Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Getting our priorities straight

Cambridge Street in North Allston

Most of the roads and streets in our cities are built to reflect a set of priorities which date to an era when automobiles were expected to take over every transportation need. These priorities were not and are not appropriate, especially now that we have realized that they lead to the destruction of cities by hollowing them out from the inside. Cars can be useful when necessary, but we must realign our priorities when building and renovating city streets to reflect the needs of the people who live, work and play in close proximity there.

The old priorities might be boiled down to this ordering:

  1. Emergency vehicles (unless congested by #2 and #3)
  2. Private vehicles
  3. Commercial vehicles
  4. Transit vehicles
  5. Bicycling
  6. Walking
I'm proposing this ordering instead:

  1. Emergency vehicles
  2. Walking
  3. Bicycling
  4. Transit vehicles
  5. Light commercial vehicles
  6. Private vehicles
  7. Heavy commercial vehicles
Here's my reasoning: we can all agree that it's important for emergency vehicles to get through. In fact, it's so important that maybe some streets should have lanes removed and devoted to emergency shoulders, on a case-by-case basis. After emergency vehicles, the most important mode is walking, because cities are for people first and foremost: without people you don't have a city, you don't have an economy, or any justification for all the rest. In addition, they are the most vulnerable street users, followed by bicyclists. They also take up the least amount of space and require the least amount of expense to accommodate. People on foot should never have to press a button to cross an ordinary city street, they should have automatic right-of-way on any non-limited-access road.

I place transit vehicles before the other vehicles because transit is the most space efficient way of providing transportation to people. An assurance of reliability means that people will be more inclined to use it, and less inclined to fall back on private vehicles which are extremely inefficient in their demands on scarce city land. A transit system should be thought of as "walking enhancement:" the primary mode of its customers is walking, and transit makes them even more mobile. The aim is to reduce the number of instances that force people into their cars when they would rather be walking. Some trips will always require cars, and that's fine. But when a person is forced to mode-shift a walking trip into a driving trip, that's a net negative for the city, and perhaps even a failure of its transportation system.

Finally, I split up the category of commercial vehicles into "light" and "heavy." The reason for this is that "light" or city-appropriate commercial vehicles can do work and deliveries which are critical to economic functioning without imposing too heavy a cost on everyone else. In fact, I feel that they are more important to the economy than the typical private vehicle. For example, this conflict comes up when trying to divide up limited space between loading zones and parking spots. I also think that it is in the interest of cities to find ways to motivate businesses into using more city-appropriate trucks. I place "heavy" commercial vehicles last because they impose such heavy burdens on safety and maintenance expenses. The wide turning radii of 5-axle trucks makes them unwieldy on small city streets. But widening the streets to accommodate large trucks makes the streets unsafe for walking. Also, the heavy weight of these trucks does by far the most damage to the streets. All the other users of the streets essentially subsidize the repair of this damage. So it is only fair for the city to put some constraints on how heavy vehicles move around and use the streets for safety and minimal damage.

Private vehicles should be permitted on almost all streets. But they should not dominate the users of the street.  Decades ago, public streets were considered to be part of the open, common space in the city, available for all people to use even if they were not contained in a vehicle. Slowly that was changed into the current situation where streets can make up 50% of the landscape even while residents clamor for more open space. The streets have been totally given over to vehicular use, for long enough, to the point that people cannot even imagine any other possibility. It will take time to shift back to the more traditional notions of city streets which are shared, and city squares which are more than just nasty, congested intersections. But hopefully, not too long.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The T tells two tales

Spotted an interesting detail in the Metro article, Is the MBTA offering a free ride for some?:
T officials estimate that system-wide fare evasion accounts for less than 1.5 percent of all boarding, representing roughly $5 to $7 million in revenue each year.
This is the first time I've seen an official number ever referenced. An old Boston Globe article (cached), written just before Charlie was fully implemented, has this to say:
Thus, Pesaturo cites the industry ``leakage" standard of 3 to 6 percent of revenue when asked how much the T has previously lost to fare evasion, putting it at between $4 and $9 million in fiscal year 2006 on the subway lines alone.
Congratulations, folks. Fare evasion at less than half of the lower bound of the industry standard! I guess that means the painful front door-only policy wasn't really necessary?

