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Posts from the "Buses" Category

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Transit Researchers Want Your Videos of Tech Shuttles at Muni Stops

The public debate about the proliferation of tech shuttles, and the fees they should pay to use Muni stops, has thus far been driven more by emotion than by data and empirical analysis. But two city planning researchers at UC Berkeley are looking to change that by studying crowdsourced videos of private shuttles in bus zones, which they’ll use to gauge the delays they impose on Muni.

Photo via Mark Dreger and Dan Howard

Photo via Mark Dreger and Dan Howard

The $1 fee that the SFMTA will charge shuttles every time they use a Muni stop, as part of a recently-approved pilot program, has outraged gentrification protesters who view private transit as a cause of skyrocketing rents and evictions. They want higher fees. But the fee is limited by state law to an amount that recovers the costs of administering the program, and $1 is what the SFMTA has estimated to be the cost of enforcement and permitting.

By amassing videos of shuttle stops, Cal researchers Mark Dreger and Dan Howard think they can demonstrate the costs of Muni delays due to shuttles blocking stops while loading.

“We would like to find out what it really costs to provide this service, and no data exists to set a precedent for a fair market price for the use of these stops,” Dreger and Howard wrote on a Facebook page about the study, which includes instructions on submitting a video.

Of course, as we’ve written, Muni and private shuttles — which make it easier for commuters not to own and drive cars — wouldn’t be fighting for scraps of curb space if the SFMTA re-purposed more parking spaces for transit stops. The SFMTA has implemented a few of those in a pilot, but it’s not a widespread practice yet.

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5-Fulton Upgrades to Include Limited Service, Road Diet, and Stop Removal

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Two 5-Fulton buses approach the turn at Central Avenue on McAllister Street. Photo: cbcastro/Flickr

The 5-Fulton could get less crowded this fall after Muni launches a package of speed improvements [PDF] in a pilot of the Transit Effectiveness Project.

The SFMTA plans to launch a 5-Fulton Limited line, remove some excess stops, move stops across intersections for smoother loading, and extend the length of bus zones to make room for double bus loading. Early next year, planners said bus bulb-outs would be also be added at seven intersections as part of a re-paving project on Fulton west of 25th Avenue.

A road diet would also be implemented on Fulton between Stanyan Street and Central Avenue, reducing four traffic lanes to two, plus turn lanes. Aside from calming traffic, SFMTA planners said that change would allow for wider traffic lanes to safely fit buses. Currently, the buses must squeeze into 9-foot lanes, resulting in a high frequency of collisions with cars. The new lanes would be 12.5 feet wide.

The new 5-Limited would run the entire length of the route using the 5′s regular electric trolley coaches, serving only the six most heavily-used stops between Market Street and 6th Avenue, running that stretch 17 percent faster than the existing local service, planners said. From the Transbay Terminal to the beach, the 5L would run 11 percent faster than the existing service.

Local bus service, which would be served with hybrid motor buses, would only run as far west as 6th Avenue, and run that stretch 7 percent faster. That means anyone looking to use a local stop on the middle stretch east of 6th, coming to or from the western stretch, would have to transfer between a 5L bus and a 5-local, though planners said relatively few riders seem to make such trips. The 5-Limited would stop running at 7 p.m., after which electric trolley coaches would serve every stop on the line.

With the 5L carrying the bulk of rush-hour commuters on the route at a faster clip, Muni planners say the improvements will go a long way toward reducing crowding. At daytime hours, between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the 5 currently runs at an average speed of just 9 mph, said SFMTA planner Dustin White.

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Say Hello to Muni’s New Buses

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Muni’s brand new buses are rolling in. The first of the 62 low-floor, 40-foot long hybrid New Flyer Buses purchased by the SFMTA are being prepped at a Muni maintenance shop, as captured by Dave Longa on Flickr.

As we reported, the SFMTA plans to roll out 13 of these buses this month, followed by a roll-out of 5 buses per week from May through July, replacing motor coaches that have been in service in 1999. Not only should the low floors make the buses easier to board, but the biodiesel-fueled hybrid engines are expected to require far less maintenance than the old buses. That means Muni riders can look forward to some nice, clean vehicles and worry a little less about breakdowns making them late for work.

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SFMTA to Purchase 45 New Low-Floor Hybrid Muni Buses

One of Muni's existing 40-foot Orion hybrid buses. The new hybrids will be different models. Photo: THE Holy Hand Grenade!/Flickr

Good news for Muni riders who are tired of bus breakdowns: Muni will get 45 new low-floor, biodiesel hybrid buses to replace its aging fleet. The agreement was approved yesterday by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors.

The buses, which will be similar to Muni’s existing hybrid buses rolled out in 2007, will replace existing diesel buses that have been in service since 1999. The buses will be purchased from New Flyer Industries in Minnesota — different models than the existing Orion hybrids, but they will use the same doors by request of the SFMTA, according to the agreement [PDF]. As Streetsblog wrote in 2009, the touch-activated rear doors on Muni’s hybrids can be difficult to open for many passengers.

