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Efficiency of Trains vs. Buses in Certain Situations


'89 Liberty MCI

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I apologize if this doesn't belong here as it involves buses as well.

 

However, I was wondering: Is it cheaper to have six Bx1/2 buses running between Grand Concourse/East Fordham Road and Grand Concourse/East 167 Street, or to take these six buses off the road and instead run five (:P trains between Bedford Park Blvd/Grand Concourse and West 145 Street/St. Nicholas Avenue?

 

I said six buses because I'm assuming a headway of approximately 10 minutes on a Sunday evening (when traffic is lightest). Factoring in recovery time, it would take about one hour to make one round trip under the conditions stated.

 

You have buses carrying standing loads between Fordham and 167, so it may seem at first that taking these buses off the road and adding train service in the same corridor would be a waste. But how so? I know passengers would be much more spread out and you may even have empty rail cars, but with the buses you have to pay for the fuel. Correct me if I'm wrong but I'm sure electricity is cheaper than diesel fuel.

 

Then there are manpower costs. Six DOB employees at once vs. 12 to 14 RTO employees since RTO crews don't stay on the train at the end of the line, switch cabs, and turn around right away for the next trip. There's usually a crew waiting to relieve the crew on the arriving train. Bus operators stay with the same bus until swing or clear time. In this respect I know it's cheaper to run buses but with the ramp lines going on these days it seems that the less buses there are that need to be pulled in the better. Also the buses rack up more dead mileage than the trains since train yards are always close to terminals; with bus depots that's not always the case.

 

Additionally, I know that we can't always say, "build it and the people will come," but wouldn't there be a prospect of significant ridership growth if people are forced off of buses but can now enjoy improved train service? The train has much more room than the local bus, moves faster, and doesn't get delayed by wheelchairs and walkers. I feel that if more people realize that they can sit comfortably on the train (and are able to depend on it) rather than standing up on the crowded, slow local bus, then they will ride the train and there will be more ridership in addition to that of former bus passengers.

 

I get the impression that people traveling within a borough avoid the trains because they have dealt with one service disruption too many. I could also definitely see why they avoid trains when I have several situations in which I wait ten minutes for a train that I can't even fit on, when I could have taken a bus.

 

I also think that if they implemented a Concourse shuttle train or sent (:P trains up the Concourse all day five days a week while cutting Concourse bus service, it would end up helping the vast majority because the Concourse buses do not serve Manhattan or transfer to the other IND 8th Avenue lines. At worst, those who use Concourse buses to travel within the Bronx would have to transfer between buses or trains (in the case of the handicapped using accessible stations-Fordham/Jerome and 161/River plus the parallel Bx32 on Jerome/Morris Avs) or walk a little extra to reach their destination. Meanwhile people coming from Manhattan don't get left by trains with no more room or don't get packed in to the point where they cannot move so much as a couple of inches.

 

Now I know someone will say it all comes down to operating costs, but the people that get stuffed in can't possibly keep doing that forever while the authority pockets extra money. It would get to the point where people either use their cars more or [more likely] leave New York, which means leaving the authority's jurisdiction and thus the authority loses ridership. This is less likely to happen if people aren't stuffed into trains or buses in an unhealthy manner.

 

I hope I don't come off as complaining as I know I have ranted about this particular issue before, but I really think this could work.

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You bring up a good point with the service disruptions. Especially one-way express runs, they hurt the local riders a lot.

 

For example, say northbound (2)(5) runs express from 149th to E180th. Someone traveling from Prospect Av to West Farms Square needs to go down to 149th, up to E180th, then back down. Would it be faster to take Bx17 to Bx21? If not faster, definitely easier. Plus the psychological notion of much longer traveling times than actual when doubling back is necessary.

 

Also don't forget about the ADA issues.

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Well when it comes to ADA that's easy to take care of. I know the disabled and human right activists would complain that this service change shafts them, but I really don't think they have much of a case because they can still get where they want to go while at the same time we can solve the problem of able-bodied people not even fitting on trains.