I'm just speculating, but perhaps the situation is something more like this: when angry riders get upset at seeing instances of fare evasion, the T tells them what they want to hear. And when others want to know if the $203 million investment in fancy new automated faregates was worthwhile, the T also tells them what they want to hear. Unfortunately, these two tales are at odds. So which one is it?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Off street parking requirements in Boston

This is a bit of a dry subject so bear with me. Article 23 of the Boston Redevelopment Agency's zoning code establishes a base for rules about minimum off-street parking requirements, although it is subject to revision by neighborhood or other overlay districts. The basic code is fairly vague and only considers uses in a few broad categories. Minimum parking requirements are poisonous to cities, and these BRA requirements date originally to 1964: a remnant of the hideously destructive urban renewal era that lives on today. Still, there are a few interesting features. For example, it appears that they've made an effort to reduce, if not outright eliminate minimum parking requirements, for higher density areas. Check out the table of requirements for Residential developments, indexed by Floor Area Ratio (FAR), which is a measure of how efficiently a particular lot is utilized:

  • Maximum FAR = 0.3 or 0.5: 1.0 space per dwelling unit
  • Maximum FAR = 0.8 or 1.0:  0.9 spaces per dwelling unit
  • Maximum FAR = 2.0:  0.7 spaces per dwelling unit
  • Maximum FAR = 3.0:  0.6 spaces per dwelling unit
  • Maximum FAR = 4.0:  0.5 spaces per dwelling unit
  • Maximum FAR = 5.0:  0.4 spaces per dwelling unit

There are some additional details: if Maximum FAR is 8.0 or 10.0 then there are no minimum parking requirements. And if the formula would produce only 2-4 parking spaces, then the requirement may be waived in some cases. So, it appears there has been some effort to mitigate the negative effects of parking requirements in the more densely populated areas.

Unfortunately, it does not go far enough. Minimum parking requirements should simply be abolished completely. They have an overall negative effect on the city, and also destroy a perfectly viable private market for parking. To get an idea of why this attenuation isn't sufficient, consider the North End. There, the zoning code specifies a maximum FAR of 3. According to this basic code, if the North End were being built today, then they would have to build 0.6 spaces per dwelling unit. Many of the blocks in the North End have dwelling unit densities ranging up to nearly 180 per net acre. By these requirements, there would have to be provided 108 parking spaces per net acre as well. The code also specifies that each parking space must be 8.5' x 20' (fairly large) which means 18,360 sq feet would have to be devoted to parking spaces, not including access lanes. A FAR of 3 means that there is 130,680 of square footage provided in a net acre.

Example North End block after minimum parking requirements applied.

So, according to these rules, approximately 20% to 25% of the residential space available in the North End would have to be devoted to parking! It is utterly inconceivable that the North End could be the friendly, walkable neighborhood it is today if it had been built under this regime. Luckily, much of it was built up long before the advent of poisonous zoning codes. What's even more curious is that even though the North End is now protected as a Restricted Parking District, there is still a 1 parking space per dwelling unit requirement in the neighborhood-specific zoning code. This is actually worse than the generic code!

Shifting to another neighborhood, Allston-Brighton, its code has non-density sensitive parking requirements specified in Table J for a wider variety of uses. For example, restaurants are required to provide 0.15 parking spaces per seat. And residences are required to provide 1.75 spaces per dwelling unit, unless there are 10 or more dwelling units in the building, in which case, the requirement goes up to 2 spaces per unit. So higher density forces more parking on the site, which is rather strange. At least it does not seem to specify parking requirements for bars explicitly, though I would not be surprised if they are grouped under another category.

I have to wonder about the relevance of this zoning code however. There are some decent parts contained within, to be sure. For example, there is an emphasis on creating a "street wall" in various districts and some like-minded attempts to keep the neighborhood walking-friendly. In other ways, it is far too restrictive and overly burdensome. I know of apartment complexes on land zoned for "3 Families" which also do not abide by the parking requirements (thankfully!). It is possible that they predate the urban renewal era, like much of the remaining decent housing stock in Boston. But what's even more questionable is the list of permitted uses in Table B. Supposedly, the following uses are banned in every case: bars with live entertainment, dance halls, and restaurants open after 10:30 p.m. Yet, a quick walk in the commercial district would confirm that all of these types of businesses do exist and thrive in Allston. The zoning code is very much out-of-touch with the reality of the neighborhood, as any static document would be. It needs to be reformed greatly, with an emphasis on removing the overbearing and intrusive prescriptions on usage which do not serve any public safety interest, but only the moral agenda of a few stodgy busybodies.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

