June 27, 2012

Bus Route Pamphlet Improvements

[Editor's note: I attempted to do a guest post on another site but was unable to get any traction. The audience is broader than just Columbusites so there is a primer on COTA.

Many transit users are liable to make use of route-specific schedules. Most of these pamphlets will have a map of the route, time table of select stops, and basic information about using public transit. While the overall transit maps receive the lion share of attention, I believe that the average transit user pays more attention to the pamphlets. What can we do to make them better? Today I want to focus on the map portion of the pamphlet.

Overall COTA Map.JPGI live in Columbus, OH, USA, and our transit agency is the Central Ohio Transit Agency (COTA). On the left is an incomplete view of the official COTA map.

COTA has bus service which is split into three different types of routes. Local routes (blue lines) all go through downtown. Crosstown routes (green lines) focus on our north and east sides of town and some run through Ohio State University which is about 3 miles north of downtown. Express routes (red lines) are commuter services which only run in the morning and evening with limited stops.

You can also see an interactive unofficial COTA map at my website.

COTA 1 Route Fixed.jpgOne of COTA’s more frequent routes is the #1 which is pictured on the left. There are approximately 84 one-way trips made with peak headways of 10 minutes. It’s an important route in Columbus and is being investigated for a light form of Bus Rapid Transit. As the triangle transfer points in the map above show, the route has many transfer options. The obvious question from the map is: what can I transfer to and how frequent is the service to which I am transferring?

First, it’s good to see what other transit agencies do. A random sampling of bigger/respected transit agencies reveals:

·         MBTA (Boston) – The map includes all routes but accents the selected route with roads shown.
·         CTA (Chicago) – The map includes only the line with transfers for Amtrak/Metra without roads shown although it’s slightly confusing.
·         WMATA (DC) – The map includes the route with transfers to the Metro with basic roads shown.
·          TriMet (Portland) – The map includes the route with transfer route numbers along with transfer roads shown.

The CTA and WMATA methods are similar in that they promote rail usage. I’m not convinced that either agency benefits with this model as frequent buses should be promoted as much as frequent rail lines. I like the TriMet approach because it’s simple yet conveys route information. The MBTA method is good but it takes more room to show the map. It could be too much information for the COTA cutout.

I apologize for the hand drawn routes but you can see an interactive map Google Fusion Table here for a better picture of the routes. Regardless, is one method better than another? Would a complete map such as MBTA be worthwhile? Would the route transfer numbers be sufficient? Also, frequency hasn’t been investigated. Should it be dealt with in-text, with weighted lines, or not included at all?

June 26, 2012

COTA going on strike

On July 2 at 3:00 AM, the union of COTA is set to strike. Before I commentate on it I want to share a story.

While I normally forego summer busing because I dance to my own beat, this Saturday I went home from ComFest via bus. It was a strange event because I went to the #3 pickup location at the designated time and was picked up by a bus that was going to "Broad and High." No number.

He confirmed that he was the #3 helping bus and that he turned around at High and Broad. He assured me that I could transfer to the actual #3 but my girlfriend and I opted not to try and instead went with the #6. Because we were the only two people on the special #3, I decided to strike up a conversation with the bus driver.

"How you feeling about the bus strike?" I masterfully asked.

"You know I can't comment on that!" he coyfully responded.

Yet another example of journalist fail. For those wondering about the service of COTA on a big event like Comfest, we didn't depart Broad and High until 10:30 PM. The bus was supposed to leave at 10:00.

Regardless, I really hope that the union and management can come to an agreement before a strike happens. COTA just has too much momentum to deal with a strike right now.

Cool someone beats Mario 64 in 5 minutes:

June 22, 2012

LeBron James and Ohio

Being a Columbusite, I get my pro sports fix vicariously through Cleveland and Cincinnati. I've been smitten with the Cavs since playing an NBA game on Sega Genesis and making 3-pointer after 3-pointer with Mark Price.

