Wednesday, 28 October 2015

BRT for Edmonton

Edmonton is considering something called bus rapid transit. In systems like Bogata, it looks and feels like a subway than a light rail, and has similar capacity. We don't need that capacity and Bogata's system needs a lot of space and money. Councillor Michael Walters floated around the idea, especially given that Edmonton's lease on the Century Park Park and Ride is going to expire in a few years, leaving all but about 300 parking spaces to the developers around the station.

What could this look like for Edmonton? I would like to suggest that it should be designed in such a way that you could have buses use a corridor for fast travel to a transit centre or LRT stop, and then near the neighbourhoods it branches out. For example, putting bus lanes down the middle of 111 St between 23 Ave (actually a little further to the North, near the transit centre access), and Ellerslie Road, (actually there would be a short bus lane from the NB lanes on James Mowatt Trail to create a bit of a queue jump too), adding enhanced stops, raised curb, off board ticketing, nice shelters, and traffic signal priority at the traffic lights at Ellerslie Road, MacEwan Rd, the ramps off Anthony Henday Drive, 9, 12, 19 and 23 Ave North, and the traffic lights controlling the crossing from the transit centre to 111 St, it would allow all the buses that serve Heritage Valley to bypass a lot of the congestion. Cameras can help enforce said bus lane, and raised plastic dividers making a tactile feedback if you use the lanes also would help enforcement. If you add a left turn from the bus lane, then it also lets buses bypass congestion for routes that make left turns. The 77 for example. The general corridor would help many routes. The routes use 111 St to some length, and once they are at the neighbourhoods they already serve, they leave 111 St to go on the local route.Ottawa follows this sort of system.

This is just an example. I also use curbside lanes here because they can be implemented with the current layout of the road, just switching the rightmost through lanes for buses only, making the stops better, adding traffic light priority and left turns from the curb lane. Most routes would use the middle of the road. The centre two lanes, adding a concrete curb like what this design used on 105 St 105 St, a number of cases would forbid left turns. It also would have signals for buses that look a bit like this:Cleveland BRT traffic lights. It accounts for the higher mass of buses when telling them to stop, and also if there are left turns, they would be on a separate phase. Articulated buses are also a useful feature on routes like this. If public transport is a realistic alternative for people, and given a low enough fare and low enough travel time, then people will begin to use it on their own. It is likely to lead to a massive increase in the number of people using transit. I envision something like these lanes in Amsterdam: Amsterdam median transitway

The corridors would need to go to many locations in the city. A corridor on 23 Ave, Riverbend Road and 170 St where bus route 23 goes now is a good starter. On 109 St is another good place to consider it. It has 6 lanes for motor traffic. It could look like this: 109 St redesign. It would have to be a broad network, with lots of routes. These sorts of lanes in the middle of the road in an area that dense and congested isn't unprecedented in North America. San Francisco uses them a lot. San Francisco median transitway. It would need to be fast, able to insert the traffic light signal stage they need to go, shorten red times, extend green ones, have lanes that are not used by private cars, and have quick boarding. Depending on the design, it could even be possible to give the bus lanes a higher speed limit than the roadway. The LRT between Century Park and Southgate has a speed limit of 70 km/h while cars get 60 km/h.

Stations should be of high quality. They should look something a bit like this:Utrecht bus stop. It would have bike parking, raised curb, tactile paving, off board proof of payment ticketing and all door boarding, a shelter, preferably heated, at least 2 metres of width, preferably 3.5 metres, with a guardrail between waiting island and car lanes, safe crossing to the sidewalk, and a real time indication of the waiting times for the next buses.

Frequency is very important. About 5-7.5 minute frequencies during peak hour, 7.5-12 minute frequencies during off peak times midday and daytime on Saturday, 10-20 minute frequencies during late nights and Sundays. It leads to people having enough confidence that the bus will be soon, and the total trip time will be less. Combined with SmartBus tech being used in 304 buses now in Edmonton, traffic signal priority and bus lanes on almost every newer arterial road and many older ones, and on the ones where there is only 4 lanes total, plus turn lanes and a sidewalk, I would either close it off to private cars, like in downtown, or use the outer lanes as cycle tracks and keep the other features of BRT except for the bus lanes, it leads to high reliability and confidence in the transit system.

Other details are needed to make this work, but removing even basic things that slow down buses could be removed beginning in 2016, like traffic light priority at each intersection, also designed to detect emergency vehicles and give them preemption. Bus stops could be raised, have off ticketing and all door boarding, be equipped with departure boards, more shelters, and more frequency. Add bus lanes over several years and many problems with the buses of today could be rectified fast.

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