NEC Future public meeting and comments

On Monday, the FRA held its first public meeting to receive input on the NEC Future project, at 10 Park Plaza. It is:
[A] comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), launched by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in February 2012. FRA's work will include new ideas and approaches to grow the region's intercity, commuter and freight rail services and the completion of an environmental evaluation of proposed transportation alternatives.
They will also be accepting comments in writing or by web form until September 14th. The format turned out to be a set of posters, a presentation of the same information available on the website, and a public comment period which lasted about 2 hours. There were approximately 40-50 people attending.

The public comments began with words from elected and formerly elected officials:

  • Governor Dukakis, State Senator James Eldridge from Acton, a representative from the board of the Downeaster, and several others spoke in support of building the North South Rail Link.
  • One woman requested a study to consider the revival of passenger service on the Providence and Worcester railroad serving northeastern Connecticut, which was last operated in 1966. Now, she says, the Peter Pan buses have just been discontinued to that region as well.
  • One man asked if thought was given to affordable ticket prices for those not looking to pay Acela-like pricing, and if they were being careful about competition from cheap buses.
  • Another man pointed out that cheap buses from NY to Washington were "eating Amtrak's lunch." (ed note: recent article claims a third of bus riders would have taken train, but ridership is growing nonetheless)
  • Someone noted that they observed a Metro North commuter train keeping pace with their "high speed" Acela one time while riding through Connecticut.
  • A couple of folks complained that there was a lack of sufficient notice for them meetings, it only being placed in the papers last week or so.
  • Another person thought the timeline was too long: if it is going to take 5 years just to plan an upgrade, then it might be out-of-date by then, and they'd have to start the process all over again.
  • The Sierra Club sent two representatives to speak. One pointed out that the North South Rail Link could potentially remove 55,000 cars a day from the road and 583 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a day from the air (ed note: assuming this study is their source).

I also learned about the meeting just the previous week, so I prepared a handout as best I could on short notice, and also spoke. This is the handout that I gave to the meeting chairperson, the stenographer, and also to other folks in the room who were interested.
I did not write down my comments in advance, but this is the gist of it (with links added for convenience):
Amtrak's proposed $150 billion inland HSR and $7 billion Washington Union station improvements (which do not include railroad upgrades) are outlandish and risk discrediting more realistic efforts. Instead, they should focus on the German notion of "Organization before electronics before concrete:" Fix problems in organization and operations; then fix problems in electronics; and then only if necessary, make changes with concrete. This focuses the most effort on the most cost-effective and easiest improvements. 
I am glad that the FRA has come to discuss the North East corridor with us, but I must say that the FRA is part of the problem here. The weight requirements that the FRA forces on trains are incompatible with modern, efficient passenger rail service. They are also profoundly unsafe: the FRA itself has conducted a study showing that FRA regulations, which date to the 1930s, are less safe than modern methods of crash protection such as Crash Energy Management. The current regulations have led to some of the failures of the Acela, which is far too heavy to do what it was meant to do. The requirements are as ridiculous as if we required all cars on the highways to be as heavy as tanks. The FRA has taken some small steps towards reform, but it is slow going and should have been done decades ago. 
Amtrak and commuter rail agencies should be using lightweight modern trains similar to what is used successfully all around the world. In addition, they should be adopting off-the-shelf, proven standards in railway and signalling technology from Europe and Japan. 
Another organization-related problem that can be fixed is: MBTA and Amtrak compatibility. The two agencies must work together to optimize usage of the available resources. Instead of building out a full third track between BOS and PVD, they should look at carefully placed passing segments and develop schedules to take advantage of them. The other problem is that the MBTA uses 80 mph push-pull diesel locomotives, upgrading to 93 mph in a couple years. Since Amtrak and the MBTA share 70 km of track, it is imperative that the MBTA run faster trains in order to be compatible with high speed intercity services. It is much more difficult to schedule trains that have such widely varying capabilities. Instead, Amtrak should pressure the MBTA to purchase electric multiple-unit trains based on the Stadler FLIRT design, or similar, which can achieve high acceleration and 125 mph. It would be cheaper for Amtrak to buy the trains for the MBTA, to use the existing wires, than building out the full third or fourth track. 
The other organization to work with is Metro North: currently speed limits are 75 mph in Connecticut and 90 mph in New York on the New Haven line. Intercity trains are not able to take advantage of tilting or reasonable superelevation to speed up. That is why the other gentleman observed a Metro North commuter train keeping pace with an Acela on that segment. Scheduling Amtrak intercity trains to pass Metro North stopping trains is tricky but absolutely necessary. Metro North must be convinced to allow upgrades to the current speed limits: 75 mph in unacceptable. It is even worse in some locations, where crumbling bridges impose restrictions of 45 mph. Those must be replaced as soon as possible, regardless of what happens afterwards. After those options have been exhausted, Amtrak should look to reuse the I-95 right-of-way for passing segments where HSR can avoid sharp curves and local trains. One such segment exists between Rye and Cos Cob, avoiding Port Chester and Greenwich. 
In summary, the very first thing that must be done is FRA reform: it is imperative that we be able to use modern, safer, off-the-shelf trainsets and import best practices in railway design and signalling from Europe and Japan. Then both commuter rail agencies and Amtrak must work together to achieve the most efficient use of their existing resources. Finally, Amtrak can work on incremental upgrades that are cost-effective and will add up to big time savings for a much more reasonable cost.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Curing our addiction to bad liquor laws

