Pere IV: Another lost opportunity?

Ideas

Pere IV has great potential to be a useful corridor for public transit, but this potential is being wasted.
We propose transforming bus service to an urban and interurban trunk line

Recently El Periódico published a story about residents of the Poblenou neighbourhood protesting against the ‘Superblock’ (Superilla). It’s only natural for projects affecting the facilities for private automobiles to see some opposition, and this protest wasn’t particularly significant, yet it is nevertheless noteworthy that one of the things being protested against was the damage done to public transit service. And we believe they’re not wrong in that regard.

What we could call the ‘Pere IV corridor’ is covered by two bus lines operated by TUSGSAL, the B20 which after crossing the Besòs river heads upwards to Santa Coloma with a frequency of 20 minutes, and the B25 which runs every 15 minutes to Badalona. Together these lines offer an intermediate level of service along a consolidated corridor which dates back all the way to a steam tramway in the 19th century. Ever since the subway reached Badalona, bus service along Pere IV st. has been reduced for logical reasons since demand also went down as a consequence of the new Metro line. But instead of keeping this popular surface line as a secondary corridor service has been continually disfigured, first with the opening of the Poblenou central park (Parc del Centre del Poblenou) which interrupts the continuity of the street and forces the bus service to take irritating detours, and suffering its hardest blow with the ‘Superblock’ project, which meant that each direction of these bus lines was moved to different streets so as to avoid crossing the ‘Superblock’, Tanger st. and Pallars st. which are 400 m apart from each other and with Pallars st. being just one street away from Pujades st. which has Metro line 4 running beneath it. Additionally there are now two 90 degree turns in either direction so as to move between parallel streets. Interestingly, by the time this was being written the bus map on TMB’s website was still outdated by several months, showing the bus layout before the implementation of the ‘Superblock’.

desfasado_plano_tmb_21-01-2017
Image was taken on 21/01/2017

The presentation of the final phase of the ‘New Bus Network’ (Nova Xarxa Bus) added another twist by drawing line H14 along a part of Pere IV st. (though only in the outbound direction, inbound it would run on Tanger st.), and after two turns get to Cristóbal de Moura st., which they currently run on but further along this road. This new design it would seem is meant to equate the distance between lines H12, H14 and H16, which until now was very unequal, with about 2-4 blocks separating line H14 from H16, and about 7-8 blocks separating lines H12 and H14. So these changes do make some sense, although they maintain the disaster that is having either direction of the line separated by up to three blocks.

nxb_ultimafase_tusgsal
The same area shown before, according to the provisional final fase of the new bus network. In yellow we’ve drawn in what would likely be the itinerary of lines B20 and B25.

At Barcelona Movilidad we believe that this concept is not entirely satisfactory, since it provides bus routings that are not very intuitive, and with either direction too far apart from the other. Instead, we would like to propose a somewhat different solution for this Tusgsal corridor. We propose converting it in an efficient bus trunk line, with a logical and straightforward route, with both directions running on the same street and measures to guarantee proper speed and regularity. The ideal routing would be, for both directions, from the Arc de Triomf down Lluis Companys ave. all the way to Pujades st., covering Ciutadella park in both directions, and then making for Pere IV along its full length, with stops being strategically situated to link with vertical bus lines.

To achieve all of this it would be necessary to draw a contraflow bus lane on Pujades st., between the crossing with Wellington st. all the way to where Pere IV begins (about four blocks further). Then there’d be the need to adapt Pere IV to bus service in both directions, something made difficult by the Superblock project, but not impossible. It would also be necessary to ‘re-open’ Pere IV street across the Poblenou park at least for buses. This measure could possibly be impopular among neighbours, but which would be hugely beneficial to bus service. Ideally, a bus stop could be situated right at the park, where it would connect to the tram line on Diagonal ave. as well as vertical bus line V27. Between Ciutadella park and Poblenou park it ought to be possible to achieve at least a conventional bus lane in each direction. Between Poblenou park and Rambla Prim (where Pere IV as such ends), however, the larger section of the street as well as the lack of an urban remodeling since about 1965 (when the tram line was removed) would allow the possibility of a bus right-of-way down the middle of the street, while maintaining one lane in each direction for private traffic, Thus, commercial speeds on this part of the street would be very high. As of now, Pere IV on that stretch has no less than four lanes, one lane for parking, as well as additional (perpendicular) parking space off the road itself. On our proposal we have drawn the part between the end of Pere IV and Rambla Guipúzcoa, which is the road eventually leading to Badalona, along Rambla Prim instead of its current alignment on Extremadura st., a bit further out. This would have the Tusgsal lines running through more densely urbanized area, while Extremadura st. would be covered by one of the new vertical lines, as well as the very end of line H12 which also covers the area for movement toward the city center.

