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They have seen the future of Boston transportation and it's buses all the way down
By adamg on Fri, 09/04/2015 - 9:23am
There's a group that really likes buses, and they've got the snazzy graphics to prove they're better than subways, at least if you give them their own lanes and raised platforms and stuff. Oddly, the Silver Line, our one example of "bus rapid transit," isn't listed on their gold standards or BRT in action pages.
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With Boston drivers?
Drivers can't even keep themselves off the Green Line tracks, and those are actual rails. How likely are drivers to stay off a BRT lane that actually looks like a road?
Look at their pretty pictures
They show all these snazzy bus lanes with actual barriers to keep cars out.
There are actually a number of roads in Boston where this could be done: Blue Hill Avenue, Columbia Road, American Legion Highway, Brighton Avenue, Washington Street south of West Roxbury Parkway. You know, all the streets that used to have dedicated trolley "reservations," back when trolleys were a thing.
One little thing
Neither American Legion Highway nor West Roxbury Parkway ever had trolleys running on them. They were designed for vehicles I will not name, since some corners of your Hub are strongly opposed to them.
But yeah, dedicated reservations would do the trick. I don't see, say, how one could get one on Hyde Park Ave between Metropolitan Ave and Wolcott Square, and that is but one example of how this would not end as they think it would.
Plus, a while back they wanted to extend the SL down Blue Hill ave, and the residents wanted no part of it....
I seriously wonder if that's the big plan...
After taking the B line from Harvard Ave to Copley last night and it taking over 45 minutes, I really am starting to wonder if the big plan is to just starve the MBTA so much, let the service decline to such a state that people just stop using it altogether. I don't even buy a monthly pass anymore, after doing so for years. I figured out using Uber is nominally more expensive and gives me back hours each week. I am fortunate most of my commuting is done on foot, so I can get away with this. If I had to depend on the MBTA to get me around, I would probably be a very depressed, angry person. It's sad, and scary, that in this day and age, our transit system treats 45 minutes to an hour to shuttle people 2.5 miles as perfectly acceptable. You literally could walk faster!! Does anyone know why the B line is crawling from stop to stop for the past couple weeks??
Well that's the beauty of this plan. With the appropriate TOD projects we will gentrify those depressed, angry people right the fuck out of the city and we can all be like the happy visualized people in the artists' renderings! I'm looking forward to it!
Poor T service
was what led me to start bicycle commuting 3-ish years ago. I live off of the 73 bus and take the same route it does; I usually arrive at Harvard faster on my bicycle than I would by taking the bus, and I'm a fat, old, slow rider on an old, slow bike (mountain bike from the early '90s). And exercise and fresh air are way more pleasant than being crammed in on a bus or a subway.
Bonus: I'm wearing a pants size I haven't worn since college, so I got that goin' for me, which is nice.
Regarding your last question,
Regarding your last question, it's the first week of September - obviously the B line is going to be a cluster. It doesn't need any particular disaster, just thousands of micro-delays snowballing as newcomers figure out how things work all at once.
Actually for the past couple of weeks B-Line stop activity (loading/unloading) hasn't taken more time than usual, at least when I've been riding. What has changed is that when above ground the trolleys have been creeping along at a fraction of their usual above-ground speed. I have no idea what's causing this or if this is a temporary situation, or possibly related to the overpass situation earlier this summer?
More U-Hauls swerving onto the tracks for them to dodge.
Creeping is right...
It's SO frustrating.
They had the third Type 8
They had the third Type 8 derailment in three months a few weeks ago and I heard the trolley operator was blamed for speeding. Now all the trolley operators are showing just how slow the line is if they actually follow the speed limits.
The b line crawls so slow
The b line crawls so slow because it goes through bu and all of those brilliant kids are still learning how to cross the street, and pay to get on a train.
D line, Green line
has it's own right-of-way; does it help speed things up? Not that I've noticed.
The green line on Beacon St. basically has it's own right-of-way on the street; does it help speed things up? No, I use it semi-regularly, and honestly, most days, a rickshaw would be faster.
Are trains underground fast, even thought they are unencumbered by street traffic? For the most part, especially the green line, they stop and go, stop and go, crawl into stations, have a half dozen 'scheduled adjustments' for a 4 mile ride, etc.
MBTA would still have these buses move at a snail's pace, regardless of their right-of-way andraised platforms.
The D line might not move as fast as you'd like, but in my experience it's much faster than any of the other green line branches or any MBTA bus that doesn't have a dedicated lane. I also feel like the C line is a bit faster than the B or E line. I haven't looked at any trip data, though, this is just my impression.
