Filed under: Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Bus Rapid Transit, Mass Transit, NABI, Traffic, transit, Transportation, urban issues
Truth be told, I almost started this post with a lie. I almost said that I hadn’t ridden on a bus for more than two years. Not counting a ride on the bus that connects the commuter train in Baltimore with Thurgood Marshall BWI last November, my last transit bus ride was in August 2005 while home in New York. Much of the subway stations in lower Manhattan are still not accessible years after 9/11, so construction during weekends mean that surface routes are used to get from point A to point B. In my case, point B was the Staten Island Ferry. Having grown up with one of the nation’s larger bus systems, I am aware of many of the complaints that are logged against using buses. Birmingham residents would not have any of those complaints available to them if they choose to go with a bus designed and built in-state. They’d also be assisting with the economy while providing a taste of what 21st century transit could be like.
The Birmingham News ran this story on the appearance of the bus this morning.
Hybrid-fuel bus attracts attention, The Birmingham News, November 3, 2006
I was able to take part in the second demonstration route traveled by the NABI BRT60. The fact that it runs on rubber tires is the only major similarity to many conventional buses. For those that do the morning commute in cities like Chicago and New York, the amenities would resemble their subways and els more than their buses. One of the most notable differences is the existence of doors on both sides of the bus, allowing for them to run in dedicated lanes and allowing for passengers to get off the bus safely whether on a one-way or two-way street (never interacting with traffic). The bus is also much longer than a normal bus; 60 feet instead of 40. Bucket seats with LED displays overhead that could be used to inform passengers of traveling distances and next stops. Passengers would pay before getting on the bus, again operating more like commuter trains than buses. The rubber floors, low to the ground, and available WiFi access would provide creature comforts that are not even currently available on most systems. The best way to express all of this is to show it, thanks to Curtis.
Yesterday we provided links in the post to examples of other systems that are in existence, even if only in an experimental phase, around the country and the world. It’s definitely something to consider in addition to some of the other alternatives being examined. Based on comments printed in the News’ article and comments overheard during my ride on the bus yesterday, I’d say that the first impression is one that may finally change some people’s negative views of riding the bus. Transportation is key to the history of this city. We should embrace it as part of our strategy to renew it.
It would not be a Friday without mentioning a couple of things happening this weekend. My quest to take part in the Vulcan Run will come up quite short. At this point, I’m setting an extremely slow target date of the Cooper River Bridge Run in April in Charleston, SC. It was the first race I ever ran, so it would be appropriate for it to be the first one I do getting back in the swing of things. I’m still planning on braving the temps tomorrow morning as there are a few people I know that plan to run the race. Check out the website to learn some more about it.
Two other events that should be an interesting part of the weekend are the first annual Moss Rock Festival and Cosmos Pizza‘s 10th Anniversary celebration, both taking place Saturday. There’s also a chance that people may actually see a certain blogger play kickball on Sunday afternoon, though we’ll have to wait and see.
Enjoy the day.
Filed under: AL, Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Cities, Ensley, Mass Transit, Photographs, Random shots, Sustainable Development, The Ticker, Traffic, transit, Transportation, urban issues
Is a bus always just a bus?
If you find yourself downtown tomorrow near the Chamber of Commerce’s offices at 20th and 5th Avenue North, say around 11 a.m., you may notice a sight that is not normal for the region. If you miss it there, you might see a similar sight over at MAX‘s Central Station around 1:45 p.m. At first glance the sight of a bus would lead some of you to think I’m crazier than you already think (especially after yesterday’s post). That’s not the not normal part. The bus that will be there is one used for bus rapid transit, one of the newer types of transit systems being implemented in cities such as Los Angeles and Mexico City, Mexico. There are plans for a system like this to be implemented in Kansas City. At the end of the Wikipedia piece linked to earlier in the post, you will see a list of cities currently using or in the process of implementing a plan for use.
