GAME-CHANGER Part One

(I still owe a response to Novacek’s very long comment on this post but have to decide if I want to spend the energy to format it into a table first. Dude, sick there’s a reason people have blogs of their own sometimes).

So Jace Deloney posted a couple of pics of what’s realistically one of the BEST MetroRapid ‘stations’ downtown. One example here:

MetroRapid, Lavaca near 3rd, taken and posted by Jace Deloney
MetroRapid, Lavaca near 3rd, taken and posted by Jace Deloney

Here’s a shot I snapped last week of a more typical one (obviously still under construction) – this is in front of Natural Grocer on northbound Guadalupe near 39th. Note the lack of room for a bike rack, and the intrusion into what’s already a very narrow sidewalk. I took this picture originally to counter a claim by a Capital Metro representative that all stations would have bike racks – which they’ve now dialed back to “unless there’s some nearby”.

MetroRapid 'station', NB Guadalupe near 39th

Compare to an existing southbound local bus stop pretty much right across the street:

Local bus stop, SB Guadalupe near 39th via Google StreetView

I don’t have pictures yet, but the northbound MetroRapid stops at UT are only a little better than what you saw at Natural Grocer. The stop at 23rd is just OK – along the lines of a good local stop – but the stop near Dean Keeton is a tiny alcove where the bike racks will block pedestrian traffic on the existing sidewalk if they get used. I will likely be urging the city to force Capital Metro to get rid of those racks as they present a safety hazard for pedestrians there; and for those of you who have known me a long time, for me to advocate against something bike-related is a big deal.

Now, just for comparison, a light rail station in Houston, in the median, of course, where it didn’t have to compete with existing sidewalk demands:

Houston MetroRail station near Hermann Park
Houston MetroRail station near Hermann Park

 

Now, if your argument is “this is going to be as good as rail for Central Austin”, you’ve got to compare to Houston’s MetroRail above, which is similar to what 2000’s light rail plan had planned for ‘stations’ – i.e. long boarding platforms in the median where they wouldn’t compete with existing sidewalk users.

If your argument is “this is going to be a signature bus service which blows through the constraints old bus service had and be ALMOST as good as rail for Central Austin”, then you have to explain the fact that the best MetroRapid stations aren’t much better than existing good local stops, and the worst are far worse. In fact, it looks like they accepted whatever scrap they could carve out of existing ROW.

But if this is too much for you, and you’re feeling kind of negative again, feel free ignore all the analysis above, plug your fingers in your ears, and chant “GAME CHANGER!”.

Game Changer graphic by Jon Henshaw
Game Changer graphic by Jon Henshaw

Note: Jace replied to me on twitter that I’m selling the new ‘stations’ short by not mentioning the arrival boards (the “next bus comes in X minutes” thing). That’s true; this particular post was referring more to the spatial aspects of the station. One thing that current bus service does not have in any way, shape, or form, is a way to know how long until the next bus gets there. This is not a selling point for MetroRapid, though, so much as it is an indictment of current bus service – because this has been technologically feasible for at least a decade. It will be nice that I can know when the next Rapid Bus will arrive, in other words, but there’s no reason I should have had to wait for Rapid Bus to get that information – I should be able to know right now when the next #1 or #101 arrives.

One Reply to “GAME-CHANGER Part One”

  1. “Dude, there’s a reason people have blogs of their own sometimes”
    Yeah, maybe I should start one of those one of these days. But that would add to the noise of all the various transit-related blogs people check (or maybe that just me who does that). Plus, if I have a comment or counterpoint (or support, hey, it could happen sometime 🙂 to one of your posts, it’s a little less awkward to just reply directly instead of linking and forcing other readers to click way to read it.

    “I took this picture originally to counter a claim by a Capital Metro representative that all stations would have bike racks – which they’ve now dialed back to “unless there’s some nearby”.”
    As I haven’t seen this “dialing back”, I can’t comment conclusively on it. If it’s cases where there really is a bunch of bike racks immediately available already (like at the crestview stop, where there’s a bunch immediately behind it), then I don’t see any problem with this. If it’s functionaly identical, it’s functionaly identical.
    For this station in particular, since it’s not finished yet, I don’t quite see how you can claim(yet) that it won’t have bike racks.

    “but the stop near Dean Keeton is a tiny alcove where the bike racks will block pedestrian traffic on the existing sidewalk if they get used”
    I haven’t seen it, so I’ll reserve full judgement until I do. If it really does block pedestrian traffic, it’s hard to see how it would pass design review, on ADA bounds if nothing else.

    “you’ve got to compare to Houston’s MetroRail above, which is similar to what 2000′s light rail plan had planned for ‘stations’ – i.e. long boarding platforms in the median where they wouldn’t compete with existing sidewalk users.”
    As I’ve said before, I’m not familiar with Houston’s system personally. Looking at that picture, it looks to me that there aren’t _any_ sidewalks there.

    “This is not a selling point for MetroRapid, though, so much as it is an indictment of current bus service – because this has been technologically feasible for at least a decade.”
    Of course it’s a selling point. A major one. Saying it’s not because it’s been feasible for a while is like saying rail (if and when we get it) has no selling point because “it’s been feasible for decades”. All these transit improvements have been feasible for decades, given the money and political will. But we haven’t had that before, now we’ve at least gotten enough of both to make some small incremental improvements.
    Yes, updating signage for stops could have been added before, if we would have had the money. But we didn’t have the millions of dollars before. Each one of those stations costs like $50,000 (from CapMetro’s budget). My assumption(based on having to pay for an electrician before) is that some fair percentage of that is running power to each station (for running the signage, communications, and lights). Doing that for the 1 and 101 before would have meant coming up with the money to pay for it, and for a lot more stations. And the money for the transponders and communications channels on each of the buses. And the money for the control center/coordination.

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