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Beta Magellan

Reading this review on one of the CTA’s crosstown buses to the main north-south line, I definitely agree—too often travelers think of transit in terms of individual vehicles rather than as complete suite of services.

That said, I do have a nitpick about the Circle Line—it would have served the Illinois Medical District, which is the second-densest employment center in the city. The issues of surrounding operating flat junctions, expensive underground interchanges around existing subways, and operation as a continuous loop are enough to support improvements to buses in the area over the late (well, technically still in planning) Circle Line.

Daniel

Thanks for the review Jarrett - look forward reading this book.

Just regarding: "But you have to go to Brisbane to see an uncompromised developed-world busway network, one that provides reliable operations end to end." Reality is that parts of it do clog up, eg http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielbowen/6305218567/

Brent Palmer

@Daniel: Such "bus jams" are commonplace on the inner stretches of the busway system. And passengers are often stranded for up to 30 minutes, passed by full bus after full bus, on the inner stretch of the Northern Busway. That's a failure of service planning (too many routes serving Cultural Centre for instance), rather than the infrastructure.

Julian

As I was reading this I was wondering how many comments I'd read until someone pointed out that Brisbane's Busway suffers frequent problems. The second comment it was...

I've never riden the busway, but I hear frequently that it suffers congestion and that passengers are often stranded due to overly crowded buses. Both of these symptoms could be argued to be a victim of it's own success, i.e. buses are crowded because they're popular, congestion is happening because they have to invest in such a high frequency that congestion is inevitable. That's true from one perspective: but it's equally true that it was a lack of faith that passenger numbers could be that high that made them decide on buses instead or LRT or frequent heavy rail services for some trunk routes. Which they'll inevitably have to start implementing at some point.

Mee's also likes to point out that parts of the busway were built by removing rail tracks so the alignment could be used and that a lot of busway passengers were simply ex-rail passengers, and that despite the investment rail-bus transfers are very uncommon. So the "complete network" argument doesn't really work very well in Brisbane's sense.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Julian.  The Brisbane Busway does have a constraint at Victoria Bridge and Melbourne St portal, which everyone knows must be addressed.  It also has too many peak buses assigned to it given this constraint, and the service patterns are much more complicated than I would recommend.  However, Mees's dismissals become less relevant as the busway network expands.  Brisbane's historic rail network is poorly located to meet many future needs, because it bypasses many more recently developed centres that the busway can serve more directly.  The South East Busway serves freeway-oriented centres such as Garden City (a shopping mall) and Griffith University, while the rail stations on the parallel rail line are mostly in hard-to-reach places; the rail line is really useful for much longer distances than the busway.  The Northern Busway, too, is a chain of major destinations, including universities and hospitals, while the parallel northern rail line virtually bypasses northern Brisbane, skirting its far eastern edge.  The Eastern Busway will be dramatically more direct than the S-shaped Cleveland Rail line, and thus puts public transport in the position to compete with car travel paths in a way that rail will never do.

Of course, I object to the whole premise of Mees's complaint, which is that specific busway and rail line performance is a fact about busways and rail lines, rather than a fact about where these facilities are and how they fit into the network.  Some of Brisbane's rail lines are well-located and have a strong future as rapid transit, while some others will useful mainly for longer-distance travel at lower frequencies but have limited utility in Brisbane itself.  In other Brisbane corridors, though, the busway is much better placed to be the rapid transit product.  Both systems are part of a complete rapid transit network for the entire city.  Setting them at war with each other only conceals this fact.

Zoltán

I generally tend towards the argument that given rail is not much more expensive, all things considered, than full scale BRT, it's not too worth challenging the idea that rail is better, all other things being equal. It's more worth challenging the idea that in a complete network linking up the entirety of a city, buses aren't going to have to be a big part of that for a long time to come. Buses might not be as fun as rail, but they could still be greatly improved to make the parts of the network that require buses reasonably nice to use.