 

Here's my solution:

 

-No more Bx1/2 between Fordham and 170. No buses at all in this section of the Concourse.

 

-In the north, Bx1 local from West 231 Street/Riverdale Avenue to Fordham Road/Jerome Avenue for the connection to the Bx32 for the wheelchair and walker users that must use the bus, the elevators to the (4), and bus rapid transit connection on the Bx12 Select. This new Bx1 should probably have 40-footers only.

 

-In the south, Bx2 starts at Grand Concourse/East 167 Street and loops through the southern end: Concourse, East 149, Courtlandt, 3rd, East 138, Concourse back to 167. Just keep it moving as a loop service. In fact they could even send this to 170 and combine it with the Bx18 to Sedgwick/Undercliff Avs. This could improve the headway between Sedgwick/Undercliff and East 170/Grand Concourse because you now have a bus going directly from River Park Towers and the other apartment buildings to the Hub. This could necessitate an improvement in the headway on the current Bx18 corridor. Again, 40-footers only. No Artics for the new Bx2. At least I don't think so.

 

-Those who can't use the subways at non-ADA stations and need to reach areas around the Concourse between Fordham and 170 can use the parallel Bx32. Now the big trouble spot for this move would be the part of the Concourse that's right above the Cross-Bronx, since there are stairs where the height between the Concourse and the streets below (174-175 area) is greatest. But still, how can that be much when the Bx32 stops right at Morris/Mount Eden? Now for the northern part of the trouble spot there is the transfer point between the Bx32 and Bx36 at Tremont/Jerome. Mount Eden is really the biggest concern because of Bronx Lebanon, and that's easy to get to with the Bx32.

 

Now as I said before I realize that these changes would make it less convenient for the elderly and disabled. But my opinion is that something has to give because the situation with the slow, diesel-burning buses on the Concourse is nonsensical when most of the people that ride it can just use the trains, yet they don't because half the time they cannot even fit on the train. And, the Concourse buses don't even serve Manhattan and the other IND 8th Avenue lines. 145 Street/St. Nicholas is a very heavy stop and a big transfer point, people trying to board the (D) at that stop can't even fit on the train, and there's no single train route or bus route running parallel to the (D) line corridor from 145 and 155 up the Concourse.

 

So to me it's either one or the other, given the fact that the authority is so strapped for cash. Either people that want to go from the Hub to points north of 170 Street lose their one-seat ride and people that want to go from Fordham/Concourse area to points south of 161 Street lose their one-seat ride, or everybody gets their service but those who need to get to the Concourse from 145 Street, Manhattan and whatnot finally get decent service, fit on the first train that shows up, and are not packed in to the point where they cannot move so much as an inch.

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Well when it comes to ADA that's easy to take care of. I know the disabled and human right activists would complain that this service change shafts them, but I really don't think they have much of a case because they can still get where they want to go while at the same time we can solve the problem of able-bodied people not even fitting on trains.

 

Here's my solution:

 

-No more Bx1/2 between Fordham and 170. No buses at all in this section of the Concourse.

 

-In the north, Bx1 local from West 231 Street/Riverdale Avenue to Fordham Road/Jerome Avenue for the connection to the Bx32 for the wheelchair and walker users that must use the bus, the elevators to the (4), and bus rapid transit connection on the Bx12 Select. This new Bx1 should probably have 40-footers only.

 

-In the south, Bx2 starts at Grand Concourse/East 167 Street and loops through the southern end: Concourse, East 149, Courtlandt, 3rd, East 138, Concourse back to 167. Just keep it moving as a loop service. In fact they could even send this to 170 and combine it with the Bx18 to Sedgwick/Undercliff Avs. This could improve the headway between Sedgwick/Undercliff and East 170/Grand Concourse because you now have a bus going directly from River Park Towers and the other apartment buildings to the Hub. This could necessitate an improvement in the headway on the current Bx18 corridor. Again, 40-footers only. No Artics for the new Bx2. At least I don't think so.