Many of you may be aware of player named LeBron James. You know, "Witness" and all that? Well, he's the best player of this generation and he used to play for Cleveland. At the end of the 2010 Season, he decided to take his talents to the South Beach and play for Miami. Last night, he won his first NBA title.

To be honest, I'm kind of happy for LeBron. I was dismayed with how he left Cleveland, but I like Ohioans to succeed. So congratulations LeBron and Miami, it's just too bad you couldn't have done it for Cleveland.

Cool LeBron beating the Magic in bygone days:

June 21, 2012

Scared Journalist - Scioto Trail Investigation

The Scioto Trail is currently incomplete. It's southern terminus is Frank Road (SR-104) and it ends at the Dublin Road Water Treatment Plant pictured above. Additional Scioto Trail picks up about 2 miles down SR-33 at Grandview Avenue and terminates for good 1 miles south of 5th Avenue on US-33. In map form, it looks like this:

The missing gap between Grandview Avenue and the Water Treatment Plant is a bummer. The good news is that the work is being planned and has been bid. Two bridges will be used to cross the Scioto. I was curious if any construction had begun so I went to the Water Treatment Plant.

At the stop sign I turned left and I saw this interesting trail heading back. I made it about 30 feed back to where there's another clearing and about 3 additional trails heading to multiple places. I am ashamed to admit it, but I chickened out because homeless people sometimes use these areas as sleeping grounds. Seeing as I didn't see any tractor markings in the ground or indication of recent construction mobilization, I can say that it's likely that no construction activities have commenced yet.

Maybe next time I'll be able to make it all the way to the river.

Cool Zelda Music link of the day:

June 20, 2012

Cyclist - Pedestrian Safety

In Arlington, Virginia, a cyclist struck an 80-year old woman walking on a multi-use path at 7:11 AM on June 11, 2012. The cyclist called out "on your left" and the woman turned around stepped to her left. The collision was struck head-on and she hit her head on the ground. She died later that day at 6:20 PM.

Obviously, this is unfortunate. For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase "on your left," cyclists yell this to people (slow cyclists/pedestrians/roller bladers/ etc.) to indicate that the cyclist will pass on the slower person's left.

The odd thing to me is that there have been no charges made against the cyclist. The cyclist community would be up in arms if a motorist hit a cyclist after honking to indicate passing. We, as the cycling community, need to go about things differently when passing someone on a bike trail/path.
  1. Say a complete sentence. "On your left" has no verb or subject. "I am passing" is implied but it should be stated. "I am passing on your left" would leave less ambiguity for any pedestrian.
  2. Use words instead of a bell. What in the world does *ding* *ding* mean? And again, if a motorist honked at you, you wouldn't automatically stop your cycling line to go to the right. As we tell young children, use your words.
  3. Give time for the statement to ring. This is a judgement call but you should try to yell about 3-5 seconds (when you're within earshot). That way it gives the person time to process.
  4. Coast when you're yelling. When you coast, the freehub/freewheel will make a ratcheting sound which gives the person additional warning that you are about to pass.
  5. This isn't the Tour de France. If you want to go as fast as cars, get on a road. If you want to be on a trail, be aware that people don't care that you're close to your personal best. Just chill and go with the flow.
And with that I'll get off my soap box. Be safe out there, people.

Cool radish slide whistle link of the day:

June 19, 2012

How you know you have awesome transit?

It's always difficult to know if a city has great transit. While I often defend COTA, I assume that they would not be offended when I say that they are not great transit. The downtown-based strategy is good at getting people places but poor at getting people places in a timely manner. I'll shout and yell that COTA can get you just about anywhere within the Outerbelt but I'll be the first to concede that you better bring a book with you. Thankfully, there's a new way to determine how awesome your transit system is.

