Currently viewing the tag: "bus"

One Hour and forty minutes – that is how long my commute was this morning from Coral Gables/Coconut Grove to my office in Doral.  Utilizing the 37, 36A, and 41 buses, I seamlessly (for the most part) was able to get to work before the 9 AM arrival time goal.

My day began at 7 AM with a 17-minute walk to catch the 37 bus in Coconut Grove.  The morning was cool and the lush shade trees in the grove provided a wonderful canopy that shaded much of the walk (Really, walking Miami would not be terrible if we had an adequate canopy cover.)  Standing, waiting for the bus to arrive, I watched as car after car of single occupant vehicles began their daily commutes while joggers utilized the main highway multi-use path.  The 37 bus arrived about 3 minutes behind schedule.  Once aboard, I began to realize the biggest downfall of the entire MDT system; route alignment.  Route 37 meandered in and out of the Douglas Road Metro station, Tri-Rail station, and all of the concourses of Miami International before finally reaching my stop at NW 36th Street about 40 minutes after I had boarded.

The transfer to the 36A was perfect.  The bus had pulled up behind the 37 as I was disembarking.  The 36A was standing room only and one of the passengers was a fellow coworker of mine who was also attempting to go car-free for the day from Miami Beach.  The 36A was filled with Doral employees including some Carnival and city employees.  The 36A transported us to the Doral Center on NW 53rd street where we (and nearly everyone else on the bus) transferred (yet again) to the 41.

As we boarded the 41, the bus operator immediately warned us not to photograph her or her bus, after she spotted us snapping a couple of pictures before getting on.  The route dropped us off just across the street from our offices on 97th avenue, leaving us to cross the treacherous 41st  intersection that lacks pedestrian signals.

From my experience this morning, the biggest flaw with MDT’s system is the route alignment and unnecessary transfers.  The MIC-MIA connector will alleviate some of the problems for many of these buses, eliminating the junket to the terminals for several routes.  MDT also needs to introduce a cross-county route that transports passengers across Doral, rather then leaving us at its doorstep and expecting us to transfer to another route.

The whole point of this experiment was to illustrate how difficult it is get to the second largest employment district in the County, Doral.  As I shared with my coworkers, this type of on-hands research is critical to understanding what types of problems we face in the planning industry (from transit to land use.)  Disturbingly, I know of several transportation planners who have never stepped foot on a public bus, let alone walked across a busy street and yet these are the people we designate to design our public spaces.

I cannot wait for my ride home – on paper it should only take an hour, if all goes well…

I was spoiled by learning to ride my bicycle on the road in Gainesville, one of Florida’s most bicycle-friendly cities. Bus drivers in that city typically check for bicycles in the bike lane before pulling over into it to stop, or they stop outside of the bicycle lane altogether. This is in obedience with Florida Statute 316.085(2) that requires a driver to check that a lane is clear before changing lanes. In this regard, a bicycle lane is no different than a regular vehicular lane, just as a bicycle is no different than a regular vehicle. There is nothing wrong with the bus changing lanes into the bicycle lane when stopping, but the driver must make sure the bicycle lane is clear before doing so. Anything else is a violation of the law and a threat to cyclists.

Bus drivers down here seem ignorant of that law as it applies to bicycle lanes. At least the one who I ran into yesterday was ignorant, as was the cop who faulted me for the accident without finding me in violation of any law.

A message to all the local transit systems: train your drivers to drive carefully and lawfully as it pertains to cyclists! In this case, they need to check their right mirror before encroaching on any kind of bicycle lane. We are all part of the multimodal transportation system, and bicycles and buses are both good alternatives to cars. We would hate to see one kill off the other.

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Tired of unreliable buses? Sick of not knowing when the bus is coming, or whether you just missed it and have to wait the full 30 minutes for the next one?

We can’t do anything about the unreliable buses until we get a streetcar, but BCT has begun putting up real-time message signs that tell you when to expect the next bus. The first two started operation Thursday at bus stops on Hwy.  441 near Oakland Park Blvd., and more are ready to be installed in the near future. Broward County’s signs one-up many similar systems across the country by including a voice that audibly tells riders when to expect their bus. It’s a great feature for visually impaired or illiterate people, many of whom are forced to ride the bus as they cannot legally drive a car.