I often hear a great deal of concern expressed over bars and restaurants that serve alcohol opening up or extending hours, at community meetings. The residents complain about noise, trash, drunks and other businesses being pushed out. Some simply don't like alcohol, or any late night business, at all. The police complain about being overloaded with work already. It always strikes me that this situation has arisen because of a perverse set of laws on the books here in Massachusetts and the city of Boston. These laws are the residue of the stain of Prohibition and also the ugly racial politics of the past couple centuries.

  • Massachusetts, like many states, sets an arbitrary closing time of 2 a.m.
  • Liquor licenses are handed out, ultimately, by a state board.
  • The city of Boston is limited at the state level to a certain number of liquor licenses; this is the remnant of a time when state pols were racially biased against the heavily Irish population of the city.
  • Most licenses are trade-able, meaning that there is a market for them, and the costs can easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • There's been an effort to hard cap the number of 2 a.m. licenses; they do not create new ones. Which means that many places have to close by 1 a.m. despite state law.
  • Many licenses are restricted in some fashion, e.g. beer and wine only, or with food only.
  • Religious institutions used to be able to prevent licenses from being issued within a 500 ft radius of their property. A famous decision involving Grendel's Den finally found that policy unconstitutional.
The combination of these laws and regulations results in consequences which I have to believe are completely unintended by, or at least, out of the control of officials. Namely, that bars tend to cluster into certain areas and try to pump as much business as possible through their doors, to an extreme. They must do this in order to pay for the high costs and margins of operating under these perverse conditions. When a liquor license costs $200,000-450,000, you better be sure to get a lot of customers. So there's an extra-strong incentive to locate in an area which is already popular. Nobody is going to want to take a chance on revitalizing a neighborhood which has lost its nightly foot traffic, when the stakes are so high.

This kind of agglomeration aggravates residents and emergency service providers who must deal with the negative externalities from alcohol-serving establishments. It also scares residents in other areas who are then led to believe that allowing a single bar to open near them will result in the same problems. In the meantime, the perverse market for liquor licenses creates a lot of profits for arbitrary license-holders, but does nothing for the people who have to bear the brunt of the problems.

The answer is fairly simple, the politics of implementation are difficult.

