Tag: Transit (page 2 of 2)

New Gilligs Now in Service

Two of CR Transit’s four new 35 ft. Gillig Lowfloor buses began their service life today on routes 1 and 2, in units 2092 and 2093, respectively. They were all supposed to be ready to go by today, but in the words of my afternoon bus driver, “you know how these things go…” These are the first brand new buses for Cedar Rapids in 15 years or so. Today is a good day for the future of CR Transit. Additional Gillig buses will be purchased over the next few years to further modernize the fleet.

Additional CR Transit bus photos on Flickr.

Planning for Better Transit

KCRG ran a story yesterday about possible route and service changes coming to Cedar Rapids Transit to make the system more convenient and efficient for citizens to use. Prompted by feedback from the Neighborhood Planning Process, the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization intends to study alternative route structures this summer, such as using Lindale and Westdale malls as hubs. The current “spoke and wheel” system, in which all routes originate from downtown, only works well if you are heading to or away from downtown. Another issue is frequency of service and limited hours of operation.

> KCRG: CR Bus System Could Get Overhaul

* UPDATE (6/23) *
The Corridor MPO has put out an RFP for a fixed route analysis of the Cedar Rapids Transit system. A consulting firm is to be selected by July 17, with the study completed by November of this year. The selected firm is expected to hold three open houses for the public and interested parties to provide input.

> Corridor MPO: RFP – CR Transit Fixed-Route System Study

CR Transit Goes Green

CR Transit maintains its presence at Lot 44 at 12th Ave SE and 2nd Street SE, for transfers and now dispatch. Trailers have been set up to provide an indoor waiting area with vending, public restrooms, and office for dispatchers.

Eight used 1992 TMC RTS buses were acquired in December and put in to service earlier this year – replacing buses lost in the flood. These buses debut the new green livery design and CR Transit branding. Older buses have not changed except the “CR Transit” lettering has been added to some of the newer Thomas Dennis SLF’s (but not all of them…?).

A few of the new RTS’s had bike racks installed, which was a previous plan to add bike racks to most of the bus fleet.

Four brand new 35 foot Gillig Lowfloor buses are due to arrive in April, an order unrelated to the floods. Additionally, CR Transit will be getting four new large buses and one medium duty bus with funding from the economic stimulus package.

See all new photos on Flickr.

Moonlight “A” schedule now online

CyRide has now published online the timetables for Moonlight Express Alpha (A) Shuttle. Previously the protocol for the late night weekend bus service, would be to call in to base for location and time of the fixed routes A – D. However, not everyone needing the bus on Friday and Saturday nights are drunk and are able to look up the bus schedule themselves. The schedule is only published until about 2am, even though service runs closer to 3am – this allows CyRide to adjust the schedule and service level as needed.

Timetables for Bravo (B) and Delta (D) shuttles, both serving Frederiksen Court, and Charlie (C Shuttle), serving Towers and Billy Sunday, remain unavailable to the public. Bravo and Delta alternate service to Frederiksen, providing continual 18 minute headways between Freddy and Campustown throughout the night. First campus-bound bus departs Freddy at 10:34pm, and then every 18 minutes after until end of service.

> Moonlight Express

CyRide News

The February issue of CyRide’s Signals newsletter includes a list of what they have requested with anticipated transit funding in the national economic stimulus package. A specific wish list has been determined early so once funds are allocated, CyRide will have a chance to get orders in ahead of larger transit agencies, with arrival times for new bus orders typically around 18 months. Included are:

> 10 – 40-foot Heavy-duty Diesel OR Hybrid Electric expansion buses
> 3 – MD Low-floor buses (Full funding to upgrade minibuses 949, 960,961 to MD low-floor buses)
> 3 – MD low-floor bus upgrade (Add funding for 859, 938,939 at MD status as opposed to LD)
> 13 – 40-foot Heavy-duty replacement buses (926, 927, 933, 934, 941, 942, 943, 967, 980, 981, 983, 985, 990)

It is a priority of CyRide to upgrade its fleet and keep up with increasing service demand. However, the garage is basically at capacity and the roof is too low to fit hybrid buses, except for a few newer lanes, part of more recent additions. With no more room to expand on site, a satellite garage is rumored to be CyRide’s next step in facility expansion. It will be interesting to see what happens if all or even part of CyRide’s capital requests are approved and they have addition buses arriving in the next two years.

Additionally, the Ames City Council approved $93,000 from local option sales tax revenue, for city-wide fare free service this summer. The vote passed 4-2, with council members Riad Mahayni and Jami Larson voting no. Mahayni, a former CRP professor of mine, was concerned with the fairness to ISU students who regularly ride for free, but pay for it through student fees. Larson wondered about the consequences of offering a one-time fare free period and the implications when the free service ends in the fall.

