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Transit Updates for Greater Grand Rapids


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#2701 John E

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 01:11 PM

I will have to disagree with you there, John.

 

The Silver Line still reads as a mess of crossed-finger wishes, and wholesale ignorance of where this route is traveling and whom is supposed to ride it.

 

From what I can see still:

 

-The bus will not shave off a significant amount of time that the existing Division bus clocks.

 

-The stops are not heated or cooled shelters, shielded from the elements (look outside today). The only benefit is the ability to pay at the stop, which is the least of the problems riders face.

 

-The bus isnt any different than the one already in use. Basically the same design, and I'm sure horrid shocks, that makes riding on them uncomfortable, and you wont have any more room then you have now on the bus.

 

There is also this assumption that people driving on the highways will gladly opt out to park on 60th street, and wait outside for a bus to not save them anytime off of their existing car ride, afford them none of the comfort of having your own space, and no ability to take alternative routes or run errands before and after work. Any money you save will be eaten up by bus fare, and time spent.

 

And there still is no honest indication that even the planning for this line is having any economic impact. Why would it? There is already a bus that travels the commercial length of S. Division. It doesn't run more than a few minutes slower. If there was a rush of people making trips up and down Division you would already have seen these magical developments materialize. What changes now just because you have the same bus with a different name and some fancy bus shelters? The hope that a different name and fancy shelters will trick people into thinking this is different?

 

And for a few days, there will people people that will be tricked. I contend that any initial use will be the most hard-core transit activists ***the Salon*** riding it just to say they did, only to realize that there is nothing on Division from Wealthy to 60th that any of them ever wanted to go to anyway. Unless pawn shops (less entertaining than the ones on TV), and used car lots along with fast food joints are now the in thing to go to. Most commuters will get bored quick with the first cold day, or thunderstorm rolls through or when they find out that a BRT that is sharing the road with regular traffic starts showing up late. 

 

And on top of that most of the people along S. Division, south of 28th street, have cars. Much easier to just drive the car to the Meijer, or walk to some of the few independent groceries in the area, then to ride a bus that will stop at none.

 

I give it 6 months before the first news story about less-than-anticipated ridership.

 

 

 

Should have gone with a light-rail option. If nothing else it would have been something different, quicker, and more comfortable.

 

 

 

You could hook way more people with this...

 

phoenix-light-rail.jpg

 

 

Than this.

large_rapid-bus-line.jpg


Wow, I'm even having a hard time deciding if I even should reply to this.
The Silver Line will be close to a light rail line on wheels.
The buses aren't even built yet. They will be advanced BRT buses that will rival light rail coaches.
The stations are permanent not movable bus stops.
The stations and BRT Coaches will allow level boarding with wider doors for quick and easy passenger movement.
Passengers prepaying will decrease boarding times.
Decreased boarding times, few stops, traffic light priority with dedicated lanes will absolutely decrease travel time.
The Rapid was surprised with the number of people that used their park and ride shuttle during the reconstruction of 131.
Permanent transit stations have been proven to increase development.
The stations are sufficient for 10 to 30 minute frequencies.

The BRT Silver Line will use advanced coaches with stations and other features that are the same as light rail.



 

#2702 John E

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 01:27 PM

This image from a Rapid Growth Media article shows how it will look just like a light rail system:

ftbus01.jpg

 

Very good article about the Silver Line system too.
http://rapidgrowthme...ne03282013.aspx



#2703 organsnyder

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 01:47 PM

-The bus will not shave off a significant amount of time that the existing Division bus clocks.
-The stops are not heated or cooled shelters, shielded from the elements (look outside today). The only benefit is the ability to pay at the stop, which is the least of the problems riders face.
-The bus isnt any different than the one already in use. Basically the same design, and I'm sure horrid shocks, that makes riding on them uncomfortable, and you wont have any more room then you have now on the bus.

