Transportation Nation

BRT Systems Getting an International Rating Standard

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Now it can be told:  there are objective standards for measuring how good your Bus Rapid Transit system is.  The Institute for Transportation Development Policy has issued new scoring system to see how good BRT systems around the world are.

Among the criteria for making a good BRT -- off board payment, segregated bus lanes, level boarding, and good integration with biknig and walking.

The scorecard will rank BRT corridors as Gold, Silver or Bronze Standard -- apparently every BRT deserves a medal. A BRT Standard committee will confer the rankings on bus systems akin to the Green Building Council bestowing different LEED level certifications.

2012 is a pilot year to test the scorecard.

Last year ITDP did a more informal ranking of systems worldwide. Bogota's got a 93.  New York, the lowest rated system, got a 35.

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Transportation Nation

Medellin Gets Mega Escalator

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

(photo courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

The 12,000 residents of one hilly Medellin neighborhood used to climb the equivalent of 28 stories to get from the city center to their homes. But an arduous 30-minute walk has been transformed into a five-minute ride, with the installation of an urban escalator system.*

"This escalator represents a celebration for all of us as a city," said Mayor Salazar Jaramillo on Monday, when he officially opened the escalators to the public in the Comuna 13 neighborhood. "This should be a symbol of city transformation and peace for Comuna 13."

The escalator is divided into six stages and cost about US$6.7 million to construct.

The mayor said innovations like the escalator are turning the Colombian city into a showcase for leading urban planning ideas, and added that officials from Rio de Janeiro had already contacted him about doing something similar in the hillside favelas there.

Press reports call Comuna 13 one of  Medellin's poorest and most violent neighborhoods. Which makes it ripe for transformation, according to city officials.

"In these slums, we have to make an important change," said Rafael Nanclares, Medellin's secretary of transportation and transit, speaking on the phone to Transportation Nation. "We have to make opportunities for them." Earlier this week, Nanclares tweeted a photo of a banner hung on the side of a building that read: "What pride! We live in the only neighborhood in the world with public escalators."

Nanclares said the escalators would make it easier for residents to get to school and work. A major goal of the escalator is to connect Comuna 13 with the economic center of the city--both literally and figuratively. "It's a way to give presence to people who don't have a presence," he said. The ambitious project is as much statement of support to an overlooked community as it is transportation improvement as he sees it.

Carlos Pardo, a consultant for the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), pointed out that the city has been working to improve mobility for its poorest residents. "This escalator is part of a broader range of initiatives in Medellin," he said. The city has recently inaugurated a bike share program and a bus rapid transit system. Parts of the city also have a cable car-- but the necessary distance between stations made an escalator a better choice for Comuna 13.

More photos are below.

*An earlier edition of this post quoted the Medellin government as claiming this is the first urban escalator system as transit. As many readers point out, Hong Kong's has an urban escalator system, which opened in 1993.

(with reporting by Alex Goldmark)


(image courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

 (photo courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

(photo courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

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Transportation Nation

Cleveland's Fast Buses Earn Praise -- But Still Only Win the Bronze

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cleveland's BRT, the HealthLine (photo by tracktwentynine via Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A new study ranking America's top five bus rapid transit systems (BRT) gave Cleveland top marks -- but there's a lot of room for improvement.

That's according to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), a non-governmental agency that plans transit systems for cities worldwide.

New York, which has "select bus service" in the Bronx and Manhattan, didn't even make the list. New York's SBS buses have some features of BRT, including off-board payment and designated lanes, but are missing others, including special BRT "stations" and lanes that are physically segregated from car lanes.

The other four cities with the best scores in the U.S. are Eugene (Oregon), Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas.

The ITDP's scoring criteria awards more points to systems with off-vehicle fare collection, frequent service, physically separated lanes, lanes that use the center of the road, and platform-level boarding. The systems also earns points for integrating with other transit modes like subways and bike sharing stations.

According to the report, Bogota, Colombia, and Guangzhou, China are the only cities that earn a "gold" level ranking. All five American cities received bronze ratings.

"One problem in the United States is that no one really understands what BRT is," said Dani Simons, a spokesperson for the ITDP, who added that getting consistent a definition is important.

"We’re proposing a scoring system," she said, "along the lines of green building LEED standard." She said that a ranking system would not only help people understand bus rapid transit -- but spur cities to compete for the top ranked system.

The report also listed three BRT systems in the planning stages -- Chicago, San Francisco, and Montgomery County, Maryland -- that it says are worth watching.

You can read the ITDP's full report here or see it below.
ITDP Report

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Transportation Nation

Guangzhou Wins ITDP Sustainable Transit Award

Monday, January 24, 2011

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

[UPDATED] (Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The 2011 Sustainable Transport Award goes to Guangzhou, China in large part for a successful and highly popular bus rapid transit system that integrates with bike lanes, bike share and metro stations, "raising the bar for all cities" according to the Institute for Transportation Development Policy that gives the award every year.

Here's the ITDP write up on the city's BRT system, which carries 800,000 people each day.

Accepting the award, Lu Yuan, a Guangzhou government official said, "It is a big honor to win this award ... and in the future we will continue to grow green transportation" systems to create a "sustainable, low-carbon and happy Guangzhou."

The other cities in contention for the prize were: Tehran, Iran (which inadvertently caused a minor international incident); Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico; Lima, Peru; and Nantes, France. Previous winners include Ahmedebad, India; Bogota, Colombia; and New York City.

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Transportation Nation

What Can the US Learn from European Parking Policies?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bicycle parking, Amsterdam (photo by Alex RK/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Making parking more expensive and less convenient, encouraging residents to trade in parking permits for transit passes, and dedicating parking revenue for things like bike sharing programs...according to a new report, these are just a few of the strategies that cities like Amsterdam, Zurich, and Barcelona employ to make their streets more bike-and pedestrian-friendly--while reducing pollution.

A new report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (a group that plans transit systems for cities worldwide) called "Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation," (you can find a PDF of it here) details an approach to parking that would make most American politicians and retailers blanch.

"European cities are deliberately making driving less convenient, but while they're doing that, they're boosting bike infrastructure and transit availability,"  said ITDP's Michael Kodransky.

He also said that the European experience shows that restricting parking makes financial sense.

"The trend here is to feed demand by creating more parking." Kodransky said. "European cities realize that if they make other modes more convenient, and create restrictive parking policies, people will drive less -- and shop more."

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Transportation Nation

Former President Clinton Gushes about BRT, Sustainable Transit

Thursday, July 01, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation). His former Vice President, Al Gore, is known for going on about the environment, but I'm straining to remember when I ever heard Gore go on about transit. I can't ever remember hearing the current President, Barack Obama, (even as a candidate) talk about mass transit in the way you can see former President Bill Clinton speak here.

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising. Clinton's ClimateWorks foundation has made international low-carbon transit a priority. But still, he says "bus rapid transit."

The video was screened at at gala Wednesday night for the mass-transit touting  Institute for Transportation Development Policy.

Please correct me if I'm wrong: Anyone seen anything comparable from Barack Obama, Vice President Biden, former Vice President Al Gore, or anyone from the U.S. Senate?

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