Maybe we need some more visually impaired people. We need some way to get people out of their convenient Lexus Cages. Failing a sudden rise in blindness, perhaps comforts like these message boards will help.

Read more details about the boards in the press release. If anyone’s used the message boards, please let us know how they work. How’s the accuracy of the time?

 

Update 6/11/2008: BCT sent us a picture of one of the message boards. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

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Below is an excerpt from an email I received this morning from my friend, an occasional bus commuter from Miami Beach to Downtown Miami.

Dude,

I took the bus this morning. Let me bore you with the details. Because my parking permit at Miami-Dade Community College expired (the court provides no parking for clerks), and I have to re-register for a summer class (that I do not need to take) to get access to the world’s crappiest parking lot, I took the bus. I missed the bus, waited 20 minutes, and finally caught the C.

When i got on the bus, i sat in the back, and guy with long hair covered in tattoos sitting on a bag of crushed cans began grooming his hair. He untied his ponytail and ran his fingers through his hair. It smelled like a barn. Hair went everywhere. Naturally, I moved to where a spot had opened up in the front row. As soon as I sat down I noticed the guy in front of me, a guy probably in his 30s who hadn’t paid to get on the bus (I heard the driver yelling at him when he got on, but she still let him on) took up 4 seats, lying sideways in handicap accessible row, with his legs and arms splayed. He had a crumpled 20 dollar bill in his hand, which he took out and put away in his pocket several times, and he smelled like Monday’s booze. He tried talking to me a few times. I ignored him for a while and eventually said, “I’m listening to my headphones, sorry” which was true, in a pissed off voice with my sunglasses still on. In response, or so it seemed, he took out a comb and began scrubbing his head like a brillo pad in front of everyone. The bus stopped every 30 seconds, and he never moved for anyone, and everyone accommodated him trying to pretend that all was normal because no one wanted to have to talk to him. The bus driver did nothing, naturally. Finally we got to the other side of the McCarthur Causeway and I’d had enough, so I got off right at the base of the exit ramp. I’ll walk 15 minutes to the office, I thought, just let me off. Also, I hate how the bus goes to the bus stop (Omni Station), which is a stupid mandatory detour for anyone commuting to downtown. Of course, my new friend decided to get off with me, then proceeded to follow me for about 5 blocks until he couldn’t keep up, at which point he fell behind and eventually out of my sight. I thought about turning and just popping him as hard as I could, but he was about 20 feet behind me the entire time so there was no need, and also, that’s not something I typically do.

I finally traverse my way through the streets of Miami, where cars zoom past me, where I see billboards and trucks but not one one coffee shop, restaurant, store, or habitable dwelling. Finally, as I get to the MDCC campus, which is right across the street from the courts, I see my same C bus pulling up. It’s the same speed as walking! Not on the causeway, but once you’re in Miami it moves at the same pace as a pedestrian (or at least, someone like me who walks rather fast).

The system is designed in such a way that people like me (i.e. employed, kind of a yuppie) give up because the mass transit is so inconvenient, slow, and disgusting. This is coming from someone who LOVED the subway system in NY and DC. In Miami, I’d rather wait in traffic, spend 20 minutes parking, and burn gas (btw, there’s no way it costs $3/day in gas to drive from SoBe to work and back - if they really wanted people to take the bus, they might want to make it cost effective), than have to deal with the bus situation each day.

OK, thanks for listening to my rant. I actually feel a bit better.

Yikes. Lucky for him, he won’t be enduring this much longer. He heads back to New York City towards the end of “summer.” I also suggested he try joining me in the bicycle commute sometimes soon. Unfortunately, his place of employment offers no showers and no reasonable place to change/store his clothes. Makes you wonder when that Bay Link might show up, huh?

The Boston (MBTA) Silver line illustrates the proper way transportation should be integrated into up and coming areas, not yet ready to be serviced by regular rail transit.  The Silver line will eventually create an “Urban Transit Ring” connecting much of the transit in the city of Boston and establishing a BRT to service areas which could sorely benefit from regular fixed transit.  The Buses used on the silver line operate using engines on regular streets, but operate under electrical power (transferred by overhead wires) when operating in tunnels or streets with existing electrical infrastructure (similar to streetcars and LRT.)  The eventual objective of the silverline is to serve as a placeholder for future rail expansion while cultivating proper transit oriented development and ridership along the route…

Imagine a drive-thru church? It’s not far from reality. Last Christmas, I heard of a church that was having a drive-thru nativity scene. The ostensible reason was that people didn’t have to get out of their cars in cold weather. Some churches, however, like this one in Orlando, do it when they don’t have cold weather. One of the main purposes of a church is fellowship, and it’s easy with a crowd of people in a building. It’s rather difficult, on the other hand, to carry on a conversation with someone in another car.

