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Old 02-05-2015, 10:23 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
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.
I was referring to rail running in its own right of way not something streetcar-like.
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Old 02-05-2015, 12:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
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).
I've been to PGH a lot and it seemed obvious to me (I could be completely wrong here) why the busways were faster than the light rail - because the light rail had so many more stops along the route. I know the east busway as well as the (north?) busway that goes out towards the airport and it seemed like the light rail line was making twice as many stops to go a similar distance . . . and maybe the operating speeds are a little slower for the light rail? The light rail is essentially climbing a mountain with lots of twists and turns where the buses are running a relatively straight shot at ~60mph.

Anyway, for reasons mentioned, it wouldn't make any sense to convert any of those routes to rail because there's so much unused capacity. You'd need to get close to the point of crowding like on the LA Orange Line before it made sense.

As an aside, there's really nothing to stop buses sharing a right of way with light rail as long as the platform height can accommodate both type of vehicles.
http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/w...sit-Tunnel.jpg
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Old 02-05-2015, 01:13 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
I've been to PGH a lot and it seemed obvious to me (I could be completely wrong here) why the busways were faster than the light rail - because the light rail had so many more stops along the route. I know the east busway as well as the (north?) busway that goes out towards the airport and it seemed like the light rail line was making twice as many stops to go a similar distance . . . and maybe the operating speeds are a little slower for the light rail? The light rail is essentially climbing a mountain with lots of twists and turns where the buses are running a relatively straight shot at ~60mph.
It's the West Busway which goes out to the airport, FWIW

As to the T, you nailed a few of the problems. The Port Authority tried to cut down the number of stops in the system, eliminating 13 in total back in 2012. But the tracks are too windy in places to build up high speeds, even if the current cars allowed for it. Some stops are still only a block apart as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
Anyway, for reasons mentioned, it wouldn't make any sense to convert any of those routes to rail because there's so much unused capacity. You'd need to get close to the point of crowding like on the LA Orange Line before it made sense.
The East Busway is getting there. Trust me, around peak traffic times a P1 comes every five minutes. And that's only one of three buses which exclusively travel the East Busway, not to mention several express buses which use the East Busway to quickly get out to the eastern suburbs. Of course, the Busway doesn't have anything resembling traffic congestion yet, which is when the city would want to consider moving towards a light rail spine for the East End.
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Old 02-05-2015, 01:41 PM
 
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Originally Posted by FrankMiller View Post
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.
This is St. Louis specific, but I think the same argument is likely to be applicable to Birmingham, so I'll outline why IMO, BRT is by far the better option than street car or LRT running on a combination of street and rail corridor in these types of cases.

1-Cost. Given the same platform quality, signage, priority signaling, etc, LRT is still much more expensive than BRT. LRT/streetcars running occupying a former street will require complete removal of that lane. Not just surface pavement, but everything. The lane will require new ballast and supports that are completely different. It doesn't matter if streetcars and trolleys ran down the ROW back in the 50s. You can't rely upon what is underneath that pavement to support the line, because of its condition and the soil issues one would find in a place like Birmingham or St. Louis. God only knows what kind of infrastructural artifacts engineers will find down there when they dig. BRT with the bells in whistles in a more complicated setting like Ashland Ave in Chicago is about 1/4 as expensive as LRT using street ROW in a city like STL or Birmingham.

2-Density/usage. LRT is great and extremely cost efficient when it is actually required to run at capacities in excess of what BRT can provide with regular service. In St. Louis, the high capacity routes are already covered by LRT. The region isn't growing fast enough for another neighborhood of Central West End density to pop up in the next generation or two. In Birmingham, there aren't any high capacity routes that you find in the central corridor of STL. The capacity restrictions on LRT in these settings reduces the cost savings when you look at cost on a passenger mile basis.

3-Connectivity vs Catchment. LRT will have a slightly higher catchment than "BRT Gold", ie for the same line mileage, there will be more LRT riders. The cost savings means you can build more BRT and enhance the number of direct trip possibilities. In a city the density of STL (or less), this almost always more than offsets the catchment advantage of LRT. Example: someone in southwest city could have a direct route to both the medical campus in the Central West and and Downtown because BRT would cost much less for both Gravois and Kingshighway than LRT would cost for only one of these lines. In theory, someone could transfer downtown using Metrolink, but transfer use during rush is greatly diminished by the wait time between trains.

4-Flexibility. You can run the commuter type routes into/from employment centers during rush, but use the stock to bolster a central bus circulator during non-rush. You couldn't move trains to different lines the same way.

5-Rail corridors. It's less expensive to build LRT on existing rail corridors, but if those corridors sit in industrial areas, the TOD possibilities are diminished. Given the suburban density of places where MetroLink doesn't already go, it would make more sense to configure these more like commuter rail.
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Old 02-05-2015, 04:20 PM
 
Location: Birmingham
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
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.
I agree with you on most points... However, downtown Birmingham has changed quite dramatically over the three years that I have lived here. It's almost unrecognizable at this point. So, the city isn't quite "dead" anymore but it is lacking some things. Transit being one of them.

