What are the Strong Tramway Corridors?

Note on definitions: for the purposes of this post, a tramway is a light rail line that runs predominantly on streets, interfacing with cross-traffic even if it has signal priority. It can be a legacy streetcar in mixed traffic, or a newer light rail line running on dedicated lanes. It is distinguished from lines that have substantial grade-separated segments, including subway-surface lines, where these segments are in city center while the suburban segments are in tramway mode, and tram-trains and most North American light rail lines, where these segments are in the suburbs while the city-center segments are in tramway mode.

Intermediate in capacity between the surface bus and the rapid transit train is the tram. Running on the street, perhaps with signal priority but without the absolute priority that mainline trains have at grade crossings, trams are still surface transit, but feature better ride quality, generally higher capacity in terms of vehicles per hour, and generally bigger vehicles. A number of cities have been building such transit in recent years, most notably Paris, which has been making the rounds on the Transit Center for having almost a million daily riders on its system. The Transit Center gives various recommendations based on Paris’s success, but those recommendations – frequency, fare integration, good transfers – say very little about where a city should be building tramway lines. In this post, I am going to sketch features of good corridors for tramways.

1. Tramways are surface transit

There are various features that make for good surface transit routes. Jarrett Walker, who has extensive experience in bus network redesigns, outlined some of them in a network design document he collaborated on for TransLink. These include high density along the route, relatively balanced demand in both directions, and the potential for a strong everywhere-to-everywhere grid. Additional important features of strong bus routes: a single street with few twists, since turns slow down surface vehicles a lot, and swerving to reach major destinations is often cumbersome; and a wide street, since in practice few cities will give transit dedicated lanes if there’s not enough room for cars as well. These rules do not apply to subways, which can zigzag between different streets or carve a new alignment. However, they do apply to tramways.

2. The strongest bus corridors are in most need of investment

In a city where the buses that can support high frequency already are frequent, the highest potential for extra ridership is on routes that are already strong. Imagine a bus that averages 15 km/h: replacing it with a 20 km/h tram that provides a smoother and more reliable ride has benefits in rough proportion to existing bus ridership. Since both buses and trams are surface transit and follow the same rules, it’s unlikely that there are routes that would make good trams but poor buses. This is in stark contrast with subways, where a potentially strong corridor may not have a continuous surface right-of-way for high bus ridership. On the surface, this corridor could not succeed as either a bus or a tram. This is a specification of the BMT’s all four concept (bus, trolleybus, tramway, subway), in which the four modes work in complement, and the busiest routes in each category are upgraded to the next based on a tradeoff between construction costs and operating costs.

3. In a city with subways, the tramways should be placed on routes that would make poor subway corridors

It goes without saying that tramways should not duplicate subways. But more than that, if a bus route is so strong that it’s a potential subway extension, it should not be turned into a tram. At first pass, this may look like the best bus routes to be turned into trams are not quite the busiest, but the next tier of busier buses. However, this has to do not just with ridership, but also layout relative to the subway system. The subway is almost invariably radial, so strong buses that make easy radials or branches of radials would be strong subway routes, while circumferential buses would not. A radial bus may also turn out to be a poor subway route, if it happens to point in a direction where a subway wouldn’t be a good fit, but this is less likely.

4. A connected network is beneficial, but not required

Ideally, all light rail routes – not just tramways, but also subway-surface routes and tram-trains if they exist – should form a connected graph, with track connections, to enable maximum flexibility in yard placement and reduce the required spare ratio. However, this is not a requirement. Large, busy systems in particular may economically have a yard serving just 1-2 lines, in which case the value of connectedness decreases. In conjunction with point #3, cities with large radial subway networks may have disconnected circumferential tramways, including Paris.

5. When there’s a choice between several tramways and a subway, tramways work better when there’s no dominant route

The construction cost of a subway, in developed countries that are not the US, is $100-300 million per km, with outliers outside the range in both directions. The construction cost of a tramway in the same countries is $15-50 million per km, again, with outliers. The choice of whether to build one subway or six tramways depends on how busy the strongest route is relative to the next five routes. If two strong bus routes are closely parallel, then both should be reckoned together for subway ridership estimates (and to some extent also for tram ridership), since people walk longer to better service, in this case a fast subway rather than a slow bus. Another consideration, more about construction costs than ridership, is whether there exists a good right-of-way for the subway, perhaps an abandoned or low-ridership commuter line that can be converted, that would make it possible to limit tunneling.