This sounds like the opinion of someone who has never actually ridden a bus. Anyone who has used one (I admit it's been a few years since I used The Rapid regularly) knows how much time is wasted waiting for passengers to fumble with crumpled up dollar bills at the farebox. The next most prevalent reason for delays, in my experience, is accommodating handicapped riders (not saying that they're a problem - just that boarding them takes time). Level boarding helps a lot with this issue (though there'd still be some time spent securing wheelchair restraints, I'd imagine). Add in other benefits like prioritized signals and dedicated lanes, and I can see where they're getting their time savings estimates.

Most Chicago El stations aren't climate controlled either, IIRC. Neither are the stations for the Minneapolis streetcar line. Plenty of people get along just fine by dressing appropriately for the weather, and using such practical accessories as boots and umbrellas.

I don't know specifics on the fleet they're purchasing, but they're not the same models that run on the regular routes. At one time, articulated buses were discussed, though I'm not sure if they're still on the table. While the buses won't have the same "oooh, shiny!" factor as streetcars, they will be distinctive from the rest of the fleet.

There is also this assumption that people driving on the highways will gladly opt out to park on 60th street, and wait outside for a bus to not save them anytime off of their existing car ride, afford them none of the comfort of having your own space, and no ability to take alternative routes or run errands before and after work. Any money you save will be eaten up by bus fare, and time spent.
And there still is no honest indication that even the planning for this line is having any economic impact. Why would it? There is already a bus that travels the commercial length of S. Division. It doesn't run more than a few minutes slower. If there was a rush of people making trips up and down Division you would already have seen these magical developments materialize. What changes now just because you have the same bus with a different name and some fancy bus shelters? The hope that a different name and fancy shelters will trick people into thinking this is different?

People with that mentality will never be attracted to mass transit. However, people that have limited parking at work (as DT continues to thrive, parking spaces will become more expensive, giving employers additional incentive to encourage their employees to seek alternative commuting options), as well as people that like to relax while someone else does most of the driving, or to interact with others, will be attracted to it.

I will admit that part of the appeal of this project is in its appearance - by not looking like a normal bus line, it will appeal to people who might otherwise see buses as transportation for poor people and wide-eyed ideologues (who are also probably poor). The permanent stations make a statement - we're investing in infrastructure that can't be removed simply by pulling up signposts. The improvements in safety (snow melt, lighting, emergency call boxes) and operations (discussed above) are a bigger part. Companies want to be located in areas where the citizens have shown a commitment to improving their infrastructure.

And for a few days, there will people people that will be tricked. I contend that any initial use will be the most hard-core transit activists ***the Salon*** riding it just to say they did, only to realize that there is nothing on Division from Wealthy to 60th that any of them ever wanted to go to anyway. Unless pawn shops (less entertaining than the ones on TV), and used car lots along with fast food joints are now the in thing to go to. Most commuters will get bored quick with the first cold day, or thunderstorm rolls through or when they find out that a BRT that is sharing the road with regular traffic starts showing up late.

And on top of that most of the people along S. Division, south of 28th street, have cars. Much easier to just drive the car to the Meijer, or walk to some of the few independent groceries in the area, then to ride a bus that will stop at none.

If there are zero developments along the line over the next 10-20 years, then this statement will be true. However, that has not been not the experience of other cities that have put in BRT lines; transit infrastructure - even "streetcar-lite" BRT lines - is a selling point for many businesses. I'm looking forward to seeing a Wealthy-esque revitalization occur at Burton and Division.

 
You're right that this route will not be used by people living near 54th & Division to make trips to Meijer. No one is claiming that (unless they're propping up a straw man); it is intended to be used mainly by people going downtown for work, entertainment, and events.

 

I give it 6 months before the first news story about less-than-anticipated ridership.

I'm sure you're right about this. Typical WOODTV and Mlive readers eat that sort of thing up, and those companies are craving eyeballs for their advertisers. The instant that there's a whiff of something that can be blown up into a "Target 8 On Your Side Special Investigative Report", they'll be there, making up their own facts and inflated expectations along the way.

Should have gone with a light-rail option. If nothing else it would have been something different, quicker, and more comfortable.

