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Old May 26th, 2009, 02:51 AM   #1
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Bus Rapid Transit / Cross City Bus Routes

In the view of the AGMA decision to press forwards with a revised Cross City Bus scheme as one of the four acclerated DfT packages to be funded from the new Transport Fund - I think this needs a dedicated thread.

It seems that AGMA are programming £54m for the revised Oxford Road/Cross City package, and £80m for the Leigh Salford guided busway. However, at the moment what we have on both schemes is largely what is said in the TIF bid documents.

However FirstGroup are now stepping up their promotion of their ftr buses - using the Wright Bus "streetcar" model.



These are now running in York and Leeds; and a service is due to start in Swansea next month. From some of the descriptions in the TIF literature, It would seem that this sort of bus is what AGMA have in mind (articulated, capacity about 100, air conditioned); rather than the conventional type of Scania bendy bus we have had for several years (articulated, capacity 145, no air con).

On the other hand, the ftr business model is not the same as in the TIF schemes. In York, Leeds and Swansea; Firstgroup buy and own the vehicles, the local authority simply undertakes the road and street signallying improvements. The pilot services appear to be subsidised by First - who will carry all risk - but could terminate the service at will. In addition, although the ftr is designed for pre-ticketing (the driver is sealed off and cannot collect fares), First's ticket machines failed in York, so all three current services used conductors. The Manchester TIF schemes all pre-supposed pre-ticketing.

I have interperted this to mean that the Manchester schemes will be packaged as Metrolink services (similar livery, integrated ticketing, similar stops, shown on all system maps). But this would imply that First would have to move away from their current model.

But has anyone got experience of the York, Leeds or Swansea services; and do you think this can be legitimately presented as a Metrolink extension, given resource constraints?

Last edited by nerd; May 27th, 2009 at 01:28 PM.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 10:45 AM   #2
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The only place I have seen BRT discussed as being part of the new package is on this forum, now I really hope you are right nerd, but everything I have seen mentioned elsewhere says cross city trasit; isn't that just bus routes passing through the city instead of terminating not the new guided bus routes?

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Old May 26th, 2009, 11:00 AM   #3
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Old May 26th, 2009, 11:09 PM   #4
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ftr has been far from a success in York, some of the roads have required resurfacing due to heavy pounding from the vehicles. Oh, and they have decided not to use the vehicles on late evenings or weekends, to cut costs and increase profit margins.

It would have to have 'neutral' branding, so you could easily change the contract to another operator, or run in-house, why not recreate an arms-length bus company, called 'Metroliner', or perhaps gud old 'GM', anyone?
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Old May 27th, 2009, 02:37 AM   #5
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Thanks lr17/7

I have been doing a bit of figuring out.

The key variable is the average service speed (i.e. the average speed taking into account turnround time at each end of the track). You find this by seeing how long it takes for a vehicle to return to the same point on the route, pointing in the same direction.

For the Metrolink between Alty and Bury that is 30kph (I think). The line is 30km long; and it takes 2 hours for the tram to get back to the same position, having covered 60 miles in total. The Eccles service is slower, 24kph I think.

The ftr in York has an average speed of 10kph on a 7.6 km route (which is slow even for a bus, but reflects the problems of getting a very big bus through narrow city centre streets). They need 12 vehicles to maintain a 10minute frequency

The ftr in Leeds in faster 17kph on a 22km route. This implies 17 vehicles to achieve a 10 minute frequency.

The TIF papers suggest that the Leigh/Salford busway will have a 22km route, and will take 52 minutes to travel it. That implies a 24kph speed, and hence 15 vehicles to maintain a 7.5 minute frequency (i.e. 8 vehicles an hour). I am assuming that the proposal that half the vehicles will go on to Wigan will not be progressed).

The Christie Hospital to Salford Uni route is 8.5km. If speeds are the same as for the Leeds ftr, that would imply that there will be a one hour turnround (i.e. the bus will take 15 mins from Christie to All Saints, and a further 15 mins to Salford Uni. If so, providing a 2.5 minute frequency will require 24 vehicles.

(and then they will need a couple of extra vehicles on each route for breakdown cover, and for routine maintenance.

As lr17/7 says, the York ftr has not been an overwhelming success - there are not enough vehicles to provide all the service on the route, so some services are carried by standard vehciles.

And what is more, even with all the extra route enhancements (automatic priority at junctions, enhanced bus lanes; all that is achieved in York and Leeds is simply to keep the ftr up with standard buses (which are smaller and nippier in heavy traffic).