While I came close to riding my bike to my church’s sunrise service today at the beach, churches in Ohio and Virginia offered drive-thru Easter pageants. It should come as no surprise, since they only reflect our greater car-centric culture—but it’s still frustrating. Why can’t churches be more pedestrian friendly?

One church in Texas has walk-thru scenes of Stations of the Cross on permanent display. Has anyone seen similar walkable displays or pageants, or have you seen any local churches touting drive-thru dramas? Please voice your thoughts. We want to see examples, whether good, bad, or ugly.

Also, any thoughts for improvements? I would like to see a bus shelter and a bike rack in front of my church. What about your neighborhood churches?

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After calling for people to join him in a gas boycott in this column, Daniel Vasquez has been blogging and recording his experience taking the bus or carpooling to work, combined with riding his bike for other errands every day this week. Read the posts and watch the videos on his Consumer Talk blog. It’s good to see someone used to riding in a car every day willing to try alternatives.

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This week’s Streetwise Column by Herald Reporter Larry Lebowitz, presented an “innovative” new use for Miami-Dade’s Busway program. We’ve taken some time to mull over the basics of the plan over the past few days (apparently so have a number of you based on the number of emails I received) and have prepared an analysis of the project based on the data Larry provided in the article.

Imagine widening the Busway from two lanes to four and giving buses and carpoolers with at least three passengers a free ride.

It is a stretch of my imagination, that is for sure, but from the looks of it, this does not seem like a promising solution for South-Dade commuters. Granted, the Busway is far from perfect, but adding lanes, albeit managed lanes, is hardly the solution to an ever-growing congestion problem.

Instead of encountering dozens of incredibly looooooong lights at the busy cross streets on today’s Busway, imagine flying over all the major intersections as the government guarantees a reliable 50-mph journey from Dadeland to Florida City or the turnpike interchange near Southwest 112th Avenue.

The sad part about this is that some sort of “benefit” has to be presented for motorists in order to shore up the funds to marginally improve the transit infrastructure. I guess that is one of the major issues we have to deal with when we have a President who in his next financial deficit (that is not a budget) wants to reduce an already anemic transportation fund by $3.2 billion. One major question remains: What is going to happen to all of those cars not going to Dadeland or the Palmetto when they merge back onto a US-1? We cannot honestly expect all these folks to suddenly abandon their cars and hop on Metrorail, can we? Or will the lanes be extended north into downtown, continuing to undermine the reason why Metrorail was constructed along US-1 to begin with - to get people out of their cars.

A similar variably priced tolling plan is about to be introduced on a 24-mile segment of Interstate 95 between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They are also planned for the expanded Interstate 595 in Broward.

True. However, I do not think drawing comparisons between US-1 and limited access highways is fair. HOT lanes are a novel concept for the highway scenario, but not along a corridor where driveways and intersections all interfere.

Not only could it provide a little relief to the normal wall-to-wall madness on the overburdened South Dixie corridor, but it could also finally fulfill the Busway’s original promise: real rapid transit.

Once again, see our unrelated qualms above on transportation spending as a whole in this country. It’s deplorable!

”Without a strong transit component, this doesn’t work,” said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the expressway authority.

Amen!

Elevated intersections will incite plenty of sturm und drang from communities along the Busway. The neighbors must be mollified, especially if Transit is forced to relocate its stations away from the intersections to maintain easy street-level access for riders.

Wow, you can say that again. Most of these communities have already reduced the allowable density along US-1 making Mr. Rodriguez’s point listed above extremely difficult to accomplish. Transit needs to treat any further upgrades to this project as a rail project, bringing with that the power to enact land-use changes for the corridor that will continue to prepare it for future rail transit, increase bus ridership, and lay a foundation for preventing future westward and southern sprawl. Without a massive overhaul of the land around the Busway, this corridor will never realize the transit ridership necessary to fund such a project.