Examples

Boston has few long, wide roads; Massachusetts Avenue is one of very few exceptions. Downtown Boston and the surrounding neighborhoods have very narrow streets, which is why the Boston bus network is sparse downtown – the buses feed outlying subway stations, or stop at the edge of the central business district at Haymarket, and almost never enter the downtown core. Because of the Green Line, some strong radial routes, such as the Washington Street half of the Silver Line, and the 23 bus on Blue Hill Avenue, are naturally good extensions of the subway-surface network; they’d make good light rail, but not all-surface tramways.

In strongly gridded cities, including Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto, and Los Angeles, it doesn’t make too much sense to build individual tramways; instead, the entire frequent bus grid could be so upgraded, or possibly just the lines that are perpendicular to the rapid transit system in Chicago and Toronto. Unfortunately, this runs into high construction costs, which leads to questions of priorities: build an expansive light rail network, or extend a few subway lines.

I believe Los Angeles and Vancouver are doing right in choosing to prioritize subways on their strongest corridors. Vancouver in particular is an extreme example of point #5 pointing toward a subway, with 80,000 weekday riders on Broadway and another 40,000 on the routes interlining on 4th Avenue 500 meters away (not all on 4th, as two of the four 4th Avenue routes have substantial tails elsewhere), compared with 110,000 on the next five routes combined; Vancouver also seems to have an unusually low subway-to-tram cost ratio, only about 2.7 rather than 6. Los Angeles has a less extreme version of point #5, but Wilshire and very close-by routes dominate east-west traffic, and can also easily feed into the existing subway.

In Chicago, the circumferential nature of the top bus routes – north-south west of the Loop, east-west north and south of it – makes an L extension infeasible, so from point #3, any solution has to involve surface transit. The current plan is dedicated bus lanes. In Toronto this decision is more difficult, and acrid debates between a mostly-surface option and an all-underground option led to the latter choice, influenced by Rob Ford’s unwillingness to take road lanes from cars; right now Toronto is building one subway line (update: it’s mixed subway-surface), under Eglinton, and one tramway, on Finch West.

New York

In New York, Bill de Blasio proposed a tram route near the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront earlier this year; see background articles here and here. This route is ill-suited for the technology proposed, or for any significant investment. The buses along the waterfront are all quite weak. In both Brooklyn and Queens, the busiest buses are in the interior, some going perpendicular to the subway, such as the Q44 on Main Street and B35 on Church, and some serving radial routes that have long been planned to be subway extensions, namely the B46 on Utica and B44 on Nostrand. Select Bus Service investments have targeted these routes, and now the Q44, B44, and most recently the B46 all have SBS features.

Another weakness of the proposed route is that it subtly combines circumferential and radial service; see here for why this is poor practice. While the line is for the most part straight, the north-south segment in Queens is essentially radial, going from Astoria to Long Island City, parallel to the N/Q subways, before switching to circumferential between Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn. South of Downtown Brooklyn it becomes radial again, connecting to Red Hook and Sunset Park. Riders in Astoria going south are mostly interested in continuing toward Manhattan and not toward Brooklyn; riders in Sunset Park and Red Hook going north would first of all follow different routes (Sunset Park already has the N and R subways and has no use for a detour through Red Hook), and second of all be more interested in going to Manhattan than to Williamsburg and points north.

While de Blasio’s proposal is bad transit, there are routes in New York that could make strong tramways. None of them is on the city’s redevelopment agenda, based on the principle that US cities almost never invest in low- and lower-middle-income neighborhoods except when they are about to gentrify, but the bus ridership there is solid, even though the buses crawl.

The busiest routes in New York are the M15 on 1st and 2nd Avenues in Manhattan, the B46, and the Bx12 on Fordham Road; each has been the single busiest in one of the last few years, but usually the M15 is first. The first two are strong subway routes: the first phase of Second Avenue Subway will soon open, and the rest will be built when the city can find multiple billions per kilometer for them; Utica is also a strong route, and de Blasio proposed it last year before abandoning the idea. But Fordham satisfies point #4 perfectly: it is circumferential, and can only realistically extend the A train, already the system’s longest route, with a mismatch in potential ridership between the core radial segment and what a Fordham subway would get. The Bx12 was the first route to be turned into SBS, and is either the strongest potential tramway in the city, or one of the few strongest.

