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Bus Rapid Transit Research Trip, Funding Assistance Still Needed

Later this week I’ll arrive in Cleveland — my first time in that city — I think. My 2006 bus trip to Toronto may have routed through Cleveland. I do know I’ve never explored the city.  My purpose for visiting it to ride their Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines — the HealthLine and 55-A-B-C: Cleveland State Line. We’ll spend just over 48 hours in Cleveland, our hotel is located on the HealthLine.

Cleveland has many similarities to St. Louis — such as losing more than half its peak 1950 population.  Pollution was a problem, in 1969 the Cuyahoga River caught on fire! Earlier this year, Cleveland police agreed to train officers to minimize racial bias and the use of excessive force.

A few months ago I started a GoFundMe page to raise money for this 2-day research trip to Cleveland. So far I’ve raised $200 of the $375 needed — a little more than half.

Click image to open GoFundMe page
Click image to open GoFundMe page

The rest of our vacation will be spent in Chicago.  There I’ll check out construction on Chicago’s first BRT line — the Loop Link:

Traffic-clogging construction has been underway for almost six months on Loop Link, the Emanuel administration’s experiment intended to speed CTA buses through downtown, yet the bus rapid transit service will be launched late this year with fewer features than originally promised, officials told the Tribune.

Even before the changes that threaten to reduce the benefits of the whole endeavor to ease congestion in the central Loop, the $32 million project was labeled “BRT Lite” by some transportation experts because its design lacked several elements that are key to helping buses replicate the service reliability of rail rapid transit. Those experts said making a strong first impression was vital to winning public backing for introducing bus rapid transit citywide. (Chicago Tribune – CTA bus rapid transit service to debut with fewer bells and whistles)

Cleveland’s HealthLine was given a 76/100 score by the Institute for Transportation & Policy Development — a Silver rating — the highest score of all BRT lines in the U.S. Other countries have higher ranked BRT systems:

Of the systems scored, 15 are classified as gold, 28 as silver, 41 as bronze, and 6 as “basic” BRT, indicating a minimum of BRT features, but not quite qualifying as best practice. Eight did not qualify as BRT. Furthermore, ITDP has identified 200 additional corridors that preliminarily meet the BRT basics.

The BRT Standard is an evaluation tool for world-class bus rapid transit based on international best practices. It is also the centerpiece of a global effort by leaders in bus rapid transit design to establish a common definition of BRT and ensure that BRT systems more uniformly deliver world-class passenger experiences, significant economic benefits, and positive environmental impacts. (ITDP)

Scores of other BRT lines in the U.S.

Bronze

  • Los Angeles CA (Orange line) 65/100
  • San Bernardino CA (E-Street) 63/100
  • Pittsburgh PA (MLK) 56/100
  • Seattle WA (SODO) 56/100
  • Eugene OR (Green line) 55/100

Basic

  • Pittsburgh PA (West) 51/100
  • Pittsburgh PA (South) 50/100

So we have no “Gold” BRT lines, and only one “Silver”.  See the scoring criteria here, of interest to me is station spacing:

In a consistently built-up area, the distance between station stops optimizes at around 450 meters (1,476 ft.). Beyond this, more time is imposed on customers walking to stations than is saved by higher bus speeds. Below this distance, bus speeds will be reduced by more than the time saved with shorter walking distances. Thus, in keeping reasonably consistent with optimal station spacing, average distance between stations should not be below 0.3 km (0.2 mi.) or exceed 0.8 km (0.5 mi.).

Two-tenths to a half mile spacing sounds like excellent criteria to me, Cleveland’s HealthLine did this. It also got all three points for Pedestrian Access:

A BRT system could be extremely well-designed and functioning but if passengers cannot access it safely, it cannot achieve its goals. Good pedestrian access is imperative in BRT system design. Additionally, as a new BRT system is a good opportunity for street and public-space redesign, existing pedestrian environments along the corridor should be improved.

Regular posts will continue here during my vacation/research trip, plus I’ll be posting images from Cleveland & Chicago to Twitter & Facebook. Would love to raise the remaining $175 before the credit card bill arrives.

— Steve Patterson

 

Illinois Day Trip: Greenville, Pocahontas, & Lebanon

My husband and I enjoy taking day trips, they’re inexpensive and interesting. Recently we went to Greenville & Lebanon Illinois, passing through Pocahontas between them.