Besides noise walls and landscaping, some must-dos:

Whoa, noise walls are a definite must-do-not. This project needs to entwine the Busway (future railway) as much as possible with the surroundings, not create an inhospitable environment for those walking, biking, or using transit.


All plans must leave a pocket for future light rail or Metrorail within the 100-foot corridor as the Busway was originally intended. It might take 30 to 50 years to get trains there, but that’s what the people were promised and the bulk of the growth is already occurring down there.

Definitely! Can’t stress this point enough.


The plan must set aside money to re-time all of the signals for cross-street traffic trying to get onto and across U.S. 1 under the elevated intersections.

This is something MDT/MPO should do now to give the 15,000 daily transit riders a surefire benefit to riding the Busway. Which reminds me, what exactly is MDT up to these days?

An expanded Busway must mesh with the community charettes aimed at future redevelopment of Princeton, Naranja and Goulds into transit-oriented development villages.

Ditto for preserving the existing bike path and enhancing pedestrian access to and from the Busway.

Once again, we cannot stress how important this is. These details will ultimately make or break a project like this. Take Metrorail for example, it is a great transit system but the surroundings are beyond lousy.

The point of this article was not to criticize Streewise or Larry Lebowitz - after all he’s just the messenger - but rather to condemn a plan which is seemingly being hailed as the golden ticket for fixing congestion. The fact of the matter is, for any real change to come of any of these plans (Metrorail, Bay Link, Miami Streetcar, Busway included) we need to push for land use changes more favorable to living lifestyles which are not automatically governed by the necessity of owning a vehicle.


Vacancies, originally uploaded by ImageMD.

The urban metrorail station in Miami’s Overtown district has been renamed the Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre station. The recent sale of the Miami arena and the revival of the Overtown historic district prompted the name change. The station name change will be officially dedicated today (1/31) along with the inaugural bus service of the Overtown (211) circulator…

Via CM

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This short video does an excellent job illustrating how transit is more efficient and sustainable than travel by private automobile. I believe this is Bogota, Colombia.

Video courtesy of pardinus’ Youtube

The Miami-Dade County Public Works Department and Florida Department of Transportation are at it again, busy coming up with harebrained ideas to “solve” the congestion problems of Miami-Dade. The recent proposed scheme is a system of reversible flow lanes scattered across the county adding a limited amount of capacity at certain points. The problem I have with system isn’t the lanes themselves, but rather how our local government continues to undermine itself and efforts to reduce congestion.

About a decade ago, the state Department of Transportation tried to improve Seventh Avenue by removing on-street parking, especially those with ample nearby surface lots and behind-stores parking.

Local merchants, commercial property owners and some nearby residents were outraged. The local politicians told the DOT to back off. Nothing changed.

DOT tried to improve Seventh Avenue by removing on street parking? This is the fundamental problem I have encountered with my profession and is the main reason why I plan to jump ship from engineering to urban planning. Engineering, particularly transportation engineers, tend to be concerned with one thing and one thing only: efficiency. FDOT has a nasty habit of overlooking other crucial details such as transit use, on street parking, streetscapes, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian interaction in the name of squeezing out a little extra capacity.

Other serious questions need to be addressed. This is a community with high transit usage, meaning more pedestrians than other parts of town. Will they be able to safely cross the avenue? Lighting will be paramount.

I predict if this disaster of a plan is put into effect, we will inevitably witness pedestrian deaths increase sharply. Under this plan Seventh Avenue will become a highway, inaccessible to anything and anyone not traveling in a car and further hampering efforts to create a livable community.

If the reversible lanes work, operationally and politically, on Seventh Avenue, more of them may follow. Several studies are under way: North Miami Avenue, between downtown and 79th or 82nd street; U.S. 1, from I-95 to Bird Road; portions of Flagler Street, and Bird Road, just west of the turnpike, between southwest 117th and 147th avenues.

US-1 from I-95 to Bird Road? Never mind the fact that this stretch of street runs parallel to the one logical transit solution in the county: Metrorail. Adding capacity along US-1 is the last thing we should do when we already have a solution with plenty of capacity zooming along overhead. Why waste PTP money to undermine our transit system? This plan will create miniature highways all across the county, jeopardizing any hopes of creating urban neighborhoods.