Aluminum Bottle of DC Transit - Liberty Bottle
A company called Liberty Bottleworks makes a variety of aluminum bottles including bottles with various transit maps printed. Above is a picture of the D.C. Metro system. You may remember this tattoo:

https://twitter.com/#!/tazzmaina012 (h/t Unsuck DC Metro 
The list of lucky cities who have water bottles available:
  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • Chicago
  • Boston
  • Portland
  • DC
  • Denver
  • Seattle
  • New Orleans
  • Los Angeles
  • Austin
Most of these are obvious but I was a little surprised about Austin and New Orleans. Austin has a grid transit system:

Austin Transit Bottle

And New Orleans has a a single line:

New Orleans Transit Bottle
The bottles are only $18-$20 for 24/32 ounce sizes. That's not a bad deal. COTA, let's make a better looking map and then we'll work on the bottles.

Cool condom bagpipe link of the day:

June 18, 2012

Broad Street Bike Lane Construction Plates

On my way home from Franklinton Cycle Works, I took Broad Street as my route home. Nearing the I-70 exchange, I noticed not 1, but 5 (!) steel plates in bike lane.

In the first picture, there is a (poorly constructed) asphalt ramp on the west side of the west-bound bike lane. The second picture shows the plate from the other side. A bicycle will encounter the plate without any form of ramp. This is a great way to get a pinch flat. Columbus, let's talk.

Bike lanes are a great tool to provide cyclists. They make the rare rear-ending collision even rarer. They improve traffic to allow motorist to flow at speeds faster than cyclists. However, if a bike lane is available, a rampless steel plate should not be in it. I adjust my behavior based on where I am and what choices of roads I have and I assume others do the same.

In the future, I hope Columbus requires ramps to be made for construction areas on roads that are designated as bikeways. In the mean time I'm going to put in a 311 request that ramps be added.

Cool 1900s traffic link of the day (h/t: Columbus Rides Bikes)

June 15, 2012

Dick and Jane Project

The Dick and Jane Project

As any aspiring musician knows, making lyrics is one of the hardest parts of song-writing. It may sound heretical to suggest that middle school students would be up to the challenge of writing lyrics for some of Columbus's best bands, but that's exactly what the Dick and Jane Project sets out to do.

The Dick and Jane Project is a non-profit organization that has produced over 20 songs with the help of local artists and young minds. The organization characterizes the the process as taking 5-steps:

  1. Inspire - The students meet with artists and hear some samples.
  2. Create - Weekly meetings between the artists and the students are held to build a song.
  3. Refine - A demo is made and shared with the students who in turn make suggestions to further refine.
  4. Play - The music is shared via iTunes, CD, and radio (!). 
  5. Impact - How cool would it be for you or your friend to have a song on the radio and you're only 11? It's a lofty accomplishment and something to be proud of.
I'm just summarizing the summary on their web-site, so I suggest checking it out because I think it's a great project.

As for the radio, my friend Andy Gallagher hosts a 5-minute song of the week on 90.5 WCBE every Friday at 11:55 AM. Each episode has a brief interview with the student responsible for the lyrics and then the song starts. 

So, listen today at 11:55 AM and look into supporting this cause!

Cool Dick and Jane Project Song - A Train Ride to the Zoo by Senuru Dikkumbura, lyricist, and Trains Across the Sea, band:

June 14, 2012

The Doors of Rich Street Bridge

On each corner of the Rich Street Bridge, there are concrete structures with doors. 

The above is a close up of the structure with the door located in the bottom right of the picture. Like all great puzzles, it had to be investigated.

Not a G.D. thing was in it! Just a couple of pieces of wood and a dirty floor. Here's another picture from a different angle:

Sorry it wasn't cooler looking. C'est la vie.

Cool The Simpson's Intro done in real life:

June 13, 2012

Ask a Bike #3: Harrisburg Pike to Finland Middle School

Southwest Columbus (technically most of it is unincorporated townships) does not have a lot of bicycle infrastructure yet. For instance, if I wanted to get from Briggs High School to Finland Middle school, I would be unable to use a single piece of bicycle infrastructure. While driving, it would be easy. Take Harrisburg to Frank to Finland.