Going further down the list, we should eliminate the strong Brooklyn routes, except the B41 on Flatbush. The B44 is also a potential subway extension, and the three busiest circumferentials – the B6, B35, and B82 – all parallel the Triboro right-of-way, which by point #5 is a superior project to building multiple light rail lines. The busiest bus in Queens, the Q58, has a long segment between Queens and Brooklyn, about half its total length, that would be obviated by Triboro as well.

The B41 could be a tramway going between City Hall and Kings Plaza, using two dedicated lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge. In that case, the line would effectively act as subway-surface, or more accurately elevated-surface: a surface segment in Brooklyn, a grade-separated segment between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Subway-surface lines should branch, as all current examples do (e.g. Boston Green Line, Muni Metro, Frankfurt U-Bahn), because the subway component has much higher capacity than the surface components. This suggests one or two additional routes in Brooklyn, which do not have strong buses, but may turn into strong tramways because of the fast connection across the river to Manhattan. The first is toward Red Hook, which is not served by the subway and cut off from the rest of the city by the Gowanus Expressway. Unfortunately, there is no really strong corridor for it – the streets are not very wide, and the best for intermediate ridership in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens require additional twists to get into the core of Red Hook. Court Street might be the best compromise, but is annoyingly a block away from the F/G trains, almost but not quite meeting for a transfer. The second possible route is along Flushing Avenue toward the Navy Yard; it’s not a strong bus by itself, but the possibility of direct service to Manhattan, if a Flatbush tramway preexists, may justify it.

In the Bronx and Queens, a more conventional network is called for. The Bronx in particular has several strong bus lines forming a good grid, in addition to the Bx12. The east-west routes cannot possibly be made into subway extensions, while the north-south ones have nowhere to go to in Manhattan except possibly a Second Avenue Subway extension, and even that is doubtful (if there’s money to extend Second Avenue Subway north, it should instead go west under 125th Street). A light rail grid could consist of the Bx12 as outlined above, a Tremont line acting as a compromise between the Bx36 and Bx40/42 feeding into Manhattan on 181st Street, a 161st/163rd Street route going into Manhattan on 155th Street replacing the Bx6, a Southern/Manhattan 145th Street route along the Bx19, a Third Avenue route along the Bx15, and a Grand Concourse route along the Bx1/2. Grand Concourse has a subway, but the Bx1/2 nonetheless currently ranks 5th in the city in weekday ridership, and the street is so wide that it’s a good candidate for light rail. Update: a Webster Avenue route along the Bx41 is also feasible, I just forgot it when writing this post.

In Queens, there’s less room for a grid. Main Street is a strong route, connecting to Tremont in the Bronx via the Whitestone Bridge, as the Q44 SBS already does today. A second route between Flushing and Jamaica, on Kissena and Parsons, could also get a tramway. These two routes are uniquely bad subways, since they connect two busy subway lines, both of which could be extended past their termini outward. The main route on Kissena, the Q25, and another route slightly farther east, the Q65, rank 3rd and 2nd among the MTA buses, separate from the New York City Transit buses, with about 20,000 weekday riders each; they also continue north to College Point, which could get a tramway, or perhaps even a subway extension of the 7, depending on whether there are plans to redevelop the Flushing Airport site.

If there is not enough ridership on both Kissena and Main, then only Main should be turned into light rail. More potential corridors include the Q46 on Union Turnpike and the Q10 on Lefferts going to JFK (the busiest MTA bus). Unfortunately, Queens buses tend to be on the long side, e.g. the Q27, the borough’s number 3 bus after the Q58 and Q46, is 15 km long; in the Bronx the longest, Tremont, would be 13 km, cobbled out of busier buses, and most are about 10 km. The Q44 is even longer, at 20 km; light rail is only justified there because of extra local ridership coming from the Q20 local and from the fact that the Queens-Bronx segment over the bridge would be rapid transit. Even then, the tramway may only be justified from Flushing south.