You could hook way more people with this...
(image of a streetcar from a metropolitan area four times our size) 

Than this.
(image of a regular Rapid bus, from a 2009 GR Press article)

I agree that a light-rail line would be "different, quicker, and more comfortable". It'd also be significantly more expensive to build. And not fund-able through Very Small Starts USDOT grants. And not realistic for our city's needs (right now).

By the way, here's an actual rendering of a Silver Line bus:
ftbus01.jpg


I will admit to being biased. Last year, we purchased a house in Garfield Park that is a quarter-mile from the Burton Silver Line stop. While not a deal-maker (the abnormally large lot size and historic house share that credit), the proximity to the BRT line, as well as the Burton road diet, were factors in our decision. We're looking forward to taking our kids (two so far - 2yo and 4wo) on the Silver Line to go shopping at the Downtown Market, to Symphony concerts, to museums, to ArtPrize, and to downtown restaurants (the last one not with the kids, at least some of the time), without having to worry about finding parking downtown.

I very much hope that the Silver Line brings the anticipated levels of development - the Burton Heights business district is in need of investment beyond the cheap-rent cell-phone and XXX shops. However, even without that investment, I will be happy to utilize the new service - perhaps even for commuting, should I end up working downtown at some point.

Would I have preferred a streetcar along that route? Absolutely. However, given our current transit needs and the national political climate, that isn't a realistic proposition right now.

Edit: Looks like John beat me to it with the factual imagery and factual facts.

Edited by organsnyder, 09 April 2013 - 01:50 PM.

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#2704 GR_Urbanist

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 03:51 PM

This sounds like the opinion of someone who has never actually ridden a bus. 

 

Rode the #4 and 6 most of last year. Thanks for asking. The most time wasted was because the bus was stuck in traffic, not on people paying. Somehow we managed the transaction without blowing 15 minutes.

 

Edit: Looks like John beat me to it with the factual imagery and factual facts.

 

Nice article, but it really didnt address what I'd said. It's still more of the same. "This is going to cause millions of dollars in development and have thousands of riders per day" proclamations without filling in how a bus that only runs 44% faster, and more frequently for only 6 hours a day, along a route that already has a bus, with a population that voted against it, is going to magically work out, and turn Division into Eugene, Oregon or Euclid Ave.? Nevermind that those places are as far from S. Division as you can get.

 

Oh well. I still give it 6 months.



#2705 Veloise

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 05:22 PM

Some of the comments made me mad - especially someone suggesting that the Silver Line would make it easier for the thugs from the Hall and Division intersection to travel down to the poster's slice of heaven at 60th St. and terrorize their women and children (paraphrasing a bit).

But of course. Why, just look at the criminal fall-out from every bicycle trail ever built...miscreants pedal up and steal TVs, leave trash and waste in residents' yards, and otherwise use those peaceful recreational corridors to ply their trades.

 

/sarcasm



#2706 GR8scott

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 07:10 PM

Interesting read here and I gota say I think this is a good start and appropriate for the metro area but I am also skeptical of what this will actually bring and also if the ridership will be as projected?

 

 

I agree with GR urbanist's comment "You could hook way more people with this..." although the bus picture was wrong, the idea is probably true. I think most people still see a bus and will not be as inclined to park and ride when they can just drive. Trains on the other hand attract people more so than buses, just look at the Detroit people mover people ride that just for fun. Yes, lightrail is a lot more expensive and at the moment unnecessary for GR, but to get the ball rolling and put in place in 20 years it could be a much different story. Denver did it mostly by using freeway right-of-ways, the problem here is the areas for light rail demand would be very expensive and would probably have to use street tracks or possibly use. I hope the BRT is a sucess and maybe one day light rail will be an option. 



#2707 John E

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 08:10 PM

I think most will be surprised with the numbers who use the park and ride system with the BRT. The Rapid was surprised with the number of people using the park and ride with the regular bus shuttle when they were reconstructing the S-Curve.

