Sunday, February 10, 2013

Challenges of the modern transit planners

Studies show Torontonians commute an average of 80 minutes a day - or when you crunch the numbers, a month in a car.  Thanks to the suburban sprawl or work places out in the boonies :) we now have to spend more time getting to work than before.  We are more involved in extracurricular activities.  We volunteer.  We want to stay employed longer so we take continuing education courses.  We want to live a healthy life so we go to the gym.  We want our kids to learn how to swim, do karate, dance, play hockey, play music, etc., and so we chauffeur them from school to class to home, etc.

In short: we move around a lot.

It is important for us to have access to a good transit system that guarantees safe, efficient, and fast transportation.  Also, it is important for us to have an integrated transit system that enables us to drive, walk, cycle, or take the train or the bus to our destination.  When we are in rush, we want to have access to a rapid transit.  When we are not in a rush we can afford to sit back and enjoy the ride.  We want to be in control of what to choose and when to choose it.  If there is a traffic jam we want to know about it and to know an alternate route to avoid it.

The transit architect has to take all the above into consideration in the planning.

Resources: is an online resource for sustainable transport news, research and “best practice” solutions from around the world 

With the York Region Rapidways project new express lane is being built in the middle of the street for the buses

Efficient sustainable mobility

Other resources provided by the "Global Engineering Innovation" web site.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

High demand on the transportation system

Everyday I join 1,000,000 residents of this city and its suburbs to travel to my destination. Whether it is work, school, day care, store, we all have a route and a way to get to our destination. I take the subway. Then I switch to the bus. I spend close to 40 minutes door to door. Recently I spend more time on the bus, because there is construction. You see they are building a bus rapid transit system in the middle of Highway 7. Although, the road is open and operating, but due to separating the construction site: the workers, the tools, and the machinery, from the rest of the road, there is traffic and cars move very slowly. The 40 minutes travel time takes 50% more. I spend roughly 20 more minutes in the bus each way. If I produced 7 units of work each day, my productivity level dips to 6.6 units of work. That's if I don't adjust my arrival to and departure from work times to make up for the lost time. This is just one of the impacts of changing the surface transit operation to address the increase in usage. One can only imagine that the impact is much larger to local community that need shop, play and live there.

What I am living day in and day out, happens as a result of population growth in an urban area.  The existing transportation system is not able to meet the demand.  Therefore expansion of the roads become necessary but this comes at the cost of severely disrupting the life of the local community.

If money was abundant we would finish such projects in a week or two.  In reality, however, the timeline is around two to four years.  The thought of  having the construction workers in the backyard for that long of a time, even makes the most easy-going people cringe. 

What are some of the strategies to reduce the negative impacts of road expansion projects?

This is one of the three questions in the "Global Engineering Innovation Challenge".

 "     How can we balance the needs of surface transit operations, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians that use streets with limited right-of-way, safer, faster and more reliable, in a way that is acceptable to the local community?"