I don’t want to make recommendations for priorities and an exact fantasy map in New York, as those depend on construction costs and the available budget. Fordham and Main Street are most likely the two strongest initial choices. Judging by the cost estimate for de Blasio’s waterfront proposal, tramways in New York are about $60-70 million per km, which in an inverse of the situation in Vancouver leads to an unusually high subway : tram cost ratio, 25 if we take the Manhattan subway extensions (Second Avenue and the 7 extension) as our examples, probably less but not much less if we look at a hypothetical Utica subway. This should bias New York rail extensions toward surface transit.

De Blasio proposed $1.5 billion for about 25 km of tramway on the waterfront. The waterfront idea is bad, and money can and should go elsewhere; 25 km is slightly longer than the combined length of the Bx12 and the B46 from Flushing south. Those two together could be the start of a program to bring surface rail back to New York, using the same routing reasoning that made Paris’s program so successful. Using ridership on the existing buses and adjusting upward for rail bias, initial ridership on those two lines combined should be higher than 100,000 per day, and with more lines and a bigger network, fast multiplication of overall traffic can be expected.

33 comments

  1. Stephen Smith

    It goes without saying that tramways should not duplicate subways.

    A good tramway could partially duplicate a subway, with the M14 in Manhattan (crosstown on 14th St. and then north-south on Ave. A and Ave. D) as the obvious example.

    • Alon Levy

      That’s because of 14+D, which doesn’t duplicate the subway.

      Grand Concourse is more interesting, because it does duplicate, but the road is so wide… QB is similar, but it doesn’t have the Concourse’s bus ridership.

  2. Jonathan English

    Very good analysis.

    One quibble is that Ford’s all-underground plan for Eglinton was defeated and the plan to run one third in the street median was restored. That’s what’s now being built: a parially underground, partially median LRT.

  3. michael.r.james

    Good points.
    I must admit I have been a bit surprised at just how popular the Paris tramways have been, but when you see the route plan and the interconnections, it begins to make sense. I had not previously seen the comprehensive plan as in that link you gave (plan_des_Tramways) which so graphically illustrates that >95% of route-km are circumferential (the main exception is T7 which in effect is an extension of Metro line 7 that terminates at Villejuif Louis Aragon, my old stop for my work at the Villejuif cancer hospital-research complex). The large numbers of pax that adopted the trams immediately they began service shows what a useful role they play in plugging the deficiency and inefficiencies of radial Metro services.

    It takes just a few seconds looking at the RATP map to see why the Paris trams are so useful. In Paris’s hub-and-spoke transit network, they are the rim of the wheel, connecting the ends of Metro and RER lines in far-flung parts of the region. All nine lines offer at least two stations that connect to other modes of transit. Some offer many more: (table).
    It’s not just, as the map implies, that the tram lines travel near other transit stations. In most instances, the streets and stations are designed to make the connection as smooth as possible. Here, for example, is the T1 tram where it meets the M7 Metro line at the La Courneuve station in Aubervilliers. The stairs to the underground Metro platform deposit riders right at the tram: (picture)

    My own return work-route is an example, as it involved three Metro lines, with an incursion deeper into Paris than necessary just to use the only circumferential line M6 (south, M2 north) for a few stops then another radial line to go back out. Today one could use T3a that would take me from the first Metro line to my “front door” at Cité Universitaire. I don’t know if there was a bus doing the T3a route; probably but some of us just hate waiting around for buses, especially late at night when returning dog-tired from a long day’s work … it was only 1.6 km which I would walk during daytime but was too tired/lazy to do late at night. Besides a lot of people won’t walk such distances and T3a circumnavigates Paris so will serve very large numbers of people both within Paris and in the immediate Petite Couronnes suburbs. Note that T3a is on the Boulevards des Maréchaux (named for notable army Generals) that forms a ring road; Paris was lucky to have delayed building on its old city walls because this broad swathe of ca. 400m width was used for the ring-freeway (Blvd Peripherique), many sporting facilities & stadia, in some places social housing (HLMs), the Cité Universitaire residential campus, plus on the innermost section these Boulevards des Maréchaux which are broad streets that have allowed much Greenscaping to be done in conjunction with the construction of the tramways.

