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Can the 60 Bus Be Improved?

It's not the first time I've thought about it, but I made a map.

In case you've never taken it, the 60 bus goes from Burnside Park to Newport via the East Bay, and connects some very bikeable, walkable places. Can we get this to be a more effective route?

Please comment.


UPDATE: I posted this as a stub article, but I wanted to update with specifics. 

*The stops on the 60 are too close together. In practice, not all of these stops are used, but in many places these stops are as close as a tenth of a mile apart. Just to give the most ridiculous example, to prove the point, look at this:




The other day I sat on the bus and confirmed this (though oddly, the Google Streetview wasn't able to turn up a good image). There are two stops (!) for the 60 between the two bridges that connect Barrington and Warren. Way, way, way too close.

There are many stops in Warren's downtown, when there should really either be just one (at Child Street, perhaps) or at most two (one at either extreme of the downtown). This needs to change.

*There's no walkable environment along the Wampanoag expressway, but nonetheless there are lots
and lots of stops along it for the 60. My goal would be to set up, at most, one stop, and to put a lot of effort into making that stop more pedestrian and bike friendly. There should be a traffic signal to help people safely cross the street, and there should be a bike path to connect people (because the area isn't dense enough to really expect people to walk).

*We should consider signal prioritization along the entire route. This would help the bus a lot, but would be a break-even for cars (at worst), and perhaps would help them move more quickly as well. Currently, some of the signals have "beg buttons" (the buttons that allow bikers or pedestrians to ask to cross the street). These should be removed (which would give those users less control over the signals) but in return the towns should pick a regular timing that can only be elongated or shortened by the buses. Something like this was done for the R Line, and it produced an 18% shortening of the end-to-end travel time for what had been the 11 and 99 buses.

*There's some areas of the route that have great bike path connections, but my experience as a substitute teacher has led me to realize that biking still isn't a normal everyday activity for much of daily life, even for groups of people you might expect to heavily bike (like high school students). Towns like Bristol that have great bike path access should add a network of bike routes, which would both help them to improve the mobility of students within the town as well as increase the "transit-shed" of the 60 bus. 

In Warren, there is a bike path that connects two schools, Kickemuit MS and Hugh Cole ES, back to the town, but the bridge that would cross the water into town doesn't exist. That should be a big goal for bike connectivity, because it would save the town money on bus service for students if students were able to get to school safely on their own. In Warren and Brisol, Metacom Ave. should be a big focus, because it is a wide road with room to add protected bike lanes. Other smaller streets could be connected as bike routes with less extreme changes.

*Bus lanes along I-195 would make sense. Existing bridges could get outfitted to allow rider access. I think only one stop is really needed here, at Broadway. In the meantime, another way to give access to EP residents would be to have the bus pull off of I-195 at the Broadway exit. Signal priority to cross Broadway could help the bus get back to the highway quickly and efficiently.


*Parking policies need to be looked at. I know that high school students are able to park for free at Mt. Hope  High School. Is this the case at other high schools? I don't know. But it's a big part of why students are not a larger share of transit riders, and in effect it also makes it necessary for underclassmen to be bused around in yellow school buses. Universities also have to look at their parking policies, since RWU and Salve Regina could be big contributors to ridership on this bus.

*A commenter (see below) mentioned the naval base in Newport. I think this is a really good focus to add ridership. The naval base should consider adding bike-share within its campus, the way that car companies have in Detroit. It doesn't make sense to have the 60 bus go into the campus of these places, because bus service should be "on the way", but it does make sense to help people connect better to that service, and bike share would be the way to do that.

*I suggested getting rid of the E. Main/W. Main split. I know that Portsmouth and Middletown are fairly rural and that this split increases the number of people near a stop, but it also means that the buses are less frequent on those stops. Focusing on one of those roads (I think W. Main is more built up) would mean more frequent service. The gap could be covered by improvements to biking, and I'm sure Bike Newport would be happy to help with that.

