December 23, 2011

Holiday Post

Yesterday I erroneously posted that Christmas is almost here. While true, I forgot to mention that it was the 3rd day of Hanukkah and today it is the 4th day of Hanukkah! That's right faithful reader, you have culture. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

What this really means is that it's time to think about not only what we need, but also what we want. For instance, I wouldn't mind a Big Dummy or a million dollars.

Overall, though, I just want to have a good time with family and friends. Hopefully transportation will not be an issue and we will get to our destinations safely. I sincerely hope everyone has a great holiday.

Next up: An extended break (Expect regular postings on January 3, 2012)

Cool link of the day:

December 22, 2011


I was going to talk about how awesome walking is, but then I remembered that it's not that awesome. It's pretty slow actually, and most other forms of transportation are faster. However, every day you will be guaranteed to walk, so that's too bad. Where are the Segways?

In my first post, I talked about how I walked to work and it took me about a half hour. I knew then what I know today, I would probably be a millionaire and also would have biked.

I would tell myself, Self, go into bonds and secured funds because the stock market is about to go down. Secondly, once it bottoms, buy lots of other stock. Thirdly, stop walking to work. It's a waste of time. Also, skinny jeans are cool. Buy some. Frodo lives!

Snark aside, walking can be a good alternative if your trip is less than a half mile. With biking, you have to deal with bike locks, tire pressure, looking cool, etc., whereas with walking you just walk out the door. Hence the term walking.

That's all I have today. Keep on trucking.

Next up: Christmas is almost here.

Cool link of the day:

December 21, 2011

COTA Express

On Monday I found myself getting on the COTA #58 to Dublin to meet some people at Max and Erma's. The first thing of note is that I have never been nervous on the bus until that ride. Our driver was crazy and was actively weaving in and out of traffic. In practice, though, we got to the stops ahead of time and it was kind of cool, to be honest.

The interesting thing about it was that at the City Center garage load point there were only 3 people on the bus. But by the Nationwide loading point at Spring and Front, there were 20 people on the bus so that was kind of impressive.

The weird thing about the Express routes is that it's always hard to tell where they stop. The same can be said about the local stops, but it's especially difficult for the express.

Some ambiguity exists.
From my investigations of stop locations, the following are the overall stop locations followed by the Dublin area stop locations.

Closeup of stops on #58.
So first, I've learned how to include route lines from COTA on the map. Second, there are more stops than what is easily identified in the COTA map. I would suggest including simple "dots" where all access points are to the Express routes.

Next up: Walking

Cool *health* link of the day:

December 20, 2011

Bikeless Winter

As some of you may recall, I have been busing to work since November 29 and I haven't really looked back because quite frankly, it's cold. It's not poop-your-pants cold, but it's cold enough be be uncomfortable.

To be honest, it's been really nice to not have to worry about anything for the commute home. While biking is relatively safe, I still have to follow traffic rules and as such, I can't completely zone out. On the bus however, I get to zone out while being in a temperature controlled climate.

Oddly enough, on Monday I saw three different bikers on the road. One biker was changing between sidewalk biking and riding on the streets at will. As a reminder, biking on the sidewalk is illegal in the City of Columbus but I am much more sympathetic. Bikers, if you are on the sidewalk, stay on them and ride slowly. Bikers, if you are on the road, stay on them and ride with what's comfortable.

The second biker was riding on the road on the right side of a multi-lane one-way street. His intent was to turn left but did not signal. On top of that, he stopped in the crosswalk of the next intersection, stopped, and then re-oriented himself to the cross traffic direction. This isn't a complete disaster but if I were a driver and saw a biker position himself in front of me, I wouldn't be happy.

The third biker was biking slowly on the sidewalk and got off his bike right before the crosswalk. Unfortunately for him, my bus driver was having none of it and held up the crosswalk for a good minute. In the one case that the biker was following the rules (more or less), he gets ignored.

Next up: Another note about COTA

Cool link of the day:

December 19, 2011

Grids 101

I am a very big fan of the grid system. A grid system is basically a road system where there's a lot of intersections making right angles. Older parts of cities normally exhibit this kind of system, likely because of its efficiency when there were no motorized vehicles. It's efficient because there should be little backtracking because the grid leads you to where you need to go. Grid systems normally slow down traffic, due to the number of intersections, which is great for biking and walking.