    I am less familiar with NYC but I am sure Alon is correct in his analyses. The only thing I would add (though perhaps it is implied) is that cities that are not as developed as NYC or Paris, ie. without their existing dense radial Metro lines, should be nevertheless be learning from these examples. That is, tramways by themselves will rarely be a substitute for Metro (or RER) which have unimpeded routes and can do the very heavy lifting on their mostly radial routes. For example while T3a carries about 30m pax p.a., there is a limit to how much they can carry and it will never approach what Metro lines carry (Paris M1 carries ≈220m; M7 ≈120m). Transport planners may be tempted, but need to resist, hoping they can cater for all transport needs of a big and growing city solely by cheaper tramways or BRT. In this context it is worth pointing out that Paris also has planned new Metros in its suburbs, notably the circumferential M15, M16 & M18 (essentially on the border regions of the Petite/inner and Grande/outer couronnes) plus big expansion of the RER lines as part of the ambitious Metropole Grand Paris plan for the Ile de France greater Paris region. In other words they need proper fully-integrated urban planning, not just ad hoc tramways to relieve a transport system under strain.

  4. anonymouse

    The “all four” philosophy was also adopted in the USSR, and you can the results of that in the map of the surviving tram lines in Moscow. The extensive network of radial lines slowly got mostly-replaced by Metro lines, and to the extent that the Metro lines parallel major arterials, the surface transit is mostly provided by trolleybuses rather than trams. The tram lines that survive are either circumferential, or radials that either fill in the gaps between Metro lines or provide branches off the Metro lines since Metro planning heavily disfavors branching for operational reasons. It’ll be interesting to see how the circumferential tram lines fare with the opening of passenger service on the Inner Ring Railway.
    A similar approach could work well in Boston: Blue Hill Avenue as a subway-surface route, and the crosstown bus lines (1 and 66, mostly) filling in the gaps where there’s not enough demand for full rapid transit.

  5. Positroll

    I wonder: how does Stuttgart fit your model? It doesn’t have a real Metro. Instead, in the inner city most of the S-Bahn and “Stadtbahn” (light rail) lines are underground, with both systems combined working like an Ersatz-Metro system.
    S-Bahn links the center it to the suburbs and commuter towns, Stadtbahn covers most of the city proper.
    Most users are pretty happy with it afaik …
    http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/de/s/stuttgart.htm

    • Alon Levy

      Stuttgart is subway-surface, like Frankfurt, the Boston Green Line, and SF Muni Metro. A central underground line splits into multiple surface branches.

    • Oreg Meyer

      Happy with mass transit in Stuttgart? Really?
      A notoriously unreliable S-Bahn (even worse since they started building Stuttgart 21), an inefficiently routed Stadtbahn, crawling buses, all with low frequency. Add frequently missed connections in the suburbs and that the system does not even extend to nearby Tübingen. It always felt like it takes forever to get anywhere. I found it frustrating.

  6. John

    I’m curious what you think about the Hong Kong tramway, which runs along very congested streets on a corridor that’s almost entirely duplicated by the Island Line, but still manages surprisingly good ridership. Is it just that demand on Hong Kong Island is so insane?

    • michael.r.james

      It does still have good ridership: HK Trams have 200,000 riders per day though nothing like the MTR with 5.1m. It remains very convenient because it runs the entire length of the business district along the southern side of the harbour–and due to the mountains this is essentially a linear city from Sheung Wan to Central, Wanchai and Causeway Bay. People can jump on and off it more or less at will, like the way you used to be able to do on London’s old double-decker buses (with their open rear platforms; squashed today by OHS rules).
      And some sentimentality as it was Hong Kong Island’s first mass transit beginning 1904.

      In fact on most visits to HK I like to take the tram its full length. Great ride especially from front of the top deck. Take it to its eastern terminus at Shau Kei Wan where you can take the No 73 bus via the scenic route (it goes thru forest and over the top of the Tai Tam Tuk reservoir) to Stanley at the SE of HK island. (I do it as a round trip, back via Repulse Bay and Aberdeen then Central; or make it a day trip across to Lamma Island from the Aberdeen ferry …).

      Here’s a bit of info on its operation:

      The [HK] system is privately run by a French operator and does not receive any money from the local government, unlike in New York City … The tram operator, Veolia Transport, has enough confidence in the trams’ place in Hong Kong that it is investing roughly $20 million to update the system, mainly with more durable aluminum cars to replace the old wooden ones.