propuesta1
Stops in red indicate transfer to Metro, stops in turquoise indicate transfers to tram.

This ‘Pere IV corridor’ is not only important for Barcelona. The whole idea would be highly beneficial for interurban mobility between Barcelona, Sant Adrià, Santa Coloma and Badalona. A more direct itinerary within Barcelona would make this service more attractive to get to the city center, leaving the changeover to the Metro as another option, but not as a requirement for a fast trip between Barcelona and the outskirts.

Especially the traditional itinerary to Badalona would be transformed from a local bus with a medium to low level of service and practically not competitive from end to end, to a convenient semi-express style service (as in that the journey on the peripheral side would be of a more local type, which would become faster and more direct as it gets closer to the city center). The journey time for the B25 bus is of about 1h10, of these 35 minutes are just between Extremadura st. and the end of the line at Urquinaona sq.. This latter stretch is, according to our calculations, about 5 km in lenth. In the ideal case of achieving a comercial speed of 15km/h (nothing spectacular considering it’s mostly an area with little traffic) would mean a reduction of journey time of 15 minutes for this stretch, down to 20 minutes. With some slight improvements on the outer part of the journey, total time from the remote neighbourhood of Pomar in Badalona to Urquinaona sq. in the very center of Barcelona could be brought down to 50 minutes. It would still be a bus-tier speed, not entirely attractive for end-to end travel except for trips that would not need any further transfers, as well as partial journeys to the Sant Martí and Poblenou areas in the north of Barcelona. The B20 bus which in Sant Adrià branches off the B25 and then goes up to Santa Coloma would also benefit from a journey time reduction of 15 minutes within Barcelona.

With this, the Tusgsal bus services within Barcelona would become a convenient service complementary to the Metro or rail services. The itinerary would be straight enough for end-to-end journeys that didn’t require more changeovers, as well as complementary to existing Metro and tram services, crossing lines L4 and L2, as well as horizontal bus lines H14, H12 and H10, and all vertical bus lines that run through the same area. Line H14 could consequently either keep its current alignment which somewhat overlaps Metro line 4, or be moved to Pere IV just like the provisional final phase map shows. Deploying such a project would not be an excessively complex task, some stretches of bus lanes, partly as contraflow bus lanes, and possibly a bus ROW for the norther part of Pere IV, as well as a opening the street across the Poblenou park.

Like we said, Pere IV is part of a great opportunity to improve a very traditional interurban public transit itinerary, which would also be beneficial as an urban corridor within Barcelona. The potential is there, as is proven by the fact that bus line B25 remains to this day (having survived the complete restructuring of Tusgsal’s bus service a few years ago), and by the fact that line H14 is now being drawn along this same street. There shouldn’t be any reluctanceto indicate this corridor on the maps for the new bus network as something like “Tusgsal corridor”. There’s nothing wrong or sloppy about having a distinct line within a coherent system as long as this divergence is fully justified. Something similar happens with the urban services of the FGC lines, which are integrated as part of the Barcelona Metro, despite having quite different standards. In our typical lack of pragmatism it seems we’d be more worried about a line with a different color and denomination than about losing this chance to establish an attractive bus corridor that is complementary to the other services in the area, covering a journey which, despite the Metro coverage, still has a reasonable potential.

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