Orbital or non-CBD grid connections are where improved buses can be really useful. Particularly within a grid network, one rail line making a weird circuit of the city is unlikely to provide that many people with a more direct and therefore faster route to their destination, compared to several strong bus routes that don't have all the characteristics of full BRT, but still have all the speed improvements that the city can manage - things like built out stops, signal priority, and large vehicles with off-board fare collections.

david vartanoff

About Chicago. Actually some of the Circle Line should have been built. The money wasted on the "block 37" fiasco would have paid for perhaps rebuilding the north end of the Paulina Connector to make better connections to/from the Medical Center. Beyond that Chicago needs west of the river rapid transit for the growing office buildings there. A Clinton subway connected on the north to the main right where the State St subway ramps are, and extending south to exchange w/ the Orange line then head east to McCormick place would give multiple connectivity. Transfer from Metra Electic to west of the river for example.

Nathanael

"Chicago is so massively single-centered that there are few major secondary centres sufficient to anchor a metro line until you get way out into the suburbs,"

Off the top of my head, Golden Mile north of the Loop, U of Chicago quite a long ways to the South of the Loop

Yes, the planned Circle Line didn't hit either, but they sure do exist.

Nathanael

Zoltan wrote: "I generally tend towards the argument that given rail is not much more expensive, all things considered, than full scale BRT, it's not too worth challenging the idea that rail is better, all other things being equal. It's more worth challenging the idea that in a complete network linking up the entirety of a city, buses aren't going to have to be a big part of that for a long time to come. Buses might not be as fun as rail, but they could still be greatly improved to make the parts of the network that require buses reasonably nice to use."

Zoltan is correct. We know rail is better, it's not that much more expensive (comparable busways are always more expensive than rail... they only come out cheaper if they use preexisting roads), so why fight the idea that rail is better? Just say "Look, we can't get rail everywhere (yet), but we can have Better Buses."

Better Bus was the bus campaigning slogan promoted by Light Rail Now, and they were right. Maybe you don't have enough people to support rail in your town, or maybe you just can't get the capital cost together yet; you can still have Better Bus.

"BRT" == "it suffers congestion and that passengers are often stranded due to overly crowded buses" and "parts of the busway were built by removing rail tracks so the alignment could be used". Just lay some tracks already; railways have far, far more opportunity for expansion.

Buses are great if you expect that your road will get depaved and revert to gravel, though.

23skidoo

Ottawa has a BRT system: http://www.octranspo1.com/map-new/maps_transitway/?lang=en

Outside of downtown (which is its big weakness), it has segregated roads and real stations.

Eric

Such "bus jams" are commonplace on the inner stretches of the busway system. And passengers are often stranded for up to 30 minutes, passed by full bus after full bus, on the inner stretch of the Northern Busway. That's a failure of service planning (too many routes serving Cultural Centre for instance), rather than the infrastructure.

If the buses are full, then the problem is not that too many routes go to one place, but that the system is over capacity. That means that the bus system should be replaced by rail, because rail allows for several vehicles to be connected together, vastly increasing capacity. Busways are a great system for places with moderate ridership, like small cities or most cities in the US. But in this case, ridership has clearly grown beyond the capabilities of busways.

Scott

A thought about metro circle lines, considering particularly the one I'm most familiar with, Moscow's Koltsevaya. Moscow as a very old capital city and so both quite centralized and non grid based. It seems to me the Koltsevaya essentially functions as a grid equivalent - albeit closer to the current centre than not - in what is otherwise pretty much a radial system (*). It does connect all the major heavy-rail stations, if those count as regional centres, but its main benefit seems to be touching every other line and thus allowing people to move from one to the other without going even further into the centre and possibly having to then make multiple connections.

(*) I've been interested to see some of the radial lines being connected together near their current tips, either directly or through "light metro" lines - both of which can be seen now on the south end of this map: http://engl.mosmetro.ru/flash/scheme01.html

It doesn't seem this could be called either a "grid" or a "circle" since it would take multiple connections to go for example from the outer orange to outer light green lines without riding all the way into the far side of the central city. There is also a system of trolley buses that run between individual lines, though again it would not necessarily take you more than one or two lines without transfer.

Nathanael

Eric, if you don't need the capacity of rail, you don't need the capacity of full-fledged busways either.

Maybe you need painted bus lanes. Those are good things which have a place. But if you don't need the capacity of rail, you don't need the heavy concrete grade-separated busway either.

Scott: Moscow has one heck of a network design in its Metro. It's not grid based but it achieves massive connectivity, with a combination of "spoke and circle" structure and a clever set of criss-crosses of the radial lines both in the center of town and further out.

It's less obvious how to make a highly connected network without a grid, but Moscow proves that you can do it fairly efficiently.

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