Streets & Transit



  • I'll admit that I've never used CATA, but have always been a big supporter of it and public transit in general. However, a friend of mine relies on CATA, to the point that when looking for his house it wasn't just important that it be near a bus stop, but that it's also a useful bus stop.

    For him, an hour for travel isn't unheard of. A lot of the routes run only once an hour. To get to East Lansing, Haslett was better served. I was surprised when I learned of this simply because I'm always seeing buses around but upon looking into it, in nearly every circumstance it would be better biking, often walking would get you there faster.

    I definitely think frequency is something that needs to improve, along with a good evaluation of their routes which was previously mentioned. However, I know that also is dependent on also has to be profitable for them. It's a tough spot. I've got to admit, out of the metros I've been in, we have, by far, some of the newest buses. I think that is a plus as I have been debating using it more (despite going from the Westside neighborhood to downtown taking close to an hour). However, maybe there can be a balance with some older equipment that's maintained and improved routes/frequency?

    It is a shame about the BRT...that would've actually persuaded me to use it.

  • edited January 2018

    Just to add, unless you live in the half-dozen-to-dozen or so cities in the country with excellent mass transit, you're going to have to plan your trips by the schedule. Also, expectations for frequency have to realistic; if you live closer near the hub of the system, you're going to get more service; you live out in the far-flung suburbs, reach and frequency are obviously going to be less.

    I've taken CATA to doctors appointments, shopping, to the movies. I guess I'm lucky because I've always used the major lines to get where I need to go. I can count on my hand the times I didn't look at the schedule and misjudged hours of operations or frequencies (once, I missed the last bus of the night, and another I didn't make it to the stop on time during an off-peak period on a non-major route and had to wait nearly half-and-hour for the next bus).

    A major change as has been mentioned could be changing from a hub-and-spoke-type system where most of everything is ran through downtown to something a bit more diffuse as far as service changes are concerned. The loss of BRT was a major disappointment, as it gets to those chose riders for whom frequency is the end-all/be-all of their day. Honestly, just getting frequency on the major routes down closer to 10 minutes would be huge and getting every other route under 30 minutes. That's considered great headways for most American cities. Of course, all of this will be dependent upon support from the community. If no one is calling for it, CATA's not going to ask voters for it. Higher frequency means more drivers hired and more buses purchased. That means a millage increase. Ann Arbor successfully did this a few years back; I believe they did a 25% increase in service frequency.

    I'm really curious what this new year (and new CATA CEO) will bring. The new guy was the project manager for the BRT and was the one who decided to put it on hold, but he's also quite a bit younger than long-time CEO Sandy Draggoo, and is from out of town. So maybe he'll bring some energy with him and not have the baggage you can build up of having been in this town for decades. I would say they could reach out to the community more...but they did exactly that and then some with the BRT proposal, and they were roundly punished for the good will.

  • I saw this super cool bus/train on youtube. It's called the O-bahn Busway in Adelaide, Austraila. Check it out, just search bus/train on youtube. I don't know where we could build one of these busways here maybe along the railroad right of ways but it sure would be a great thing if they did.

  • Very cool indeed. I checked out the O-bahn Busway article in Wikipedia. I'll try to view the YouTube later on.

  • Yep, it's a guided busway. They are rare because after you put in the infrastructure, the criticism is that you might as well have just done a train. The advantages, of course, is that it's more flexible. They are good for connecting areas in which you can't draw a straight line. If you can draw a straight line, you might as well go light-rail or a simple BRT busway.

  • I am thinking that the busses themselves would be much less expensive than light rail cars and the infrastructure of electricity or locomotives that are needed for light rail. I could see a circle line around the whole metro area, with stops on the outer ring of community centers connecting with bus routes going into the city. I think it is kind of cool how these buses can go on the busway and be taken out of traffic to travel some distance at high speed and then go right back onto the city street. It's true that on a street like Michigan Ave a BRT would be a better fit. Just dreaming!

  • edited January 2018

    I've made a case for this before, but the perfect corridor for a busway - guided or not - would be the old right-of-way (ROW) of the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw Railroad. The ROW is still very much intact and well-maintained directly north of Lake Lansing Road in north Lansing. In fact, if anyone ever really wanted to, I'm sure they could negotiate for the piece of the ROW that goes through Demmer's North Lansing facility if you want to get an endpoint closer to Old Town. This is where the railroad use to branch off just north of Grand River Avenue.