While I wouldn't lie in a small town, I love visiting old small town downtowns.
While I wouldn’t lie in a small town, I love visiting old small town downtowns.
The scale of the buildings around a central square, or courthouse, is very appealing.
The scale of the buildings around a central square, or courthouse, is very appealing.
It was the day before Father's Day, they were hosting their annual car show.
It was the day before Father’s Day, they were hosting their annual car show. Click image for information on the car show

We’re both car guys so we don’t need much excuse to check out a car show. We took a break from viewing classics and had a nice lunch at Joe’s Pizza and Pasta, open for lunch because of the car show.  After we finished the car show we went back to our car and drove around the residential areas adjacent to downtown, very charming. Rather than get back on I-70 we took back roads, eventually making our way to Pocahontas IL.

This town was also charming, not as "redneck" as I'd imagined.
This town was also charming, not as “redneck” as I’d imagined. Click image to see Wilson’s 2004 hit “Redneck Woman.” Really, 11+ years already!?!

We didn’t stop anywhere in Pocahontas, we continued on the back roads. Part of the way we were on Highway 40 — no, not Interstate 64 — a 2-lane road.

We' passed through downtown Lebanon on the way to Dairy Queen 00 we had Groupon.
We’ passed through downtown Lebanon on the way to Dairy Queen 00 we had Groupon.

We took I-64 back to St. Louis, I considered sticking to the back roads but I was driving tired by this point. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

— Steve Patterson

 

As St. Louis Builds A Small Park Over A Highway…A Look At Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park

June 16, 2015 Featured, Parks, Travel 11 Comments

As work continues on the “lid” over the highway, now called I-44,  that divides downtown St. Louis from the Arch grounds I thought we should take a look at another recent park-over-highway project — Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park:

Klyde Warren Park creates an urban green space constructed over a section of the below-grade Woodall Rodgers Freeway, for 3 blocks between Pearl Street and St. Paul Street. It provides connectivity to the city’s flourishing Arts District from other neighborhoods, brings together cultural events and experiences, and serves as a central public gathering space for Dallas residents and visitors to enjoy.

Designed by landscape architecture firm, The Office of James Burnett, the park features flexible, pedestrian-oriented design, offering a mix of active and passive spaces, which include a children’s park, reading room, great lawn, restaurant, performance pavilion, fountain plaza, games area, urban dog park, and botanical garden around a sweeping pedestrian promenade.. A 6,000-square-foot (560 m2) restaurant and performance stage, designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners, is in the center of the park. In addition it provides jogging trails, a dog park, a children’s playground, and an area for games. (Wikipedia)

The idea of building a park over the recessed highway had been discussed since the highway was built in the 1960s. As an architecture student in the late 80s I visited I.M. Pei’s then-new Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in 1989, thinking the location, next to this wide ditch, was awful. Though I’d been to Dallas since then, I hadn’t seen the Meyerson again until last month.

26 years after seeing the new building, I passed by Dallas' symphony hall on their free D-Link bus.
26 years after seeing the new building, I passed by Dallas’ symphony hall on their free D-Link bus. Click image for map link.

The new trees are now mature, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough juice in my wheelchair to get closer. Besides, I was about to cross over the highway and in a block be at my destination.