Some of the the grid system in downtown Columbus
One problem with the grid is that the 4-way intersections are more crash prone than other intersections because they have more possible crash possibilities. But as previously mentioned, traffic is traveling somewhat slowly which reduce the severity of injuries. Cul-de-sac developments decrease frequency of 4-way intersections but instead require larger arterial roads in which cars much travel at higher speeds.

The black lines show segregated areas. The red lines are non-arterials roads
The above picture shows 3 N-S major arterials and 2 E-W major arterials. Since the non major E-W and N-S routes, shown in red, are difficult to navigate without an intimate knowledge of the area, most traffic will be drawn to the major arterials. Additionally, some cul-de-sac developments are segregated from other roads. These areas are shown with black lines.

This hierarchy of roads is somewhat efficient for motorists but for walkability or bikeability, it leaves something to be desired. From personal experience, I try to avoid major arterials while biking and as a motorist I am somewhat anxious when turning from neighborhoods to the arterials. 

There are other grid systems - which I learned through a certain online encyclopedia source - but instead of confusing myself,  I will focus on the grid and the cul-de-sac systems in the future. In the meantime, maybe I should talk about biking more on Biking Columbus.

Next up: How I feel about not biking

Cool link of the day:
Park PZT-2 Pizza Cutter
Pizza Cutter

December 16, 2011

Riding the bus Part II

I've got a few more bus rides under my belt and that means that I have some COTA stories!

  1. Guy with a large satchel made from a blue, down jacket gets onto the bus. Initially, I take him as a down-on-his luck homeless person but I assume most homeless people are down-on-their-luck. He combs his hair with a hair pick and then looks inside his satchel. Surprisingly, he finds a toothbrush and takes it out. It's not completely clean so he rubs it with his finger and starts brushing. He has a disgusted look on his face due to what I presume is a foul tasting toothbrush sans toothpaste. The man sitting next to homeless dude starts getting agitated and looks wishfully at empty seats. Then, homeless dude starts barking non-sense and the man sitting next to him gets more worrisome. The next stop the man sitting next to him moves to a different seat. Oddly enough, the woman in front of homeless dude is rolling cigarettes and give homeless dude one. I get off at my stop and never look back.

  2. Bus stops at the designated bus stop and exchanges passengers and starts to move. Man, walking nonchalantly 50 ft from the bus stop, yells at the bus driver to stop. Bus driver surprisingly obliges and waits for the man to meander to the bus. The following exchange happens:
    Man: In too much of a hurry to stop?
    Bus Driver (BD): Sir, you were not at the designated bus stop.
    Man handing over ID: What? I was right by it!
    BD looking at ID: Sir, is this you in the ID?
    Man indignantly: What?
    BD: Sir, this is not you.
    Man takes ID back: I am going to go talk to your supervisor about this. This is terrible!
    BD: That's fine but get out, I've got to get these people home!
    Man gets off bus while mumbling. Bus passengers laugh and cheer.

  3. My girlfriend and I get on the #3 at 9:15 at High and Broad and the bus quickly fills up to standing room only. I was impressed at how much demand there was for the bus even at 9:15 on a Thursday evening!
That's all I have this week. Have a good weekend people!

Next up: Confusion with grid systems

Cool link of the day:

December 15, 2011

COTA Public Meeting

I went to the proposed service change on Tuesday to find out one thing: does COTA have a multi-pass system now? The short answer: yes.

As a part of their service announcement, COTA cheekily included the additions of "Trip Ticket" and "2-Trip Ticket." These sounded like a small step towards a multi-pass system that everyone has pined for but there was conflicting information.

Nowhere else on their website mentioned these passes so it appeared that there might have been an "oopsy." Well, I did high-end research and found out that yes, they're just like multi-passes. Apparently, after Columbus City Schools stopped busing the charter students around, the charter schools wanted to extend transportation to students but did not want to pay the small premium on a "Day pass" (cost: $4.50 versus a 2-Trip-Ticket cost of $4.00). Starting January 2, 2012, COTA is beginning to open up this pass to non-students as well. Hip, hip, hooray.

Other things I learned:

  1. There are a handful of Express routes which do a reverse commute, i.e., downtown to suburb. These routes are not that popular and have largely been cut back.
  2. COTA, municipalities, companies, and everyone else realize that buses tear up roads/parking lots. I thought that it was a dirty secret but it turns out that everyone has eyes and recognizes that the potholes likely have relationship to these large buses going around town.
  3. COTA gives a pretty good presentation. They definitely know what they're doing.
One last update:

Local Monthly
Express Monthly
Multi-Pass System
10 for $22.50
5 for $11.25
2 for $4.00
10 for $17.50
10 for $15.00
25 for $22.50
                         *Light rail has a surcharge of $0.75 but the inner downtown is free.

