Saint Paul Streetcar Study

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kellonathan
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby kellonathan » July 10th, 2014, 3:02 pm

mattaudio wrote:I think we keep getting hung up on the streetcar/LRT thing, and we end up doing the worst of both. We get the commuter-style park&ride nature of LRT along with the immense cost and over-engineering. And when we plan streetcars we still spend a lot of money but miss out on obvious synergies and options that could make the service more reliable. I'd rather see a sort of hybrid system, in between what we have. The Green Line is probably the closest example, a LRT line with dedicated ROW but serves walkable nodes. Now if we can find a way to do it with less footprint in some areas while spending the money to do things like grade separation in other areas, it would be a winner.
Reminds me San Francisco's Muni Metro T-Third Line. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T_Third_Street A hybrid pre-metro light rail line with dedicated ROW in most parts.
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mullen
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby mullen » July 11th, 2014, 9:53 am

i love rail as much as any transit greek but i'm thinking arterial BRT is the best choice for our inner city, heavily used transit routes. the whole bang the buck argument. our light rail system buildout will work well out to eden prarie and up to brooklyn park. enhance these inner city bus routes with nice stations, buses and streamline the stops. i take the 18 and 21 every day and would love to see these routes given improvements.

the streetcar is a vanity project, imo. i know seattle has some buyers remorse about their one line. now kansas city and cincinnati are buidling dinky 2-3 mile lines through their downtowns. these cities are esseentially going it alone on a small streetcar because their wider regions have voted down light rail systems. tampa has this also. more like a tourist people mover than real transit service for residents/workers. and i understand transit envy and know this is widespread in city halls.

nickmgray
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby nickmgray » July 11th, 2014, 10:37 am

There are good arguments for buses, street cars and light-rail but we have to remember that each option serves a distinct purpose. I grew up in Rome which uses all three options and also has a subway system. In a city where most people got around on public transit, people really didn't have much of a preference as to which transportation method they had to use as long as it got them to their destination. But we live in a metro area that's more dependent on personal vehicles than public transit and in most instances those people would be more inclined to get on a train than a bus.

Streetcars are not an alternative to light-rail. They are an alternative to buses. Personally, I never understood why the central corridor was build as a light-rail line versus a street car line. The travel time between the two downtowns would have been roughly the same if they went with the street car option but the cost would have been significantly lower.

As I stated before, it owuld be nice to close the loop and have a connection to the airport from downtown saint paul, but the city and its residents would benefit more from the street car line that serviced grand or a handful of other major streets in the city and connected downtown.

mattaudio
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby mattaudio » July 11th, 2014, 10:51 am

I think there's room for both, but we need to push for aBRT first. aBRT should be the standard for all of our core urban bus routes. And we should figure out how to get every single local bus route up to that standard within a decade.

mattaudio
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby mattaudio » July 11th, 2014, 10:56 am

nickmgray wrote:Streetcars are not an alternative to light-rail. They are an alternative to buses. Personally, I never understood why the central corridor was build as a light-rail line versus a street car line. The travel time between the two downtowns would have been roughly the same if they went with the street car option but the cost would have been significantly lower.
True, but I think we should start talking in terms of nodes to connect, services to connect them, and context-appropriate right of way to carry the services, rather than lines. What could that mean? A single service that operates as a tram (shared ROW), LRT (dedicated at-grade ROW), and metro (grade-separated ROW) depending on the context around that ROW. That's what we had a century ago for the entire market segment of non-metro urban railways as they matured a century ago before buses became the workhorse. Things like the MUNI Metro, Philly's Subway-Surface lines, Boston's Green Line, etc. Services branch out on shared ROW near the ends of lines, interline for more frequency usually with dedicated ROW, and cover the densest areas of town with grade separation.

EOst
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby EOst » July 11th, 2014, 11:45 am

You very quickly get diminishing returns on the local routes if you made them all aBRT, and you create problems that you're not really considering.