 

-Those who can't use the subways at non-ADA stations and need to reach areas around the Concourse between Fordham and 170 can use the parallel Bx32. Now the big trouble spot for this move would be the part of the Concourse that's right above the Cross-Bronx, since there are stairs where the height between the Concourse and the streets below (174-175 area) is greatest. But still, how can that be much when the Bx32 stops right at Morris/Mount Eden? Now for the northern part of the trouble spot there is the transfer point between the Bx32 and Bx36 at Tremont/Jerome. Mount Eden is really the biggest concern because of Bronx Lebanon, and that's easy to get to with the Bx32.

 

Now as I said before I realize that these changes would make it less convenient for the elderly and disabled. But my opinion is that something has to give because the situation with the slow, diesel-burning buses on the Concourse is nonsensical when most of the people that ride it can just use the trains, yet they don't because half the time they cannot even fit on the train. And, the Concourse buses don't even serve Manhattan and the other IND 8th Avenue lines. 145 Street/St. Nicholas is a very heavy stop and a big transfer point, people trying to board the (D) at that stop can't even fit on the train, and there's no single train route or bus route running parallel to the (D) line corridor from 145 and 155 up the Concourse.

 

So to me it's either one or the other, given the fact that the authority is so strapped for cash. Either people that want to go from the Hub to points north of 170 Street lose their one-seat ride and people that want to go from Fordham/Concourse area to points south of 161 Street lose their one-seat ride, or everybody gets their service but those who need to get to the Concourse from 145 Street, Manhattan and whatnot finally get decent service, fit on the first train that shows up, and are not packed in to the point where they cannot move so much as an inch.

 

This might work. However, there is one major concern in addition to accessibility, topography. Grand Concourse (especially between Fordham and 170th St) is on top of a hill. If you're walking from Jerome Av or Webster Av to the Concourse, you would have to walk uphill. It's also because of topography why Bronx crosstown buses like the Bx11 and Bx36 are so popular.

 

In addition, the Bx1 (more than the Bx2) is often used by those living in the South Bronx who work in the senior centers up in Kingsbridge and Riverdale. Cutting this part of the bx1/2 would make it more difficult to travel from the South Bronx to Riverdale/Kingsbridge.

 

With the topography of the Concourse in mind, as well as concerns of additional transfers and the inconsistency of the Concourse Line trains is why making your proposition a bad idea.

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I don't mean to steamroll over peoples' routines and I accept any constructive criticism but for Kingsbridge service I don't see why they couldn't take the (:) or (D) to the Bx1 at Bedford Park. When it comes to the inconsistency of the Concourse trains, I figure if they add more service it would be better unless there is something that routinely happens with the Concourse trains in the AM rush that added service will not help. Then there's the possibility of station/track closures due to emergencies but that has to be about as common as having buses missing, which also causes one to his/her destination later. Now if people want to go to Riverdale there's the Bx10 at Bedford Park & Jerome. Requires a two-block walk, but the Bx10s run five minutes apart towards Riverdale in the AM rush and are reliable so it couldn't be that inconvenient.

 

Then there's the need to walk a long distance up a hill to get to the train, but for comparison I myself have to do something similar every day. With the topography of my area, I could walk west to take a bus around the park/hill to come back east or just walk east to the train. And the bus I would have to take runs infrequently so I don't even bother. These are two bus routes that the authority does not care about at all and is always trying to cut because they don't find them heavy enough. Going to the train is a downhill with lots of stairs and turns. I'll admit when I come back I tend to take the bus since I don't feel like walking up the hill (and walking up a hill to come home is less trouble since you don't have to worry about the hill keeping you from getting somewhere at a certain time), but my father doesn't even bother with the bus due to its lousy service. Then if I see huge masses of people waiting because buses are missing I don't bother either and walk up the hill/park with all its twists and turns.