Next up: More bus stories

Cool link of the day:
4 Deer Saved From Certain Death

December 14, 2011

Yielding the Right-of-Way

As you may recall, I am no longer biking for the winter and am instead more of Busing Columbus. This means that I am the lowest of the low: a walker. There are few sidewalks in the Hilltop area and as such I am relegated to sharing the road with motorists and "asshat" bicyclists.

The rules of the road are pretty simple. Motorists must yield the right-of-way at all marked and un-marked crosswalks (read: any intersection). If a poor pedestrian is forced to use the road, the pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to vehicles.

Both of these requirements are interesting. The problem with motorists yielding the right-of-way is that they sometimes do not truly yield. Plus, it's hard for a pedestrian to trust the motorist because a 1.5 ton car is a lot more powerful than a person and it's better safe than sorry.

On the flip side, I have a belief that it is a personal right to be able to walk anywhere there's a public right-of-way. Therefore if I decide to walk from Hilliard to Gahanna for whatever reason, I should be able to get there without yielding. I know that this isn't the most practical position and I probably wouldn't even advocate the law which says that vehicles must always yield to pedestrians. What I am saying is that we can put a man on the moon but we cannot properly sidewalk our urban areas. It's kind of a shame.

Next up: I go to a COTA meeting

Cool link of the day:

December 13, 2011

Ask a Biker

This blog post is entitled Ask a Biker, it is really just me making up a question. To my intrepid readers: ask me questions and I'll put them here.

The question: I'm new to biking. How can I get from Victorian Village to Columbus State Community College?

I used to live at Buttles and Dennison and this would be a great commute. First of all, avoid High Street between Buttles and Fulton..A biker has to chose between the slow, slow bus lane and the lane which transports the cars avoiding the slow, slow buses, so it's best to avoid High Street if possible.

Secondly, use Park Street. Sure there's a lot of Chach bars between Goodale and Vine Streets, but for commuting it's pretty nice.

Finally, Nationwide Blvd is pretty nice. For the most part it is marked with "sharrows" and is signed as a bike route. Use it and you shouldn't pee your pants too much.

Overall, it's a pretty easy route to use but be sure to test it out during non-peak hours. If you're uncomfortable during non-peak hours, you might want to try a different route or use car/bus/walk routes instead.

View Victorian Village to Columbus State Community College in a larger map

Next up: Yielding the right-of-way

Cool link of the day:

December 12, 2011

Biking Dichomoty

Many people ride bikes during childhood. The prototypical child bike is a single-speed mountain bike with a coaster brake where you pedal backwards to activate the brake. With this bike you are told to stay on the sidewalk, or else! And you know what? It's fun to bike on the sidewalk to go on short trips. The danger isn't too bad because you're on a crappy bike that's not build for speed and it's not like you have somewhere important to be.

Then, you turn 16 and are able to drive. The driver's education courses primarily talk about motorist rules and you never find out that it's illegal to bike on sidewalks but you don't care because you're driving and yelling at bicyclists to "Ride on the sidewalk!" If you do decide to revisit biking, you will tentatively trek out on the sidewalk on a faster and better bike than you had in your childhood.

This is not to say that parents should require kids to ride on streets. What I am saying is that more public awareness is necessary if we want bikers to follow the rules. If legislatures want bicyclists on the road with motorists, they should require drivers learn about interactions with other vehicle types on the road, including bicycles and motorcycles.

Fortunately, my neighborhood does not have many sidewalks so even pedestrians can piss of motorists because we're walking in the street.

Next up: Ask a biker

Cool link of the day:

December 9, 2011

Last Unofficial COTA Map of the year

I've talked localcrosstown, and express COTA routes and provided maps for weekday service but I'll be honest, it was a pain in the asparagus. I prayed to Google and it gave me Fusion Tables which is another way to get geographic data on the web.

I digress into boring programming details. Instead, let's look at the map.

Play with data here.
So there are a few things to notice. Routes with frequent service are larger than the rest. The #1 is white, the #2 is Yellow, and #10 is turquoise. If you click on a stop, you get information about which buses stop there, how many stops occur, and which type comes (local, express, or crosstown). Blue dots are for local only, red dots are for express only, green dots are for crosstown only, and brown means a mixture of the three. Finally, you can add a filter to get different info. For local routes, choose "Route Types" and Starts with "Local" and you will see routes only served by local bus routes. For individual route, choose "Local and Crosstown Routes Served" and "Contains" "#X -" where X is the numbered route.

