Testing the benefits of on-street and off-street rapid transit alignments: implications for Winnipeg's Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor

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Baker, Christopher
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With the uncertainty of future energy supplies and the impacts of global warming, rapid transit is becoming increasingly important as part of the transportation mix in North American cities. The conventional choice for rapid transit alignments are off-street corridors such as rail and highway right-of-ways. More recently, cities are locating rapid transit projects along arterial street right-of-ways, to influence more transit-supportive development rather than low-density, single use environments common throughout North America. Promoting transit alignments that provide the best opportunity for this type of development, known as development-oriented transit, is essential for influencing a change in urban transportation habits and building more resilient cities. This research analyzes the benefits of these alignments by studying the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project and Red Line in Cleveland, and the Central Corridor and Hiawatha Line in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Visiting these cities and interviewing professionals associated with the projects revealed the benefits of on-street rapid transit by comparing ridership, development potential, placemaking, travel time and safety of both on-street and off-street rapid transit. On-street rapid transit provides the best opportunity for a long-term vision for city building through the creation of dense, mixed-use transit-oriented corridors where people can live, work, recreate, access services and shop. Results and potential implications were presented to professionals in Winnipeg associated with the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor (SWRTC). The goal was to understand the implications of the findings for the SWRTC and if on-street rapid transit would work along Pembina Highway. Respondents disagreed that an on-street solution was appropriate, which revealed contradictions between the findings from key informant interviews and literature reviewed versus focus group responses. The SWRTC is designed as a flexible route network system that will allow mixed traffic buses to pick up riders in their neighbourhoods and use the dedicated busway to bypass north-south traffic congestion. This plan is focused on minimizing travel time for a suburban to downtown commute, rather than development potential. This research has found that rapid transit alignments should be focused on transit supportive development and providing direct access to places people need to go on a daily basis. On-street rapid transit provides the best opportunity to do so.
Rapid Transit, Development Oriented Transit, Transit Oriented Development, Transit Oriented Corridor, Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor, On Street Rapid Transit, Public Transit, Transit Supportive Development