On theother hand, there have been some more positive reviews (albiet in bus trade site)

(see below from BusandCoach.com)

Quote:
Does ftr reality match vision?

Stewart Brown reports.

FIRST’S flagship ftr service was designed to raise standards in public transport, with modern vehicles providing a reliable service, working in partnership with local authorities who would provide bus priorities and infrastructure improvements. Has it worked?

Year-on-year passenger growth on the two ftr routes, operating in York and Leeds, is an impressive 15 per cent. Even allowing for the effects of concessionary travel, that’s a good performance, although First is unable to say how it relates to overall passenger trends in the two cities.

Barbara Bedford, ftr project director, says: “We have seen significant growth in passenger numbers on the ftr and this is down both to the innovative concept of ftr and to all the hard work of our staff and our council partners.”

There is also growing positive feedback from customers in York, where the service has been running for two years. Overall service quality is rated as ‘good’ or better by 91 per cent of customers interviewed in a 200-person survey conducted by Network Research. This was up from 76 per cent 12 months ago.

The vehicles themselves are as impressive now as they were when the prototype was unveiled in 2005. In York, visitors to the city coming out of the railway station pause to admire them. First wanted to make a statement with StreetCar, and it has. Having the entrance behind the front wheels was a stroke of genius, creating a wide, spacious area.

But any pretence that the Wrightbus StreetCars are anything other than super-quality buses is quickly shattered in York where on the day I visited they were running alongside a couple of ordinary buses – including a six-year-old double-decker. So bang goes the idea that ftr is something special.

First says this happened because vehicles are being taken out of service for modifications to the turntables. But with 11 vehicles plus one spare at York it seems unfortunate that the ftr image has to be devalued in this way – even more so when you consider there are unused StreetCars awaiting the start of the Swansea ftr service next year.

Reliability on this flagship service wasn’t all it might have been. Buses are scheduled to run every 10 minutes, but at one stage at York Station there was a 24-minute gap in the service, while at another two buses were running 4 minutes apart. That was for buses heading to the University. In fairness to First York, buses going the other way were all running at 10-minute intervals, give or take a minute. First says that its punctuality records for the day show that 95.8 per cent of vehicles ran to time, which meets the company’s target figure of 95 per cent.

And so to Leeds. Here all the buses on the service were StreetCars, but service regularity was again variable, with a maximum interval between buses of 18 minutes and a minimum of 3 minutes. The service frequency is every 10 minutes. Now I know that irregular operation is caused by factors outside any operator’s control – but ftr was supposed to do better, to provide, dare I say it, tram-like reliability.

The StreetCars have traffic light priority at key junctions in both York and Leeds, and there are stretches of bus lane on two roads in Leeds and bus priorities in the city centre.

When ftr was launched, the plan was to have off-bus ticketing, but this was quickly abandoned in York and was never pursued in Leeds. Instead in both cities there is a conductor checking passes and issuing tickets. The conductors on the services I used covered a broad age range, but were all helpful and friendly, and were certainly ambassadors for the service in a way that conductors of years gone by seldom were. First says that its customers see them as a welcome addition to the service.

Their presence might also explain why the interiors of the StreetCars are exceptionally clean – no old newspapers, crisp packets and soft drinks cans littering the floor as so often seems to be the case on my local buses. It reinforces First’s claim that the ftr crews take a pride in their vehicles.

The real-time information displays in York and Leeds appeared to be working well, except in one case – the 24-minute gap – when a ‘ghost’ bus was listed which didn’t appear. The timetable texting service worked too, both in York and Leeds, although testing it again as I wrote this, the York service was not functioning while that for Leeds was.

Technology can go wrong, and on one StreetCar in Leeds, which was nearing the city centre, the on-bus display was telling passengers that the next stop was Whinmoor Shopping Centre, the suburban terminal point it had left some 25 minutes earlier. It later corrected itself.

Commercial confidentiality means that First isn’t saying anything about the operating costs of the StreetCars, but with a two-person crew and an unladen weight of almost 20 tonnes – equal to four elephants, as First York whimsically puts it in its customer newsletter – these buses cannot be cheap to run. But perhaps 15 per cent passenger growth helps cover the on-cost of running a StreetCar rather than a conventional artic. The most recent indication of the capital investment points to around £325,000 per bus.

So where next?

The big opportunity for ‘ftr’ has to be Swansea. In York and Leeds, the StreetCars are just very nice buses. There’s no sense that the service is anything special. No unique bus priorities, no unique infrastructure. They share city centre roads with other traffic. They are not a low-cost alternative to light rail.

