Sunday, March 29, 2009

Guidelines for Effective Mass-Transit, discuss

As an engineer, if I were to outline five rules for effective mass-transit, they would be these:

1 - Focus on rails - Buses give one advantage over cars to their consumer, you don't have to park them. Rails, be them light or heavy, still give this advantage, but also give the advantage of not being part of the road network and thus ignoring traffic and stop lights, and this combined with the guiding force of the rails for turning leads to a higher effective speed, often in excess of 60 MPH in what would otherwise be 30 MPH driving territory for at least sections. They also have greater energy efficiency and can be built with a 0 carbon footprint if electrified with nuclear or wind power.

2 - Focus on natural lines - places where you have a very high density of traffic flowing between effective points on a single line.

3 - Ignore the Park & Ride - if people have to drive a car to use your system, they will need to park that car somewhere, and to remove a sufficient quantity of traffic to make rail construction worthwhile you would need Airport-size garages. That level of volume would also create new traffic problems of its own.

4 - Widen Sidewalks - Not technically part of the system, but if people feel comfortable to walk, they will travel further to and from stations, widening the effective radius of any particular station or stop.

5 - Focus on the Inner City - Natural lines, and the heaviest use natural lines, will lie within the city almost by definition, as it is where the highest density, and thus highest likelihood, exist. It is also generally the most pedestrian friendly place and the place where the most utility (potential places to work, shop, play) exist within a certain distance of a station. Don't even consider building to the suburbs until the inner city is covered or the folks in the burbs will have nowhere to go.

6 - The system is for the people, and not the other way around. (This isn't a rule so much as a general attitude.)

Comments, questions, objections, queries, fact checks, discussion of examples, and personal insults are all perfectly welcome!


Kuma said...

Whether I'm for or against universal liberty, it's reality. We're just choosing not to conform.

Jeremy Janson said...

Umm, Kuma, could you please next time use my shoutbox. I'm sorry but this space is reserved for mass-transit discussion.

bereezy said...

Nice post, I like your rules a lot. I already know your opinion of Atlanta's public transportation, but I'd love to hear a follow-up post about it. If only more cities would set rules like these and then FOLLOW THEM.

Hels said...

I created a link to your post on the subject, Jeremy. Many thanks.
But I have no idea what Park & Ride is.

Art and Architecture, mainly

Jeremy Janson said...

A Park & Ride is a free parking lot next to a bus stop. For them to have any effect whatsoever they have to be very big, which creates problems as all the land they cover is a land that could be used for transit-frinedly development like high-rise (or even mid-rise) apartments, coffee shops, et cetera. In addition, depending upon how and where they're done they can create traffic problems of their own, and they have to be expanded the same way that a road would.

There's also the questin of how much it would cost to simply build roads to an area light enough in density to need a park and ride, and the more of something (including mass-transit) you build at once the higher the price each additional part of it costs. Most cities that would benefit from mass-transit would have more effective lines then the ones that would need park & rides.

Thanks for stopping by Hels. Reply or send me an email if you have any more questions.