Upcoming Meetings 6-8 pm:

Tuesday: Church of the Open Doors UCC, 6001 NW Eighth Ave.
Wednesday: Culmer-Overtown Neighborhood Center, 1600 NW Third Ave.
Thursday: New Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church, 777 NW 85th St.

The Coral Gables Gazette recently published a troubling article on a trolley study conducted by the University of Miami’s Industrial Engineering department. Troubling not because of the results of the study but because of how ridiculously logical the conclusions were. The simplicity can be summed up best by the CGG’s article title: New study: Trolley saves 712 parking space per day. You don’t say? Transit actually reduces the number of parking spaces needed in an urban area, what’s next, you’re going to suggest transit reduces congestion?

Engineering, calculates that the trolley saves the city 712 parking spaces a day and reduces the amount of vehicle traffic along the route by 1.2 million miles a year.

Gasp! Obviously we’re floored that this can still be considered newsworthy and is typically not common knowledge. Coral Gables commissioners are considering affixing a charge to ride the system which is currently free. Not all city commissioners appear to be happy with the success:

[Commissioner Ralph] Cabrera also reiterated past complaints that the trolley system had evolved from its original purpose as a downtown circulator into more of a connector between county mass transit systems.

Who cares as long as the system effectively reduces congestion in the Coral Gables Downtown Core? Since the city is unwilling to reduce the parking requirements for buildings to begin with, we might as well reduce the need for all the parking being built anyway. Although I agree MDT should do more to help the city transit service, axing the project would cause too many problems. At least someone sees the benefits brought forth by the system:

[Vice Mayor William] Kerdyk said that the independent study, which he points out that he didn’t even commission, should erase any doubts to the effectiveness and importance of the system although he wasn’t sure that questions regarding budgeting for the trolley system would go away as a result of the study.

When a Bus and SUV collide, the SUV is carrying more passengers than the Bus…

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Some people wonder whether I go on vacation to relax or experience foreign public transit systems; I like to think it’s a little of both. Utilizing foreign transit and witnessing other city’s approaches to some of our similar problems captivates me and drives me to try and bring about some of these changes in Miami. The small nation of Scotland is entwined in a network of rail and regional bus routes, guaranteeing regular access to even some of the most remote towns and villages.In Edinburgh, you queue. Not to place an order in the drive-thru, but to wait for the bus. Scottish residents queued for the bus and boarded in the order which they arrived in a most uncanny display of civilized behavior. Lines stretched down blocks a few yards, allowing continuous pedestrian passage along sidewalks. Bus shelters were even designed longer than American shelters to allow for greater covered queuing space and typically featured electronic displays of routes and approximate wait times.

We rented a car to experience both the joys and hazards of driving on the wrong side of the road and headed north to witness the natural beauty of Glen Coe. While driving along a precarious single lane road (with a few haphazard passing bays) which serviced only two small (~500 people) towns, we pulled off the road to allow the daily public transit bus to pass. Remarkable! This wasn’t the only instance where we encountered this, in fact every town we passed through had a bus stop with schedules attached listing the daily regional bus service which passed through the area, even in towns where sheep seemingly outnumbered people 50 to 1.

Glasgow is the only city in Scotland which currently has rail public transportation, although Edinburgh will soon begin work on a streetcar system (see sign below.) The Glasgow subway runs in a circular path around the city center and has never been expanded since its opening in 1896, making it the third oldest metro system in the world. It’s a most unusual subway train, just 4 carts long and barely tall enough for me to stand up straight in. The limited 6.5 Mile system is interconnected with several (7, I believe) suburban train lines which arrive at the central station as well as the city’s vast bus network. Plans are in the works to also bring streetcars or guided busways to the city.

It was August in Glasgow and a chilly 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It was drizzling all day (heck, all week) and the wind was kicking, yet the city was alight with activity, pedestrian activity that is. With weather conditions that would typically render walking along Lincoln Road improbable, Glasgow’s main pedestrian mall was buzzing with pedestrian activity, shopping, and dining along Buchanan Street.

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Edinburgh is covered by an intricate web of bus lines which keep things moving along the narrow city streets. Double Decker buses constantly flow in and out of central bus stations filled with locals and tourists alike. A couple of enclosed central transfer stations exist to handle several bus routes as well as to keep passengers out of the whimsical Scottish weather. A sign posted near the rail station informed me of upcoming plans to add streetcars…

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