    In my vision, this would be a fast link between inner-city Lansing and Eastwood, taking the route that currently travels heavily traveled and narrow Lake Lansing Road off the street, which would speed up the trip considerably. With greater connection, this could also lead to the creation of a small transit transfere hub in Eastwood itself, essentially better connecting East Lansing's Northern Tier with the downtown Lansing hub via the Eastwood hub.

    Currently, there is this set-up minus a quicker way to downtown, so this would mostly speed up the connection. The difference is that the current transit hub for the north end is at Meijer on the other side of the freeway, which actually allows for a transfer to downtown East Lansing. And that may make more sense than connecting the Northern Tier to downtown Lansing. Still, CATA's route 16 which currently directly connects downtown and Eastwood could be made considerably faster by a busway along this old right-of-way.

    A little history on this railroad, and particularly the portion between Lansing and Owosso, of which part of it is the right-of-way I'm talking about. In fact, the Lansing and Owosso portion of this railroad was the first railroad to be built in Lansing, I believe.

    The original company which built the first portion of this railroad was incorporated in 1857 under the name of the Amboy Lansing and Traverse Bay Railroad Company, commonly known as the Ramshorn Road. A considerable land grant was made to it. It began with the construction of the road north of Lansing and completed about twenty miles between Owosso and Lansing before 1861.

    February 23, 1864, the Lansing and Jackson Railroad Company, as purchaser of the property of the Lansing and Jackson Company, which had been organized to build a railroad between Lansing and Jackson , filed articles of association, and on February 23, 1865, filed amended articles changing the name to the Jackson Lansing and Saginaw Railroad Company. March 18, 1965, the State of Michigan authorized the latter Company to buy the railroad and property, including the land grant, of the Amboy Lansing and Traverse Bay Railroad Company, and on October 26, 1866, the contract of purchase was executed. The road was thereupon completed from Jackson to Lansing and from Owosso to Saginaw and Bay City, and in July, 1873, extended to Gaylord, and on December 31, 1881, all of the railroad from Jackson to Mackinaw City was completed.

    BTW, it looks like after the end of the previous fiscal year that CATA's numbers are climbing again, so maybe my freak-out has been a bit premature. I guess we'll wait and see if the trend holds. From their December 20th board meeting:

    Ms. Draggoo read a report on the ridership of October/November and that we are up 2.3%
    over last November. MSU’s ridership is up 6.6%, Urban is up 0.05%, East Lansing is up
    11.4%, Paratransit is up 0.04%, and Delta is up 5.4%. She noted that we are moving in
    the right direction.

  • Is the ROW the green line/space with no tracks that go along to the north of Eastwood and then down crossing Lake Lansing Rd. by High street? I agree that would a very good space to put a bus lane or way. Even though rail lines are not exactly lined up with major roads they do cross them. I think this is where the stops or stations would be located at the crossings of major roads with bus connections to the other routes. Like, say at Walker Street and E Grand River that old ROW seems to go point right down that street from the former Demmer [it's called something else these days] plant. It is interesting to follow the old line on the north side of the urban area. There is even an underpass under 127! and it goes all the way to Owosso. There could be several stations starting at I-69 and the Chandler Rd area. Great idea let's tell the new guy!
    I wonder how much weather effects ridership? It would seem like a lot of people who might have walked or biked get on the bus when it's around 10 degrees above zero every morning for weeks. It was not that cold in Oct. and Nov. so this looks like CATA is doing a good job getting people on the bus.

  • Wow that ROW is really cool to see on the satellite view of Google Maps. I don't know how I didn't notice it/follow it before from the northern tier. Even in the cheapest sense we could build a non-motorized pathway along the ROW to extend the Lansing River Trail.

  • I believe the ROW is still owned by Conrail, though I'd have to check that. Where the title of an old ROW is not clear, the nominal owner can do something called railbanking, where they petition the Surface Transportation Board to allow a public entity to use the ROW as a trail as an interim use in case the railroad ever wants to build a railroad through it again.

    In this case, though, I think the ownership is clear, especially since they seem to maintain at least part of the ROW. The first thing to do would be to raise this issue up with the city or CATA to see if they could negotiate a good price for it, though that's if Conrail is even interested in selling it. But I imagine no one in the city or CATA has even considered or entertained this as useful property, so this might be a lightbulb moment for them.

    And, like you said, at the very least this could be a trail of some sort. I really like the idea of a quicker and safer connection between Lansing and Eastwood than Lake Lansing Road. And this would certainly be a quicker and safer route given how few crossings there along it (none). Where the old ROW doesn't fit the bill you could always find interesting ways build spurs off of it access places like Eastwood. I'm a bit less familiar with it beyond Eastwood, though, but I imagine this could be worked in such a way to connect to the Northern Tier better.

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