Looking right I saw the highway that had long been a divider, the other direction was the new Klyde Warren Park
Looking right I saw the highway that had long been a divider, the other direction was the new Klyde Warren Park. View from Pearl St
Normally the D-Lkink bus would've crossed through the park on Olive but they close it during busiest times -- otherwise it's open.
Normally the D-Lkink bus would’ve crossed through the park on Olive but they close it during busiest times — otherwise it’s open.
Vehicles & the D-Link bus are rerouted when Olive is closed, but their vintage trolley line gets to cut through.
Vehicles & the D-Link bus are rerouted when Olive is closed, but their M-Line vintage trolley gets to cut through for obvious reasons. Click image for more information on this line.
This is like he 'hallway' our Gateway Mall is supposed to have, right now we only have 2 blocks in Citygarden
This is like he ‘hallway’ our Gateway Mall is supposed to have, right now we only have 2 blocks in Citygarden
Like Citygarden, this park has a botanical side. It's also city-owned but managed by a foundation.
Like Citygarden, this park has a botanical side. It’s also city-owned but managed by a foundation.
It's nearly 80% bigger the Citygarden, has more diverse areas as a result.
It’s nearly 80% bigger the Citygarden, has more diverse areas as a result.
The upscale restaurant was packed the Saturday night I was there,
The upscale restaurant was packed the Saturday night I was there,
Here you see people at the upscale restaurant (left) and regular park patrons sitting at movable tables & chairs located throughout the park (right).
Here you see people at the upscale restaurant (left) and regular park patrons sitting at movable tables & chairs located throughout the park (right).
The Congress for the New Urbanism/CNU23 closing party was at the self-serve end of the building
The Congress for the New Urbanism/CNU23 closing party was at the self-serve end of the building
'Retrofitting Suburbia' author Ellen Dunham Jones invited me to join her to chat, we finally met the day before. We'd communicated via email for years.
‘Retrofitting Suburbia’ author Ellen Dunham Jones invited me to join her to chat, we finally met the day before. We’d communicated via email for years. Selfie without a selfie stick… Click image to view her 2010 TED Talk.
The restaurant building has restrooms accessed from the outside, but the capacity isn't enough &/or isn't visible enough. -- so porta-potties are added in a few parking spots.
The restaurant building has restrooms accessed from the outside, but the capacity isn’t enough &/or isn’t visible enough. — so porta-potties are added in a few parking spots.
Like St. Louis, they didn't think about how wheelchair users would reach the disabled john.
Like St. Louis, they didn’t think about how wheelchair users would reach the disabled john. #curb
The South block has a big open area where people can kick balls around, etc
The South block has a big open area where people can kick balls around, etc
The big open field
The big open play field
An area on the edge for parking, left, is used by many food trucks during events.
An area on the edge for parking, left, is used by many food trucks during events.
By planning ahead, the food tricks lined up here for hours can all plug into outlets rather than run noisy polluting generators. I was able to plug in  my chair, grab a bite, and people watch.
By planning ahead, the food tricks lined up here for hours can all plug into outlets rather than run noisy polluting generators. I was able to plug in my chair, grab a bite, and people watch.

Of course, a 5.2 acre park built over a highway didn’t come cheap:

The $110 million project was funded through a public-private partnership. Public support included $20 million in bond funds from the City of Dallas, $20 million in highway funds from the state and $16.7 million in stimulus funds. The balance of funding is through individual donors directly to the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation.

Klyde Warren Park is owned by the City of Dallas and privately operated and managed by the private Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation. The Foundation studied great public parks across the country and plans to bring best practices to the park’s operations, programming and maintenance.

I’d say it’s worth every penny! Over the coming 25 years it’ll help mend areas long-separated because of the highway. I love that the foundation must also program the space, wish the Gateway Foundation had to do the same at Citygarden, and that 9th Street would remain open except for during events/weekends.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Day Trip To Atlanta For First Anniversary

June 8, 2015 Featured, Metro East, Travel Comments Off on Day Trip To Atlanta For First Anniversary

Today is my wedding anniversary — my first ever.  When I finally acknowledged to myself, at age 16, that I was gay, the idea of marrying a man 30+ years later never entered my mind.  Thankfully the political & social landscape has changed a lot since then!

David and I exchanging our vows on Sunday June 8 2014, officiated by our friend Chris Reimer. The location was the Malcolm Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis, IL.
David and I exchanging our vows on Sunday June 8 2014, officiated by our friend Chris Reimer. The location was the Malcolm Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis, IL  Click image for information on Reimer’s new book “Happy Work”

To celebrate we decided to visit Atlanta…Illinois, not Georgia. First we visited his family in Springfield IL, then we headed north to Atlanta. This small town on the old Route 66 was incorporated in 1853.

We had lunch at the Palm Grill Cafe, which  opened in 1934 to serve travelers on Route 66. In 1947 a bypass sent Route 66 traffic around the East edge of town. The Palm Grill closed in the late 60s.
We had lunch at the Palm Grill Cafe, which opened in 1934 to serve travelers on Route 66. In 1947 a bypass sent Route 66 traffic around the East edge of town. The Palm Grill closed in the late 60s.
It reopened in 2009, helping boost the town's sales tax revenue. People from 50+ countries have signed their guest book. Click image to see video from 4 years after reopening. 
It reopened in 2009, helping boost the town’s sales tax revenue. People from 50+ countries have signed their guest book! Click image to see video from 4 years after reopening.
This symbolizes what they've done: the new iPad-based register sits next to a vintage register.
This symbolizes what they’ve done: the new iPad-based register sits next to a vintage register.
Next door we visited the Route 66 Arcade Museum, featuring arcade games from the 1930s-1980.
Next door we visited the Route 66 Arcade Museum, featuring arcade games from the 1930s-1980.
Across the street we checked out their Route 66 Park.
Across the street we checked out their Route 66 Park.
From inside the park. No building was razed for the park, the wood shed that has been on the site since the mid 19th century remains.
From inside the park. No building was razed for the park, the wood shed that has been on the site since the mid 19th century remains.