Says Bedford: “We are really looking forward to the implementation of ftr in Swansea, which is scheduled to take place in April 2009.

"We are working closely with Swansea council on a range of large-scale bus priority measures and a number of these in Swansea city centre are now complete. The council is now entering phase two of the project which involves upgrading facilities at either end of the service, at Morriston Hospital and Swansea University, and these are scheduled to be completed for spring 2009.”

Staff training for Swansea starts this autumn and Bedford sees an enhanced role for the conductors – or customer hosts, as First prefers to describe them. She explains: “We have already begun discussions with local tourism organisations about using the customer hosts as special ambassadors for Swansea, which will involve training them up to help with the many tourists who visit Swansea each year.”

One surprise in Swansea is that rather than having a “big bang” launch, First is planning to introduce the vehicles gradually, as it did in Leeds. This seems strange when all 10 vehicles have been built, and running StreetCars alongside ordinary buses lessens the impact of the “future travel” which Swansea Metro represents.

But in Swansea there is new infrastructure being built, and that might be what it takes to demonstrate what ftr could and should be. Let’s hope so. It remains a visionary project. Perhaps in Swansea the vision will finally be realised.

Published Online: 13/08/08

Last edited by nerd; May 27th, 2009 at 11:57 AM.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 02:47 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by nerd View Post
But has anyone got experience of the York, Leeds or Swansea services; and do you think this can be legitimately presented as a Metrolink extension, given resource constraints?
Only if the system is segregated. And even then, they're still essentially buses. Having said that, since their introduction in Leeds, usage of the Purple Line (Line 4) has soared.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 10:51 AM   #7
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Only if the system is segregated. And even then, they're still essentially buses. Having said that, since their introduction in Leeds, usage of the Purple Line (Line 4) has soared.
good to know L1.

Do you know how the quality of service on Line 4 now compares to previously?

- is it faster?
- more frequent?
- more regular and reliable?
- more space for seating?
- better image?
- cheaper?
- something else?

What is the consensus for the factors leading to the increase in patronage?
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Old May 27th, 2009, 01:38 PM   #8
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The only place I have seen BRT discussed as being part of the new package is on this forum, now I really hope you are right nerd, but everything I have seen mentioned elsewhere says cross city trasit; isn't that just bus routes passing through the city instead of terminating not the new guided bus routes?
I don't think so Architecty:

- firstly, the accelerated package is linked explicitly to the Leigh-Salford Busway proposal, in that £13m of the current scheme represents route improvements to Chapel Street, Bridge St etc. that were formerly budgetted against the Busway scheme.

- secondly, the whole point of the accelerated package is to get the go-ahead from DfT for capital works to start this year (i.e before a possible election). The cross city bus corridors would not - I think - require central funding approval, as they could be agreed locally with bus operators.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 01:49 PM   #9
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The Leigh BRT was on the 8th May agma document . It was one of the higher priorities and was included for all funding scenarios 1,2 and 3 so I imagine it is going ahead.

Edit: Here's confirmation,

http://blogs.manchestereveningnews.c.../post_688.html
Quote:
The package means funding will be available for:
*Metrolink extensions to Chorlton, Manchester Airport, and Rochdale and Oldham town centres
*A Stockport bypass linking the airport and the A6
*The Mottram by-pass
*A guided busway between Leigh and Manchester
*The Wigan inner relief road
*Increased park-and-ride facilities across Greater Manchester
*And a ‘cross-city’ bus package, with better and more frequent routes through the city centre
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Old May 27th, 2009, 01:54 PM   #10
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Article on the (phased) 'launch' of ftrSwanseaMetro here.

IIRC, the accelerated package only includes 'elements' (the best performing bits) of the cross-city bus package proposed under TIF. DfT has yet to confirm. Work could start in September 2010, with work completed in March 2014. Estimated outturn cost is £54m. Source.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 02:33 PM   #11
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any chance of them being like the ones in Lyon? (with overhead wires)

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Old May 27th, 2009, 02:34 PM   #12
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Fair enough, but everyone keeps talking about the Oxford Road route as well as Leigh and at one point Wigan too, have these been shown anywhere as included or is that speculation? Just curious as haven't seen it myself.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 03:06 PM   #13
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any chance of them being like the ones in Lyon? (with overhead wires)

I feel violated.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 04:23 PM   #14
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OK it's not a guided busway but it's a nice picture of the branding on the bus stop flag and shelter
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Old May 27th, 2009, 04:33 PM   #15
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Quote:
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Fair enough, but everyone keeps talking about the Oxford Road route as well as Leigh and at one point Wigan too, have these been shown anywhere as included or is that speculation? Just curious as haven't seen it myself.
Looking backk over the various posts, I think that it was spoonsbeatfish who reported from discussions with GMPTE reresentatives at the recent conference, that the bus-only conversion of Oxford Road had been rolled into the Cross-city bus package. Looking at the map of the TIF Cross-city bus corridors, it is clear that tje Oxford Road/Princess Street/Bridge Street/Chapel Street figure on it.

