Bus Transit in Philadelphia

I have lived in Philadelphia for almost ten months now and that time can be split into two different residences. For the first, I took the El to and from Centre City. For the second, I walk to and from work. I look for living spaces near transit lines. In Chicago I took the El for eight years to get home. But to get to work, I often used the 143 express bus. Personally, I prefer trains and subways to busses—faster, dedicated right-of-way, Amtrak even has WiFi. But, busses are an integral part of a dense city’s transit network. You can cram dozens of people into one vehicle and remove several cars from the road. Here in Philadelphia, however, as the Inquirer reports, bus ridership is down over the last two years at the same time as ride-hailing apps are growing in usage.

For those interested in urban planning and transit, the article is well worth the read. But let’s look at one of the graphics for the article.

Lots of red in Centre City
Lots of red in Centre City

The map uses narrow lines for bus routes and the designer wisely chose to alternate between only two shades of a colour: high and low values of either growth (green) or decline (red). But, and this is where it might be tricky given the map, I would probably dropdown all the greys in the map to be more of an even colour. And I would ditch the heavy black lines representing borders. They draw more attention and grab the eye first, well before the movement to the green and red lines.

And the piece did a good job with the Uber time wait map comparison as well. It uses the same colour pattern and map, small multiple style, and then you can see quite clearly the loss of the entire dark purple data bin. It is a simple, but very effective graphic. My favourite kind.

Still haven't used Uber yet. Unless you count the times I'm being put into one by a friend…
Still haven’t used Uber yet. Unless you count the times I’m being put into one by a friend…

Anyway, from the data side, I would be really curious to see the breakout for trolleys versus busses—yes, folks, Philly still has several trolley lines. If only because, by looking at the map, those routes seem to be in the green and growing category. So as I complain to everyone here in Philly, Philly, build more subways (and trolleys). But, as the article shows, don’t forget about the bus network either.

Credit for the piece goes to the Inquirer graphics department.

Septa’s Silverliner Service Shutdown

Two weeks ago Philadelphia regional rail commuters, a large group to which I belonged for a number of years, experienced a week from hell. On 2 July a yard inspector for Septa, the Philadelphia region’s transit agency, discovered a Silverliner V railcar tilting. For those not familiar with Septa, the Silverliner Vs have been in service for only three years and have been long touted as the future of the Philadelphia commuter rail service. After inspection Septa discovered the tilting railcar suffered from a fatigue crack on the equaliser beam, specifically where it was welded to connect to the wheel bearings. The beam forms part of the truck, which is what connects the railcar to the rails, and any failure at speed could have resulted in an accident, possibly a derailment. The transit agency then quickly inspected the remainder of its fleet of 120 Silverliner Vs. It found the same fatigue crack in a total of 115 cars. By 4 July, Septa pulled all 120 Silverliner Vs from service.

The equaliser beam connects the wheels to the passenger car
The equaliser beam connects the wheels to the passenger car

So what happened? At this point, we do not know. Septa continues tests to discover just what happened and just what can be done to repair the cars. Because, with a fleet of approximately 400 cars, the Silverliner Vs represent 1/3 of the fleet. And with fewer seats and fewer trains, commuters attempting to ride into the city, particularly from nearer-in suburbs, find trains bypassing stations because they quickly reach capacity.

The additional passenger railcars from other regional transit agencies will make little difference
The additional passenger railcars from other regional transit agencies will make little difference

Consequently, Septa has instituted a reduced service—a modification of the Saturday service—with additional service on subways and other high-speed lines. Additionally, Septa has agreed to lease additional trainsets, i.e. locomotives with passenger cars, from other regional transit agencies: Amtrak, New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit), and the Maryland Area Regional Commuter Train Service (MARC).

Hudson River Tunnels

Readers of this blog know that I am a fan of rail travel. And in particular, how the rail system on the East Coast is brilliant when compared to anywhere else in the States. Unfortunately, the railway system on the East Coast is also old and in need of serious capital investment. The tunnels linking New York and New Jersey beneath the Hudson River are a prime example. But a few years ago, Governor Christie of New Jersey killed Amtrak’s plans to build new tunnels to provide a backup to the existing infrastructure and increase overall capacity. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Amtrak’s new plan to cross the Hudson. Let’s hope this venture is a bit more successful.

The new project
The new project

Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.

The Link Between Work and Transit

The Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting article about the link between work and access to transit. They included a graphic that looked at the link between the two.

Linking the two together
Linking the two together

Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.

Understanding the Boston Subway System

Today’s post is the graduate work of Michael Barry and Brian Card of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The two looked at the available public data of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)—the T to those that know—to better understand the Boston area subway system. Here the subway system refers to the heavy rail lines, i.e. the Blue, Orange, and Red lines.

T stations
T stations

In short, the piece has a lot to look at that is worth looking at. This particular screenshot is an analysis of the stations across all times on average weekdays and weekends. You can see how in this particular selection, the size of the station markers pulse depending upon the time of day and the number of turnstile entries. Meanwhile the charts to the right show you the density through time of said entries and then compares the average number of turnstiles entries per day. Text beneath the system map to the left provides a short analysis of the data, highlighting work vs. home stations.

Credit for the piece goes to Michael Barry and Brian Card.

New Transit Map for Springfield

Springfield from the Simpsons, of course. Happy Friday, and have fun visiting the Ethnictown station. The article comes from Atlantic Cities.

Springfield's transit map
Springfield’s transit map

Credit for the piece goes to the designers of the Simpsons.

Cancelling the Cincinnati Streetcar Project

So Cincinnati was going to have a streetcar. Now it won’t because the recently elected mayor, John Cranley, campaigned on killing the streetcar. I won’t get into the whys and the why nots mostly because I’m not from Cincinnati and others can do it better. Suffice it to say that costs and budget battles played a part. Yesterday the city council opted to pause the project. This will likely suspend federal grant payments, meaning contractors don’t get paid, which means the city faces lawsuits for being in breach of contract, which potentially means the city spends almost as much money cancelling the project as they would completing it.

Ordinarily I would post something from a local newspaper or media outlet covering the story. But today I have the pleasure of sharing some work that my former professor made. His infographic explores the fiscal details of the streetcar project and how much Cincinnati owes if they opt to cancel it in the end.

Funding the Cincinnati Streetcar project
Funding the Cincinnati Streetcar project

Credit for the piece goes to Giacomo Ciminello. You can download the original here. And you can visit his site here.