Harrisburg Pike is only two-lanes. I prefer to avoid two-lane roads because cars don't have as ample room to pass. Frank Road has 4 lanes but it can be intimidating to take a left turn and it's about a mile from it being   a limited access freeway (cars may be going faster because they're still in freeway mode).

The above are two suggested routes by Google for biking. It's still not that awesome because the first example has you taking a left onto Frank and that's what we were avoiding. The second example has you on a residential street taking rights on Brown and Finland. This is a little better but Brown Road is also a two-lane road. Is there something better?

I know it looks like I just drew random lines but there are pedestrian routes! Here's the satellite view:

The best part is that each of these routes is shorter than the suggested routes because there's less back tracking. Remember, if your destination is a post-war developed school, look to see if there are any pedestrian routes available to use.

Cool song of the day - Flagpole Sitta

June 12, 2012

2012 Columbus World Naked Bike Ride

On Saturday June 9, 2012, the World Naked Bike Ride graced the streets of Columbus, OH. The ride consists of hundreds of cyclists riding mostly naked. Many of the women had the opportunity to don some paint  up top while some of the men had thongs on.

I caught a photograph of everyone so please enjoy:

Oh drats! It's blurry. Maybe next year.

As for numbers, I have heard that 300 people rode in the 2011 event and that 600 people rode in the 2012 event. According to a Facebook post, it appears the route was 7.5 miles long and went this way:

Made by Killian
In 2013, you probably won't see Biking Columbus riding in the event, but I'm sure that won't stop you from attending next year.

Cool food porn video of the day (f bombs are bleeped so slightly NSFW):

June 9, 2012

Summer Yay Bikes! Events

You like to bike and you like events? Yay Bikes! has a lot of upcoming events planned so you should check it out. [Full Disclosure: I am a Board Member of Yay Bikes! so while I certainly have a bias, Yay Bikes! is pretty awesome.]

June 8, 2012

Fuzzy Pictures

What's the picture above? A poor one. It states

"Warning. Be Safe. Wear a Helmet. Obey Traffic Laws. Do Not Bike At Night."
This was on a ~12 year old's bike that I put away at the bike corral at the Columbus Arts Festival. It's a surprising warning and I was somewhat offended by it. People can bike at night or during the day and be safe.

The above had some interesting stickers. Let me see if I can enhance the upper left window sticker.

Still fuzzy, let's see if I can enhance again.

Woah! Woah! Woah! What did it say in full?
"Sending your child to public school is child abuse"
 The day I saw that sticker was the first day that I realized I was abused as a child.

This shot taken while riding was supposed to show you a guy in the boat. Enhance!

In the forefront of the picture you may notice my awesome sleeve. In the background there's a guy in a boat. You're welcome!

This is just a cute picture of my cat, Bake. It somehow turned out nicely.

June 7, 2012

Franklinton Cycle Works

Last night I visited Franklinton Cycle Works for the first time yesterday. Franklinton Cycle Works is a non-profit which holds open shops on Saturdays between 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM. People can bring their bikes into the shop during these open shops and fix their bikes with the tools available and there are volunteers which can help people fix their bike. All these services are provided for free although donations are always welcome.

I was there in particular to try their first run of the FCW Mechanic Training. The first day was dedicated to the basics of bicycles (threads, nuts, bolts, tires, tubes, rear cassettes) and although I now some basics of bikes, it was really nice to hear it explained by someone who knows their stuff.

Anyway, nothing earth shattering here. Just wanted to call out a cool group in Columbus.

A ventriloquist uses a person:

June 6, 2012

Bike Share 103 - Travel Modes of Cities

Bike shares are pretty cool ideas in that it sounds pretty cool to have bike shares. I've gone over bike shares before, and today I want to go over a readily available statistic which should help evaluate the success of a bike share.