Ultimately I think the initiative will get some additional residents on the bus and maybe persuade a few to continue when fares resume. I had not considered the fairness to students issue before, but the opportunity to increase long term ridership and community support is probably worth it. For the summer, CyRide will be unique among Iowa public transit agencies in providing fare free service to all, excluding Cambus which is operated by the University of Iowa and does not extend service beyond campus.

> CyRdie Signals Newsletter

Cedar Rapids Transit fares to increase

The decision was made this week to raise transit fares in Cedar Rapids to help make up for the city budget shortfall caused by the summer flood and current economic situation. The Gazette’s Rick Smith reported on his city government blog that regular fares will rise to $1.25 from $1, and reduced fare will increase from 50 cents to 60 cents. There was a proposal to eliminate Saturday service, which averages only 1300 riders each weekend, but the City Council rejected that proposal. Fares provide only about 15 percent of the transit operating costs.

Inauguration Day Mobility in DC

Extraordinary transportation measures have been planned for this coming Tuesday’s Inauguration in Washington, DC, to facilitate the record crowd that is expected to pack the city of Washington for Barack Obama’s swearing-in and subsequent celebrations. Numerous bridges and streets will be closed to auto traffic. Metro, Metrobus, and transit agencies in Maryland and Virginia will be operating increased and addition service. Still with increased service, transit alone will not be able to accommodate everyone. Biking or walking will end up being the best mode for many. It will be interesting to watch the success of transportation / mobility planning while welcoming in our new president.

More details:

> WMATA Metro: Plans for Inauguration Weekend
> Washington Post Inauguration Watch: Transportation
> BeyondDC: [Inauguration Day bridge closings]
> Track Twenty-Nine: Metro Plans for 1.6 Million Riders

Downtown transfer returns

Cedar Rapids Transit will move it’s temporary transfer site Monday back to downtown at park-and-ride lots along the riverfront at 12th Avenue and 2nd Street SE. The current transfer site, set up at the corner of 4th Avenue and 12th Street SE when service resumed after the flood, is about ten blocks east of the downtown Ground Transportation Center, consequently causing on-time issues for west side routes. Routes serving the east side have been arriving at the endpoint about five minutes ahead of time while west side routes have been running behind schedule in the afternoons when ridership appears to be the heaviest. The return to downtown should allow buses to more easily maintain the regular schedule. This new temporary site is within a few blocks of the future intermodal transportation facility that is planned to house a new bus transfer station. Transit service continues fare free for now with hourly headways on all routes.

Post-flood transit, clean up begins

Transit service resumed today after being suspended since Thursday due to the historic flooding that has occurred in Cedar Rapids and the midwest. Since the GTC, about a block from the river, was right in the middle of the flood zone, a temporary on-street transfer site was set up at 4th Avenue and 12th Street SE. No revised maps or schedules have been made available yet, but additional transit staff were available at the transfer point to assist passengers. Only one bus was running on each route so service was hourly all day.

I am working with the Veterans Memorial Commission this summer, which takes care of the Veterans Memorial Building on Mays Island, which houses city hall offices. The basement and mezzanine levels were completely submerged by flood water pushed in from the attached underground parking garage. The first floor also had about two feet of standing water, completely ruining the auditorium floor and numerous artifacts in the Spanish American War Memorial Room that houses the VMC office.

I was back to work Tuesday, mostly picking up sandbags and debris at the police station, library, and public works as we aren’t able to do much work in City Hall until the water goes down. Today the downtown bridges were reopened to traffic and downtown was alive, getting right to work on cleaning up. I’ve heard it could take weeks to get power back to downtown so it will certainly be along time until it is back to normal. My hope is that downtown can comeback bigger and better than it was before. While the flood will inevitable hurt small shops and businesses the most, it appears the extensive damage could expedite some large projects planned for downtown.

According to a June 18, Gazette article, Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley want the federal government to move ahead with construction of the planned new federal courthouse, which has been continuously delayed for the past fifteen years, instead of spending time and money on repairs to the current facility which would be inadequate anyway. This seems like a sensible idea and then the current courthouse could be renovated right away into mixed-use as is planned by the City of Cedar Rapids when it is transferred ownership in exchanged for the land slated for the new courthouse at 8th Ave SE between the river and 2nd Street. The site will of course be elevated so the new courthouse will be above the 500 year flood plane.

Another project that could become even more of a priority is the planned intermodal transportation facility which has been changed a number of times over the past five to ten years of initial planning. Now slated for 3rd Street SE around 9th Ave SE, the facility would include a parking garage to replace the First Street Parkade along the riverfront that has reached the end of its useful lifetime. Small repairs and patches have kept it open in recent years but according to some parking guys I was working with on Tuesday, the flood waters more than likely put it in disrepair. Personally I don’t think downtown needs another parking garage and that there is plenty of parking already, but it’d be good to see this and other projects move forward.