The only difference between light rail and BRT is that BRT's use wheels rather than tracks. They operate the same. Tracks are expensive and do not provide for extending routes with ease. I really don't think we need tracks. I'm sure the BRT system will provide the same level of service.
I think people are way too caught up in the cool factor of a light rail system. The Silver Line will be the same as a light rail system other than the coaches being on wheels.

My main point in writing the post was to show how much The Rapid has improved since taking over from GRATA and that the future potential for more improvements could very well increase with the success of the Silver Line.



#2708 GRDadof3

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 10:34 PM

The buses won't look exactly like that. They will be hybrid buses, not the same kind as currently owned, and will be branded differently than the rest of the fleet. That's all the rapid will say.

They're also very hesitant to give ridership estimates, for good reason. Every anti-transit group uses those as gotcha meat down the road after the system is up and running.

This will be better than the current route and system, and nowhere near as impactful as light rail (sorry John, don't know what pro BRT libertarian website you locked onto but it's wrong). Somewhere in the middle is what you can expect.

And as someone said, there are a lot of non-heated transit stations in cold climates. Hello, brown line Chicago.

#2709 John E

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 08:03 AM

We do know that they will be hybrid buses with WIDER DOORS at a specific height for level boarding. Using the BRT system will be much different than the regular bus system.
BRT systems are light rail on wheels. There is no difference between a BRT station and a light rail station.
Vehicle pull up to station, both sets of wide doors open, riders get off and on, then vehicle drives to the next station. They operate the same.
The truth is that for the riders there are no additional benefits with light rail over BRT.

BRT libertarian website, lol.
Compared and looked at the specific facts of each system.
Researched to get the facts in order to learn the truth. I guess you could call me a truther, lol.
May the truth be known.
 



#2710 organsnyder

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 10:25 AM

Judging by his other posts, I don't often agree with John, but I'm having a difficult time refuting his arguments (ad hominem attacks on his sources aside). Perhaps it's buried somewhere in this 136-page thread, but what are the operational differences are that make light rail so much better? Most of the big advantages - level boarding, prepaid fares, dedicated lanes, etc. - are also inherent to BRT. Light rail vehicles have higher capacities than even the biggest articulated buses, of course, but capacity can always be increased with more vehicles (with the added benefit of increased frequencies).

I'm assuming that any "light rail" we'd realistically consider would share ROW on public streets (some people might call this a "streetcar" - it's my understanding that the delineation between the terms can be fairly ambiguous). The only real dedicated lines I can see are lines that run on freight rail, but most of our current railways don't line up with good transit routes (perhaps with the exception of the eastern CSX line, which could make a good airport connector, but there's not many other places in between GR and downtown where it'd make sense to have stops).

Of course, grade-separated rail has hosts of benefits over shared-ROW anything, but I'm not sure I see the benefits of shared-ROW light rail over BRT, at least for moving as many people as quickly as possible. Other factors - rider comfort, appearance - make light rail desirable for promoting public transit, but we need to be careful to get the most bang for our buck.

I consider myself to be fairly progressive. However, I think the best way to advance the progressive agenda is to do projects that work - anti-government nuts will always invent plenty of perceived faults to complain about; let's not give them actual failures to trumpet. I'm hoping that the Silver Line is a "gateway drug" to bigger and better projects; however, I'm not about to let the perfect be an enemy of the good.

#2711 GRJohn

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 10:38 AM

I agree.  I don't think anyone is saying that the Silver Line will be the last public transit project ever undertaken.  When people see the benefits of the BRT such as new development around Division, they may be more inclined to support such large projects in the future (more BRT, light-rail).  The BRT was approved with a little more than 130 votes, does anyone here think that more votes could have been cast in favor if it were a light rail line with a MUCH larger tax increase?  Maybe if the only people voting were the people on this forum:).  I want light-rail as much as anyone on this forum.  I truly believe that it will be here one day sooner rather than later but we need to change a lot of perception about public transit in the minds of people that live in the state that was built on the car.  I think "gateway drug" is a wonderful example of what the Silver Line is.



