Author Topic: BRT vs. Rail: A Tale of Two Urban Transit Systems  (Read 4963 times)

Metro Jacksonville

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BRT vs. Rail: A Tale of Two Urban Transit Systems
« on: April 13, 2007, 12:00:00 AM »
BRT vs. Rail: A Tale of Two Urban Transit Systems



In previous articles, we've discussed the difference between bus rapid transit and rail transit in urban environments.  We've also displayed evidence suggesting that bus dominated transitways in urban environments are more of a hinderance to stimulating retail, than a help.  Now, to illustrate the idea on the eve of JTA's upcoming BRT downtown workshops, Metro Jacksonville takes you on a photo tour of these two transit systems, showing their effect on Tampa's urban core.

Full Article
http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/393

D. Howard

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Transit to what?
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2007, 08:54:32 AM »
I agree that rail would be a better solution in the Jacksonville's urban area, but I dont think that the bus/rail dilemma is the only thing holding back downtown retail development.  I have a problem with this thought that if a rail system is brough downtown, then all of a sudden every building owner will wise up and create a pedestrian-friendly environment that opens up to the street.  I dont think the bus/rail discussion has much to do with that.  We need the residential first (in progress), which will be followed by the dining/entertainment, which will be followed by the retail, which then will open the door for a transit discussion.

thelakelander

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RE: Transit to what?
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2007, 09:05:02 AM »
I think you may have missed the point.  We're not saying build rail downtown, we already have it.  The underlying point is to keep bus rapid transit off of downtown's major pedestrian retail oriented streets and to take advantage of what we already have by better promotion.  The images of Tampa's systems prove that transit alone doesn't spur pedestrian friendly retail, which is what backers of converting Adams and Bay to transit oriented malls having been selling.  The images show the difference between transit systems when you focus one on moving buses and the other in the form of connecting and integrating with destinations in the inner core.
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thelakelander

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Taking advantage of what we already have...
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2007, 09:17:17 AM »
Also going back to the point of "Connectivity" and transit to what?  Here's a list of destinations located within a block or two of the skyway's path.

1. MOSH
2. Friendship Fountain & the Maritime Museum
3. Prime Osborn Convention Center
4. Jacksonville Landing
5. Times-Union Preforming Arts Center
6. Jacksonville Public Library
7. MOCA Jax

That's a nice set of destinations already connected.  By using the free trolley shuttle in a complementary role, it could be possible to add Karpeles Manuscript Museum, the Beaver Street Farmer's Market, Five Points, the Cummer Museum, San Marco Square and the Sport's District to the routes.   HART has mastered this idea by tying Tampa's inner city destinations together with their intown trolley bus and streetcar line.  The result has been increased ridership for those transit systems and an increase in tourism and business for the local convention industry and destinations along those routes.

Locally, we have several things already in place, but we're still struggling to take advantage of them.  What's really needed is a strong effort to make our existing transit options more end user friendly (ex. better promotion, station identification, signage, efficiency, etc.) , before we approve millions of dollars on new systems that will compete with what we already have and could very well destroy the downtown retail, entertainment and dining scene finally making a comeback, in the process.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

tufsu1

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Goos Comparison...
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2007, 09:18:31 AM »
....but note that Ybor City is changing....the retail and restaurant/bar area struggles more each year as Channelside becomes more active.....what Ybor is getting is infill housing now....although unlike Channelside, it has almostr nothing to do with the streetcar.....everyone I know that lives there drives to South Tampa and Westshore or walks to the remaining shops on 7th Ave

thelakelander

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Ybor City
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2007, 09:27:42 AM »
The change in Ybor City has come as a result of city policy in trying to fix what wasn't broken.  Ybor became what it was because it had developed its own unique funky vibe.  A few years ago, the City of Tampa implemented some policies in an effort to make the area more "upscale" and "family friendly".  