Click to enlarge
The above was created using the 5-year American Community Survey done by the Census. The survey looks at workers older than 16 and compiles methods of transportation. The chart above added the bike share, bus share, and walking share and compares them with other cities. Columbus is in red, cities which already have bike share are in purple, and cities which are planned to start bike shares soon are in blue.

I compiled this chart because I think that non-car shares are a good surrogate for the success likelihood of bike shares.

Click to enlarge
This is graph showing the percentage of workers who have no access to a vehicle. Columbus has the fewest of such commuters.

Click to enlarge
This graph shows average densities (from Wiki) of the various cities.

What I gather is that Columbus is near the bottom of the pack for most cities. Denver is probably the closest comparison as we are both large cities of similar average densities although they have twice the amount of people not driving/carpooling to work and have twice as many people without access to cars.

According to this post, the Denver program had 200,000 trips logged in 2011 and had 11,800 annual members according to this other article. The program has 52 stations and 500 bikes. I don't know what those numbers mean in the big picture but as far as Columbus is concerned, those numbers should be looked at successful. 

Cool cartoon music video of the day:

June 5, 2012

From around the web - Law Abiding Cyclists

I intend on posting more stories from around the web and the first installment comes from The Atlantic Cities regarding the cycling lawlessness in NYC moving towards an end. There can only be so many hipsters running red lights before a Critical Mass is reached and something has to be done to ensure the safety of everyone. And when ticketing cyclists of infractions, it would also be time to ticket motorists.

The Atlantic Cities - The Rise of the Citizen Cyclist

"Next month, New York City will start rolling out a bike share program that will eventually add 10,000 bikes to the city’s streets. The time may finally have come to get over the idea that biking in New York is for outlaws and renegades.
That goes for the police. And it goes for bikers, too.
The Wild West days are over. A bicyclist in New York will be, and should be, increasingly a domestic creature.

I’ve heard a lot of cyclists complaining about being tamed. They don’t like the fact that the new protected bike lanes make you ride more slowly. It used to be so much more exhilarating to pedal up First Avenue with a flock of cabs swooping and honking around you."
[Read More]

The Paradox of Public Transit and Big Events

The Columbus Arts Festival was this past weekend and on top of that, Gallery Hop was also going on in the Short North. It's great that Columbus is large enough to support so many events and with the traffic/parking/drinking being more likely during these events, it makes public transit more attractive. The problem with transit systems which use shared roads like COTA is that their schedules can be thrown off by the traffic caused by the events.

On Saturday, I witnessed the worst aspects of the bus line up which COTA implements. A bus line up is when all of the local routes stop downtown to allow passengers to transfer. They happen at 10:00 PM, 11:00 PM, and 12:00 AM. Most of the routes in the picture above are involved with the line up with the exception of 12, 13, 14, and 15. In other words, there are a lot of buses lining up downtown.

When I arrived at the stop and saw the bus pulling in at 9:55 PM, I asked if they could not stop so close to the next bus so that I could put my bike on the rack. They were unable to do it because it was a tight fit to get all of the buses on the block but that as soon as the line up got moving I could place my bike on the rack.   The bus line up happened on High Street block between Broad and Gay which is about 500 feet. That's a lot of room for buses.

We waited and waited and waited and I overheard another bus driver say that he was supposed to be at the end of his route and turning around already. I asked our bus driver if there was enough recovery time and he said there was no way they would be able to catch back to their schedules. At 10:25 PM, we left. 10:23 PM is when we should have arrived at our bus stop. We arrived at 10:45 PM. The last stop on the route was scheduled at 10:38 PM.

The #2 heading south from campus was one culprit for the delay. The northbound #11 was the other culprit. 2 buses out of ~20 buses caused a 25 minute delay in the schedule. While I understand the way the system works and was glad I was outside for the duration of the line-up, it would have been a terrible experience for anyone using the bus for the first day. In the future, I may opt to cut the chord if a bus isn't projected to be downtown by a certain time.