1) As annoying as it is for us, local buses have their current 1/8 (and less) mile stop pattern for a reason; the rectangular grid system on the streets around here, combined with the distribution of the arterial roads, can make the trip to a bus stop much longer at 1/4 or 1/2 mile spacing, enough to make it uninviting for a lot of present users (particularly the elderly). That's why not a single one of the currently planned aBRT routes (much less METRO routes) is going to eliminate present local buses; they serve different (though overlapping) communities.

2) Since many local routes operate frequently on roads that don't have frequent traffic signals, the utility of adding the equipment to extend green lights becomes less and less relevant to how you can decrease travel time.

3) Often local routes travel on streets which are primarily SFH residential; even the smallest planned aBRT shelters would probably be opposed by nearby residents, because of the light and resulting increase in loitering and noise.

4) The local routes don't usually require the general frequency that the currently planned aBRT corridors require, because even optimistically their maximal ridership is pretty low. Creating inconsistent frequencies throughout the system, though, undermines the easy-to-remember frequent promise of the main routes.

5) Quite simply, one of the biggest bonuses for things like LR, streetcar, aBRT etc. is that there are relatively few of them, which makes them easier to remember and conceptualize. Right now, Metro Transit operates over a hundred different routes, most of them with hard-to-remember spurs and alternate routes indicated by opaque letters. Even as someone who relies on transit every day, when I'm traveling to somewhere new, I don't start thinking which bus routes I'm going to take, I pull out Google Maps. That's a lot different than "oh, the E Line is what you take to get to Uptown, how do I get to the E."

Tcmetro
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby Tcmetro » July 11th, 2014, 12:47 pm

This proposed 7th Street streetcar creates several issues, as it overlaps the 74 local service and the 54/B Line limited stop service. Those buses continue past the corridor on to major areas like Highland Park, MOA, Airport, etc. Additionally it would be foolish to invest in streetcars before the completion of the Riverview and Rush Line studies which may show opportunity in nearby ROWs for rail transit.

There isn't really a need for streetcars in the corridor today. It's quite clear that the intent of this project would be to spur economic development as opposed to improving commutes.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 11th, 2014, 2:25 pm

Couple thoughts (though this is very general and can be moved off the St Paul Streetcar thread..)
EOst wrote:1) As annoying as it is for us, local buses have their....
Well, for most of the aBRT lines proposed, well over 90% (mostly 98-99%) of existing riders are within one local stop of proposed stations (at 0.3 to 0.5 mile spacing). I think most here share a concern for the elderly, but in many cases they'll be close to an "arterial-like" station spacing anyway. Metro Transit would do well to expand dial-a-rides for the extremely few people who would no longer be within a comfortable walk. I'm not sure how the long block faces make reaching stations more difficult, though. You'd have to travel that N/S distance (or E-W in StP) regardless of if blocks were smaller...

I would say the aBRT model from a stop-spacing perspective shouldn't be implemented for every local route, just 1/4 mile stop spacing on the 1/2 mile grid streets. In fact, my preference would actually be to go from 1/8 mile spacing to 1/4 mile system wide with most stops getting the station amenities. Overall route frequency would still be good (not aBRT + reduced local, just high local frequency), but capital costs obviously higher.
EOst wrote:2) Since many local routes operate frequently on roads that don't have frequent traffic signals, the utility of adding the equipment to extend green lights becomes less and less relevant to how you can decrease travel time.
That's only one of the benefits aBRT design brings. Maybe instead of the electronic systems, the streets get mini-roundabouts installed in lieu of stop signs. Or blinking reds/yield for the cross streets with the bus line getting signal-less priority.
EOst wrote:3) Often local routes travel on streets which are primarily SFH residential; even the smallest planned aBRT shelters would probably be opposed by nearby residents, because of the light and resulting increase in loitering and noise.
Boo. Political-will issues shouldn't be a reason not to try/do something. If the area is urban enough to talk about putting in aBRT lines, it's urban enough (even if SFHs) that a bump-out with a shelter, heat, and lights should be commonplace.
EOst wrote:4) The local routes don't usually require the general frequency that the currently planned aBRT corridors require, because even optimistically their maximal ridership is pretty low. Creating inconsistent frequencies throughout the system, though, undermines the easy-to-remember frequent promise of the main routes.
Our system right now is hard to remember/know. I'm not sure how it would be different other than the base expected frequency for the whole system gets better.
EOst wrote:5) Quite simply, one of the biggest bonuses for things like LR, streetcar, aBRT etc. is that there are relatively few of them, which makes them easier to remember and conceptualize...
So let's make the base bus system easier to understand. Fewer spurs, fewer turns or jaunts to side streets. More grid like. No matter which direction you walk you'll hit a major bus line that comes every 10-15 minutes most times of the day, and at the stop will be a system map that shows how the line interacts with the larger system (particularly the faster/more frequent LRT lines).