All of the new vehicles will be 40 feet long, which is the larger of the two sizes in Muni’s existing hybrid fleet. Of the current 86 hybrids, 56 are 40 feet long, and the rest are 30 feet.

The buses not only save on fuel, pollute less, and require less maintenance, but their low floors are also easier for passengers to board, since there are no stairs to climb. That means less time spent waiting for passengers to board, while those with wheelchairs can use ramps that come equipped on the buses.

The total cost of the purchase is $33.8 million, or $752,000 per vehicle, which comes from federal, state, and local funds, according to the SFMTA. The agency says it also plans to replace 60 articulated buses within the next two years. Those buses have been in service for 20 years.

Muni expects to receive the new hybrids by the end of summer 2013.

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Muni Receives $21.4M in Federal Funds for New Buses, 8x Line Improvements

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency received more than $21 million in federal funds to purchase new buses and implement improvements like colored bus lanes, transit priority signals, and bus-mounted enforcement cameras, the agency announced today.

An 8x bus sits in a "bus-only" lane on Third Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The funds come from the Federal Transit Administration’s Livability and State of Good Repair grant programs. In total, the FTA will provide $45.7 million for transit upgrades on systems throughout the Bay Area, including BART, AC Transit, SamTrans, and the Valley Transportation Authority.

Muni, which has the oldest transit fleet in the nation, will be able to replace 18 twenty-year-old buses with low-floor, biodiesel hybrid buses using the $15 million State of Good Repair grant, according to a news release. Another $6.4 million, which comes from the Livability grant, will be used for these improvements along the 8x Bayshore Express line as part of the 8x Mobility Maximization project:

  • Coloring of existing dedicated transit lanes;
  • Transit signal priority;
  • Pre-payment fare collection;
  • Information panel and transit arrival prediction signs;
  • Vehicle branding and enhanced stop identification; and
  • Cameras on buses to capture vehicles illegally occupying transit-only lanes.

“Investments in optimizing existing service and enhancing the customer experience will not only help us better serve our current customers, but also will help attract new customers,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin in a statement. “Underscoring San Francisco’s Transit First policy, the SFMTA will direct these funds to frontline Muni service.”

The grants are part of a nationwide package of $787 million in transit investments announced by the FTA today.

Streetsblog NYC 6 Comments

BRT Imposes Order on Mexico City Streets, Speeding and Greening Commutes

A new articulated Metrobús sits in front of Mexico City's Monumento a la Revolucion. Photo: Noah Kazis

This is the second in a series of reports about sustainable transportation policies in Mexico City. Last week, Streetsblog participated in a tour of the city led by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. A previous installment covered pedestrian improvements in the city and a third will discuss its bicycle planning.

After a precipitous collapse, buses are on the rebound in Mexico City.

When the city’s public bus system fell apart during the political and economic turmoil of the 80s and 90s, Mexico City residents were left to rely on a fleet of private microbuses that was extensive but slow, dangerous, and heavily polluting. Now, the city is quickly building out a bus rapid transit system called Metrobús that’s making surface transit fast, safe, and healthy. “It’s the most important initiative in the city in the last 25 years,” says Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.

On the Avenida de Insurgentes, where the first Metrobús line opened in 2006, the distinctive red buses pass by in continuous streams, even when it’s not rush hour. At midday, the gap between one bus and the next was rarely longer than the time it takes to load and unload passengers at the previous station or to wait at a red light. Each bus was full. Clearly, demand is high, perhaps higher than the system can handle.

A bus pulls up to the elevated station in a dedicated lane. Another bus followed immediately behind this one. Photo: Noah Kazis

Each of the three Metrobús lines offers a full set of bus rapid transit features. Riders cross to the median of a wide avenue, where buses run in each direction on physically separated lanes. A ramp leads up to an enclosed station, where you tap a smart card against the turnstile to enter.

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SPUR: How Will 1.7 Million More People Cross the Bay?

Crossing the Bay from SPUR on Vimeo.

SPUR has produced a new video that asks: How will 1.7 million more people cross the Bay? From the SPUR blog:

In the last century, visionary planners made major investments linking San Francisco and the East Bay. When the 20th century dawned, the only way to get from San Francisco to Oakland was by ferry. We built the Bay Bridge during the Great Depression and the BART tunnel in the early 1970s. It’s been nearly 40 years since then, and the Bay Area has grown by 2.7 million people. Yet we’ve added no new capacity. Even the new Bay Bridge, currently under construction, won’t help: It will be much more resilient to earthquakes, yet no bigger than the bridge it replaces.

