redesigning bus systems in la

This article has a lot going on. Especially things I have a great interest in.



First and foremost is bus network redesign. It seems it is a popular new strategy among cities, particularly Houston. Bus routes haven’t been reassessed in decades and urban forms and patterns have changed; cities are more multicentric. People reverse commute and people commute at odd hours. 


To redesign these networks, we now have Big Data. Cell phone data and smart card swipes can help us understand trip patterns even better. In Seattle, they used road sensors to understand automobile trips while they used ORCA card swipes and bus weights to understand bus passenger trips. This allowed them to tweak routes and schedules. 


Yet another aspect is Los Angeles’ relationship with public transit and automobiles. While the city is famous for being autocentric, this wasn’t always the case. The city was in fact built by an incredibly large streetcar system. The city was then retrofitted for the car. However, many rights of way for the streetcars still exist. Many wide boulevards used to have them running through the median. This leaves the possibility of rebuilding the system.


Rebuilding it doesn’t necessarily mean using rail again. Bus rapid transit in the form of the Orange Line has shown that we can use the cheaper bus option first. I have my own theory of transformation where we first start with bus rapid transit but build the infrastructure so that at a later date when ridership has gotten to the bus carrying capacity, we can then substitute rail. In fact, the Orange Line  was built for this and they are already planning to convert it to rail. It makes me also think of Seattle’s downtown transit tunnel, which allowed buses to ride through downtown but with the plan that eventually it would be rail. And this is already happening.


Finally, it talks about transit oriented development in the same fashion and how land use affects transit.


Basically this article is all over, not just about bus redesign but about urban design and public transportation. It raises very interesting questions about bus redesign, Big Data for transport planning, and bus rapid transit. It’s worth a read.