Actual travel times
This map uses travel times from the MBTA's trip planner. Just looking at the map and knowing anything about the area's geography makes it very clear that the D branch is quite a bit faster than the other branches, especially the B branch.
Or you could just read the commentary:
Here's what kills the D for me
I go from Cleveland Circle inbound downtown. D Reservoir is closer for me, but I opt 90% of thetime for C at Cleveland Circle. Reason: D get's SWAMPED @ Reservoir by hordes of BC students whose bus drives past Cleveland Circle, and up the Reservoir T bus stop. In addition, hordes of folks from Cleveland Circle side streets also walk over to the D. D is usually pretty crowded anyway by the time it gets from Riverside to Reservoir,so the trains are usually crowded as all F. I'll get on the C at Cleveland Circle and at least get the seat of my choosing. So many are willing to put up with the overcrowded D at Reservoir to save, on average, 6 lousy minutes?
Outbound is another story. If I can get on either the C or D, I will; usually depends on which is least crowded.
All you need to do is give
All you need to do is give the trolleys traffic signal priority (and close a couple of stops.)
D-line is much faster than C.
D-line is much faster than C. It actually ride with some speed with reaching 40 MPH. It should to be 50 MPH, but that damn accident happened.
The speed in the tunnel is fast compared to cars in the daytime due to congestion and traffic lights. A bike though can beat a train in the tunnel for travel time. Though I have to agree its numerous stops with so many red lights is extremely frustrating. So many times, if you sit near the front, you can see from the driver side that he can easily ride straight into the station, but nope, he has to stop just before it because it limits the risk of the off-chance of a driver riding into a station with another train there. Even when the driver can see the if a train is in the station or not.
Silver Line isn't real BRT
They don't list the Silver Line because it doesn't meet any of the criteria to be considered gold standard. The lanes are painted, not dedicated, and you have to get on the front door at non-level platforms on to buses that don't get any signal priority at intersections.
That we were told the Silver Line was BRT has basically destroyed the public's willingness to ever believe in this technology as a reasonable option.
One part is BRTish
From South Station to the World Trade Center. But don't we already have to worry about it being overloaded thanks to all the seaport development?
"BRTish" - they left out the "Rapid"
With the incredibly low speed limits in the tunnel, I find it hard to call that section "rapid" just because it has a reserved right of way.
nasty, BRTish and short.
life on the Silver Li(n)e...
I don't see how buses could be better
This is all non scientific in response to the notion that buses are better than subways...
If there is no room on Boston roads for bike lanes, then how can we find room for dedicated bus lanes? Arguably improvements and 'good' maintenance to existing subways and rail beds makes sense in many ways.
I saw 4 bus 39's heading south on South St. in JP the other evening when I was commuting home by bike. I've been scratching my head for years over this phenomenon of non-bus-management. It seems to me that if those buses were managed by a controller and spread out appropriately, they'd be more effective and cause less issues with traffic.
GPS and camera monitor existing buses - I've both watched and been on the receiving end of bus drivers playing left-turn chicken and "I'm entering traffic now!" chicken on the roads. Are they really in a rush? Do they get a bonus if they drive their bus like it's a small car? Why can't they relax a bit and wait for a green light or until there is sufficient space+time for them to make turns or enter traffic?
Anyways, I don't see how public transportation can be noticably improved in Boston without addressing some of these existing things.
Here's the plan
The streets are crowded, so you have to put the buses underground, in dedicated tunnels. Of course, it's hard to ventilate tunnels so maybe you'd have to run electrical wiring through the tunnels to power the buses. But then I guess if you could put the buses on some kind of track, then it would require less vigilance for the drivers to avoid hitting the tunnel walls?
IDK, it sounds like it could be done. Maybe they can talk to the folks who designed the MBTA to get some pointers.
Maybe they can talk to the
To dig those guys up you'll need a shovel.
Although rails are very good
Although rails are very good for carrying large trains over great distances, asphalt provides a lot more flexibility which is great in an urban environment. Rail is great when it works, but creates major headaches when things go wrong. Stuck train? The entire line is brought to its knees. Maintenance? Either try to do it between 1am and 5am, or shut down the line on a weekend and run shuttles. Need new vehicles? Order a customized car from Japan or Europe and wait five years for delivery.
I've been a bus commuter for
I've been a bus commuter for a few years and if there's a mishap like a breakdown or whatever(rare but it happens), at least you can get off and catch the next bus behind, grab a cab if need be, etc. Flexibility indeed. I can't imagine living in, say, Quincy and using the Red Line every bleepin' day.
That doesn't happen if there's 2 tracks like New York has, a local and an express.