Exploring Hyde Park

Like I said, I was in Chicago a week or so ago visiting Hyde Park for a transportation node project for studio. Our project site is centered around 57th Street and the Metra station so this is the area I spent the most time in. This area was largely residential with just a few cafes, small bookstores, and grocery stores. We were in the neighborhood both Sunday and Monday to see any variation between weekday and weekend activity.

Hyde Park encompasses the campus of the University of Chicago, the Robie House, and the Museum of Science and Industry along with great parkland along Lake Michigan that was the site of the “White City” for the 1893 Columbia Exposition. The neighborhood developed starting in the mid 1800s around the Illinois Central Railroad which is the present day Metra line.

57th Street between Kimbark and the Metra tracks is a nice mix of small businesses, town houses and apartments, a school and a small park with a playground. It felt like a perfect example of a good urban neighborhood. The days of visit were very cold so not many people were out and about. I was drawn to the block by the school and playground; across the street is a small strip of businesses including a bakery, small grocery store and a floral shop among others. Although 53rd Street a few blocks north has many more businesses, this block serves as a micro-center for the immediate blocks around it. The park and school act as a public gathering space and the shops provided daily amenities, surrounded by dense but comfortable townhouses and small apartment buildings.

The blocks around 57th Street were not very busy early Sunday afternoon. There were a few dog walkers here and there and some college student indulging in childhood fun at the park’s playground. The couple of cafes and restaurants on 57th were open for business as well as a charming used bookstore. While looking around at the bookstore a few UC students came in to look at the store’s random stock of used suite jackets. Two women stopped in for a few minutes but decided not to buy anything that day; evidently they were regulars.

Expecting bustling streets during the weekday, Monday came with a bit of a let down. 57th. Street was not packed with pedestrians, but businesses and the school were running as normal. Vehicular traffic was slightly higher when we arrived back in the neighborhood around 9am. A cyclist was locking up his bike to a sign post. A woman parked her car to patronize one of the local businesses. Recess time – school children took over the playground that UC students had occupied the day before. As I walked by the corner cafe it was full and alive with a range from business people to blue collar. Today’s activity was very routine – just another morning in the neighborhood.

I really enjoyed the small neighborhood park. It had many pathways leading into the playground with long wooden benches placed to the sides. The benches were not the most attractive and the paths were not pristine but they proved functional and usable. I would choose this charming active, but imperfect neighborhood park over a lifeless, perfectly landscaped suburban park any day.

The Metra tracks form a physical and psychological barrier between the dense neighborhood of Hyde Park to the west and the open park space to the east along Lake Michigan. Walking from the neighborhood through the 57th Street underpass was like the entrance to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House about 6 blocks away. Businesses and apartments were built up right against the Metra tracks. The overpass was dark and cool with multiple arcades of small arches and columns. The underpass is low and constricting, pushing one through the space. An opening above in the center provides relief, allowing some light in. On the east, one is released into the very open boulevard of Stony Island Avenue and Jackson Park. The monumental Museum of Science and Industry building can be seen beyond the park.

The Metra station and its overpasses over 56th and 57th streets are gritty and a little dirty. The platform provides wonderful views of the immediate blocks. It gives a glimpse into what the neighborhood might hold to a first time visitor like myself. A lot of trash and junk cars along the adjacent street give the impression that the neighborhood will be dirty and unkept. However that is not the case. The streetscaping and building facades along 57th and subsequent cross streets are pleasing and at an appropriate human scale. Homes and businesses open out to the sidewalk encouraging active streets and community interaction. Interestingly the implementation of a newer, modern townhouse project directly across the street from the Metra tracks challenges this common idea of where public activity should take place. Surrounding an interior courtyard, with garages facing the existing public street, these townhouse do not encourage the kind of street activity the older buildings and homes do. Many of the small garage and yard areas facing the street looked under-maintained and were scattered with litter. The whole area right around station felt barren and unwelcoming. I believe this is largely due to the orientation of these town houses.

The beauty of Hyde Park is in its diversity, of land uses and people. College students, life-long residents, rich and poor coexist in harmony here. The neighborhood’s massing and density benefits pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, while still providing relative convenience for those with private automobiles. The sidewalks are pleasant and safe to walk on. The streets are narrow enough to not overwhelm pedestrians and cyclists yet wide enough to provide parking in most places. Hyde Park is a great example of a vibrant, sustainable, urban neighborhood – the kind of place where I would love to live and raise a family someday.

See all my Hyde Park and Chicago photos here.

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