Streams

Draft Report: To Withstand Storms, Build a Bigger Bus System

Monday, January 07, 2013 - 12:33 PM

MTA "Bus Bridge" After Sandy replaced some subway service (NY MTA photo)

To better survive the economic impact of big storms like Sandy, New York needs a "world class" bus rapid transit system.   That's one of the major recommendations in a draft report commissioned by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on how to rebuild New York infrastructure post-Sandy.

Bus Rapid Transit -- basically, fast buses which run on segregated lanes where users pay off board -- mimics a subway system by planning bus routes that can run almost as quickly through streets as trains can underground.

Such a system could be less vulnerable to floods and more able to restart service after big storms.  It would also be able to connect neighborhoods that would otherwise be stranded by subway service disruptions.

"A world class BRT network would enhance the resilience and redundancy of the overall transit system," according to a draft copy of the report which was leaked to the New York Times.  The report contained no specific recommendations for funding the system.

It also doesn't address the thorny political question which frequently accompanies BRT proposals -- that of of turning over road space traditionally used by cars to buses only.

The recommendation is part of a set of proposals drawn up by the NYS2100 Commission, one of three large commissions set up by Governor Cuomo to address rebuilding New York in the wake of storm Sandy, which caused over $30 billion in damage.   The two other commissions, on emergency response and preparedness, delivered their findings directly to the governor last week.  No word on when the final 2100 report will be presented to the Governor, or whether or how he'll adopt its recommendations.

BRT advocates, like the Institute for Transportation Development Policy, argue that BRT can be built far more quickly and cheaply than subways. The Second Avenue subway has been under development for half a century, by contrast.

"Financial support from the State would be welcome in helping to bring New York City’s ongoing bus system improvement efforts closer to world class ‘gold standard’ BRT," said ITDP CEO Walter Hook in a statement.  "A world-class BRT system would not only have fully dedicated lanes that keep the buses separate from traffic, and off-board fare collection, but also beautiful iconic stations with platforms that allow people to step directly onto the bus."

The NYS2100 commission is co-chaired by Rockefeller Foundation Chairwoman Judith Rodin and financier Felix Rohatyn. (Rockefeller also funds Transportation Nation.)

The Governor's office didn't comment on the draft report, and an MTA spokesman, Adam Lisberg, said the report's recommendations had not been shared with the MTA.

During storm Sandy, the MTA's temporary "bus bridge," which replaced subway service during the period when all the East River tunnels were flooded, came as close to New York has seen of having a true BRT.   Though there were long lines to board the buses, the buses, aided by police officers stationed at every corner, zipped through city streets.  The ride from the East Village to Barclay's Center in Brooklyn took about 12 minutes.

The city has also installed several "select bus service" lines, which adopt some features of BRT, including off-board payment.

"BRT corridors that serve as connectors to the subway system would provide riders with muliple options for connections and access to the core," the report said.

The draft report suggests creating a bus line that would run the length of southern Brooklyn, connecting the D, F, B and Q lines,  and a east-west corridor connecting  neigborhoods like Bedford Stuyvesant to lines that run through Brownstone Brooklyn, Midwood, and Coney Island.

The draft report notes that transit ridership has increased 60 percent since 1990, but bus line speeds overall have decreased by 11 percent.

 

 

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Comments [4]

GeoSpeech

Redundancy is typically avoided when designing routes and systems overall. All the talk about efficiency goes out the window and public funds do what they are good at...being wasted. This is not the solution to service restoration after a natural disaster. What was the problem with the bus bridge? It seemed to serve its purpose fine. Continually running a service born out of an emergency situation just doesn't make sense. The context is different and the costs are skewed.

Jan. 09 2013 12:30 PM
Tom

BRT is a "paper tiger", In most cases the aggregate costs to build and run the BRT will come close to (or pass) Rail and you don't have the scaleable capacity of a well designed Rail system.

The Governor by his own admission is a "car guy" and BRT is what "car guys" like, they can build it, let it flounder for a while, then rip it out and "reclaim" the lane for cars.

Rail requires a commitment to build and run effectively and the people who can do that in the US are few and far.

The Second Avenue comparison, where is the real estate for dedicated BRT there? The roadblocks on this project are political, not technical. Busses have a role in well designed transit system.

Jan. 08 2013 03:55 PM
Rob

Meanwhile, the new Tappan Zee Bridge is going to increase greenhouse gas emissions. Better roll out a few more BRT lines!

Jan. 08 2013 11:59 AM
Mike

Peter, real BRT would have dedicated bus lanes with camera enforcement or barriers to prevent traffic from going into the bus lanes. Some cities also have special signaling on the lights so traffic stops except for the bus at intersections. This is what they are talking about.

Jan. 08 2013 07:31 AM

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