Transportation headlines, Thursday, December 11

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Calgary soaring transit use suggests high ridership is possible even in sprawling cities (Transport Politic) 

An interesting look at transit use in Calgary — a sprawling, car-oriented city —  in comparison to similar U.S. cities such as Dallas. The article notes that 87 percent of households in Calgary live in suburban environs, yet the city has more than two times the transit trips than in Dallas with only one-fourth the population. What could account for this difference? The author believes it can be attributed to the lack of downtown freeways. Excerpt:

Decades of progressive thinking about how to run downtown have produced a Calgary where there are no freeways entering the central city. Citizens there have been vocally opposed to building highways there since the 1950s, with the consequence that it is simply not that quick to get into downtown by car. This has a number of related effects, including the incentivization of non-automobile modes and the reduction in outward suburban sprawl (since it takes a longer amount of time to get to the center of downtown).

In Dallas, on the other hand, six grade-separated highways radiate from downtown, a loop tightly encircles it, and state highway planners have been pushing for a new tollway directly adjacent to it — in the middle of a park.

Another reason posited for Calgary’s high transit ridership is restrictive downtown parking policies that are balanced by investments in park-and-rides near transit stations. So what does this all mean?

Calgary’s success — unlike that of Vancouver, Montreal, or Toronto, for example — comes despite its relative lack of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and a transit system that has encouraged them. To a significant degree, it is clear that it is possible to boost transit use simply by making it more expensive and complicated to drive to work, and relatively easier to take transit.

Bertha, the giant borer that broke, may be sinking Seattle’s downtown (NPR)

More woes for Washington state’s Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project. Buildings now appear to be sinking in Seattle’s Pioneer Square as recovery efforts continue nearby to repair the tunnel boring machine (TBM) nicknamed Bertha. As the world’s largest TBM, Bertha was built to tunnel a new highway underneath downtown Seattle, but was damaged when it unexpectedly hit metal pipes last year. It has been stuck ever since.

Residents in one building on the square have noticed their doors are now catching the floor. The cause of the sinking is likely from the repair efforts for the TBM which involved digging a 12-story deep pit and pumping out groundwater, which might have caused unexpected ground settlement.

Uber sued over unlawful business practices; Lyft settles (L.A. Times)

Another chapter in the ride-share company saga. Uber gets the spotlight again since its competitor Lyft has already settled and vowed to “play by the rules.” For Uber this time it’s a consumer protection lawsuit filed by the L.A. and S.F district attorneys alleging the company is misleading its customers about the extent of driver background checks, among other issues. The lawsuit is not expected to affect Uber’s operations in California.

The definitive list of foods that are OK to eat on the subway (Thrillist)

You won’t believe what this list includes! Okay, sorry about the click-bait, but the point here is spot-on.

See America’s streetcar systems at scale (Greater Greater Washington)

Cool graphic compares America’s 19 streetcar systems. Philly, New Orleans and Portland appear to have the most extensive systems in these early days of the 21st century.

6 replies

  1. You’ve missed the point: the article isn’t about laws, it’s about manners. It certainly wasn’t about L.A., the subway pictured is an NYC train and the url starts with (as far as I know, NYC does not restrict eating or drinking on the subway).

    To continue off-topic, SEPTA’s guidelines seem pretty reasonable, but are they any more enforceable or obeyed than Metro’s more stringent ones? Does no one ever spill coffee from a travel mug or a Starbucks cup while in a moving vehicle?

    Cleaning the cars costs taxpayer money (fares don’t cover it), so this seems like a reasonable domain for rules and regulation. It is not regulating “people’s lives,” except in the broadest and most meaningless sense. It’s regulating what is allowed in a specific space owned and operated by the regulating body. Whether the regulations are too strict is another question entirely, but you seem to be implying that any rule more restrictive than your personal ideal is some form of tyranny.

    • “Cleaning the cars costs taxpayer money (fares don’t cover it), so this seems like a reasonable domain for rules and regulation. ”

      Rules and regulations are meaningless when it’s already in place and it still is dirty.

      It’s not hard to understand this.

      1. Metro already has a no drinking/no eating policy
      2. Metro trains and buses are still dirty
      3. Taxpayer dollars are already being used today to clean the trains and buses regardless of (1) exists or not

      You can’t place more restrictions and rules on (1) either. What, are you going to put people in jail over a bottled water? Put handcuffs on do a choke hold on someone who is eating carrot sticks?

