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Riders Flock to Faster Buses in Manhattan

The M14A prior to the implementation of the busway. (Photo by Hombre Tangencial (JOP) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation developments worldwide.

Bus Service Improvements in Lower Manhattan Spur Huge Ridership Surge

Riders in Lower Manhattan have responded enthusiastically to the implementation of two improvements that sped up crosstown bus service on 14th Street. An MTA New York City Transit news release posted on Mass Transit states that ridership on Select Bus Service (SBS) routes M14A and M14D has risen by 17 percent on weekdays and a whopping 37 percent on weekends.

In addition to bus-only lanes on 14th Street, the two lines now have off-board fare collection and all-door boarding at stops, changes implemented as part of the lines’ conversion to SBS routes. SBS is New York City Transit’s approximation of bus rapid transit.

Most of the ridership jump can be attributed to the implementation of SBS on the two routes, which occurred in July. The 17 and 37 percent ridership increases are year-over-year as of September, before the New York City Department of Transportation instituted bus-only lanes on 14th Street and closed the street to all through car traffic. The introduction of the bus lanes, however, has spurred an additional weekday ridership jump of nearly 1,000, from 30,195 to 31,000.

The improvements were timed to coincide with the start of work on a major rehabilitation project on the L subway line, which runs under 14th Street, and MTA NYCT says some of the increase is attributable to riders using the M14 in place of the L.

Even so, MTA NYCT officials crowed over the statistics. “The results on 14th Street are a glimpse into the future of what bus customers can expect from us,” Craig Cipriano, acting MTA Bus Company president and senior vice president for buses, NYC Transit, said in the announcement. “The treatments we deployed here, most notably all-door boarding, enforced bus priority and new vehicles, will have a tremendous and tangible impact on more than 2 million MTA bus customers.”

Tram Service Returns to Avignon, France

Avignon residents are probably dancing on the city’s famous bridge over the Rhône once again now that service has begun on its new tram line.

Metro Report International reports that line T1 made its debut Oct. 19 with a day of free rides. The 5.2-km (3.2-mile) line runs east from Saint-Roch Université des Métiers to Gare Centre, then turns south onto Avenue Saint-Ruf and Avenue de Tarascon before turning east again to reach Saint-Chamand Plaine des Sports, where the depot is located. It takes 15 minutes for a tram to complete a trip on the 10-station line.

Line T1 is the first tram line to operate in Avignon since 1932, when the city’s original meter-gauge tram system shut down. City authorities approved a plan to build a new standard-gauge tram line in 2010, but that project was canceled in 2014. A scaled-back project was approved the following year, and work on the new line began in October 2016. The line cost €135 million (US$150.3 million) to build. It is owned by the Grand Avignon local authority and operated by Orizo using Alstom Citadis X05 trams. A second line is in the works; construction on line T2 is expected to begin in 2021. Long-range plans call for both lines to be extended and a branch added to line T2.

Avignon, a city of just over 90,000 in the south of France, is also famous as the home of the Roman Catholic popes from 1309 to 1377. The city was controlled by the Roman Catholic Church until 1791, when it became part of France in the wake of the French Revolution.

First Trains for Bangkok Suburban Rail Line Leave the Factory

The International Railway Journal reports that the first two EMU trains for Bangkok’s new Red Line suburban rail route have left Hitachi’s Kasado assembly plant in Japan, bound for the Thai capital.

Hitachi is producing a total of 25 EMU trains, 130 cars in all, for the Bangkok Red Line. The industrial conglomerate is part of a consortium of three Japanese firms that received a 32.4-billion-baht (US$1.06 billion) contract to provide the electrical and mechanical systems and equipment for the 41-km (25.5-mile) Red Line, which will have two branches originating at the new Bang Sue Central Station in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district. The north branch will run 26.4 km (16.4 miles) to Rangsit and the west branch will run 14.6 km (9.1 miles) to Taling Chan.

The trains are set to arrive in Bangkok next month. Testing will begin in January 2020, and the Red Line is scheduled to open later that year.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: new york citybusesbus rapid transit