In the last few years the very popular Railroad Park was constructed which lead to a ton of investments to follow... Including moving the baseball team back downtown after 20+ years in the suburbs. They have had a sellout crowd since the new stadium opened two years ago. Downtown has turned into a place where nobody went to now being quite lively at night. Currently, around 2,000 new housing units are being built with another 2,000 or so in the planning stages with downtown occupancy rates hovering close to 100%. As you know, these new units being filled will only increase the vibrancy.

However, for me and many others, there is still a lot that is missing. Even though transit may not be glamorous like a park or a new high rise, I think it may be the link in the chain to connect the dots. Revitalization and dare I say gentrification are occurring all over the city in different neighborhoods and entertainment districts... With very little options to get between them.

I guess I said all that to say this... Even though Light Rail may not be a necessity at the moment, is there a precedent for doing things before you absolutely need them? Before the city is more developed, making it harder to build light rail and even more expensive? Just like Railroad Park, when nobody was downtown, could Light Rail be a catalyst for the city? As you said, maybe the city needs to do something dramatic.
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Old 02-05-2015, 04:25 PM
 
Location: Birmingham
779 posts, read 768,486 times
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Btw, having lived in many other cities, I wasn't quite excited to come to Alabama either. However, I found Birmingham to be much more fun and progressive than the rest of the state... and the scenery here is beautiful. I, being obsessed with urban development, also became enamored with how quickly the city was changing. It's why I'm still here. There aren't many cities you can live in that look totally different after only a few years. That being said, that won't keep me here forever if additional amenities don't follow. Birmingham has no problem getting people here because of the huge medical scene with UAB. It just has a hard time keeping them.
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Old 02-05-2015, 06:24 PM
 
3,567 posts, read 2,369,965 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago76 View Post
This is St. Louis specific, but I think the same argument is likely to be applicable to Birmingham, so I'll outline why IMO, BRT is by far the better option than street car or LRT running on a combination of street and rail corridor in these types of cases.

1-Cost. Given the same platform quality, signage, priority signaling, etc, LRT is still much more expensive than BRT. LRT/streetcars running occupying a former street will require complete removal of that lane. Not just surface pavement, but everything. The lane will require new ballast and supports that are completely different. It doesn't matter if streetcars and trolleys ran down the ROW back in the 50s. You can't rely upon what is underneath that pavement to support the line, because of its condition and the soil issues one would find in a place like Birmingham or St. Louis. God only knows what kind of infrastructural artifacts engineers will find down there when they dig. BRT with the bells in whistles in a more complicated setting like Ashland Ave in Chicago is about 1/4 as expensive as LRT using street ROW in a city like STL or Birmingham.
You made a bunch of good points, but I don't think the cost issue is quite that simple. The maintenance costs of buses are much higher; buses wear out 5x as fast, and are harder on the road surface. So the long-term costs are closer than the initial capital outlay suggests. Also, it seems easier to get grants for capital costs than operating costs.

I think you're also selling the development potential short. Even with slow regional growth, city TOD can mitigate sprawl and draw people back to the core. Plus, it's reasonable to think that slow growth is partly because of a dearth of transit options (that's certainly been my personal experience).

Okay, sorry for boring everyone with Arch-chat.
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Old 02-05-2015, 09:35 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
We have a fairly well-trafficked BRT system (called the East, West, and South Busways respectively) here in Pittsburgh. The East Busway in particular is a major spine of the Pittsburgh system, which is now seeing some pretty ambitious TOD being built.



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.

In general though, I would say that light rail beats out BRT if you can swing the money to put it in. However, BRT is far, far better than a streetcar network.
Pittsburgh could always do a combination where bus and rail run on the same lines by inlaying the tracks into the roadway. That would make it so buses could hop off the busway and run where the light rail can't run. Though something like that would have a huge upfront costs.
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Old 02-06-2015, 12:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
The East Busway is getting there. Trust me, around peak traffic times a P1 comes every five minutes. And that's only one of three buses which exclusively travel the East Busway, not to mention several express buses which use the East Busway to quickly get out to the eastern suburbs. Of course, the Busway doesn't have anything resembling traffic congestion yet, which is when the city would want to consider moving towards a light rail spine for the East End.
Go Pittsburgh! Most of my transit riding there has been on the weekends so it makes sense I would've missed that.

Here's the ridiculousness that is the Brisbane busway and the general inefficiency of BRT in general when you get into higher passenger volumes. Note the queue in the outbound direction and the general emptiness in the inbound direction. Also, note the massive cranes on the horizon. Total s***show on rush hour transit but hey, "let's just keep adding density!"

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...,_Brisbane.jpg

here's a more recent image closer to the CBD - note the queue backing up all the way over the bridge.
http://s42.photobucket.com/user/OZJI...sjam1.jpg.html
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:55 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
46,053 posts, read 29,514,457 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
Go Pittsburgh! Most of my transit riding there has been on the weekends so it makes sense I would've missed that.

Here's the ridiculousness that is the Brisbane busway and the general inefficiency of BRT in general when you get into higher passenger volumes. Note the queue in the outbound direction and the general emptiness in the inbound direction. Also, note the massive cranes on the horizon. Total s***show on rush hour transit but hey, "let's just keep adding density!"

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...,_Brisbane.jpg

here's a more recent image closer to the CBD - note the queue backing up all the way over the bridge.
busjam1.jpg Photo by OZJIM | Photobucket
At that point you might as well turn it into rail lines and run long trains on it.
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