Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Taking a look at high-speed rail

Those of you who've read the first issue of the Journal of Public Transit in Ottawa [.pdf] probably got a look at the Martin Prosperity Institute's white paper, "Making high-speed rail work for Ottawa". In it, authors Ian Swain, Patrick Adler, and Kevin Stolarick examined the potential benefits of regional high-speed rail line through Ottawa, and what the city would be well-served doing to maximize its efficiency.

On Tuesday, MPI's Insights blog summarized the white paper, looking at the opportunities it can offer, as well as the costs which it could reduce. As the did in their article in JPTO, however, they cautioned that it has to be done right if it's going to be done:
This should not be considered a blanket endorsement of high-speed rail or current proposals to build it. As outlined in the white paper, such projects must be built wisely, in the right places, with the right accompanying factors such as robust transit access and strategically sited stations. But to reject high-speed rail out of hand based on conventional cost-benefit variables ignores both the long-term shifts the economy is undergoing and the broader transformative effects of high-speed rail.
Ottawa and the region does offer a strong case for high-speed rail. A line from Quebec City through Montreal into Ottawa, and then onward to Toronto and Windsor, offers strong benefits to industrial, commercial, and governmental concerns, and would most certainly benefit the city and the region--if, as stipulated, it's implemented properly.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Public initiatives: Preserve route 245

A group of Manotick-area residents are rallying to preserve service of route 245, a rural express route which serves the area, from being cut by Ottawa city council. From the Ottawa Citizen:
During budget deliberations late last month, Rideau-Goulbourn Councillor Glenn Brooks moved that the No. 245 be cancelled because it delivers only four rides a day. Cutting it would reduce the rural transit budget by $27,700. At the time, OC Transpo officials confirmed that the route was little used.
The movement is similar to one which grew out of 2008's budget deliberations, "Keep the 23", where Chapel Hill South residents rallied to save route 23 from being cut. They were ultimately successful.

Andrew Geraghty, who's behind the campaign, started a Facebook group called "My Ottawa includes all of Ward 21 Rideau Goulbourn", and started a petition to gain the attention of city council. His work has gotten the issue onto the March 1, 2010 meeting of the city's transit committee. It remains to be seen whether or not they will successfully preserve the route.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Measuring America's public transit systems, head-to-head

Very neat infographic on last week, comparing the United States' largest transit systems by the numbers in a head-to-head format. I can only find two of the four 2008 statistics to measure OC Transpo against these systems: Average speed, which was 16.47 mph (or 26.5 km/h), which would rank fifth of the six; and average daily ridership, which was 257,260 riders/day, lower than all the five but in a significantly smaller city (numbers from OC Transpo's 2008 annual report).

Of the US systems, particularly noteworthy was the stats on BART, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system, which had the lowest daily ridership of the four, but averaged a higher speed and higher miles per trip than any other.

I mostly just wanted to post the link to the infographic, and express my desire to see something similar comparing Canada's transit systems--do any readers have the time, resources, and technical abilities to do one up? That would be amazing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lansdowne transportation planning hits a snag

Planning for the transportation needs of a revitalized Lansdowne Park has hit a snag, with the firm who was originally hired by the city to work on a study pulling out due to conflict-of-interest concerns.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Critics of the Lansdowne Live redevelopment plan had raised concerns about the city's intention to hire the consultants, who had worked with the group seeking to redevelop the property, to do a more thorough study of how a redeveloped Lansdowne should fit into the transportation network in the Glebe and surrounding area.
The move mean that the city now has a short window of time to find another consultant, and have that organization complete their assessment of the transit needs of the site. It also means that we run the risk of allowing transit accessibility to be put on the back-burner while the site plan goes through, which would pose challenges to the success of what whatever football and soccer team may use the space, as well as the Ottawa 67s, and other current tenants, like the city's farmer's market.

It all comes down to one question: How can public transit dovetail with the Lansdowne Live plan to serve the needs of citizens?

Feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments.

Could private transit gets public transit moving?

The site Greater Greater Washington, a forum devoted to exploring ideas to improve living in the Washington, DC area, spent some time this week wondering whether a private model could be better suited to serving global public transit needs than public utilities currently can.

Steve Offutt, a contributor to the website started with a few statements of fact, and took his analysis from there:
Many of our transit systems are bursting at the seams, yet only provide about 2% of trips nationwide. It takes decades to build new transit projects. The existing public agency model for providing public transportation services is totally inadequate to rapidly meet the challenges we face, particularly the urgent need to deal with climate change.
From there, Offutt goes on to examine whether a private model, faced with a need to be fiscally responsible but an insatiable appetite to serve a need quickly and effectively, could help cities develop their public transit infrastructure to better serve their citizens--and, most importantly, to make that service available quickly. His focus is on Washington, but the ideas translate well to the City of Ottawa, as well.

The key, Offutt suggests, is finding innovative ways to make public transit beneficial to all parties:
The trick is to make the financial incentives align with the societal goals. If the goal is to reduce miles being driven, then private companies could be paid per mile reduced. They would then strive to find solutions. One example of this is the contract Houston has with a company called NuRide (disclosure: I used to work for NuRide). NuRide is paid by VMT reduced. They offer incentives to people to rideshare and take other modes. If they are successful, they get paid; if not, they don't. So it is in their direct financial interest to find the incentives that will get people to change their behavior.
It would be a drastic embarkation from the way transit is currently modeled, but perhaps that's just what public transit utilities need to get themselves truly effective at serving people's needs. With calls for audits into the management of OC Transpo, a new management model may be necessary; a private model is just one of many possibilities.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yes to U-Pass, no to route cuts in OC Transpo budget

Old news by now, but a couple weeks ago, the City of Ottawa decided to allow a 3.77% tax increase in order to preserve levels of OC Transpo service and to move forward with a universal student bus pass (U-Pass) program, at a cost of $145 per student per semester. The city had previously proposed to cut 47 bus routes in order to save about $3M, according to CTV Ottawa, but voted against the service cuts.

For more information:

Monday, February 1, 2010

Journal of Public Transit in Ottawa available for download

The Public Transit in Ottawa Portal (PTOP) is pleased to announce the inaugural issue of the community-reviewed Journal of Public Transit in Ottawa (JPTO)is available for download today.

To download the journal, click here.

JPTO is the culmination of months of work from over a dozen contributors, assembling a wide variety of topics regarding public transit in the City of Ottawa.