 

Now if somebody gets on the Bx1 at Lincoln Avenue & 136 Street, then I see the problem because they would have to take the (6) to 125 Street for the (4) to Bedford Park or Mosholu Parkway and then the Bx1 or Bx10 in order to make it on one fare with a pay-per-ride card. This is inconvenient transfer wise and saves no time. What if they have a super express bus service and maybe charge an extra $0.10 or $0.25 for it so they can save money (less stops) and make money at the same time? The extra fare would be worth it since it would be much faster and the service should probably get transit buses with cushioned seats. Have the service pick up at every Bx1 stop from the first one up to 161st, then get on the main road and don't stop again until Tracey Towers. Then run local to the last stop.

 

Again I'm just trying to figure out if any of these are plausible solutions because it seems that for any service addition (like in the Concourse subway) the authority has to cut or otherwise save money somewhere else. And I don't mean to offend anybody by comparing situations.

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Interesting thought you have. Between them, the Concourse and Jerome Avenue have three bus routes (BX1, BX2 and BX32) and three subway lines ( (D) (:) and (4)) then there is hardly anything until you reach Westchester Avenue/Southern Boulevard.

I've often wondered why the City of New York built the Concourse Line as only three tracks, allowing for only peak direction express service. They did follow the pattern in Manhattan and Queens by creating a good express run between Tremont Avenue and 145th Street.

That is probably where the BX1/BX2 help - the local stations at 161st, 167th, 170th and 174th-175th Streets. Plus, maybe, a little at the local station at 182d-183d Streets.

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Now I'm thinking only send buses as extras all the way from Riverdale to Mott Haven rush hours and in the peak direction. This helps because the (:) train with its 10-minute headway doing the local work by itself would not be good to deal with.

 

I would set it up so in the AM rush they send buses down to Mott Haven as Bx1s (no Bx2s), both local and limited. Once they get to Mott Haven they come back uptown as either Bx1 super express runs or Bx32s and then either deadhead to 231st for the new Bx1 shuttle (Fordham/Jerome terminal) or pull in or stay on the Bx32. In the PMs, some buses that go down as Bx32s come back uptown as Bx1s. Once they get to 231st they either stay as Bx1 shuttles or Bx1 super express runs or deadhead to the VA for the Bx32 or pull in.

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Wouldn't it be easier just to add a few extra (D) trains on the weekend, build out entrances at both ends of the station (I think most/all have this ability already) and cut some limited bus service instead of this big elaborate thing? The (4) has the same situation from 149th-GC going north, people cant fit on those trains either, no matter what hour you try to catch it. I do understand what you're trying to get at, its a similar redundant service issue when they tried to cut the Bx4 entirely in those first set of Doomsday service cuts (forcing people to use the (2)(5)(6) + a short walk)

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Well I use the (4) more now and it comes more frequently than the (D). It's a tight fit, but definitely not as bad as the (D). You can actually breathe and if you get left the next train comes in 5 minutes. That's my experience. I don't notice dwell times as bad as the (D), though that might be because there are more doors. Should be 1 or 2 minutes but on the (D) it would have been 10 no matter what the situation.

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There is a reason why the IRT Jerome Avenue Line parallels the IND Concourse Line. If IND service is frequent use that. If IRT service is frequent use that. If they want they can just bring some extra train cars from the Concourse Yard, and increase the amount of (D) trains TPH.

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That could be part of the problem. Concourse (and even Jerome) are attracting riders from, likely, as far east as Third Avenue. One mistake I've always felt was the closing of the 70(8) Third Avenue El on April 29, 1973. Yes, the el structure was old and as time told, the Second Avenue Subway never came. It just has never been the same with the BX55, though it makes only the old el station stops.

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I have from time to time proposed rebuilding the Third Avenue Elevated in the Bronx as an elevated IND/BMT standard line that would follow, and might match the original footings of the IRT Third Avenue Elevated. It is linked to the Second Avenue Subway, and would enter a tunnel in the Bronx right before going under the Harlem River, and continuing as the Second Avenue Subway. The (T) would use this alignment. It would run all the way to Gun Hill Road where it would use the lower level of the station which would be rebuilt.

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