Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dedicated transitways in DC and San Francisco

Red painted bus lane on Georgia Avenue NW, DCRed-painted dedicated bus lane on Georgia Avenue.

While I think that we need a dedicated network of transitways and other bus prioritization measures to make bus-based surface transit more effective, one of the problems of having such lanes is that because in most places bus service isn't that frequent, the lanes are empty much of the time.

The key is to put them in the places where they are most needed and build outward.  For example, in DC, H Street in Downtown would be the #1 place, because a number of bus lines, not just the high frequency X2 bus, use that stretch.

Or 16th Street (16th Street NW Transit Priority Planning Study, DC Department of Transportation).

This is proving to be the case of the temporary lanes on Rhode Island Avenue NE in DC, which were added in response to Metrorail station closures on the Red Lane ("How D.C.'s 'pop-up' bus lane became like any other lane of traffic," Washington Post).

Statistics on dedicated bus lane usage, Rhode Island Avenue NE, Washington, DC.  From the Express newspaper, 8/28/2018, p. 8.

Having lived in that area briefly, and knowing that bus transit service in the corridor is not high frequency, I didn't expect the experiment to go well, although I self-censored as to not make the smart growthers look bad ("Red Line shutdown will show the greatness of dedicated bus lanes," MobilityLab).

But I shouldn't ever forget that knowledge-based practice is best, not what Suzanne calls "wishcraft," where what people want trumps the likelihood of what is possible and likely based on reality.

From the standpoint of successfully implementing "controversial" transportation and land use practices, I recommend starting off in those settings and situations where you will be wildly successful, rather than taking on the challenge of successful implementation in a setting where success from the outset is no more than 50/50.

2.  San Francisco is adding bus lanes to Geary Boulevard.  I had no idea that the bus service in that corridor has about 54,000 riders/day, which is more than double the highest ridership routes in DC (which top out in the mid-20,000s).

The plan is to allow "private shuttles" to also use the lanes ("City approves red transit-only lanes on Geary for use by private shuttles, Chariot," San Francisco Examiner).

These can include the "Google buses" that take people from SF to work in Silicon Valley, which have been the target of anti-gentrification protests ("San Francisco's guerrilla protest at Google buses,"
"Geeks on the Google bus create giant social problem," and "The truth inside the Google bus lawsuit: gentrification," Guardian).

Some advocates are protesting against allowing private transit to use the lanes.

But from a transportation demand management perspective, facilitating the mass movement of people by transit should be prioritized, regardless of what entity provides the service.

Plus it will make the lanes more full of buses, thereby making it harder for automobiles to use the lanes illegally, in the face of minimal enforcement.

The best way to have the lanes be bus exclusive is to fill them up with buses.

Granted some people do make a legitimate point that the high use bus line should be the priority.  Given that it is likely at most to have a bus come every 3 minutes, it can withstand access to private transit.

It does raise the point I made in May ("Another example of the need to reconfigure transpo planning and operations at the metropolitan scale: Boston is seizing dockless bike share bikes, which compete with their dock-based system," that from the standpoint of managing transit and sustainable mobility services in a metropolitan area it will be a struggle for these government-led organizations to integrate for profit providers into the mix.

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At 10:39 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Unless there is active enforcement, bus lanes have zero chance with DC area drivers.

The Georgia Avenue lanes are beyond stupid, as the slowdown going south is the block before Florida Avenue, which doesn't even have a bus lane.

Much like 16th below U st -- the problem isn't bus lanes, it is people parking in the rush hour lanes and reduced enforcement.

Someone should pull the number of rush hour tickets written (and cars towed) for the last 10 years -- my sense is there is a real lack of enforcement there. I was ticked back in 2003 for being 1 minute over in a rush hour lane downtown, now I regularly see cars there for most of the afternoon.

on 16th, it is usually uber or delivery trucks. On Georgia Avenue it is private cars using the bus lanes.

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Literally the next item in my RSS feed:

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Yes the bus lane needs to be extended between U Street and Rhode Island Avenue.

But the changes on Georgia Ave. were necessary. I kinda called it years ago, describing the problems southbound with the left turn lane combining with legal parking to stack traffic in significant ways.

Surprisingly, while there is some "violation" of the lanes, there isn't that much considering. Nothing compared to the lane by Capital One Arena...

The problem is taking parking off the street with limited off street parking available.

2. WRT Uber, it happens I read something today in the Guardian, on this topic, with the quote "it doesn't make sense to use a car to go 10 blocks" and I put it as a cite/comment in the June piece about this broad topic... although I still don't see how Lyft can make money from Motivate outside of NYC, otherwise it is a system operator.

There was a great piece that mattxmal sent me that I cited in the comments too. Oops, I didn't cite it:

By a guy who ran an Uber competitor. I didn't totally agree, but he made the point that in terms of keeping scooters and e-bikes charged up and distributed it made more sense to get your ride hailing drivers to do it as an add on.

Suzanne said she saw lots of scooters on U Street today. I think they might be a fad. But maybe not. Not sure.

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

The issue I see with scooter rental is life of the scooter.

Mine has about 150 miles on it. Starting to see battery degradation, and I don't got below 50%.

I suspect they pull the scooter out of service once the battery hits 25%. that is 4-5 rides a day.

Scooter might last a year tops in rental condition. Probably less

The battery is replaceable, but it isn't designed for easy service. The lime scooters may be better. They were using the segway external battery pack and I noticed they went with their own design.

I can't find the site, but Xioami reported something like $1B in scooter sales. They make the bird scooter.

I'm assuming the rental bikes cost something like $50. Scooters cost a bit more. I've also noticed they have used up the market -- you cannot buy a Xioami or Segway scooter right now.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

yep, the bikes are cheap as hell. Good points about lifecycle of scooters.

It will be interesting to get some albeit anecdotal but objective data from you wrt your own use of a scooter.

I'm reminded of a story about Olmsted. He was at a party and an upstanding citizen complained about the high quality of the design and facilities of Central Park. He said it was "nicer than my own property." Olmsted countered that Central Park was going to be used by far more people every day and regularly and therefore shouldn't the park be built to handle that level of use?

The original lessons from bike share are pretty clear. Make heavy duty bikes. Have a system to ward off vandalism.

The new dockless systems ignored those lessons.

With scooters, again, "cheap" doesn't make it in a high use environment. (cf. I find that most "public" air stations for bikes seem to fail with the hoses or connections, even ones in somewhat protected situations, like at Navy Yard; my best choice is the gas station pump at 4th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue SE).

And batteries that have to be replaced. Although your point about what I call "design for maintenance," in this case being able to more easily access the battery, is key.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Did you see the story on Mobike in Manchester, UK, where they are chastising residents to take better care of the bikes/not vandalize them, or they will leave?


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