EOst
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Re: Saint Paul Streetcar Study

Postby EOst » July 11th, 2014, 3:24 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:Well, for most of the aBRT lines proposed, well over 90% (mostly 98-99%) of existing riders are within one local stop of proposed stations (at 0.3 to 0.5 mile spacing). I think most here share a concern for the elderly, but in many cases they'll be close to an "arterial-like" station spacing anyway. Metro Transit would do well to expand dial-a-rides for the extremely few people who would no longer be within a comfortable walk. I'm not sure how the long block faces make reaching stations more difficult, though. You'd have to travel that N/S distance (or E-W in StP) regardless of if blocks were smaller…
I don't know. This last winter, it wasn't exactly pleasant to walk the couple blocks (one long, three short) to the existing local bus stop. I don't know if I could convince people to do it if I added another long block to that.
RailBaronYarr wrote:I would say the aBRT model from a stop-spacing perspective shouldn't be implemented for every local route, just 1/4 mile stop spacing on the 1/2 mile grid streets. In fact, my preference would actually be to go from 1/8 mile spacing to 1/4 mile system wide with most stops getting the station amenities. Overall route frequency would still be good (not aBRT + reduced local, just high local frequency), but capital costs obviously higher.
Fair enough.
RailBaronYarr wrote:That's only one of the benefits aBRT design brings. Maybe instead of the electronic systems, the streets get mini-roundabouts installed in lieu of stop signs. Or blinking reds/yield for the cross streets with the bus line getting signal-less priority.
I don't know how practical that would really be.
RailBaronYarr wrote:Boo. Political-will issues shouldn't be a reason not to try/do something. If the area is urban enough to talk about putting in aBRT lines, it's urban enough (even if SFHs) that a bump-out with a shelter, heat, and lights should be commonplace.
I don't know. If you lived here, would you want people loitering outside? https://www.google.com/maps/@44.94136,- ... xZi-Ug!2e0

You can't just ignore political will; this is a democracy, ultimately.
RailBaronYarr wrote:Our system right now is hard to remember/know. I'm not sure how it would be different other than the base expected frequency for the whole system gets better.
I think the way our current system is labeled and advertised may be one of the most prominent limiting factors in its potential ridership. A lot of people, even living on arterial corridors, only know the one bus that goes on that street which they normally take. If they're going somewhere else, it's car time.
RailBaronYarr wrote:So let's make the base bus system easier to understand. Fewer spurs, fewer turns or jaunts to side streets. More grid like. No matter which direction you walk you'll hit a major bus line that comes every 10-15 minutes most times of the day, and at the stop will be a system map that shows how the line interacts with the larger system (particularly the faster/more frequent LRT lines).
I'm not sure how you do that, though, without reducing service in other ways. Removing spurs and turns reduces area coverage. Reducing alternate endings and sub-routes means it's much more expensive to maintain the frequency that those routes provide. Take the 6; by having the 6 and the 6U, you're able to provide twice the frequency on the west side of the river, and still give some frequency (on the 6U) to the less-traveled side. How do you do that otherwise?

The complexity, as confusing as it is, is there for a reason. That's why having an overlay on top of that--the METRO, the aBRT--is useful. They serve different purposes.


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