Three Smart “Smart City” Pieces

This week’s Smart City podcast features three different stories that grabbed my attention:

  • The show leads off with a discussion of the interplay between housing costs and transportation costs, and how some consumers seeking lower housing costs may actually wind up pay more overall when commuting costs are factored in.
  • About 22 minutes into the show, a piece about a beltway park in Atlanta makes the point that buses are transportation, but rail is an amenity (a point absolutely overlooked by the transit agency).
  • 29 minutes in, another interesting piece on the characteristics of successful rail stations.

9 responses to “Three Smart “Smart City” Pieces”

  1. So what is and isn’t an amenity?

    You remove Portland’s LRVs and traffic STOPS for x amount of more hours. To compensate you’d have to add 2-3 lanes each way just to deal with the increased traffic.

    You get rid of the Streetcar and unload those people you end up with some more trips but you also get less people taking trips.

    So which is really and isn’t a necessity? It seems like once a system is in place it would be a dumb idea to get rid of them (unless ridership went to about 20% or less of capacity.) which kind of makes any transit a necessity once it is in place and used.

    The only real way to tell if something is a necessity is to allow the market to reflect the desire of a particular mode by directly assessing the cost to the users. Then you REALLY know what is and is not wanted or “needed”.

  2. Let me clarify, I don’t mean ‘amenity’ in the sense of unnecessary, I mean it in the sense of enhancing the environment around it.

    Example: both buses and Streetcars provide transportation. But in most neighborhoods the bus is considered a nuisance (smell, noise) even as it provides the needed transportation, while Streetcar is considered an amenity providing the same transportation.

    In the piece on Smart City, Atlanta is considering a ring of parks around the city using old rail corridors, and the proposal was to link them together with LRT. The transit agency came back with a recommendation to uses buses instead. The ‘missed point’ by the transit agency is that buses would LOWER the amenity value of the parks, while LRT would enhance it.

  3. Even with the noise and smell, as far as Portland
    goes, bus rapid transit would serve the community
    far better by providing more flexible transportation.

  4. No, it wouldn’t. I doubt people would flock to Portland to ride some busses. BRT is kind of a crock, but who knows what the reason is that you said what you said. Maybe you just don’t understand development and how modal choice affects that. Not all lines on a map are equal, Nick.

  5. I think this is an important debate. I believe that BRT could provide similar transportation capacity as LRT at comparable costs (you still need dedicated right-of-way – it might be slightly, but not much, cheaper if it doesn’t have rails and catenary wires).

    The difference is about placemaking. Rail creates a very different environment because it has amenity value, which buses do not.

    We need to think about what our transportation system delivers to the community not just on the basis of the transportation it provides, but on the kind of places we create for ourselves.

  6. Are these “Streetcar Yuppies” the same people that are complaining about the noise that the freight trains and Amtrak makes a couple blocks away from their uber-expensive condos?

    In other words, they only like trains when it’s convenient and “hip” for them. When it comes to commuting to their jobs in California or travelling on vacation or to see family, they still have no problem passing over Union Station on the Broadway Bridge to get to I-5, then I-84, then I-205, to get to PDX, to fly to whereever.

    One word: Hypocrites.

  7. I dare anyone to have a conversation with another human being at a distance of 6 feet between the two of you at 5pm on a weekday on 5th & salmon.

    It just isn’t possible. The noise must be AT LEAST 110 dB. But, don’t take my word for it: go downtown and try it out yourself.

  8. Streetcar riders are hardly all yuppies…quit a mix; indeed the Pearl district, for all the complaining, has substantial affordable housing.
    Whether you like it or not, rail appears to add value, while bus transit doesn’t….partly due to noise and fumes, but also due to the permanence attached to tracks. Ask folks along NW Northrup.
    But as anyone knows who has tried to move a bus line…its not easy; bus transit flexibility is a myth.
    re BRT…if it does not have exclusive ROW in the peaks, then you have to take out the “R”…its just Bus Transit. If you give it the ROW with its costs and impacts, build stations and do other LRT-like things, then why not just do LRT? Only if you have ROW to give, does it make sense, but only as an interim…even an articulated bus has less than half the rider capacity of a double LRT train.

  9. Just a quick FYI to point out that the “Bob” above is not me (not that we necessarily disagree). Welcome, Bob. :-)

    – Bob R.

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