#2712 sfloria

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 11:28 AM

There are a lot of people that have cars, such as myself, but I had to take the bus to work everyday because my employer wouldn't provide parking for me.  It saved a lot of money paying for a monthly pass on the bus rather than a monthly fee at a parking ramp.  I'd be curious if more employers would stop providing parking if they knew there were options to park and ride the Silver Line.  Maybe it ends up taking commuters more time but if they save money each month taking the Silver Line rather than paying for parking, that could add to ridership. 



#2713 GRDadof3

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 04:13 PM

I agree.  I don't think anyone is saying that the Silver Line will be the last public transit project ever undertaken.  When people see the benefits of the BRT such as new development around Division, they may be more inclined to support such large projects in the future (more BRT, light-rail).  The BRT was approved with a little more than 130 votes, does anyone here think that more votes could have been cast in favor if it were a light rail line with a MUCH larger tax increase?  Maybe if the only people voting were the people on this forum:).  I want light-rail as much as anyone on this forum.  I truly believe that it will be here one day sooner rather than later but we need to change a lot of perception about public transit in the minds of people that live in the state that was built on the car.  I think "gateway drug" is a wonderful example of what the Silver Line is.

 

 

I only brought up the libertarian statement because that's what I've seen, websites touting BRT over light rail that almost entirely just look at the cost difference to put them in. Only at the cost, nothing else.

 

Here's a video of the Eugene, Oregon BRT in action:

 

http://www.youtube.c...754zHg#t=00m33s

 

The Silver Line will be cool, but it will be what it is. I was initially heavily against the Silver Line. I decided for the good of the community I'd shut up (because we aren't getting real light rail in my lifetime). I think I'll go back to that. :)



#2714 John E

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 09:20 AM

521835_651890914826280_1580699905_n.jpg

 

Wow, just did a screen capture and ended up with this.
Silver Line BRT Animation Image with my desktop wallpaper.
Full screen, full resolution here:
http://farm9.staticf...94fcec583_o.jpg

I also took some more pictures of the Silver Line BRT Station construction at the Kroc Center yesterday.

http://www.flickr.co...ted/2013/04/13/

.


Edited by John E, 14 April 2013 - 10:09 AM.


#2715 GRDadof3

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 10:10 AM

521835_651890914826280_1580699905_n.jpg

 

Wow, just did a screen capture and ended up with this.
Silver Line BRT Animation Image with my desktop wallpaper.
Full screen, full resolution here:
http://farm9.staticf...94fcec583_o.jpg

I also took some more pictures of the Silver Line BRT Station construction at the Kroc Center yesterday.

http://www.flickr.co...ted/2013/04/13/

.

 

 

FYI, the Silver Line buses will not look exactly like that, says The Rapid. They're more of an "artists rendering." Some of the station locations have also been changed from that video. They will all be hybrid electric, not like the current hybrid electric models, and will be branded differently than the regular fleet.



#2716 John E

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 10:41 AM

FYI, the Silver Line buses will not look exactly like that, says The Rapid. They're more of an "artists rendering." Some of the station locations have also been changed from that video. They will all be hybrid electric, not like the current hybrid electric models, and will be branded differently than the regular fleet.


I have been aware of that. I have asked for an updated animation. I have also asked them to add information on the "fair vending machines" that will be at each station to their website.



#2717 John E

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:03 PM

Any word on when they are going to start construction on the new Amtrak Station?
Last I heard is that they are waiting for Amtrak and CSX to come to an agreement on the new signal and switching.



#2718 GRJohn

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:17 PM

Any word on when they are going to start construction on the new Amtrak Station?
Last I heard is that they are waiting for Amtrak and CSX to come to an agreement on the new signal and switching.

 

I've heard construction will start in July.



#2719 John E

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:35 PM

I've heard construction will start in July.

 

Thank you. I am beginning to wonder if the delays are so the opening date will coincide with the start of the Silver Line, lol.



#2720 organsnyder

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 02:20 PM

Thank you. I am beginning to wonder if the delays are so the opening date will coincide with the start of the Silver Line, lol.

It's my understanding (fourth-hand knowledge) that the delay was at least partially due to negotiations with CSX over track usage.




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