      From:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/world/asia/trams-slow-and-sweaty-draw-riders-despite-modern-subways-prowling-below.htm
      HONG KONG JOURNAL
      Modern Subways Zip Below, but a City’s Trams, Slow and Sweaty, Plod On
      By GERRY MULLANY, October 14, 2013

      • threestationsquare

        > it was Hong Kong Island’s first mass transit beginning 1904.
        Sorry to nitpick, but aren’t the Peak Tram and Star Ferry (both from 1888) technically older mass transit?

  7. rewenzo

    Alon, shouldn’t 125th street be a good line for a tram, as opposed to a subway, given that it is circumferential and that there is no natural right of way for a subway to be constructed beneath it? A second avenue subway that turned west to cut across Manhattan would also seem to run afoul of your preference against mixed circumferential/radial lines.

    • Alon Levy

      SAS is already planned to go west under 125th to Lex, so there’s a natural ROW, namely, having it continue going west.

      As for mixing radial and circumferential lines, it’s not the same, because in this case, the circumferential part of the line is farther out than the radial part. In other words, people who want a radial can just take the line from 125th/Lex to points south, and go to either Second Avenue in Midtown or Times Square.

      • Eric

        Ah, that’s something you should make clear – you only object to mixing radial and circumferential lines when the radial part is further out. Finally this opinion of yours makes sense.

  8. Brendan Dawe

    So what would be your call for a tramway in Vancouver, assuming something closer to world cost could be achieved? I’ve always thought that a route like the 20 Victoria would be a good candidate, as it’s more of a circumferential route, serving high demand neighborhoods. What about any of the fairly busy crosstown routes, like 41st Avenue?

    • Alon Levy

      I’m not sure Vancouver has any good tramway corridor, to be honest. The 20 on Commercial and Victoria might be one, and so could Hastings. The others just don’t have the ridership. The dropoff in ridership below Broadway is steep; the 41 has 25,000 weekday riders, which on a 16-km route is really not a lot. Other than Broadway, rail construction in the Vancouver area has to be justified on future TOD and not current ridership, and future TOD isn’t great for a tramway network. If it’s point-based, as on the Expo Line, it works best with SkyTrain. If Vancouver decides to stop prostrating itself in front of the Shaughnessy snobs and upzone single-family neighborhoods, then a frequent bus grid will still probably work better than a tramway network.

      • Brendan Dawe

        Such corridors don’t drop off as fast if you’re reckoning whole corridor ridership for Hastings(+Powell/Cordova) and 41st (+49th, 800 m south)

        • Alon Levy

          Hastings is indeed very strong. 41st is murkier – the eastern anchors of 41st and 49th, Joyce and Metrotown, are farther apart, and at the speed of surface transit, even 800 meters isn’t enough for substitution. To put things in perspective, the very fast rapid buses on 4th Avenue (30 km/h from Burrard to UBC) and Broadway (20 km/h on the 99-B) are imperfect substitutes, 500 meters apart.

        • Brendan Dawe

          I know Translink (and heavily implied by Victoria) thinks that they are negative-value propositions, though Levy noted high projected construction costs

  9. Alex

    What about the major cross-town bus routes in Manhattan? Arguably the ridership would be much higher as tramways, rather than as ridiculously slow bus lines.

    • Alon Levy

      Good question! For those routes, it depends on whether they can get dedicated lanes. If they can’t, then tramways are worse than buses, because they can’t get around stopped cars. This is especially important on the M86, the single busiest route in the city per unit length, since to get from East 86th Street to the transverse across Central Park, it has to realign via 85th or 84th Street, both of which are excruciatingly slow in mixed traffic. Most likely, any solution involving dedicated lanes has to remove on-street parking. It’s possible for a six-lane street like 86th or 14th to have a parking lane, a moving car lane, and a bus/tramway lane in each direction, but then there’s no room for boarding curbs; at the very minimum, the parking spots near the bus/tramway stops would have to be removed, to let cars drive through them, and then turn the former car lane into the curb where passengers would board and disembark from the bus/tramway. On Odengatan, which is as wide as the two-way Manhattan streets, and has center bus lanes, there’s no on-street parking at all.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Use the center lanes. Boarding island on the east side of the intersection where the Avenue goes uptown and on the west side of the Avenue when it goes uptown. ( the left hand turn lane. ) Fencing at the curb to discourage boarding and alighting from cabs and private cars. I’m the sure the community boards will scream about the loss of a parking space or two. Too bad. Let the trolley cars use East Drive to get to 86th Street. I’m sure that would cause a lot of screaming too.
        Doors on the “wrong” side if it moves with traffic or run in the “wrong” direction in the center. I’m partial to wrong way running., It will discourage use of the lane by other vehicles.