*GET RID OF PARKING MINIMUMS. Middletown's commercial areas are an ugly nightmare, and like a magic wand you cross into Newport and immediately the town becomes nice (and expensive). Why is it that Newport is in such high demand, and yet people don't build more stuff that looks like Newport right over the border? Seems odd, doesn't it? It's because Middletown has ridiculous parking requirements that make it likely for people to develop awful suburban strip malls instead of nice walkable infill. I think this could really help a lot. Please do this, Middletown.

The 60 is a good route. Let's take what's good in Rhode Island and make it excellent.

~~~~

7 comments:

  1. As someone who lived and worked on the island, then started commuting to Providence (14 and 60) and finally moved to Providence, I have a lot of time logged on the 60. Suggestions:
    1) The 60 should service NUWC southbound and northbound during rush hours. There's several thousand employees at NUWC and a fair number of people live in Newport. At present, there's service on the 64 (inbound to Newport AM, oubound PM) for employees to use the P&R in Saunderstown, and there's Providence outbound AM service to NUWC (and PM return). At 70-80 minutes for the bus versus 40-50 minutes driving, there's not many employees in the Providence area or off-island who come in by the 60. Conversely, it's in the 10-20 minute range for downtown or north end of Newport to NUWC and all those employees drive in presently.
    2) 60 needs an east option south of Two Mile Corner. There's flex service to cover the southeast of the island (Middletown, Valley and Aquidneck south of East Main), but there's needs to be some fixed route service here. Running additional service south from the terminal on America's Cup to Memorial, past First Beach and then up Valley or Aquidneck back to East Main would provide access from Newport to the Y, Child and Family center (incl. Sandpipers child care center) and the corridor of small businesses on Valley and Aquidneck. These are car-centric areas that are not very pleasant or amenable to cycling/walking and would be improved with a public transit option.
    3) Express/local hybridization: Run buses during peak periods with designated express and local regions, e.g. Providence PM rush departures: depart Kennedy and run express to East Main P&R in Portsmouth, then local to Two Mile Corner, then express to Gateway in Newport or express to Barrington White Church, local to Roger Williams, express to Newport. People would have to get used to this, but it could make the route much more friendly to commuters along the current 60 corridor.

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  2. If I understand your comment, you'd de-emphasize service in EP, Middletown, and Portsmouth. I agree with that.

    I want to check out a map of the employment center you mentioned and look at their parking too. It's important to keep the route locations "on the way" so if there's a set-back at all from the road (which I imagine there is) then having intra-business bike-share makes sense rather than diverting the bus (if that sounds like a crazy stretch, then consider that Detroit auto-makers currently are adding bike-share to connect buildings in the same complex).

    The current stop spacing is absurdly local-- 0.1 of a mile, which I think is smaller than many Providence city blocks (it's almost exactly a Philly city block, because we used to estimate walking distances in blocks, but I think PVD blocks are bigger... Not 100% sure... ). We could keep a few stops in EP, Middletown, and Portsmouth if we also reduced the number of stops in the more walkable places (if I remember correctly, the built-up part of Warren has six or seven stops, and people use them pretty actively, whereas it should probably have just two stops, or even one).

    I wonder if the 60 makes sense as a two-seat ride? Not sure. If you could get the routes to "pulse" so that they meet at the same time at RWU or something, that would work, but I'm doubtful that that's possible).

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  3. I was going to look up parking policies, but then I realized that it's probably unpublished, being the Navy. ;-) But a parking cash-out is probably key too: employees get a raise equal to the cost of their parking, and parking gets a fee. People can choose to pocket the new money or break even by paying for parking.

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  4. We currently live close to NUWC. Single drivers are the main issue to get into the installation and unfortunately, adding bus lines doesn't seem to stop the traffic jams.

    I would propose a different approach that may help to alleviate the commuter fatigue:

    Installation of a new commuter/transit "hub" in Bristol/Warren. This would address the incredibly long transit from Providence to Newport to allow for transfers to/from Providence to pick their own best route. It would further enfranchise the riders to take a path to places that RIPTA very seldom travels - such as Tiverton/Little Compton. The length of time that one travels to this hub might cut the commute time to/from Providence by about a 1/3. People would then be able to use existing bike paths to get to the hub or commute to the hub via other transit method (read: car) to make it a more effective Park-n-Ride, possibly with amenities that a commuter may find useful. Think of it as a european underground without the (cost-effective, clean, efficient, punctual) trains.

    Perhaps this is a bit too lofty, however, it could be mirrored on the west side of the bay with three similar hubs in Warwick, Westerly, and Narragansett. Those with a possible hub in Johnston may allow RIPTA to pursue a more hyper-localized route map versus having everything be "just a stop" between PVD and Newport.

    at iterativedeity on twitter.

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  5. The parking fee and raise is a nice idea, but I doubt it could be implmented without input at the federal level - government employees are on government pay scales.
    Parking at NUWC and at the Navy base is 'free'.
    The vicinity isn't great for biking and few employees come in that way. It would be interesting to see if there could be some buy in for a bike share program on-site as there's a lot of driving between buildings even though it's all walkable, but I suspect that it wouldn't see any use without some financial incentive.
    With no charge for parking / permitting of vehicles, etc. I don't really see how much more could be done with the existing infrastructure. There is a transportation incentive program for government employees to subsidize transit, but it doesn't do anything to encourage cycling or walking over driving.

    Regarding the 60, the express/local/express routing I mentioned was inspired by my experience in the Chicago area with the Metra.
    I didn't mean to suggest eliminating service in some areas, but to tune the routing the shorten travel times during peak periods for commuters, most of whom I suspect work in Providence. But you did get it right that I think the East Main and West Main corridors, as well as East Providence, are the least 'valuable' portions of the line.
    Take a look at the BNSF line of the Chicago Metra: http://metrarail.com/content/dam/metra/documents/ScheduleTimetables/BNSF_04162016.pdf
    During peak hours, each train only services a portion of the route and they're run at high frequency so no one needs more thn about 30 minutes to reach Chicago. Off-peak, the trains run the full route and it's almost 90 minutes end-to-end.
    I know it's a chicken and egg problem for the transit agencies - switching the 60 to that kind of schedule means adding buses and increased costs and it won't work without buy-in from commuters which really means buy-in from the city of Providence, the state, and the employees to actively encourage transit over driving.

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  6. Not super convinced that additional transit to Tiverton or Little Compton would be useful. Although, to be honest, being a non-driver, I've never gone to either. I've heard that Tiverton has a lovely village center, and I'm sure that at some future point there could be demand for transit if Providence dealt with its parking lot crisis (too much parking, I mean). But at this time, i think putting more transit deeper into rural and exurban areas means thinning out transit on existing lines.

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    Replies
    1. The reason I suggest biking as a first step for last-mile connections is that it's the cheapest method for low density areas. It's definitely not dense enough to talk at all about getting improved walking access-- no one is going to walk that far. But the area is beautiful enough, and flat enough, that if safety improvements were made, biking would be a pleasant way to get around.

      I mainly suggested biking in a couple of corridors on the map: East Providence (particularly in Riverside) is nearby the 60 but poorly connected in a last-mile way. Riverside has a bunch of schools that could be easily connected by biking, which would serve its own intra-neighborhood purposes, but would also help people connecting to buses. Bristol/Warren seems like an obvious place to improve biking, because both have a traditional form for the most part, and the bike path is an even bigger part of the culture of those places. And then I also thought getting rid of the E/W split on Aquidneck might help frequency, but that would require connecting last-mile between the two. On the map, if you click in, I measured out the distances. The furthest the two are apart is just under 2 miles, which for a flat route is a pretty easy connection to make by bike to the bus.

      I do hope that Sen. Reed takes a look at putting bike-share in on the Navy site. I sent his account a tweet to this article. I think that would really help a lot, and people in the service are generally interested in health, so I actually think it might be something people would use.

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