  • There is no point to a cap on liquor licenses; it was a policy rooted in racism, serves no purpose, and should be eradicated.
  • Licenses should not be trade-able. It doesn't make any sense. A license is a certificate for a specific business that they are law-abiding, not a commodity.
  • Together, this lowers the stakes on opening an alcohol-serving establishment, making it possible for more casual, community-oriented places to survive.
  • In place of the cap, the Commonwealth should institute a system of mandatory, recurring fees for alcohol-serving establishments which are intended to ameliorate the on-going negative externalities associated with alcohol usage.
  • Such fees would pay for emergency and other services in the neighborhood affected, for example, additional LEOs and EMTs to cover the hours necessary. This would be on top of the existing taxes; the idea being that alcohol-serving establishments are a burden on local coffers above and beyond the norm.
Businesses have a tendency to cluster even without the bunching effect of the Massachusetts liquor laws. At least under this system, sufficient revenue to cover those costs would also accrue to neighborhoods which hosted such clusters. There would be less fear of bars opening up in drier areas. Licensing board review would still be necessary in order to ensure bars are doing their part to keep the peace; there would be an additional incentive in the form of lower overall fees having to be collected.

The transition is difficult. There is a lot of political weight behind the status quo. However, the licensing board is already handing out special licenses which cannot be traded, intended for revitalizing certain neighborhoods. I am not certain what it would take to implement the fees, whether that can be done at the local level or must be done state-wide.

In the future, there are some other possibilities. A portion of the fees could be used to provide late-night bus service in lieu of the normal T. This would help cut down on incidences of drunken driving, make it easier for night workers to return after their shifts, and may even pay for itself simply by cutting down on road deaths due to alcohol. A fee structure could also enable later opening hours than 2 a.m. someday, since it would pay for the necessary services. This would help avoid some of the crunch which currently occurs at 2 a.m. when everyone spills out into the street simultaneously.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Alternatives to the front door-only policy

Common "off-peak" conditions from the back of a Green Line train
The front door-only policy on the surface Green Line is continuing, despite grumbling from customers. The universities open back up less than one month from now, so we shall see how bad it gets then. I have been wondering if the MBTA ever bothered to analyze whether or not the policy is actually saving or costing them money.

According to the NTD, the operating expense of Boston's light rail is $216.45 per vehicle-hour. Therefore, each delay costs, on average, approximately $3.60 per vehicle-minute. The actual increase is in large chunks, as increasing trip times force additional trains and drivers into service. This also does not include the costs to passengers of having their time wasted by needlessly high dwell times -- an issue which also leads to excessive train bunching.

In the CTPS analysis of the now-effective fare increases, the projected revenue for July 2012 going forward is $0.96 per light rail rider. Therefore, using these numbers, we must be preventing at least 3.75 instances of fare evasion for each minute of delay on the Green Line, in order to justify the added expense to the MBTA  of running more trains. Again, this doesn't cover the costs to users of the system, or the cost of losing ridership as people become dissatisfied with the slowness of the service, and with being forced to push through crush-loaded vehicles in order to exit the front.

The front door-only policy is only supposed to apply outside of rush hour, so arguably the greatest opportunity for fare evasion is not being addressed by this policy. In addition, even off-peak, many vehicles emerge from the Central Subway already crush-loaded, therefore forcing people to the front door to push through crowds, even when there are no people waiting to board outside. I have personally observed a driver unwilling to open the rear doors on a low-floor trolley in order to accommodate a person on crutches, late at night, when there was nobody else around but the two of us.

Is there a way to speed up boarding and also crack down on fare evasion -- if it does prove to be significant? Is there a way to do this within the current system and without collective punishment?

One of the biggest steps they could take is to eliminate stations. Current station spacing on the "B" and "C" is obscene: 250 meters in some cases. They need to re-evaluate the stations and space them out no less than 400 meters, and probably consider 600-800 meter spacing. Another step they could take is to offer better discounted passes through the universities, targeting students who are often the most likely to dodge fares, combined with higher penalties for evasion. The current discount is about 11% but that seems a bit low. They may be able to negotiate mandatory transit passes for all students if the discount is good enough, and would probably come out on top of that deal. My alma mater started doing that for my sophomore year, and it was a great deal.

The proper way to handle fare collection is to move to a true Proof-of-Payment system. But that would require the installation and upgrade of fare-box hardware, or at least the elimination of cash boarding. One way to have random fare inspections without making any physical changes -- in other words, it could be implemented tomorrow -- is to post an inspector in the back of a random Green Line train. If and only if the inspector sees someone board questionably through the rear door, then she has the authority to check that person's pass.