So it is possible that what will emerge will be a series of capital schemes to enhance bus lanes, junction priority etc across the city; with part of the route being earmarked for the final 6km or so of the Leigh Salford Busway, when that happens.

What is clear, however, is that part of the accelerated Cross-city bus package will be an enhanced service linking MRI via All Saints to Salford Uni - as this is the route the busway will eventually take, and the funding for the route has been transferred from the Busway to this scheme.

The question remains what sorts of bus services will run along this route. It could be simply standard buses; it could be an ftr type service (with First supplying the vehicles). Or it could be a cut down version of the TIF Oxford Road proposal. From what was said, it may well be that the decision is yet to be clarified.

But you are right to say that none of the AGMA documents actually commit to any BRT type scheme, other than the Leigh busway.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:20 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nerd View Post
Looking backk over the various posts, I think that it was spoonsbeatfish who reported from discussions with GMPTE reresentatives at the recent conference, that the bus-only conversion of Oxford Road had been rolled into the Cross-city bus package. Looking at the map of the TIF Cross-city bus corridors, it is clear that tje Oxford Road/Princess Street/Bridge Street/Chapel Street figure on it.

So it is possible that what will emerge will be a series of capital schemes to enhance bus lanes, junction priority etc across the city; with part of the route being earmarked for the final 6km or so of the Leigh Salford Busway, when that happens.

What is clear, however, is that part of the accelerated Cross-city bus package will be an enhanced service linking MRI via All Saints to Salford Uni - as this is the route the busway will eventually take, and the funding for the route has been transferred from the Busway to this scheme.

The question remains what sorts of bus services will run along this route. It could be simply standard buses; it could be an ftr type service (with First supplying the vehicles). Or it could be a cut down version of the TIF Oxford Road proposal. From what was said, it may well be that the decision is yet to be clarified.

But you are right to say that none of the AGMA documents actually commit to any BRT type scheme, other than the Leigh busway.
I spoke to the chairman of the GMITA and GMPTE and neither seemed very sure about the Oxford Road package, I got the impression it hadn't been decided on.

My other point was that the Leigh Guided busway goes as far as the MRI which I think covers most of the Oxford Road BRT route change expenses (i.e. the BRT only corridor/green boulevard pedestrianisation between Hathersage and Grovenor Road). If all that work was to go ahead as part of the Leigh busway I would think the Oxford Road BRT will go ahead also, especially as the council regards the corridor with such importance to future city growth and jobs.

I thought the Oxford Road BRT scheme was also regarded as part of the Cross city bus packages in the TIF literature but now can't find that reference. If it was it would still need to be agreed to be "one of the best elements" of the package to get the go ahead.

(If you include the extra 6 buses an hour between the MRI and Christies at peak times that would add another 3 to the 24 number of buses making a total of 27 i.e. aprox £9m for the Oxford Road BRT buses).

I guess we will find out in the coming months what the decision is but I don't think there are any definites out there yet either way.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:28 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nerd View Post
good to know L1.

Do you know how the quality of service on Line 4 now compares to previously?

- is it faster?
- more frequent?
- more regular and reliable?
- more space for seating?
- better image?
- cheaper?
- something else?

What is the consensus for the factors leading to the increase in patronage?

It is not much faster; there are differences though because boarding/alighting takes less time, and there were also some minor improvements to the track in Leeds.

It's the same Overground frequency that it was before, about the same reliability.

There is more space, but not as many seats. But is that a bad thing necessarily? It can hold a lot more people standing; most people are just making short journeys.

Definitely a better image- they look like a much higher standard of bus than normal buses, which has clearly worked in attracting more people to use the service.

No they're not cheaper, they're the same price as before (or if prices have gone up/down, its because of changes made by First across the whole network, not just on the Ftr line). They're integrated into the same ticketing method across Leeds and Yorkshire.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:07 PM   #18
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I spoke to the chairman of the GMITA and GMPTE and neither seemed very sure about the Oxford Road package, I got the impression it hadn't been decided on.

