Friday, May 22, 2009

What makes a transit system effective?

Ricky Leong published an editorial in the Calgary Sun earlier in the week lamenting the inflexibility of Calgary's public transit system. Leong suggested that although the system gets commuters to and from work quickly and easily in mornings and evenings, it lacks the flexibility that enables citizens to build the system into their lives outside of work hours.

From the Calgary Sun:
Problem is, as much as we love our trains and buses, transit isn't really an integral part of our lives.

I don't have the resources to undertake a proper ridership survey, but I think it would be safe to say transit in Calgary is an effective means of delivering thousands of people to work (or school) and back, every weekday.

The rest of us either don't care for public transit or consider it an unacceptable transportation option.


Apart from having reliable and timely transit, it has to take you to all the places you want to go -- and I don't mean just work.

I mean to see friends, for groceries and clothes, a visit to your favourite bookseller, a trip to the movies or a night on the town.
Although Leong uses Ottawa as an example of a system Calgary could learn from ("Ottawa has an extensive network of bus lanes (kind of a poor man's LRT) reaching into all parts of the capital -- including its airport"), many Ottawans looking for a night on the town might disagree--in fact, some would surely suggest that a lot of Leong's criticisms could be easily applied onto Ottawa's systems.

This discussion raises a few questions for the transit-minded citizen:
  1. Is it worth connecting outer areas of the city with OC Transpo "ring routes"?
  2. If so, how can it be done?
  3. What roads should incorporate new transit routes?
  4. Why hasn't it been done to date?

Please, feel free to respond and discuss in the comments.


RealGrouchy said...

I'll bite.

Express buses are designed to get people from the suburbs downtown in the morning, and from downtown back to the suburbs in the afternoon.

The other half of the trip, these buses are empty.

With the system designed so centrally around suburb-to-downtown traffic, it's very difficult to live in the downtown (where it should be easiest to rely on public transit) and commute to employment centres outside the core, Kanata in particular.

There's also a longstanding criticism that it's much easier for Kanata South and Kanata North residents to travel downtown than between each other's area.

Anonymous said...

An effective transit system is one that does the following: makes the option of going from suburbia faster, cleaner and more conveinent that taking ones own car. In Montreal the Metro takes you to far and wide throughout the city in little time. I wouldn't dream of taking my car anywhere downtown if I lived there when I have the metro. My hope is the transit tunnel will be just that.

Anonymous said...

Considering that the city is deciding on Ottawa's growth pattern for the next five years, it would also be worth asking: "What urban design decisions will create a city that can be served effectively by public transit."

WJM said...

Unless and until the city grows a pair, and stops letting developers build Don Mills style subdivisions and "office parks" forever, suburbs will be car dependent and inefficient to provide transit (and all other public services) in.

What roads should incorporate new transit routes?

New, logical, linear roads, in new, logical, linear subdivisions based on mostly grid (or truly organic) street patterns.

Write off the Leave It to Beaver suburbs. They're a lost cause.

Chris B said...

WRT to the Kanata South/Kanata North problem, it is simply because density s too low in the suburbs to support transit on anything other than a commuter model. Even if it became easier to go from one part of Kanata to another, how many people want to?

Matt Fisher said...

Fuck BRT. As I said, it is not "better rapid transit". It is a fraud to sell it as "just like rail, but cheaper". Yes, the Transitway is better than nothing, but is not a substitute for rail. It's just another cheap bus. Even the bus boosters' favourite "role model" example besides Ottawa - Curitiba, Brazil - is gonna build a metro subway.

This is screwed when some in the "mature rail cities" of New York and San Francisco want to use BRT on where there should be rail (and it shouldn't all be just light rail), but then they give the usual excuse: "We can't afford it."

"Better rapid transit" my ass.

Keith said...

Ottawa needs rail. And not just in the core. Converting the transit way to rail is a start. Aside from that it might be time for Ottawa to consider a mini GO Train system using existing rail corridors. Nothing fancy, but a few spartan stations served by 2 car DMUs serving the suburbs and dropping off people onto the BRT/LRT system in the core.