They probably could do this with one or two inspectors, maybe sending them out to "hot spots" of fare evasion as noted by operators or cameras, as well as randomly. At first, the inspections could be done in an advisory form -- basically to assess the actual level of fare evasion. Then they could set targets for fines and inspection rates, according to the expected value for catching and fining fare evaders, compared to the cost of paying for the salaries of inspectors.

I know this is possible; I have personally witnessed it happening here in the past. But fines were laughable then, at $15, and didn't act as a deterrent, nor did they pay for the inspectors' salaries.

Whichever way they do it, the primary purpose should be to increase revenue and improve service. This is the opposite of the current approach, which seems to be more about inflicting pain in the pursuit of some moral ideal.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More stupid zoning antics

At a community meeting last week, two businesses made their case for a zoning variance. The first one was a long time physical therapist outfit that was losing their space near St Elizabeth's hospital and needed to move into a new office about a mile away. The other was a massage therapist that wished to setup shop in a storefront in Brighton Center.

The physical therapist needed a variance because the space in question was zoned for "office" uses which did not the include his business which fell under the "clinic" category instead. The masseuse wanted to reuse a vacant storefront that was zoned for "retail" which also did not include his category.

Does anyone think that these zoning rules are actually useful? What's the point of trying to keep out a "clinic" or a "massage therapist" who is willing to pay rent and run a business?

The probable answer is that the zoning rules are purposefully restrictive in order to force business owners to come beg the community for an exception. This strikes me as being unnecessarily hostile to business and morally suspect. Of course, in this case, there was no issue -- the physical therapist is popular in the community, and the masseuse was invited in particular by the long-time landlord of that building because he felt it would be a good addition to the neighborhood.

But there are other cases I've sat for where people whisper negative words like "unfortunately, he can build it as-of-right" as if they would want to stop the property owner out of spite. And they do sometimes attempt to do this. It's despicable to watch when it happens. More often, these overly restrictive and intrusive zoning rules are used to block growth in the neighborhood. As a result, vacancy rates are negligible and rents are starting to soar again.

Don't forget to tell your representatives!

Besides Red Sox scandal-mongering, one of Boston's main pastimes is griping about the T. The MBTA is seeing record ridership but is burdened by a long history of mismanagement, neglect, and debt. Every time there's another breakdown, another fare hike, or another rider-punishing initiative, people post comments and complaints online, but I wonder how many of them take the extra step of sending their thoughts to their elected officials? I understand that it can be disheartening after watching the charade leading up to the July 2012 fare hike, or after dealing with a non-responsive official. But every little bit does help remind them about what's important to their constituents. If we don't tell them, who will?

So, with that in mind, I present a map which shows the upcoming 2012 Senatorial districts and the incumbent State Senators who are running for re-election in those districts. There are also two challengers, for those interested in checking them out. Find your candidate(s) for State Senator (and other elected officials) and contact them -- let them know that you want the funding for the MBTA fixed, that you want safe walkable neighborhoods, policies that help increase availability of housing, better use of land, or whatever else you want to write about.
Political "geography" of the T
I tried to minimize the number of labels, so there's just enough to see which stations are in which district, and the general shapes in relation to each other. The information contained in the diagram can also be viewed on this geographic map and it contains the following list of State Senate candidates:
I'm still working on a map of State House candidates. But remember, you can always get the full details of your representation from

Thursday, August 2, 2012

South Coast Rail update

Just a quick follow-up on South Coast Rail, the local news site published an article:

The $1.9 billion South Coast Rail project is chugging along now that several crucial studies have been completed. The rail line would extend from Stoughton through Easton, Raynham and Taunton, then split into two lines, to Fall River and New Bedford. In the past seven months, studies regarding noise, crossings and public safety, along with environmental impact studies concerning water quality and coastal development management, have been wrapped up, project director Jean Fox said.
 [...] The new line is expected to serve roughly 8,000 to 9,500 people daily. Thirty-eight trips a day to Boston’s South Station are anticipated.

The article probably doesn't mean much, but I noticed that the numbers have quietly been changed since my last review. The price tag quoted is now close to two billion dollars, and the ridership projections are creeping back up after being revised downward to 4,070. So, that puts the cost per rider at about $200,000 to $240,000. An absolutely ridiculous cost, for a service that -- at best -- will be 5 minutes faster than the proposed Rapid Bus alternative.