My other point was that the Leigh Guided busway goes as far as the MRI which I think covers most of the Oxford Road BRT route change expenses (i.e. the BRT only corridor/green boulevard pedestrianisation between Hathersage and Grovenor Road). If all that work was to go ahead as part of the Leigh busway I would think the Oxford Road BRT will go ahead also, especially as the council regards the corridor with such importance to future city growth and jobs.

I thought the Oxford Road BRT scheme was also regarded as part of the Cross city bus packages in the TIF literature but now can't find that reference. If it was it would still need to be agreed to be "one of the best elements" of the package to get the go ahead.

(If you include the extra 6 buses an hour between the MRI and Christies at peak times that would add another 3 to the 24 number of buses making a total of 27 i.e. aprox £9m for the Oxford Road BRT buses).

I guess we will find out in the coming months what the decision is but I don't think there are any definites out there yet either way.
apologies

I have now re-checked the report that went to AGMA on 13th May (which has now been removed from the AGMA wbsite).

It does state for the Cross City Bus Package, that it "includes elements of the Cross City Bus and Oxford Road schemes".

So, if those comments still hold good, some aspects of the Oxford Road BRT proposals are likely to go ahead. It is possible that this only refers to selected route improvements - and the Cross City Services will be provided by normal buses with no special ticketing arrangements.

However, like you, I would be surprised if AGMA shells out for the expensive bit (upgrading the route between MRI and Salford Uni to handle the Leigh busway BRT), and does not take advantage of the opportunity to invest the extra to run some sort of enhanced bus from Fallowfield and Didsbury. After all, the current 42 service clogs up Piccadilly gardens with empty buses, replacing them with a through service would seem to be a strong priority.

But I suppose it all depends how far down the list the money goes.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:38 PM   #19
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apologies

I have now re-checked the report that went to AGMA on 13th May (which has now been removed from the AGMA wbsite).

It does state for the Cross City Bus Package, that it "includes elements of the Cross City Bus and Oxford Road schemes".

So, if those comments still hold good, some aspects of the Oxford Road BRT proposals are likely to go ahead. It is possible that this only refers to selected route improvements - and the Cross City Services will be provided by normal buses with no special ticketing arrangements.

However, like you, I would be surprised if AGMA shells out for the expensive bit (upgrading the route between MRI and Salford Uni to handle the Leigh busway BRT), and does not take advantage of the opportunity to invest the extra to run some sort of enhanced bus from Fallowfield and Didsbury. After all, the current 42 service clogs up Piccadilly gardens with empty buses, replacing them with a through service would seem to be a strong priority.

But I suppose it all depends how far down the list the money goes.
Wasn't having a go, if it sounded like that so no need for apologies (unless it was a general comment about clearing up previous information)

Half the reason for the many empty buses is that the bus companies tie students into weekly/monthly/yearly passes which restrict them to one company (obviously). If there was only one option everyone would just get on the first bus, improving journey times and decreasing the need for as many buses. It would also give a direct route to Piccadilly station and the option to go straight to Deansgate instead of Piccadilly Gardens (which many people would like). These improvements would come as well as all the other primary reasons.

The TIF bid did seem to give the impression that the Oxford Road improvements would be the result of the Oxford Road BRT so that part of the Leigh bus corridor may not be improved. Hopefully it is but?

If the scheme does go ahead I would imagine the route will return to normal bus traffic after 1am? Traffic is low and some people are more concerned about getting dropped off closer to home at night so further reasons other that costs of running a 24hr BRT service.
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Old May 28th, 2009, 12:19 PM   #20
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The Christie Hospital to Salford Uni route is 8.5km. If speeds are the same as for the Leeds ftr, that would imply that there will be a one hour turnround (i.e. the bus will take 15 mins from Christie to All Saints, and a further 15 mins to Salford Uni. If so, providing a 2.5 minute frequency will require 24 vehicles.
I've been wondering how, or whether, this will improve the Withington/Fallowfield to Uni journey times. I think Christies to All Saints can often be more like 30min+ with traffic at the moment, and the majority of waiting appears to be the narrowner roads in Rusholme /going into Rusholme and south of Rusholme, rather than the wider roads north of Rusholme.

I guess banning cars from the Uni area (if this is still the idea) will discourage traffic from entering Rusholme, but I also assume much of the existing traffic is local traffic - it's the cars pulling in and out of side streets that really slow the buses down..
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