In the spirit of continuing to make fun maps, I have decided to float one of my more recent ideas. I propose a 6.6 mile long busway on the abandoned rail right-of-way (officially known as the Mt. Vernon Secondary) running east of Cleveland Avenue from Cooper Road in south Westerville to 17th Avenue. According to MORPC’s 2007 rail inventory, the corridor is an active freight rail line from 17th Avenue to downtown and right-of-way constraints limit the potential for alternative uses. Therefore, buses on my proposed Northeast Busway would most likely use Cleveland Avenue to access downtown. Signal priority would be highly recommended and bus lanes should be considered at least during the peak hour. Once downtown, I propose an optional, but very cool, system of dedicated contra-flow bus lanes on 3rd Street and 4th Street to minimize travel delays. Click on the image below for a Google map of my proposal.
My vision is to have multiple routes operate on the busway, creating a route structure like a tree. Think of the dedicated right-of-way from 17th Avenue to Cooper Road as the trunk, and each route as a branch. This is how the three busways in Pittsburgh work. In fact, 34 different routes serve an average of 25,000 riders each weekday on Pittsburgh’s 9.1 mile long East Busway and its nine mainline stations. The ridership is very comparable to a light rail line.
The branching route structure is the main advantage of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) over light rail. I think the image to the right illustrates the concept nicely. The route structure on the right is typical of a light rail line. A frequent, high-capacity rail line runs from end to end and feeder bus routes drop off passengers at various stations for transfers.
The route structure on the left is comparable to how Pittsburgh’s busways work and how my proposed Northeast Busway could function. Multiple routes run the entire length of the busway, entering and exiting at select points to provide one-seat rides (no transfers) to as many passengers as possible. The combination of the multiple routes on the busway creates a high-frequency service for the mainline stations.
Ceteris paribus, the rail line is more labor-efficient and energy-efficient since fewer vehicles have to travel downtown and one employee can operate a multi-car train instead of multiple drivers on several buses. However, the rail route structure requires passengers to transfer, which could decrease ridership.
Determining which route structure would be best for this corridor would require detailed ridership forecasts. However, a busway offers more flexibility since it could allow either route structure to work (with articulated buses instead of light rail vehicles), whereas rail is limited to the structure on the right due to costs.
This corridor is currently proposed to be the Westerville-Arena District Bikeway. Since I like the WAD Bikeway idea, I would like to see the multi-use path built adjacent to my proposed busway. Every bus station should have bike parking and possibly bike lockers.
The busway would require two 12-foot lanes and probably a couple feet of curb and gutter on each side. The bike path would be 10′ wide with perhaps 6′ of space between the busway and the path. That’s a total of about 44 feet of right-of-way for segments between stations, which should be available in most of the corridor. This design is very similar to large segments of Los Angeles’ Metro Orange Line. See an aerial of the Orange Line here.
I would think that all the express routes currently using Cleveland Avenue would be re-routed to the busway. This includes:
- #35 – Tamarack Express
- #37 – Westerville Express
- #38 – Northeast Express
- #40 – New Albany Business Park Express
Other routes in the corridor to consider for busway re-routing would be:
- #36 – Annehurst Express
- #39 – New Albany Express
- #41 – Gahanna Express
These routes currently make a combined total of 17 trips to downtown each weekday morning. Extending service to be even just once every hour on four of the routes could create 15 minute headways throughout the day on some of the busway’s mainline stations. Alternatively, an express version of the #1 could be created that would run from downtown to Westerville all day, and the express routes could operate as a supplementary service during peak hours.
Why not rail?
Light rail could work in this corridor, but it wouldn’t offer the route structure flexibility of the busway, unless buses were allowed to share the light rail line as they do on a portion of the South Busway in Pittsburgh. A bigger problem with light rail is the limited right-of-way south of 17th Avenue. Trains would have to switch over to mixed traffic operations on Cleveland Avenue just like a bus. So the operational benefits of a light rail system would be limited, but the cost would be much higher.
Commuter rail could also probably work, depending on the volume of freight traffic on the line. I suspect there aren’t that many trains. So that would get trains directly into downtown without any mixed traffic operations. However, it would be a very short commuter rail line since it couldn’t extend beyond Cooper Road due to development of the right-of-way in Westerville.
So what do you think?