For some reason, no other cities had the foresight to build the needed redundancy for the system to effectively deal with emergencies.
"If there is no room on
"If there is no room on Boston roads for bike lanes, then how can we find room for dedicated bus lanes?"
Yawn. This is such a tired, lazy argument. Of course there is room either for bike lanes, BRT, or both. Go out to any of the named corridors with a tape measure if you have to. You don't think there is room because all of the space on the streets you're observing has been surrendered to private motor vehicles. There is absolutely no reason why this has to be.
Mexico City is a shining example of how efficient BRT can be. It's amazing there. Until I saw this I was skeptical at best but now- truly CAN be the future. It MUST be done correctly or otherwise its a waste. And no the Silverline is not true BRT.
Subway construction in today's day and age is just too darn expensive to consider. We could never build the network we need.
Ha ha, love your comment Vaughn K. The Silver Line in its current incarnation does not meet the Gold Standard described on the BRT advocacy website. However, I know this has been done extensively in other cities such as Curitiba, Brazil, Houston, and Ottawa, Canada (where the current right-of-ways are being converted to rail!). It's a definite improvement for sprawling, low density places like Phoenix or Dallas. Not that it can't be done well, but in a city with central Boston's density, what's really needed are new subway routes. In a dense urban environment such as ours or New York's or San Francisco's or London, etc, no other form of public transport can operate as efficiently (Whatever happened to the Urban Ring?). But at a time when mass transit in major cities has never been so popular, with trains jam packed at rush hour and not enough options here and other cities, have we reached a point where new tunnels have become almost politically and financially impossible to build. Should a mile of underground rail cost over a billion, much less surface rail on an existing right-of-way (Hello Green Line Somerville)?
Repost from Adam's twitter feed
this guy lays out the question of why exactly is the GLX so damn expensive. Not any hard answers, but the MBTA projects are way over typical costs for unclear reasons.
Sounds like a good idea
Am I the only one who likes this? After the green line extension scare we've had recently, it looks like we need to find other, less costly, means of improving our public transportation. This might be the way to go. Adding connecting circles to the subway would take billions of dollars and probably decades.
BRT is just as expensive to
BRT is just as expensive to run at the scale that subways operate at. The BRT systems this report references requier 60' wide 4-tracked bus-ways and frequent 2-min headways to meet demand. There are no such corridors in Boston, and wage levels are high in the developed world that running busses frequently incurs significantly higher ops expense than either subways or light rail. The report fails to mention that the MBTA's Green Line has a better cost-per-passenger than any bus line in Boston and nearly all bus lines in the United States. It also moves 220k per day, which is far more than achievable in any pie-in-the-sky BRT plan.
The ideas that undergird BRT is that it's capital investment costs are low and this report uses particularly specious arguments to insinuate this. There are no roads in Boston that can supported full, quadtracked BRT lanes and even in there were the increased maintenance budgets (concrete costs more to maintain and has to be laid more frequently than steel rail) would wipe the increased revenue from bus patronage. BRT is useful in the hierarchy of transit, but it slots in just below iight rail and the far below heavy rail in terms of capacity and economic development benefits. The group behind this is an extremely BRT-centric transit outfit, their goal isn't to build good transit, it's to build BRT. Full stop. So BRT can be useful in Boston, but the idea that it's better than our subway system or that it can take over from our subway system's future extension is downright ridiculous.
Thank you so much for
Thank you so much for bringing some sanity to this discussion!
Anyone else notice that many of sponsors of BostonBRT come from the band of Babbits at ABC who fronted the Silver Line Phase III nonsense? No surprise that they don't mention that project since (despite their vociferous championing of it at the time) the Silver Line is as far from real BRT as you can get and no one is fooled by that party line anymore. Didn't stop them from beating the drum for it endlessly despite overwhelming and obvious flaws in that plan,
BRT can potentially have a place in some well designed rapid transit system, but pointing to how well it works in Brasilia, Mexico City other places is unhelpful, since geographic and capital budgeting constraints are wildly different from Boston.
How about a new approach to planning rapid transit in Boston that leaves lobbying shills like ABC (whose goal is to max out construction budgets) and instead work backwards from actual Boston transit needs to best solutions. Sounds better to me than starting by jumping up and down and pretending that BRT is a magic transit solution for any possible city at any possible time regardless of actual transit needs or alternatives.
I've always hated riding buses, but...
Putting "rapid transit" after "bus" might be the solution we've been searching for all along!
Hey, everyone sitting in expressway rush-hour traffic. Welcome aboard, you're now on BBRT! (Bumper-to-Bumper Rapid Transit).