There are a few to improvements to make. At terminal ends of routes, the park and rides are counted twice because they are a destination and start of two different trips. Also, I would like to add layers so that people could get more specific information with route lines on the map.



Cool link of the day:
Yay Bikes! How We Roll

December 8, 2011

COTA Making Progress

Yesterday, I talked about goals of transit and a transportation term called level of service, of which I know little. Today I'll talk a about something I know a little bit more of which is reading power point slides off of COTA's website.

COTA offers 3 routes with relatively frequent served (10-15 minutes) which include the #1, #2, and #10. If you're interested in these in depth, I recommend this Xing Columbus post as his map is a lot better than the map provided below:

While something could be said about the areas covered by frequent service, I'm instead concentrating on what COTA is attempting/attempted to do to make service better for these routes which make up 50% of the ridership.

COTA #1 Cleveland Avenue / Livingston - Investigating - They are in the process of public outreach to determine the best path forward for the northeast corridor (Cleveland Avenue). The study will last between November 2011 and August 2012 so it's something to keep an eye on. It's focus is bus rapid transit (BRT) which is a route which can have signal priority, meaning the bus would stop at fewer to no red lights. Another improvement is an off-bus fare collection system so you can pay while you're waiting.  If all goes to plan, this COTA presentation says that Columbus could have BRT by in 2015. You can also check Xing Columbus post, too.

COTA #2 High Street / East Main - Failed While Reaching for the Sky - COTA (and Columbus) wanted some kind of rail system for downtown. One idea was light rail connecting Polaris to downtown which I believe was brought to the voters in the late 90's in failed. The second idea was a streetcar between Downtown and Campus, this too did not succeed. These are the high brow ideas that were unable to get through to us and you can see the most recent article on the failures here. Unfortunately, I don't think many changes have been to the #2 in the intermediate.

COTA #10 Broad Street - In Progress - COTA has also been investigating reducing the amount of bus stops for each route. In September 2011, COTA made changes to multiple stops and we'll likely see how successful they were in improving service times when they ultimately attempt to reduce stops on other routes. This was the lowest hanging fruit.

Next up: One last attempt with a maps

Cool link of the day:

December 7, 2011

What is the goal of public transit?

If you care about urban planning, you should start reading The Atlantic Cities immediately. It's not a new Boardwalk Empire or anything. It focuses in on urban living with reporting that is rarely seen. While the Dispatch complains about how terrible the commute is, Atlantic Cities has an article about the role of transit compared to daily planning.

Apparently, there's this magical thing called Level of Service (LOS) which I thought was completely made up. A quick google of it came up with this wikipedia entry which proves it real. Basically, a traffic engineer calculates the delay a vehicle would experience at an intersection. New road projects investigate LOS impacts and since increasing delay of cars is shunned, it's more difficult to receive funding if the finalized project increases delay.

The interesting thing about LOS is that alternate projects such as bicycling facilities, pedestrian crosswalks, bus prioritization, etc. would adversely impact the motorist. So while a new project may increase livability, it is automatically at a disadvantage because car has been king for so long. Additionally, the LOS inherently increases the possibility that roads will continually get larger without much of an increase of livability.

The Atlantic Cities Article mentions that the goal of transit in San Francisco is "transit first" meaning that public transit, bicycles, walking, taxis, vanpools, etc. will be prioritized over automobile traffic.The LOS criteria got in the way of that "transit first" goal, but now San Francisco is working towards a new criteria which incorporates multi-modal transportation. I think that's something to strive towards.

Next up: How this relates to Columbus

Cool video du jour:

December 6, 2011


There's much ado about an article entitled "Are urban bicyclists just elite snobs?" It's really more thoughtful than the title, but it made me wonder if I am an elitist snob.

I'll admit it. I'm a snob just a lil' bit. Beyond the money saved and the calories burned, I am proud that my commute is environmentally friendly. That's not to say that I get to work and set up a shrine worshiping my commitment to the environment because I do that when I get home. No, I just feel that biking is a very healthy mode and that everyone should join me. If everyone were biking, the commute would be much safer, people would be healthier, and we could prioritize fuel use for the transportation of goods or more long distance trips. But that's when I realize that you can only do what you can and that bicycling might not be that appealing to people because sometimes it's not fun.

