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Ohio to test variable work-zone speed limit signs
Friday September 21, 2012 3:15 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio transportation officials say a new pilot program will use signs that reduce speed limits in some parts of construction zones while allowing traffic to travel at normal speeds elsewhere in those areas.

The Department of Transportation says the Variable Speed Limit program is meant to help protect workers and travelers while reducing congestion and crashes.

Signs with flashing beacons will light up to indicate reduced speed limits in parts of construction zones while workers are exposed to traffic. When workers are gone, the beacons will turn off.

The signs will be tested during road and bridge projects in Franklin, Lake, Lucas and Warren counties. The program is planned to go statewide next year.

ODOT says several other states use similar signs, but it’s a first for Ohio.

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Indiana uses these speed limit signs with flashing lights, and as a driver I think it’s nice to be able to continue at the normal speed limit when there are no workers present. However, there are also times when speed limits are reduced in construction zones because of temporary geometric changes (e.g., shorter tapers, narrower lanes). ODOT will have to be careful to let drivers know which zones require speed reductions at all times and which only require reduction when lights are flashing.

COTA has two interesting graphics which should help answer some questions as to what COTA is doing between now and 2016, the proposed start date of the Cleveland Avenue BRT route.

 

First, from the June 2012 Northeast Corridor Analysis presentation to the Board, COTA provided this timeline:

Within COTA’s most recent survey regarding the project, a Gantt chart includes additional work:

Click to enlarge

COTA is essentially done with the project until the Federal Transit Administration makes a determination on COTA’s application to the Very Small Starts grant which should be in early 2013. If approved, COTA ramps up design work in April 2013 and begins construction in July 2014 while concurrently acquiring and testing vehicles. Construction is planned to end June 30, 2016.

 

COTA held the January 2013 proposed service changes meeting on September 18. Most of the changes were proposed based on events happening.

Spring Street Bridge Re-Opens

  • #6 Mt. Vernon – Will eliminate the Broad Street detour and use the pre-construction alignment of Spring Street.
  • #11 St. Clair – Will eliminate the Broad Street detour and use the pre-construction alignment of Spring Street/Mt. Vernon.
  • #16 E. Long – Will eliminate the Broad Street detour and use the pre-construction alignment of Spring Street.

Dodridge Bridge Re-Opens

  • #7 Neil Avenue – Will eliminate the Lane Avenue detour and use the pre-construction alignment of Dodridge St.
  • #81 Hudson/Ohio – Will eliminate the Lane Avenue detour and use the pre-construction alignment of Dodridge St.

Hollywood Casino Planned Opening October 8

  • #6 Sullivant – In May 2013, the route will enter the Casino from the Georgesville Road entrance and eliminate the Shoppers Lane stop within Westland Mall area.
  • #10 W. Broad – In January 2013, the route will enter the Casino from Broad Street and eliminate the Shoppers Lane stops.
  • #222 W. Broad Casino (Friday and Saturday) – A limited stop service with late night service between the Arena District and the Casino.

Westview Turnaround (Graceland Shopping Center turn around replacement)

  • #2 N. High – Buses serving the Crosswoods Park and Ride will continue to stop at the Graceland Shopping Center. The other buses will not serve Graceland and will turn around at the Westview Turnaround.
  • #4 Indianola – Graceland Shopping Center stops are eliminated. Broad Meadows service is unaffected but all other routes will use the Westview Turnaround.
  • #95 Morse – Graceland Shopping Center stops are eliminated and the Westview Turnaround will be used as a replacement.

12th Avenue at OSU resumes 2-way travel in November

  • #7 Neil, #18 Kenny, #66 Hilliard / OSU, #80 OSU/Lennox, #82 Grandview/OSU – I’m unsure the previous detour but in November, routes will resume pre-construction alignments.

The remaining changes depend on future analysis:

Connection improvements

  • #4 Parsons Avenue and #9 Leonard/Brentnell have demand for improved peak-hour connections.

Bus Stop Improvement Project (no details on any stop removals, yet)

  • #9 Leonard/Brentnell
  • #16 E. Long / S. High
  • #87 Cassady


And finally, odds-and-ends:

  • 2013 Short-Range Transit Plan will be discussed in Public Meetings in mid-October
  • Delawanda Park and Ride expansion
  • Downtown High Street Shelters will be replaced in December and January
  • Implementation of High Street on-street parking is on-going.
  • Various changes to travel times to improve on-time performance.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has always been a somewhat ambiguous term, applied to everything from grade separated busways, to dedicated bus lanes, to limited stop buses with signal priority.  The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) is trying to help create standard classifications of BRT systems through the recent release of The BRT Standard.  The BRT Standard assigns points to various BRT characteristics (e.g., service, running way, stations, accessibility), and ultimately rates a service as one of four levels using a scorecard:

  • Gold =85 points or above
  • Silver = 70 to 84 points
  • Bronze =50 to 69 points
  • Other = Less than 50 points

To be rated Gold, Silver, or Bronze, the system also has to score at least 20 points out of 42 maximum in eight categories that comprise the “BRT Basics.” The table below shows how I have rated COTA’s proposed Cleveland Avenue BRT project based on the public information available and the BRT Standard scorecard. If my assumptions about anything are known to be wrong, please let me know and I’ll update.