That's okay, but doing so, means the funky atmosphere that originally made the district popular was forever lost in the process.  It will be interesting to see how Ybor's atmosphere will ultimately change, with the addition of infill housing in areas of that district that were destroyed by failed urban renewal efforts in the mid 20th century.  Most likely, Channelside will continue to grow to become a tourist oriented destination, while Ybor will go back to it's natural roots of being an urban residential district with local oriented supporting retail establishments.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

vicupstate

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« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2007, 09:38:53 AM »
Great job.  Probably the most comprehensive and compelling piece MetroJax has done to date.  
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D. Howard

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I agree...
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2007, 10:25:58 AM »
I agree Lakelander, the BRT is not the optimal solution.  It would be a huge waste of tax dollars.  I think we should put forth every effert to take advantage of the infrastructure that we already have in place (skyway, rail line) which came with a sizeable price tag.  I think by somehow connecting Five Points and San Marco Square, we would have an inclusive downtown transit system. Here is a good article regarding Andres Duany's thoughts on inner-city rail in Austin, TX.  

http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/column?oid=oid%3A465112


D. Sochet

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« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2007, 10:48:23 AM »
Interesting article however some of your info is either flawed or over exaggerated.  While it is true that Tampa's streetcar is a more desirable form of transportation than a busway, it has not been very successful in attracting locals into giving up there cars.  This is due to several factors.  Ybor City and the Channelside districts are mainly evening and weekend destinations, 20 to 30 minute intervals between trams is not very convenient and that the streetcar does not circulate through downtown Tampa.  In fact  I would not use Tampa as an ideal that Jax should aspire to. Hart (Tampa's transit agency) carries only about 30,000 people a day throughout their system.  By comparison Miami Dade transit boards nearly 350,000 a day.  Which means that while Miami has twice as many people as Tampa, their transit system carries 10 times as many people. (By the way, Miami also has a successful BRT as well as heavy rail and a people mover system).  While I agree that BRT is probably not the best idea for Jacksonville,  please do not get caught up in the hype of transit as a panacea for downtrodden districts that need more than just shiny trains to revive them.  Baltimore's LRT has been up and running for many years now and has done relatively little to bring back a moribund part of their downtown that is outside of the inner harbor.  Trains do not trump good city planning




thelakelander

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Andres Duany's opinion on transit...
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2007, 10:53:03 AM »
Great read, thanks for the link.  When he discusses "Inner-City" rail, is he addressing the $90 million/32-mile commuter rail system currently under construction or the light rail plans that have been mentioned in the area over the last few years?  I ask because he mentions Miami's Metrorail, which is a heavy rail system.  Other than steel wheels running on rail, that's a completely different type of system than commuter rail connecting the city with it's suburbs.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

Ocklawaha

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« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2007, 10:57:03 AM »
Perhaps the BEST report I have seen, excellent points.

Jacksonville once HAD a very strong Traction Hertige (streetcars). It was the largest system to ever operate in Florida and included JACKSONVILLE TRACTION CO., SOUTH JACKSONVILLE MUNI RY., and the ORTEGA TRACTION CO. Our route on North Main was widely known as "The Most Beautiful Trolley Line in the World".  While I am perhaps the loudest proponet of a TRACTION REVIVAL in Jacksonville, I would be the first to agree that we also need to finish the Sykway to focal points in the City: STADIUM, 5 POINTS, SAN MARCO, SPRINGFIELD. I have also noted a great deal of print about passengers unwilling to "go upstairs" for transit, with this in mind, our END POINT terminals should drop to street level with bus transfer loops, allowing cross-platform, seamless transfers.

The most disturbing part of all of this is that we bought into the "Potato Chip Truck-Looks like a Trolley," which are heavily marketed as tourist attractions. Being in the Rail community, I can tell you of the Worlds 5 million railroad fans, not one would pause to even look. Ask yourself, if you saw a big sign, "Meet the Jaguars", as you pull in, there is a parking lot full of poor cardboard cutouts of the team members. That thought makes you a bit ill doesn´t it. "My contention on LRT," is that once tlhe Track is in place, "Heritage Trolleys ," can become "Light Rail ," with little effort. SAME TRACK, SAME ELECTRIC. While it is true, LRT is built to higher standards beyond the CBD, the downtown lines would move at street speeds, so it stands that a well designed track and electrical could be used for both.  As in Tampa our TRACTION would not have to mix with vehicle traffic. It would be important to consider the East-West line Transportation Center-Stadium on a route different then the skyway. At both Stadium and Transportation Center, Skyway, Bus, LRT would all come together. LRT could have it´s own platform on the railroad side of Transportation Center. Thus in one giant leap, we create mass transit:

A system connected at all of the ends.
A cross town segment SKYWAY right out of "star wars".
A Heritage Trolley/LRT core right out of 1936 (final year of JT Co.)
A capicity enhancement that would make us able to hande any transit contingency, NFL, NBA etc.
A LRT seed that would enable future expansion North into Springfield.
A LRT seed that would enable future expansion South into Riverside.
A LRT seed that would enable future expansion over a New Matthews Bridge, Regency, Beaches.
Thank you for the opportunity to be heard.
Ocklawaha ;)
« Last Edit: September 19, 2007, 10:33:47 AM by Ocklawaha »

thelakelander

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D. Sochet - Correct, trains do not trump good city planning..
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2007, 11:19:18 AM »
Yes, they do not, we have the skyway to prove that.  Transit in general does not.  A mix of good urban planning, marketing and integrating those things with the mass transit system is what the city should be shooting for.