      • Sascha Claus

        > »but then there’s no room for boarding curbs; at the very minimum, the parking spots near the bus/tramway stops would have to be removed, to let cars drive through them, and then turn the former car lane into the curb where passengers would board and disembark from the bus/tramway.«
        Why? There’s always room for a boarding curb, and passengers can board and disembark from the car lane:
        https://goo.gl/maps/XiNRzWQmzDk (including a “Pförtnerampel” – gatekeeping traffic light; and the tram tracks intended to be used by a bus route, too)
        Orleans, France (from tramway.at)
        If there are cars parked to the right, you have to ensure an unobstructed passage from the sidewalk onto the roadway wide enough for a wheelchair (and strollers) and enough space between cars that people can comfortable walk through. I don’t know of any real life examples of this, let alone pictures, but it shouldn’t be rocket science.

      • michael.r.james

        Alon Levy wrote:

        For those routes, it depends on whether they can get dedicated lanes. If they can’t, then tramways are worse than buses, because they can’t get around stopped cars.

        I am sure you have seen this, as it has been around for a year or two:

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/03/china-transit-explore-bus-road-straddling-test-drive-qinhuangdao-hebei
        Road-straddling bus takes first test drive in China
        Months after design was revealed Transit Explore Bus has inaugural run on test track in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province
        Alice Ross, Wednesday 3 August 2016
        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/03/china-transit-explore-bus-road-straddling-test-drive-qinhuangdao-hebei#img-1

        I’m thinking that this could be a solution to squeezing in circumferential tramways into existing urban areas. (Note, this thing is being called a bus but it is much more like a tram as it runs on fixed rails. And obviously can’t go off-piste at will. They should drop the “bus” moniker because that immediately poisons it for a lot of people!) The thing is that such tramways are being retrospectively inserted into crowded urban areas never planned for them. Though the road lobby might like them because they don’t impede car traffic and don’t steal road lanes, likewise PT planners should like them because congested roads (subject to various feasible problems) won’t stop these things either. (Well, they’ll have to have strong compliance with tall vehicles etc.)
        Here’s the big point:

        “The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space,” Song Youzhou, the project’s chief engineer, told Xinhua, China’s official news agency. He said the vehicle cost about a fifth as much as underground transit systems and could be constructed more quickly.
        Song said in May that the buses, which are 21 metres long and more than seven metres wide, could transport up to 1,400 passengers. Several units can be attached to one another. One TEB could replace 40 conventional buses, he said. It is not known how the system would coexist with lorries and taller vehicles.

        At any rate let’s hope the Chinese build a full operating system to see if the concept has any real-world legs. At first glance many of the worries about it seem little different to those concerning trams on crowded roads.

        • Sascha Claus

          > »(Well, they’ll have to have strong compliance with tall vehicles etc.)«
          That’s not that much different from any other overhead-wire-powered vehicle like ordinary tramways and trolley buses. Main difference is that the “bus’s” bumper will be a lot sturdier than the average catenary.

        • Murloc

          look at the pictures and notice that the straddle bus eats away almost 2 lanes as well due to its special rails, in addition to being powered with a third rail, and making it impossible for car drivers to turn unless they want to be smashed from behind by this thing.

          It also needs massive stations and has a massive weight due to structural issues, which has to be accelerated every time.

          This system is ridicolous and will die again, it was shot down once already.

  10. Pingback: Mixing Circumferential and Radial Transit in the Other Direction | Pedestrian Observations
  11. Nathanael

    FWIW all the streets in Boston which are long, and wide enough to secure a pair of lanes for trams…. used to have trams. Some still do, some don’t.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah… right now the biggest lacuna is Blue Hill, but the tram there ran in mixed traffic part of the way, in narrower segments of the street.

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