April 20, 2012

Dispatch to COTA - Leave Downtown

Columbus is looking to reconfigure downtown a little bit. One part is to re-assess on-street parking and to determine if it can be brought back. As some of you may be aware, High Street is clogged with buses, but this is as planned. As John of Xing Columbus noted, the pulse system is used for transferring where multiple buses get to one location at the same time so that people can get on a different bus. Obviously there is built in lag time so that people and the buses have time to get to the pulse spot.

When people try to move buses away from the transfer location or if the transfer location is restricted because buses are unable to queue because of parked cars, the complex machine of public transit looses its ability to get people places.

The Dispatch had an editorial on Thursday lamenting the fact that COTA would "have a monopoly on High Street lanes." The biggest offending paragraph goes to:
"COTA got an earful from its riders last fall after proposing, unsuccessfully, to reroute a line from the East Side. Some people felt picked on. Many said they didn’t want to walk from a new Front Street stop back to High Street, where they worked or transferred to another bus. Really? Walking a block is good for the health, and transit stops are often farther apart in major cities."
First, there's a stated fact in that "transit stops are often farther apart in major cities." This could be true but what is the source of this fact? Here's downtown Pittsburgh where they have lanes dedicated to buses all day long:

Of Cleveland:


Of Columbus:

The main thing to get out of these pictures is that you can't glean that much. In other words, there should be a report out there somewhere which shows that details what average distances for stops are for bus routes in downtown cities and also how the routes converge. I would love to read it if the Dispatch editorial board could provide it. 

The other point to make about the Dispatch is that bus riders are called lazy for not wanting to walk a block*. Why is that? Couldn't people going downtown park in lots/garages and walk to their destination? Are they lazy? Could Front Street's parking restrictions be removed in order for parking to be restored downtown? Then people could park on Front Street and walk a block. It seems in poor taste to call any one lazy for not wanting to add additional time to their trip.

*By block, I assume the Dispatch meant two blocks as you would walk past Wall Street to get to and from High Street. However, block is a poor description because blocks depend on grid size. Instead, it's the difference between walking 250 feet or 500 feet. Or, a one-minute walk versus two-minute walk assuming no detours are necessary.

Finally, the most amusing bit was this part:
"The proposed compromise, sharing the space, makes sense. Bus traffic on High Street falls off sharply after rush hour: COTA runs 54 buses along the Downtown mile in the 30-minute peak around 5 p.m. Midmornings, it runs just 31 buses in a half-hour period."
Assuming that the 54 total buses is divided in the two directions, 27 buses in a 30-minute peak means that there is nearly a bus on each side of High Street a minute. When you include fare collection and coordinating transfers, that minute will vanish quickly and without proper queuing ability, the buses will start to back up. You cannot provide peak-hour parking without completely re-configuring the system if you want to provide similar service.

Cool Ministry of Silly Walks link of the day:

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