Regarding the article, there was no mention of the TECO streetcar line being developed to get riders out of their cars.  This view is one of the main obstacles in getting those not familiar with all the benefits of mass transit to accept.  It was set up and has been very successful at being an alternative and connecting form of mass transit in Tampa's inner city, in conjunction with the In-Town Trolley bus.  No one familiar with Tampa can deny that the inner city vibrancy has completely changed for the better in the last few years, since a little more effort and promotion was put into coordinating mass transit service with new and existing developments in the area.  Its living proof of how to and not design mass transit routes in the urban core.

There was also no mention of BRT or rail being the panacea for downtrodden downtowns.   Miami's Busway is a great example of one that works (although it's not downtown), but  to date, hasn't stimulated new retail development along it's path either.  Lets make it clear, the concept of BRT is great at what its meant to do, which is to move buses.    

However, placing such systems in pedestrian friendly downtown areas create several problems from a pedestrian friendly standpoint.  The simple cheap solution would be to work with what's there (the skyway & trolleys), respect the current urban environment and future downtown master plans and come up with a viable solution that moves the planned busways off the Northbank's major streets, such as Adams and Bay.

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Ocklawaha

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« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2007, 11:19:58 AM »
Lakelander:

Like all Modes, Rail has it´s own unique vocabulary, I will offer a couple of examples:
Inter-City Rail = Long Distance or Medium Distance passenger trains such as Amtrak
Intra-City Rail = Commuter Rail, LRT, Heritage Trolleys (or Traction), Interurbans.
Hope this clears it up.
Ocklawaha

thelakelander

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Transportation terms?
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2007, 11:28:01 AM »
Maybe Andres Duany doesn't understand the terminology?  What Austin has under construction is nothing like or similar to Miami's Metromover.  It would be like comparing our Skyway with Dallas' DART or San Diego's Coaster.

From article:

On inner-city circulator rail:

"You don't have the fabric yet for it to be successful. Austin doesn't have enough walkable stuff. Look at the history of what's happened in lots of other cities – Miami is a good example, a famous example; look at what happened when they built the Metrorail in '78. Only now is the urban pattern coming in to support it. Nobody used it; everyone made fun of it.

"Building transit first gives transit a bad name. You have to build the urban pattern first, achieve the density. Then do your transit next.

"The good thing about a bus is you can remove it if it gets embarrassing. You need to make a rail reservation in the city infrastructure now, but don't build it yet. You'll know when you need it; it will be so evident. There has to be a pain factor."
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

lindab

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« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2007, 11:42:59 AM »
All the articles on this site are wonderful and give us new visions to think over. Thank you so much.  However,  I don't think that these multi-million dollar 'awesome" plans are any good for two goals for Jacksonville: revitalizing downtown and getting more cars off the road.

I don't know what the capacity for the  Skyway  is but it seems to be carrying very few passengers and has poor capability for carrying more even if the tracks are extended. My other gripe about the Skyway is the way it creates downtown tunnels for the streets on which it runs. Some very beautiful parts of town have been visually ruined by the Skyway. I can only agree with Ron Littlepage, persistent critic of the Skyway, that this was and is a big boondoggle to get federal funds.

Light Rail would be an asset except for one big problem: Right-of- way. We have waited too long to purchase ROW for the suburbs to travel to the big job centers. Unless we are willing to face the music and tear out a strip of highway, there are no good choices. And then there's the bridges!

In terms of getting to jobs and carrying the max load of passengers, the City needs to divorce its ideas  about revitalizing downtown from plans for moving people to work and getting cars off the roads. They need to concentrate on Baymeadows, Butler Blvd, and Southside Blvd.  BRT needs to go somewhere else, not into town. Yeah, lots of people work in town, but most work elsewhere in sprawlzania.