Speaking to what the article really rails against - running red lights - bikers should never do it. It makes us look terrible and according to an article in The Atlantic Cities, a study of an intersection in Portland showed that 47% of bikers ran red lights compared to 7% of motorists. That's insane to me. Just because you're reducing your carbon footprint doesn't mean that you have a voucher to break traffic laws. I hope that my fellow bicyclists will expend the extra energy to stop at traffic lights in order for communities to continue adding bicycling infrastructure.

At Columbus Underground, this elitist snob article is a forum topic. It's been tame so far but I'll keep track of it to see just how we, the cyclists, are thought of.

Next up: More about public transit

Cool link of the day:

December 5, 2011

Riding the bus

I've never been much of a bus rider. I've always driven/been driven to school and during my professional life I've walked or biked. So it's definitely been a new experience to depend on the bus for commuting purposes. Here are some of the things that I've liked:

  1. The sense of relief when I see the bus coming. 
  2. Being able to zone out while riding the bus.
  3. The COTA monthly pass is so much easier than having to have $1.75 (soon to be $2.00) on me.
Some things that I do not like as much:
  1. Waiting for the bus. I don't think that the bus is on time that often so I feel like I'm wasting some time while waiting.
  2. I'm not as physically active but that's more by design than it being COTA's fault.
Some things that could be improved:
  1. Real-time stop information so that I know when the bus will come.
  2. Quicker cash exchange system. Some times it takes a really long time for someone to put all their change into the collector.
Overall though,I like using the bus, so that's good.

Next up: Some random thoughts

Cool photo of the day:


December 2, 2011

The Express

I've covered crosstown routes and local routes which means I only have the express routes left. Although many may guess what the purpose of Express Routes are without explanation, I'll explain.

An express route is a bus route which has fewer stops than the local routes. Sometimes, they may follow similar local routes but skip many of the bus stops. Other times, they may be at a location not serviced by local routes such as New Albany or Canal Winchester. Many routes also have a Park and Ride to entice commuters. Finally, all but 1 regular route goes to Downtown and the one exception goes between Hilliard and OSU.

I was interested in the time saved using Express routes and was surprised. The Local #2 and Express #31 have stops at the Crosswoods Park and Ride which is near the North High Street and I-270 intersection. Both routes use High Street. Express #32 also stops at the Crosswoods Park and Ride but uses I-71.  Using the bus schedules and Google Maps, this is what I found out:

Time to Travel Between Crosswoods to High Street & Broad Street

Time (minutes) fastest
Time( minutes) Rush Hour
Local  #2
Express  #31
Car on High
Express #32*
Car on I-71
*Uses I-71 instead of High Street

I thought the #31 would always be a lot faster, but in off-peak times it only beats the #2 by 3 minutes. I know that people that choose the #31 will probably stop prior to downtown, but I want to do further analysis to see how necessary some of these routes are.

I've compiled the stop information for the Express routes below. The colors mean nothing other than to try to show unique routes. The crosses mean the lone route going from Hilliard to OSU.

Click here to play with map

Again, I am unaffiliated with COTA and this map is not endorsed by COTA in any way. All opinions in this post are mine and are not shared by COTA. The map was made using data from data for Google Transit available here.

Next up: Another weekend!

Cool link of the day: Languages of the tweet

December 1, 2011

The Cold

Today was the first day of the cold, cruel winter. It was windy with a hint of freezing. Not only that, but I saw a few bikers at the Columbus Bicycle Subcommittee meeting who decided that it was too cold.

First, it made me appreciate that some of the more committed members of Columbus bicyclists sometimes don't bike all the time. We're not crazy! Second, it made me wonder about some of the temperatures that Columbus experiences.

I went to Weather Underground to do some investigating and I looked at data between January 2009 and January 2011. Here's what I found relating to how cold it is, using the daily lows as my guiding light:

Average Days per Year
Low less than 10 F
Low Between 10 F and 20 F
Low Between 20 F and 30 F
Low Between 30 F and 40 F

If it's warmer than 40 F, you can probably bike. It's once it gets colder than that which makes me worry. If you can't stand temperatures less than 40 F, you would need an alternate mode of transportation 150 days a year, but really it all depends on what you can tolerate.

Next up: One more post about COTA routes

Cool photo of the day:

File:Rower wieloosobowy by Zureks.jpg
Courtesy of Wikipedia
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