The need for a double decker bus vs. streetcar comparison study
Hey, I am into streetcars, a lot, and for the most part, I am in favor of streetcars in DC and other places.
It happens that this morning, I ran into someone who is heavily involved in local politics and he asked me about a bunch of transit issues, including the streetcar.
For me, the biggest reason for streetcars is the likelihood that ridership will rise significantly, say 40% over a bus, smoothness and quality of the ride, and most significantly, reduced noise as buses, even with natural gas fuel, are still very very loud.
Notions Capital forwarded this article, "St. Paul on the cusp of transit transformation" from the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, about some changes to transit service that are coming to St. Paul, Minnesota--to link with and leverage the forthcoming Central Corridor light rail line that should open later this year.
One of the changes to the transit picture in St. Paul Minnesota will be the transfer of Amtrak service from an outlying newer station back to the historic Union Depot in Downtown. Photo of Union Depot by Jean Pieri, St. Paul Pioneer-Press.
The article mentions other proposals, including a proposed four-mile long streetcar line (so that would be 8 miles of track) is expected to cost $246 million to construct, plus $8 million in annual operating costs.
Damn that's a lot of money. By comparison, the Central Corridor line is 11-miles long and will cost $957 million to construct and fit out.
It makes me wonder if there are better ways to spend money on transit...and it makes me appreciate that DC already has a reasonably extensive Metrorail subway service.
Double deck buses line up on Oxford Street, London. Flickr photo by DJFleer.
Previously I have argued ("Making bus service sexy and more equitable") that DC should reposition and rebrand bus service as a premium service by switching to double deck buses. It would look cooler than the current buses--like the buses in cities like London--but it wouldn't be quieter.
It would be interesting to do a simultaneous test of a double deck bus service on a street like Georgia Avenue (70s line) and compare the impact to the introduction of streetcar service, such as on H Street NE.
Of course, the problem with this is that you can't really do a complete comparison study.
You would need to do the other changes, including marketing that are outlined in the past blog entry. And with regard to streetcars, they aren't buying enough streetcars to be able to eliminate bus service completely and in any case, the line doesn't fully parallel the X line bus service (from Minnesota Ave. to Downtown DC) anyway.
But it would be great to be able to do a study and answer some questions: "can you get enough ridership pickup at a lower cost with double deck buses?" and "what is the difference in economic impact from the two types of services?" to determine if satisficing with better buses is viable.