We decided to save the tour of the wood J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum and other sites for our next visit.  After Atlanta we drove 5 minutes North on the old Route 66 to the smaller town of McLean IL, incorporated 13 years later. We’d actually been to McLean before — the truck stop right off I-55 is where Megabus stops to/from Chicago.

The toen square is technically s triangle because of the design of the street grid & railroad
The toen square is technically s triangle because of the design of the street grid & railroad
A magnificent Secind Empire house near the town square.
A magnificent Secind Empire house near the town square.
These buildings face the square 00 love the corner building with the peaked clay tile roof.
These buildings face the square 00 love the corner building with the peaked clay tile roof.
Our destination was Arcadia.
Our destination was Arcadia.
This arcade features games from 1980-2000, click image for website
This arcade features games from 1980-2000, click image for website

These towns sprang up in the 19th century because of the railroad, which has me curious about how the railroads got their right-of-way. I also find the street patterns in these towns — in relation to the railroad — interesting.

The design of the original town of McLean remains almost unaltered to this day from the original plans. The design was similar to other places along the Alton and Springfield Railroad including Normal, Towanda, Odell, and Dwight. The original town was basically a square with streets aligned north-south and east-west, split diagonally by the railroad with a line of lots paralleling either side of the tracks.

As in other towns along the same railroad, there was a widened rectangular area paralleling the tracks labeled “Depot Grounds.” In the case of McLean, the Depot Grounds were laid out only on the southeast side of the railroad. The triangle of land on the northwest side, between the lots paralleling the railroad and remainder of the town, was designated as a public property and is still used as a park. The comparable triangle on the opposite side of the tracks was unlabeled and its intended use is unclear. This same arrangement of public land was followed at the town of Towanda.

Mclean was distinctive in that there were no streets between the diagonal line of lots along the tracks.Perhaps because of this, much of the business district developed along Morgan Street, which ran east-west just north of the park, or along Hamilton Street, which ran north-south, just west of the park. The line of lots paralleling the tracks and southeast of the railroad became the location of the hotel and the town jail. Later additions on the east side of the town featured additional lots which parallel the railroad as well as more conventional blocks (Wikipedia)

 Interstate 55 in this area opened in 1977, making the remaining Route 66 a by-road. We had a great day exploring Illinois, eating good food, and playing video games — a perfect way to celebrate our first anniversary!

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Dallas Opened Starter Modern Streetcar Line In April

Last month I told you about my Megabus trip to Dallas & back, see Thirty Hours on Megabus: St. Louis to Memphis to Little Rock to Dallas & Back. Today I want to tell you about one of the things I did in the week I was there: I rode their newest public transit line — it opened just two weeks before I arrived!

The modern streetcar approaching the end near Dallas Union Station.
The modern streetcar approaching the end near Dallas Union Station.
The entry is level with the sidewalk.
The entry is level with the sidewalk.
The interior is very similar to their light rail vehicles -- the center is open for standing passengers,  wheelchairs , bikes, strollers, etc
The interior is very similar to their light rail vehicles — the center is open for standing passengers, wheelchairs , bikes, strollers, etc
The streetcar in Oak Cliff turning right onto Colorado Blvd from Zang Blvd, click image to view intersection on a map
The streetcar in Oak Cliff turning right onto Colorado Blvd from Zang Blvd, click image to view intersection on a map
At the other end of the line -- at least until it's extended
At the other end of the line — at least until it’s extended

Dallas’ light rail system includes 4 lines, 62 station, a total of 90 miles (source). Our light rail, MetroLink, has two lines, 37 stations, and is 46 miles in total length (source).  But the newest rail line in Dallas isn’t more light rail — it’s a modern streetcar line connecting downtown Dallas across the Trinity River to the Oak Cliff neighborhood:

More than five years in the making, the 1.6-mile line stretches from near Union Station downtown to the intersection of Beckley Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, near Methodist Dallas Medical Center in Oak Cliff.

