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Sun Nov 25, 2012, 10:46 AM

Why New York City has a second-tier bus system

from Capital:

Why New York City has a second-tier bus system

By Dana Rubinstein
11:07 am Nov. 20, 2012

By the evening after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, some New York City buses had starting running again.

The governor and mayor set aside special lanes on streets and bridges just for them. A bus caravan ferried commuters from downtown Brooklyn to Manhattan.

When the Queens Midtown, Brooklyn-Battery, and Holland tunnels reopened after the storm, they did so for buses first.

Granted, those buses were crowded, the lines to board them were long. But they moved. Buses—not subways or cars or bikes—were New York’s most resilient and reliable form of transportation after the storm. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2012/11/6620008/why-new-york-city-has-second-tier-bus-system?top-featured-image

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Reply Why New York City has a second-tier bus system (Original post)
marmar Nov 2012 OP
happyslug Nov 2012 #1

Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 11:04 PM

1. Pittsburgh had a solution to this problem in the 1960s


Last edited Mon Nov 26, 2012, 11:54 PM - Edit history (1)

Please note I am addressing the problem of over crowded buses that end up going very slow, NOT to problem that it takes weeks to fix a complex system like the New York Subway system.

My idea is a concept called "Skybus", a concept thought up in the 1960s, that would solve the problem of buses if used in a place like New York to supplement the Subways. In the case of Pittsburgh the technology was NOT quite there yet, thus in the 1960s the proposal had very few stops and its main purpose was to replace the last Streetcar Lines in Pittsburgh as opposed to actually improving transit.

For more on the Skybus debacle in Pittsburgh see:

Please note, Skybus lived on as a people mover in many airports. Seattle Airport was built by Westinghouse Electric (and rebuilt by Bombardier, who after several sales, owns the old Westinghouse Electric part that built Skybus).


You can see Skybus heritage at the San Francisco Airport:

Miami has a people mover in its downtown area:

The problem with "Skybus" (beside it was a failed attempt to get rid of the Streetcars in Pittsburgh, not because "Skybus" was better then the Streetcars, but it was the only way to get rid of the Streetcars on those routes) was "Skybus" was ahead of its time. In the 1960s something like Skybus could NOT operate with more then a minimal set of stops, given the computer technology of the time period (it was to be automatic, i.e. no driver). That is no longer the case, with modern computers a multi-stop system is possible.

As an elevated system, above the traffic, coming often and stopping at every stop on its route, Skybus could provide a fast way over the crowds. During the Pittsburgh Skybus fight, My Father liked Skybus between Downtown Pittsburgh and the Oakland section of town. Oakland is where the Universities are (Both the University of Pittsburgh, as while as Carnegie-Mellon and Carlow Collage). Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland are the Second and Third busiest transit stops in Pennsylvania (Downtown Philadelphia is #1) and thus an elevated automated system that comes every few minutes would be ideal between those two areas. The proposal never went anywhere for Skybus was to replace the last Streetcars NOT to replace buses.

A subway system with an automated elevated system on its own Right of way, would be faster then anything else in most high populated areas. The Subway system to express passengers out of the area to surrounding areas, something like Skybus moving people block to block.

People forget that three things tends to slow down transit:

1. Collecting the Fares, free Fares or off transit collection of fares can reduce this to almost nothing.

2. Auto Traffic, Skybus would travel over the Auto Traffic so not a problem for Skybus

3. Red-lights. A bus or a Streetcar on a public road (I will use the term bus, but I also include with that term Streetcars operating in traffic) tends to pick up passengers at intersections. Today, most such intersections have "Red lights" on them, especially in areas with a lot of people. In a typical bus the bus must wait for a red-light to turn green, to get up to the transit stop to pick up passengers. The reason the Light must be Green, is the intervening cars must get out of the way of the bus so the bus can get to the transit stop. Once at the transit stop, passengers enter the bus while the light is still green. By the time the passengers are on the bus, the light had generally already turned red, thus the bus has to wait for the red-light to turn green AGAIN (yes, most buses end up waiting through two red lights in high passenger volume areas).

Notice, with something like Skybus, the Red-lights are no longer a delay, the Skybus vehicle would go right up to the transit stop, pick up passengers, and then proceed, no need to wait for the light to change. In high passenger volume areas, it would be a good match with Subways and Light Rail Vehicles.

Skybus had some other advantages over Light Rail. First it can climb higher grades, for it had rubber tires which provides more traction (Light Rail has Steel Wheels on Steel Rails, which provides the least Resistance to movement, thus more energy efficient). Rubber tires tend not to have the same level of "Squeaking" as to rail (but this is more common with new rails, once they was worn down a bit the Squeaking goes down). On the other hand it is easier to make a rail vehicles stay on its tracks then a rubber tire vehicle (but that can be handle with computers AND hardware connecting the Skybus to its track via its power supply).

I have always like something like Skybus for areas with high population to feed to Light Rail systems, Subways or other rail system.

Side note: The term "Light rail" was invented in the late 1960s to make a common term for what the British call "Trams" and what we Americans call "Streetcars". The actual rail may be as heavy as used on traditional railroads, even while rated for much lower speeds or weights then similar rails used on traditional Railroads. The term "Light Rail" has NOTHING to do with the rail itself, it is the name for what use to be called, Trams, Streetcars, Trolleys etc.

More on Pittsburgh Skybus proposal of the 1960s:

Video of the Skybus system in operation on its experimental track in Allegheny County's South Park:

An old DU2 site on Skybus:

The 1967 "Study" on Skybus, that was later rejected by another, more detail study, in the mid 1970s:

More details on the old Pittsburgh Streetcars and the proposed replacement of them by "Skybus":

Skybus was a product of Westinghouse Electric Company, the transit part was sold off in 1989 to ABB, who in turn sold it off to ADTRANZ who in turn sold it to the Bombardier who presently runs rubber wheeled transit cars.

ABB: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABB_Group

ADTRANZ: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adtranz

Bombardier: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombardier_Transportation

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