There's a song called "Bus Stop":

June 4, 2012

COTA Bus Stop Removal Announcement

COTA has announced that new Bus Stop Improvements are planned for the September service changes. Bus Stop Improvements are mostly bus stop removals, but that's not always the case. On Facebook, COTA has posted pictures of the stops which will be removed. The #1 is affected as are a scattering of Express buses.

You should like this FB album if you want faster bus service:

The Columbus Arts Festival And Pedaling Instead

This past weekend was the Columbus Arts Festival and boy was it busy.

The above is a picture of the bike corral from Pedal Instead. It's amazing what good weather can do for the amount of bikers that you get. On the shift that I volunteered Friday, we had about 20 people park their bikes in the 4 hours I was there. On Saturday, it was a steady stream of bikes. Here's what Andrew, one of the main organizers of Pedal Instead, said about the numbers:
"Last year, as was typical of all the years we've partnered with GCAC to provide valet service we parked around 277. This year we went over 700. 400 and change alone on Saturday and over 300 [on Sunday]."
The final count was 806 bikes parked in an area that could have parked maybe 10 cars. At the peak on Saturday there were likely over 100 bikes in the corral.

A woman who owned the bike above told me I should take a picture of it. If you enlarge the picture you will notice that the color is actually from paint brush strokes. It was the Columbus Arts Festival, after all.

One last note about Pedal Instead. There are two events this Saturday (June 9) that you could volunteer for. The first is the Pabst Blue Ribbon Presents the Megacity Music Marathon. As you may have guessed from the PBR, it is not an endurance run. Instead, it's 33 bands playing between 12PM - 2AM at Woodland's Tavern.

The second event is the Naked Bike Ride which has volunteer spots between 5PM-4AM.

What Pedal Instead would look like on a beach:

June 1, 2012

Turning Right is OK

America, for those of you who don't watch Fox News, is cursed with an entitlement society. And what I think this means is that people feel entitled to do what they want to on the road. Missed that exit? It's alright, just reverse a little bit. No exit to Broad Street if you're on SR-315 south? The sign is only a suggestion. No bikes on the freeways? How else do you expect me to get to Broad Street?

I have no problem with people trying to get to their destinations quickly. I do have problems when people make it unsafe for themselves or others. For instance, when I was at an ODOT meeting about the I-70/I-71 split fix, two people complained about how unsafe it is to make a turn to get onto I-71. Was anyone forcing them to make the turn? No. Were there safer alternatives? I'm sure of it.

A danger that bicyclists can face is changing lanes in order to turn left. When there is a steady lane of cars, sometimes it is next to impossible to merge. That's why sometimes as a cyclist you have to admit defeat and take a right turn. Turning right is OK.

The above is a move I have to take sometimes. Heading east on Mound Street, sometimes I turn into the old Cooper Stadium parking lot and do a U-turn. This is similar to the Michigan left although do note that U-turns are illegal in Ohio.

The above is another move I take sometimes. There's a curb cut to a parking lot along Broad Street that I turn right at if I am unable to merge 2 lanes over to turn left onto Hague.

Another somewhat legal maneuver is revered to as a box turn. Sometimes there is a bicycle facility such as Milton Avenue along the Olentangy Bike Path.

Credit: City of Columbus

If you are a bicyclist travelling up in this picture and the light is red, you can go around any stopped cars and wait in the bike box to turn left. The other manner you can use it is if you are going east (towards the right) on North Broadway (the cross street in the picture) and want to turn left. You can turn left and stop in the bike box and wait for the signal to change.

You can also do the box turn without a bike facility although you would stop in or in front of the crosswalk before moving forward with the traffic signal.

Just remember, taking a minute of your time to turn right can reduce your risk on the road. Bikes turn right.

More on box turns:
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