Category Max Score Score Notes
Service Planning
*Off-board fare collection 7 0 Not included in project
Multiple routes 4 4 There will be three local routes (#1, #8, #9), five express routes (#27, #29, #35, #37, #40), one LINK route (#74), and the limited stop BRT route using the line.
Peak frequency 4 0 10 minute peak frequency for BRT route. Must be 7 minutes or better to score points.
Off-peak frequency 3 1 12 minute off-peak frequency for BRT route.
Express, limited, and local services 3 3 All three types of services
Control center 3 3 I believe COTA has a full-service control center, but do not know for sure.
Located in top ten corridors 2 2 Yes, I believe Cleveland Avenue is the second busiest corridor (after N. High Street)
Hours of operations 2 2 Yes, operates until midnight and operates on weekends.
Multi-corridor network 2 0 No BRT network planned at this time.
Infrastructure
*Busway alignment 7 0 Bus will operate in mixed traffic lanes
*Segregated right-of-way 7 0 No colorization, no delineators
*Intersection treatments 6 2 Assumed signal priority at most intersections and no turn prohibitions
Passing lanes at stations 4 4 Cleveland Ave is four or more lanes, so passing should not be a problem.
Minimizing bus emissions 4 4 Assumed US 2010 standards will be met by new vehicles
Stations set back from intersections 3 0 Seems unlikely that stations will be set back 120 feet from intersections.
Center stations 3 0 No center stations
Pavement quality 2 0 Not likely to reconstruct roadway with continually reinforced concrete.
Station Design and Station-bus Interface
*Platform-level boarding 6 4 Assumed 100% of buses are platform level with no other measures for reducing the gap in place
*Safe and comfortable stations 3 0 Not likely to have 10.5-foot wide stations as required by category.
*Number of doors on bus 3 2 Assumed new buses for BRT line will have two wide doors, but others services will use existing rolling stock.
Docking bays and sub-stops 2 0 Not likely to have multiple sub-stops or docking bays per station
Sliding doors in BRT stations 1 0 Not likely to be fully enclosed stations
Quality of Service and Passenger Information Systems
*Branding 3 1 Some buses, routes, and stations in corridor follow single unifying brand.
Passenger information 2 2 Assume both real-time information and static schedules available at stations and on vehicles.
Integration and Access
Universal Access 3 3 Yes, required by ADA
Integration with other public transport 3 3 Assume full integration with rest of COTA system.
Pedestrian access 3 2 Signals are considered good pedestrian access if crossing more than two lanes at once. Assumed that signals are existing or would be provided at all stations, with modest changes throughout remainder of corridor.
Secure bicycle parking 2 1 Assumed standard bike racks
Bicycle lanes 2 0 No bike lanes on or parallel to corridor
Bicycle sharing integration 1 0 None
Total Points 100 43 Does not meet minimum requirements for Bronze
*BRT Basics (Minimum needed 20) 42 9 Does not meet minimum requirements for Bronze

There are also some deductions built into the system:

Deductions
Low commercial speeds (minimum avg. commercial speed below 8 mph) -10 0 Assumed average speed will be above 8 mph.
Peak passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) < 1,000 -5 0 Probably close on this one.  Assumed it is.
Lack of enforcement of right-of-way -5 0 There is no BRT right-of-way.
Significant gap between bus floor and station platform -5 -3 Assuming slight gap at most stations, but no large gaps.
Station encroaches on sidewalk or busway -3 -2 Assuming bus lanes will be less than 12 feet in many places due to narrow width of roadway
Overcrowding -3 0 Assume it will not be overcrowded
Poorly-maintained buses and stations -3 0 Assume good state of repair is maintained
Distances between stations too long or too short -2 0 Station spacing falls between recommended 0.5 mile and 0.2 mile range.
Total Score (after deductions) 38 Does not meet minimum requirements for Bronze

So the Cleveland Avenue BRT Line isn’t up to the Bronze standard.  It’s basically an arterial “BRT-lite” kind of system, and it’s really hard for buses in mixed traffic to score the 20 points needed for “BRT Basics.”  I don’t think that’s a problem though.  As I wrote above, the BRT Standard is meant to categorize BRT systems, not define a minimum level of service for any particular corridor in any given city.  The level of investment should obviously vary depending on ridership and needs.  In this case, I think a BRT-lite system in mixed traffic will serve Cleveland Avenue well.  A higher level system would cost more, possibly reducing the FTA cost effectiveness rating, and in turn reducing the chances of implementing anything at all.

