More Interstate 710 Extension Discussions

Zócalo Public Square will be hosting what promises to be an interesting forum this week –

The 710 is one of the most important freeways in Southern California. It’s also shorter than originally planned: For nearly 50 years, legal and environmental challenges have stalled the freeway in Alhambra, 4.5 miles short of its intended destination, Pasadena. Over the decades, discussions about extending the freeway have cast its future as a local issue. But the 710 causes traffic, produces pollution, and affects commerce across Los Angeles and even beyond. How broad are these impacts, and what role might the stalled extension play in them? What would the five options now being debated for dealing with the Alhambra-to-Pasadena gap–implementing new surface traffic technology and strategies, new rapid bus transit, light rail transit, a freeway tunnel, or building nothing at all–mean for our region?

The $780 million set aside for the project in Measure R would go a long way towards transit, but most of the alternatives being considered, especially a highway tunnel, would require major additional funding. With Caltrans so heavily involved, and with the clout of port traffic, it’s hard to imagine the advocates of expanding the “concrete commons” won’t win out. Though maybe continued strong community opposition and a winning Braess’s paradox argument could be successful in finally killing the project.

On a related note, the release of draft environmental documents for the project has been pushed back to February 2015.

Transmilenio

Bogotá’s bus rapid transit system has been touted as an example worldwide. Heavily promoted by the city’s former mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, it has been used as a model for systems I have explored in Guatemala City, Panama City, Dar es Salaam, Cape Town, and Johannesburg, among other places. And along with the rhetoric about BRT being a tool for building public space in cities comes an array of Colombian consulting firms and private bus operating companies. It was a fascinating experience for me finally to be at the source of the BRT craze last January, especially after my year studying BRT around the world.

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Medellín

In January, I spent 24 hours in Medellín, Colombia, before an urban design workshop being held in Bogotá. While it wasn’t nearly enough time in the city, I was excited to explore some of the internationally-renowned public spaces and the new bus and metrocable transit lines.

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Orange Line Update

Though the Orange Line is not grade separated from cross traffic, it does receive numerous priority treatments.

Six years after its opening, the Metro Orange Line in Los Angeles remains one of the few true BRT corridors in the United States. Right of way is almost entirely an exclusive busway, and buses receive well-enforced signal priority against cross traffic.

The 14 stations along the 14 mile route currently see approximately 24,000 weekday boardings. A second branch, from Canoga Station in the west north to Chatsworth, will be opening in June 2012. Though only one service currently operates along the route (serving all stops between Warner Center and North Hollywood), the extension will lead Metro to consider other services, such as north-south between Chatsworth and Warner Center. A limited-stop service to the North Hollywood Red Line station might also make sense, given that there are passing lanes at stations and peak headways, currently at 4 minutes, will be high enough to support such service after the extension opens. Though given Metro’s propensity for simplifying service patterns, like the elimination of Metro Rapid Express 920, this seems unlikely. Pictures from a January ride are included below, as is a Measure R construction update on the extension.

Jaime Lerner discusses Curitiba-style “Urban Acupuncture”

Jaime Lerner at the World Bank

Jaime Lerner at the World Bank

Former Mayor of Curitiba and Governor of Paraná Jaime Lerner gave the keynote address at Transforming Transportation 2012. He highlighted the use of “urban acupuncture” and “focal interventions,” used in conjunction with the planning process, to catalyze urban improvements. He also cautioned against unsuccessful and disorganized implementations of bus rapid transit, especially those that do not integrate well with the “concept of a city.” Highlights of his dynamic and comedic speech, and the complete set of slides he used, are both embedded below.

International Transit Leaders at Transforming Transportation 2012

Last week, transit leaders from around the world converged on Washington, D.C. for Transforming Transportation 2012. The two-day event, hosted by EMBARQ, The World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Institute for Transportation Development and Policy, Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities, and the Partnership for Sustainable Low Carbon Transport, included a number of speakers suggesting ways to scale-up sustainable transportation systems.

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"City is not a problem, City is a solution"

“City is not a problem, City is a solution” – Manish Bapna, the Acting President of the World Resources Institute, and Jaime Lerner discuss scaling up urban transportation innovations
Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba

Jaime Lerner, the mayor of Curitiba who successfully “metronized the bus,” sitting in front of this graph showing the explosive growth of bus rapid transit systems worldwide
Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba

Jaime Lerner describes his “urban acupuncture” approach.  A video with highlights from his keynote address is available here.

Juan Carlos Muñoz, Professor at the Catholic University of Chile and the Director of the ALC-BRT Center of Excellence

Juan Carlos Muñoz, Professor at the Catholic University of Chile and the Director of the ALC-BRT Center of Excellence
Lake Sagaris, Head of Communications, Innovation and Development for Ciudad Viva and Advisory Board Member for the ALC-BRT Center of Excellence

Lake Sagaris, Head of Communications, Innovation and Development for Ciudad Viva and a member of the ALC-BRT Advisory Board

Federico von Buchwald, President of the Metrovía Foundation and Vice-President of SIBRT

Federico von Buchwald, President of the Metrovía Foundation and Vice-President of SIBRT, presents on Guayaquil’s BRT system (available below in the full post).

Buses of Curitiba

Curitiba, Brazil, implemented the world’s first bus rapid transit system in the 1970s. Along with programs to convert floodplains to green space, pedestrianize downtown streets, and improve waste collection, the new “surface metro” transformed the city. Curitiba is the inspiration for many of the other BRT projects I learned about during my year of travel, so a visit there was perfect for my last stop.

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Metrobus – BRT in Buenos Aires

At the end of May, the Mayor of Buenos Aires inaugurated Argentina’s first BRT line (English summary here). Metrobus incorporates lines 34 and 166 (operated by the private companies Juan B. Justo S.A.T.C.I. and Empresa Linea 216, S.A.T., respectively), which run along Juan B. Justo Avenue between Palermo and Liniers. The new corridor consists of dedicated center lanes and raised stops.

During construction, neighbors complained about traffic disruptions and the slow pace of work. The city openly stated that taking away general use lanes along the avenue would add to travel time for private automobiles; transit priority is an important part of the municipal government’s Sustainable Mobility Plan.

According to Clarín:

“We were expecting ridership growth of 20% in the medium term, but in the first weeks we halve already come to record more than 15%,” staff of the Secretary of Transportation said. According to their explanation, this is due mostly to people realizing that they can travel more quickly and safely with the dedicated lanes, because the drivers can no longer pass each other nor do they need to brake abruptly in stops or corners. “And, incidentally, this also benefits auto drivers, who now drive more relaxed separated from buses,” they added. According to their statistics, the growth of passengers has been recorded, above all, in Line 34, where 18% more users are now noted.

Despite the protracted construction process (pictures below), the system seems to be gaining ground as an important tool for sustainable mobility in Buenos Aires.

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