familiar with the one in Pittsburgh, but here all of the busways are grade separated - mainly below road grade, but sometimes above, depending upon the location. Here's a streetview of one of the busway stops from a nearby road.
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Old 02-05-2015, 09:38 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago76 View Post
I think some posters are discounting the benefits of BRT in more urban environments. It can work really well at densities if 8 to 15k or in some instances 20k... which overlaps with a lot of light rail. If you're dealing with an urban grid, I wouldn't be concerned with new roads. The beauty of the urban grid is it's ability to self regulate volume of a given section. Cars just passing through will hit adjacent blocks or another thoroughfare of capacity becomes an issue.

Brt uses a road diet for the most part. Where brt works is where the decision comes down to brt on current commercial corridor vs lrt, which is a bit more intense on a rail bed away from commercial corridors. Lrt more frequently takes a path of less resistance, which positions it away from already existing commercial for long stretches. It's easier to revitalize/energize pre existing commercial than it is to build something up from scratch on an industrial corridor in many cases--especially if an metro isn't completely booming. Brt in this instance offers more boom for the buck.

Fiscally, the trade off is cheaper at start up (brt) vs cheaper operating costs (lrt). Where I think brt can be useful here is in a couple cases. First, building more miles of brt vs lrt based upon initial capital constraints. More generally = better connectivity, which can help boost ridership. Second, it could also be accretive in terms if more parcels w property tax revenue hikes. More miles = more potential parcels and better placement (assuming choice above of lrt through commercial v let further away from commercial) means the same. The incremental tax benefit may offset the operating cost difference.

I don't think one is better than the other generally. The decision should be case by case Here in St Louis. I heavily favor brt for future expansion.
I think there's a strong argument in StL for running light rail as a streetcar through the city, and onto rail ROW in the suburbs. Then you only have to conflict with traffic or add ROW in the urban center. With BRT you need to either be in traffic the entire route or construct a bunch of new suburban ROW duplicating existing rails.
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Old 02-05-2015, 09:38 AM
 
4,023 posts, read 3,265,973 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago76 View Post
I couldn't either, but keep in mind that the OP is talking about Birmingham (Alabama, not UK). The two most residentially dense census tracts are between 6-8K ppsm and the CBD is dwarfed by LA-size commercial centers. I'm not saying that to disparage Birmingham or anything. Just pointing out that the situations could hardly be more different.
I agree. Though the city council seems pretty adamant in pushing for light rail.
Probably hoping to attract TOD and economic growth which leads to more population density.
Except for a very small part of the downtown Birmingham looks pretty dead. They may need to do
something a little bold to make it more interesting even if it would be a gamble.

The OP is complaining about the lack of good transit options and if there are many others like him or her
the city might have a problem attracting and retaining talent. People aren't exactly falling over themselves
to move to Alabama.
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Old 02-05-2015, 10:00 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
From time to time, it is suggested that the busways be converted to rail, since they are on old rail ROWs. The issue with these conversions is twofold. One, our existing rail network (which just serves the area around Downtown and the southern suburbs) is slower than the busways. Two, many neighborhood buses get onto the busway at their terminus. If the busways were converted to rail, you'd need to build a transit station and have people transfer which would be much more tedious.
This. With a busway, transit can partially use BRT and keep going on normal roads. But otherwise, if the corridor is already grade separated, the cost to have rail rather than buses isn't big; most of the cost is in the stations, corridor building or acquisition and grade separation. I'm a bit surprised rail would be slower than buses, at some point downtown the buses have to traverse local streets, though looking at a map the distance is short.

Boston's surface light rail (green line) runs through an underground tunnel. It'd be more efficient to build a rail extensions from the tunnel, as the current Somerville extension does rather than turn it into a busway. Since Boston's local streets are congested, it's probably faster to transfer to rail in most cases than chug through downtowns streets. Seattle has a combined bus and light rail tunnel downtown, I suppose there Seattle could have gone with a busway system integrated into the tunnel rather than light rail.
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Old 02-05-2015, 10:07 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
45,988 posts, read 41,959,650 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malloric View Post
You'll have an eternal debate about that. BRT isn't really "rapid transit.." basically it's a dumb name. Rapid transit really requires grade separation. BRT is more meant to approximate light rail and/or streetcar transit which as a general rule does not have grade separation.
Light rail sometimes does have grade separation. For the example, the Green Line D branch in Boston is entirely grade separated, it uses a former commuter rail line. Light rail was chosen because it's compabilte with the existing downtown tunnel. The definition of BRT also can include both non-grade separation and grade separated, with some using it mean barely more than a bus with bus only lanes and others a completely grade separated system.
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Old 02-05-2015, 10:17 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I'm a bit surprised rail would be slower than buses, at some point downtown the buses have to traverse local streets, though looking at a map the distance is short.
I don't remember the details, but the reason the light rail is slower is because Pittsburgh doesn't have a "true" light rail setup. Instead, they converted the last of the old streetcar lines into a light rail system which hooked up with a new subway system for Downtown (which has now been extended to the North Shore). Indeed, one of the two light rail lines (the Red Line) still operates mostly like a streetcar through the city neighborhood of Beechview, while the Blue Line is more a standard light rail configuration (it runs down in a valley below neighborhoods though, so it's not very usable in terms of walking commuters, although people do use the park and rides).

The East Busway goes right into Downtown. There's actually an unused subway station below the old rail building the East Busway stops at, but since it's a one-track spur, the Port Authority has decided to never open the station, and it sits collecting dust. The West and South busways do not go all the way into downtown - doing so would be difficult due to topography. There is discussion about turning the little-used HOV road on a highway which leaves the city to the North into a "North Busway" (or a rail corridor) but nothing has come of it yet.
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Old 02-05-2015, 10:21 AM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
28,266 posts, read 26,237,774 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I'm a bit surprised rail would be slower than buses, at some point downtown the buses have to traverse local streets, though looking at a map the distance is short.
The next time you're in DC, you should have brunch at Smith Common on H Street so you can spend 90 minutes from a rooftop observing streetcars vis--vis buses. The buses are constantly zooming past the streetcars even though they are stopping for passengers.

From the Washington Post:

Quote:
Buses are facing significant delays behind the streetcars, which are making regular practice runs meant to simulate everyday operations. “We’re having to go around them. Since H Street has narrow lanes to begin with, it’s a challenge,” Hamre said. He said he has instructed bus drivers to pass streetcars only when they are stopped.

“That reduces the risk of misjudging,” Hamre said.

But it also forces faster-moving buses to hang back and wait for the less-agile streetcars, prolonging commutes for the much larger population of bus riders.
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