Sunday, 13 December 2015

Transit system reorganization

I made a blog post a while ago about BRT and bus stop bypasses. I now realize that buses aren't even needed on the roads that in newer areas we call collector roads. Generally phrased something along the lines of "95%+ of the population is within 400 metres of a bus stop". I got inspiration for this post from this other blogger's post.

So why do I say this? I mean having a bus stop within reasonable distance of your home should be a good idea right? Well, that's not the whole story. To the Dutch the standard cut off for walking distance is about 600 metres. At 1 metre per second, it will take you 10 minutes to walk that far. At about 2 metres per second, closer to what the average person walks at, it takes you 5. And let's expand 600 metres not as an idea about the radius around you, but around an individual stop. Space those stops about 600-800 metres apart, not 400, and the speed of buses rises dramatically. And now let's remember bicycles. A cyclist will be going far faster than a pedestrian could, unless you are Usain Bolt. About 6 or 7 metres per second. You can go that 600 metres in less than 2 minutes.

What about those who couldn't balance on a bicycle? Well, who said that you have to have just 2 wheels to go on the cycling paths? And who said you even are limited to your feet or hands for power? Dutch law at least from 2010 makes it perfectly legal for someone in a mobility scooter, with a motor, to use the sidewalk up to 6 km/h and the cycle path up to 30 km/h and the roadway up to 45 km/h (not allowed to go 45 km/h on a 30 km/h roadway), and I believe the same with a light moped. The healthcare system would be able to supply each person who needs it with an adapted bicycle or mobility scooter in a better world. Especially given that fewer people are going to need one if active transport was more popular.

DATS is also able to ferry those who are less capable (IE a severe physical or cognitive disability that makes is difficult to use the standard buses) to where they need it. That service would be improved under a good transit plan. This also helps the blind who wouldn't be capable of cycling, but they are usually capable of walking, especially if sidewalk improvements was implemented (wider sidewalks, obstacles and permanent objects in the sidewalks moved to a boulevard area, tactile paving, bleepers at traffic lights, zebra crossings, etc).

Lets pretend you were getting from the DQ at Ellerslie Road and 111 St to Star Blanket Park in Mill Woods. You ride a bicycle or walk to the Ellerslie West LRT station, a southward extension of the transit system, ride the train to Century Park, ride a bus which runs in the middle of the street on 23 Ave and on queue jump lanes on 111 St for the few hundred metres between 23 Ave and Century Park Transit centre, with signal priority and stops designed to load and unload faster. You ride that to Mill Woods Rd East, and get a bicycle share bike or walk and use that to get to the park. It is very simple, needs one LRT to bus transfer and then one short walk or bike ride at the end.

Bike racks at stops would be needed to make this happen. Many racks for about 5-25 bikes can be installed for less than 500 dollars, sometimes under 100 dollars. This makes them relatively inexpensive. It costs less than the bicycles themselves, makes sense given that they are pretty much molded cheap metal, a few bolts and a bit of cement to seal it into the ground.

I actually made a map showing about where and how many of these bikeshare stations would me. Accounting for the area this covers (east of the North Saskatchewan River, North of 41 Ave, South of 51 Ave except east of 91 Ave where it is south of Argyll Rd and Sherwood Park Freeway, west of Anthony Henday Drive and Meridian St) this would actually be an extremely low number of bikeshare stations needed. It would need only about 80 stations, rounding it up to 100 stations and tripling the number to account for the area of the entire city,, which considering that cities that have systems like these cover less area than Edmonton, this is a very good number. Assuming 10 bikes per station, it would need 3000 bicycles. Obviously more would be needed at LRT stations, major stops like near town centres and downtown, but a system with less than 5000 bikes for such a large city would be very impressive.

By not focusing on much more door to door service, very few routes I can imagine would be operating the twisty routes in neighbourhoods, more resources can be piled onto making the arterial bus routes be fast and much more like the buses in the Netherlands on their own busways, and of course LRT acting just like that except with steel rails and being a train, not a bus. It also would improve the quality of life for the residents, as they don't have a bus running in front of their home every 10-20 minutes. Speed tables are less of a problem for buses, as they are not on the roads where speed tables are usually present, collectors and access roads. Safety is improved, as buses are large, heavy and fast, and have less good visibility, and not having those running down minor roads as often reduces the conflict. Less noise and emissions near homes, plus the benefit of less emissions period due to the fact that buses would be running on arterials in a more or less straight line with signal priority and the potential for electric buses (hopefully combined with cleaner power generation, wind farms, hydro electric perhaps somewhere, solar power, geothermal, etc).

Intercity travel is another story for transit. I don't mean St Albert-Edmonton intercity, LRT and buses can do that, but between cities like Edmonton and Calgary, even smaller cities like Grande Prairie to Edmonton, effective alternates to cars must be in place, especially if speed limits rise to meet safety and efficiency demands of roads. I mean HWY 43 is already a divided highway where 120-140 km/h speeds is fine (posted limit is 110) except though Whitecourt and Grande Prairie itself. We rarely consider intercity travel in Canada occuring by any means other than cars and planes except in the area around Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Southern Quebec, plus nearby large cities like Windsor where trains are actually capable of being competitive with cars and planes. A high speed link between Edmonton and Calgary, 320-360 km/h means the travel time would be less than 90 minutes, maybe just an hour or less means the bulk of plane travel between the two cities would be moved onto electric trains, which again could be even better with clean and renewable power sources, and with much less space needed than a highway.

180 km/h links between other smaller cities, Banff-Calgary, Medicine Hat/Lethbridge to Calgary, Grande Prairie, Jasper, Lloydminister and Fort McMurray to Edmonton, plus a lower speed link between Edmonton and Calgary serving the smaller towns on the way, not just Red Deer, would make for a pretty effective railway network, which could be on electrified double tracks with dispatcher priority over freight trains. This will sound familiar to anyone from Japan, Eastern China and most of Europe and even the Northeastern US where trains are a viable alternate to cars and planes.

It makes transit much more competitive with driving, and as a result, more people take it. The faster transit is, the more people use it. The more efficient and direct it is, the more popular it is. The more we will see that dedicating road space to things that aren't cars makes sense.

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