These systems are also used to augment existing systems in the world, providing faster speeds when compared to use as a limited stop service provider in areas like New York City. We’ve written before about some of the transit issues that face our region. It will be very interesting to see what the reaction is to the bus around town today as it is demonstrated as part of the In-Town Transit Partnership Project at the Regional Planning Commission.
New businesses thrive on the west side
There has been a great deal of activity in Ensley in recent months as the district begins to see reinvestment. One of the most recent projects to be completed is a new business located at 417 19th Street in the building formerly occupied by AJ’s Bargain Shop. It is now Recycled Wardrobe, an urban consignment shop specializing in current fashions. The work done on the interior of the space provides an excellent example of how properties can be restored and make an area come alive. Hopefully he is the first of many opportunities.
A lecture I attended at the library yesterday about the history of jazz in Ensley (presented by Karen Utz of Sloss Furnaces) makes me wonder about how the area will come back. It may also help you follow my train of thought in mentioning both of these items in today’s post. It is widely accepted that the trolley turnaround located in Tuxedo Junction helped make it one of, if not the, premiere entertainment location in the city of Birmingham. With the focus already beginning to fall on increasing the housing density, one hopes that one will look at transit as well. To keep the character of the area, perhaps one should look at a return to active bus service to the area, with parking left at the periphery. It will definitely help with the image of the area; just wondering if its still possible.
Enjoy the day.
Filed under: Architecture, Fordham Road, Mass Transit, New York, New York City, other cities, Photographs, Random shots, Sustainable Development, Target, The Rambles, Traffic, Transportation, urban issues, urban parks
It was definitely a much-needed trip home this past weekend. During the course of the next few days we’ll take a glimpse at the trip during the afternoon posts. I figured the best way to get back into this was by posting an image and having you guess where it is:
The answer’s on the other side of the jump…
Filed under: AL, Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Cities, Civic Engagement, Commentary, Mass Transit, News Media (as source & subject), other cities, Sustainable Development, The Rambles, transit, Transportation, urban issues
An article in yesterday’s Birmingham News spoke of an engineering plan that will call for a four-lane elevated toll road over U.S. 280. The plan was approved by the Progress 280 group with the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce yesterday, with public hearings to take place at the end of the month. Here’s the links to yesterday’s and today’s stories:
- Engineer to show plan for raised 280, The Birmingham News, 8.17.2006
- Skylane toll plan offers `bridge relief’ for U.S. 280, The Birmingham News, 8.18.2006
A conversation with a long time resident this morning has me wondering why people would be more willing to pay to drive on a road than pay to have the ability to get additional work done during their commute. I was reminded of the benefits of a transit commute by a recent editorial written by John Saxon to the Birmingham News about his experiences in Budapest. Here’s a cached link to his letter courtesy of Google. Here’s a cached link to a response that the newspaper published. It goes back to the idea of civic pride, but there’s something to be said about always selling yourselves short. Nothing will ever result. This is also where I remind people that we have not always depended on cars in this city; it once boasted the nation’s second largest streetcar system. Read on…
Filed under: Birmingham, AL, Civic Engagement, Commentary, Mass Transit, Photographs, Random shots, rpcgb, The Rambles, transit, Transportation, urban issues
Darrell Howard, the principal transportation planner for the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, was the keynote speaker at this morning’s ONB Monthly Breakfast. His presentation on the In-Town Transit Partnership Project was timely. A tractor trailer overturned this morning shutting down I-459, the main connector to the south between all of our major traffic arteries (I-20, I-59, U.S. 280 and U.S. 31). Despite the fact that a recent report says that we here in Birmingham have the 3rd highest amount of time spent commuting per capita in the nation and the fact that we average a 6-hour a day rush hour period, many of us got up and went to work this morning, some of us unable to avoid the gridlock. Many of us also never even had the thought of hopping on a bike or riding a bus enter our mind. It took our guest speaker more than an hour to do a trip that should take less than 20 minutes. So what are we to do? Or what are we willing to do to make it better?