SPUR’s first recommendation is to get more people on buses by building what would be a relatively cheap short-term solution: a contra-flow westbound bus lane on the Bay Bridge that would accommodate up to 10,000 new passengers an hour. Its second recommendation calls for incremental improvements to BART, including a better train control system along with trains that have more doors. The third is a long-term recommendation that would require big capital dollars: constructing a second transbay tube to boost BART’s capacity, and potentially accommodate high-speed rail.

The video is SPUR’s first entry into animation and video making. It’s a product of the organization’s 2009 project and report, “The Future of Downtown,” which focused on reducing job sprawl and strategies to expand job growth in San Francisco’s transit-rich downtown. It argued that downtown SF, namely SoMa, has “by far the greatest near-term potential to accommodate regional employment growth with a low carbon footprint.”

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Taking Greyhound? Papers, Please.

Transportation options for undocumented immigrants are becoming narrower and narrower in the U.S. Whatever you may think of immigration policy, there are about 11 million people living in the shadows in this country who have ever fewer ways to get around.

Should immigration agents use buses and trains as a place to catch undocumented immigrants? Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Immigration agents have been boarding Greyhound buses to nab undocumented immigrants, according to a story in Sunday’s Miami Herald. Anecdotal evidence from immigration attorneys and detainees shows that public transportation is becoming a favorite place for agents to hunt down immigrants:

“I am definitely seeing a large number of people stopped by Greyhound,” said attorney Sara Van Hofwegen… On one recent visit to the BTC in Southwest Broward, Van Hofwegen spoke to 12 detainees. Five of the 12 were apprehended on a Greyhound.

“I’d say Greyhound cases make up about 20 percent of our clients now,’’ said Juliet Williams, an assistant with the law offices of Kantaras & Andreopoulos, with offices in Central Florida. “That is much more than we’ve usually seen.”

She estimates the firm has seen an increase in Greyhound apprehensions of about 25 percent in the past two years.

There is no longer a single state in the union that will issue a drivers license without asking any questions. But has the crackdown over the past few years stopped people from driving? Of course not. It just means that many are driving without accountability, and without paying.

But even if they do stop driving, no matter: ICE will just catch them on buses and trains.

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The Nowtopian 1 Comment

Peru’s Traffic Menagerie

Different vehicles shape a different streetscape in Peru.

Our daily urban lives shape our imaginations in so many ways. Few things box us in like our everyday transit options, and the patterns of traffic that shape our sense of public space. These patterns themselves are historical of course. A quick look back at the famous Market Street film shot a few days before the 1906 earthquake shows how chaotic and unpredictable the flow of traffic was when San Francisco’s main artery hadn’t yet been paved and standardized. Similarly, leaving the U.S. and visiting other countries provides a fantastic opportunity to experience other assumptions and possibilities for urban space, and surprisingly perhaps, a different range of vehicles.

In Peru for a couple of weeks I first had to adjust to a major cultural difference–unlike California, pedestrians don’t have any legal rights, let alone cultural preference. When you start to cross the street at a corner in a Peruvian city, you better be ready to run. Because the cars are not going to wait for you, in fact they tend to speed up when they see someone trying to use the road space ahead of them. I noticed the same thing on highways too, a consistent refusal to yield to entering traffic, a universal assumption of individual ownership of the right of way. Here’s a video below the break we shot standing on a traffic island in Peru’s second largest city while waiting for the traffic to clear so we could cross the street.

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Give Your Line Some Love: Enter GOOD Magazine’s Best Bus Route Contest

Photo: GOOD

Photo: GOOD

While many Americans may not think riding a bus is the sexiest form of transportation, the reality is that a majority of public transit trips in the U.S. are taken by bus. The numbers are even higher in the Bay Area. Every one of the hundreds of thousands of passengers who boarded a bus in the last year has a story to tell and there are probably lots of Streetsblog readers who would love to share a tale about their favorite line. So why not nominate it as the best bus route in America?

Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s advocacy group for bicycling, walking and public transit, has joined with GOOD Magazine for a contest asking public transit riders to email in their photos and brief captions making a case for why their bus ride is the better one. From GOOD’s website:

Bicycles can be chic, subways artful, but buses? Buses are not exactly the golden child of transportation. They’re more like the red-headed step child: Deep down you know they mean well but they’re just a little harder to love.

Yet public buses are an essential form of transit in cities across the country, and they account for a big chunk of the nearly 10.2 billion trips Americans took on public transportation in 2009. We think it’s time to give a little love to one of the least celebrated modes of transit. To that end, we’ve teamed up with Transportation Alternatives and an impressive group of bus-loving jurors to see and hear why your bus route is the best in America.

What is it about your bus route that you love? Is your bus driver brilliant? Is the view from your window breathtaking? Do your fellow riders characters belong in a Hemingway novel?

The judges include Earl Blumenauer, Enrique Peñalosa and TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. I’m honored to also be a judge. You only have until next Wednesday, November 10th, to submit your entry. You can email them to busroutes@goodinc.com or tweet the entry to @GOOD and use the hashtag #bestbusride. Good luck!