That said, I think if COTA could improve one thing about the proposed line it would be to implement a proof-of-payment fare system.  Not having to wait for people to put money in at a farebox really does cut down on dwell times at stops.  It also would allow COTA to buy vehicles with at least two large doors so customers can board at two doors at a time.  Speeding up service and increasing ridership should be the goals.  After all,  the ‘R’ in BRT stands for rapid.

COTA Cleveland Avenue BRT Plans

It’s been well over a year since I wrote anything about COTA’s proposed Cleveland Avenue bus rapid transit (BRT) line.  In that post, COTA had just announced the study and I was speculating about what would be included.  Now that the study is finished, we know more about the design. According to COTA’s public presentation, it will include:

  • Buses in mixed traffic
  • BRT stations (except for downtown and north of SR 161)
  • Signal priority
  • Level boarding
  • Special branding of service
  • Frequent service (BRT will operate every 10 minutes in peak periods and every 15 minutes in off-peak periods. Local service will continue to operate every 30 minutes)

The map below shows the route.  There would be five stops on High Street, one at Nationwide Blvd & High Street, and three on Naughten or Mt. Vernon.  The BRT stations start north of there, with 23 stops in the 8.8 miles up to Columbus Square Shopping Center.  That’s an average stop spacing of 0.38 miles.  That’s more stops than I would like to see on a BRT line, but it’s expected given that the line will still have to accommodate much of the local service given the planned low frequency (30 minute headway) of the #1. Travel times are still projected to decrease by 20 percent and ridership is expected to increase by 15 to 30 percent, so that’s very good.

http://www.cota.com/images/pageImages/Study%20Area_ProposedLPA_Bus%20Stops_v3-01.png

So when will this be done? COTA was scheduled to submit to the FTA in August.  If they get a grant, then construction can begin in 2014 and service can begin in 2016.  Hopefully if COTA gets FTA approval, they will start working on other corridors – like High Street, Broad Street, Main Street, and Livingston Avenue – before 2016.  It would be nice to see a comprehensive plan for BRT routes radiating in all directions that can create the capacity needed to move towards a frequent transit grid that could also reduce bus congestion downtown.

ODOT Preferences Survey

ODOT has a survey online asking the user to rate the relative importance of things like:

  • Relieving traffic congestion
  • Improving the safety of Ohio’s roadways
  • Providing better linkages among different modes of transportation, such as bicycle, pedestrian, car, bus, train, and airplane, so that it is easy to go from one mode to the other
  • Having a good freight transportation system to support Ohio’s economy (freight transportation is the movement of goods and products on trucks/railroads and through airports/shipping ports)
  • Providing public transportation, such as buses, transit vans and light rail, in Ohio’s cities and rural areas
  • Expanding bicycle facilities
  • Improving access to Ohio’s airports

Another question asks about the importance of:

  • Maintaining the existing transportation system
  • Improving the existing highway network
  • Improving the bicycle/pedestrian facility network
  • Improving the public transportation network
  • Improving the rail network
  • Improving the small airport network (note: “Small airports” are local or county airports which service smaller aircraft. It does not include large commercial airports found in major cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, etc.)

Public opinion on these types of issues could (theoretically) guide future budgets, policies, and investment by ODOT.  I encourage you to spend a few minutes to let them know what’s most important to you.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=H%2bATxD8kgA%2bUTzTPSF6ZkaCmi4PSvdimE9bzh2234hg%3d

DOTs have been put on notice.  Spending billions on roads and ignoring other modes like transit in the planning process violates US civil rights law.

Wisconsin DOT broke civil rights rules, U.S. agency says
Lawsuit proceeds as state says it’s now in compliance
By Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel

The state Department of Transportation did not follow federal civil rights rules for at least seven years, a yearlong investigation has found.

An American Civil Liberties Union attorney applauded the decision by the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights as a step toward holding state transportation officials accountable for how their actions affect minorities.

A Transportation Department spokeswoman, by contrast, had little to say about the ruling, noting its connection to a lawsuit that seeks to halt reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange. Most of the players in that suit were also involved in filing the complaint that triggered the federal investigation.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 6, accuses state officials of discriminating against minorities by refusing to include public transit improvements in the $1.7 billion reconstruction of the crossroads of I-94, I-894 and U.S. Highway 45. The lawsuit asks a federal judge in Madison to order the state to redo its study of the project’s environmental impact to address that issue.

Part of the legal basis for the litigation is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits agencies that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age or disability. For years, civil rights groups and transit advocates have argued that state authorities have been discriminating in favor of highways that benefit white suburbanites and against transit projects that would benefit urban minorities without cars.

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The Wisconsin DOT found out the hard way, but there have been similar complaints in Ohio.

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