A group of Oak Cliff leaders — including Luis Salcedo, Jason Roberts and Griggs before his council election – laid the project’s foundation as members of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority.

A $23 million federal stimulus grant in February 2010 brought the city, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the North Central Texas Council of Governments together as project partners. The city owns the line, DART will operate it and the council of governments has been the funding conduit.

An additional $3 million in stimulus money, the allocation of regional toll-road revenue and other funding covered what has become a $50 million investment, with plans for expansion. (Dallas Morning News)

See DART Streetcar. Why didn’t they just build another light rail line? Or even a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) line?  A light rail line would’ve been far more expensive to build, it likely couldn’t have crossed a historic bridge over the Trinity River the way the streetcar does. It’s important to note the costs are for the initial system — over a historic viaduct crossing the now-flooding Trinity River. New extensions will be far less costly per mile.

From 2014:

Officials have spent almost a decade planning improvements to public transportation downtown. The matter became more urgent after Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s light-rail system reached critical mass. That 85-mile network connects downtown to the suburbs in all directions. The trains run along downtown’s edges, but not deep into its business, government and entertainment hubs.

“The conversation came up that LRT will take care of regional transportation. But what about in and around downtown?” Manoy said.

That’s when the idea of electric streetcars started to gain momentum. Like most transportation hopes, funding didn’t match ambitions. For years, planners navigated a series of route ideas, grant applications and shifting bureaucratic priorities. (Dallas Morning News)

Dallas planners see the streetcar connecting the dots — eventually a highly visible line in the heart of their downtown — connecting light rail to the CBD and other districts.

Of course, their streetcar had its critics. From 2013:

The problem is that Dallas sprawls too much to make rail-based streetcars a feasible solution. To solve our public transportation problem, Dallas ought to stop looking at models like Portland, Oregon, and look at cities that more closely resemble Dallas, places like Bogota, Colombia. Bogota has become a darling of the new urbanism crowd in the last decade thanks to its development of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. 

Don’t be thrown by the B-word. Rather than a snaking web of indecipherable bus lines, like Dallas currently has, BRT systems use designated lanes, timed traffic lights, and painted ground areas to give pedestrians visual understanding of where routes go. BRT vehicles are faster, more comfortable, and more reliable than buses. And here’s the best part: for the cost of the Oak Cliff streetcar, Dallas could build a complete BRT system covering the entire city. 

Roberts likes the idea of a BRT system in Dallas, but he says it has to be perfect or it won’t work, pointing to Los Angeles’ BRT attempt, which hasn’t had the same impact as systems in Bogota and Ottawa, Ontario. (D Magazine)

So I got to ride it just two weeks after opening, I’ve also seen where it’ll be extended to.

The streetcar currently ends at W Colorado Blvd & N Beckley Ave, there is plenty of potential for new development.  Across the street is a hospital complex. . Click image for map.
The streetcar currently ends at W Colorado Blvd & N Beckley Ave, there is plenty of potential for new development. Across the street, to the right, is a hospital complex. . Click image for map.
Their streetcar will extend to the popular Bishop Arts District (left), click for website
Their streetcar will extend to the popular Bishop Arts District (left), click for website

The area is charming — once you get to it!

The Bishop Arts District is home to over 60 independent boutiques, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, theaters and art galleries. Located in the heart of North Oak Cliff, one of Dallas’ most unique neighborhoods. A historical shopping district full of great finds, good eats, and good ole Oak Cliff charm! The Bishop Arts District is made up of many independently-owned shops and eateries that maintain various hours. While many of the shops stay open late on the weekends to provide a fun shop, stroll, and eat environment for visitors, the Bishop Arts District is populated with many independently-owned businesses, so please contact them directly for their hours of operation. Wine Walks are held 3-4 times a year and on 1st Thursdays of a given month. (Bishop Arts District)

I took the free D-Link bus back downtown. For now the streetcar is also free, operating weekdays only. Once extended it’ll have longer hours and weekend service.

Again, Oak Cliff is very close to downtown Dallas but it’s geographically separated by the Trinity River  — in the news lately because of the flooding:

To my knowledge the streetcar line is dry, but the D-Link bus route might be impacted by road closures due to high water. The good thing about Dallas is they actually expand their transit systems, so I look forward to returning every few years to see the resulting development — if any.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

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