Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fewer buses on Albert and Slater?

According to a 580 CFRA report, city staff have suggested that the volume of buses running down the downtown portion of Ottawa's Transitway along Albert and Slater streets is negatively affecting transit service in the city, and recommended that problem be addressed.

According to CFRA:

A report for the Transit Committee says ridership increases west of downtown has caused the volume of buses running west on Albert Street to reach 180 buses per hour in the afternoon peak period.

Proposed Transit Route Changes for the fall make a series of recommendations to remove several trips from both Albert and Slater Streets to allow reliable operations to continue.

Staff recommend the conversion of downtown trips of certain routes to frequent feeder services, including reducing direct-to-downtown trips on limited peak period Routes 51, 55, 124, 156, 172 and 178.

Which just underlines the necessity of building an underground tunnel, in some form, under the downtown leg, at the very least. The city is well on its way towards a light-rail tunnel, although some critics (most notably Andrew Haydon) have suggested a bus tunnel. Others agree with light-rail, but disagree on the route. The generally agreed-upon bottom line, though, is this: There are too many buses at street level on Albert and Slater, which is negatively affecting not only vehicular traffic on those streets, but also the comfort level of those walking, cycling, working, and living in the area.

It is also curious to see the recommendation of staff: That feeder routes transfer onto the major ones (such as the 95, 96, and 97) at the entrance into the downtown along the east and west ends. This is the arrangement most commuters will have to deal with once Ottawa's light-rail transit line is set up, switching from bus to rail when entering from east or west into the downtown core. This could be a transitional period, in a way, while commuters get used to transfers--aside from express routes, which some have suggested will continue running along downtown streets even once light rail is established.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how this may go if OC Transpo decides to move forward with this recommendation.


RealGrouchy said...

This doesn't underline anything about a tunnel (or surface rail, for that matter). It underlines the need to operate our transit system more (though not exclusively) as a hub-and-spoke system.

Express buses are sent through downtown because "hey, we send them all the way to downtown, it doesn't take much more to send them through!" but they are half empty by the time they are halfway through downtown, and they are fully empty and out of service on the return trip through downtown. This is what causes the tens-of-buses caravans we see on the Mackenzie-King bridge, and all through downtown. Express buses are also the most expensive because of the everyone-gets-a-seat service standard, and because of the long distance per fare.

Light rail (tunnel or surface) would essentially force a move to hub-and-spoke through tremendous capital investment, even though it could be done today with buses. (Though I definitely understand suburban residents' skepticism that OC Transpo could pull it off and deliver equivalent level service. I can only speak in theory; ATU's rep said yesterday at Transit Committee that this particular proposal would reduce service, esp. in Orleans).

In fact, if we have a rail tunnel, that would leave the surface available for us to continue our express buses making direct trips downtown ad infinitum.

ATU's spokesperson yesterday did, however, make an interesting point: that suburbanites are being forced to transfer, while buses from outside the city can deliver direct-to-downtown service from outside Ottawa's borders--and can get Ottawa passes for $8. He suggests they transfer at the first opportunity within Ottawa's borders, to free up space for Ottawa's express buses.

Incidentally, in other cities, an express route is a variant on another route that skips certain stops in order to get along the route faster. We have a very perverted (elitist, even) concept of "Express" service in Ottawa.

Dean said...

Real Grouchy this is why we need rail. Stop using so many bus's to run cross town routes. Express bus's should only go to a hub that services cross town trips.

I would guess most people in the burbs would rather have a frequent and quick trip to a train hub over express bus's long wait's and long trip times downtown.

Trains are certainly a better option for carrying large numbers of people on major routes. The fact that have so many bus's sharing the transit way show's this.

Erigami said...

Which just underlines the necessity of building an underground tunnel, in some form, under the downtown leg, at the very least.There are lots of options outside of a tunnel, including:
- Close Slater, Albert, and their cross streets to car traffic. Make the downtown core bus/pedestrian only during rush hour.
- Make Wellington part of the transitway, move all east/west traffic to Wellington and Rideau.

I'm not saying that either of those approaches are perfect, but that saying "we have no choice but to build a tunnel, and fill it with trains" is disingenuous. We have lots of options, we just have to think about them critically.

Peter said...

Erigami, thanks for the note. I probably should have put it another way (perhaps that it 'underlines tha value' of a tunnel). Although, again, that is a bit of my own editorializing, which I usually try to avoid on here. Thanks for bringing us back toward critical thought.

mjf87nl said...

BRT claims to be "just like rail, but cheaper". This is a scam that must not go unpunished. I will not tolerate the argument that BRT stands for "better rapid transit". I've heard "flexibility" a million times before. BRT is a general swindle. Why should they bother paving over rail lines and turning them into busways? I don't see why.

Matt Fisher