      The better thing to do is to start easing the restrictions on (1). Canned drinks are a no-no, but bottled drinks with twist on caps are ok. Don’t eat a tacos or kimchi, but ease up on lunchables or an apple. And take your trash with you.

      You can’t expect everyone in this 10 million population county to follow the same standardized code of manners. Besides, this is the country of over-zealous ugly-American stereotypical individualism with “I don’t care what other people think of me, I do what I want because I feel like it!” You’re never, ever, gonna get 100% compliance with the way Americans are. If you believe so, you’re living in a dream world.

  2. I think Mr. Johnson is a bit too restrictive in his definition of what constitutes a “streetcar.” Particularly where San Francisco is concerned: he only considers the F line to be a “streetcar.” Even though the J, K, L, M, and N lines all include large segments of street running, in lanes shared with automobile traffic, with stops that are sometimes nothing more than a yellow stripe across the tracks. Even though the new T line uses the same rolling stock, movable boarding stairs (to serve both high-platform and no-platform stops) and all. Even though the locals call them streetcars.

    Not to mention the Cable Cars, which are most definitely still used by the locals, for transportation (just not so much during the hours when they’re choked with joyriding tourists paying almost half the cost of day-passes for one-way tickets).

    A trolley is a trolley is a trolley. If it runs on rails, is powered by overhead wires, and runs through city streets, it’s a trolley. (And if it’s a touristy bus, decorated to look like a cable car, but having neither rails nor overhead wires, then it’s NOT a trolley, no matter WHAT the operating company says it is!) At least San Diego (which Mr. Johnson seems to have missed, along with Sacramento) has the sense to officially call a trolley a trolley.

  3. You can’t eat or drink anything on the subway. Period.

    Or so they say. Because guess what? People still do it anyway. No one cares. It’s never enforced, it can’t be enforced, just like catching freeloaders with the faith of the honor system, so why bother with it?

    So what happens if you do get caught eating? Absolutely nothing. You get a fine. A fine that if you don’t pay, nothing happens. Or what, is this a criminal act akin to murder and rape and will be put into our already over-crowded jail system? Will cops come and start doing a choke hold on me for this like Eric Garner?

    Please. Enough with the stupid over-reaching government regulations and laws. We’re getting sick and tired of it. The article is meant to be funny, it’s not. All it showcases is how stupid and arcane our laws and regulations are.

    People need to eat, People need to drink. Should we say you can’t breathe onboard the subway? You can’t regulate everything.

    • Before these regulations people were brought up to have consideration and manners. Not that I appreciate someone with fresh onion breath in my face, but dropping food or spilling drinks can and does cause sanitation problems. My last evening Metro bus trip I kept busy by squishing cockroaches, glad I don’t have That clean up job at the District yard.

      • Mike,

        You actually outlined my point exactly.

        Metro already has a no eating/drinking policy. No one follows it, it’s not enforced, and it can’t be enforced, and it’s already unsanitary, despite the regulations in place. So what else do we do? Nothing can be done about it. If you put everybody in jail for the smallest of things, all it does is overcrowd our jails, and it costs taxpayers over $50,000 per person in jail.

        We cannot regulate every aspect of people’s lives. And you can’t expect everyone to have consideration and manners. It’s a fact of human life. Slobs will always be slobs no matter what regulation is put into place. On the other hand, considerate people will be considerate people regardless whether they drink or eat on Metro. Look at Metrolink for example. You can eat and drink onboard Metrolink because there’s no restriction against it on Metrolink. Yet, Metrolink is still clean. Are there slobs on Metrolink? Of course. But the vast majority aren’t.

        The better thing to do is then is to get ease the regulations and let the people eat and drink, but have them take their trash with them. That’s what considerate people will do.

        Another idea would be to ease the regulations and allow certain types of drinks and food, like what SEPTA in Philadelphia allows:

        The program was introduced SEPTA’s General Manager

        I think Metro can learn a lot from SEPTA’s general guidelines than banning everything.

        1. Drink only from containers with sturdy, resealable lids. No open containers or cans
        2. Cooked or prepared foods don’t mix with transit travel
        3. Take your meal home to eat
        4. Light, small snacks are OK. No trash please
        5. Keep SEPTA clean. Dispose of trash and recyclables properly

        It makes sense. All drinks and food shouldn’t be banned. There’s a difference between a can of beer versus a bottled water. There’s a difference between a cup of coffee versus a coffee in a travel mug. There’s a difference between a Big Mac and carrot sticks. There can be some ease of restrictions.