Locating Bus Garages and Rail Yards: The Challenge of Simultaneous Optimization for Deadheading and Avoidance of NIMBY Issues
Locating bus garages and rail yards is one of the most difficult tasks to complete in transit infrastructure planning. Even before considering where an ideal location would be based on the agency's transit network, the agency must make sure to follow both the Title VI law and the environmental justice executive order . Assuming that whatever location we select will not discriminate against minorities or the poor, how do we go about finding the best place to park our buses and trains? Before we consider location, we first need to find out how many garages we will need.
Number of Bus Garages and Rail Yards Needed
Although the number of buses per garage varies widely (from as few as fifty for small operators to as many as 1,000 for the transit system in Quebec City, Quebec), on average a bus garage can hold about 200 buses. For example, Los Angeles Metro has 11 bus garages for 2,600 buses (236 buses per garage) but is in the process of constructing an additional one.
The number of train cards an individual rail yard can hold also varies widely, but almost universally we find that each separate rail line needs its own rail yard. The requirement of one yard per rail lines comes about due to the operational difficulty of moving train cars between rail lines in cities with more than one line. In some cases this is because the rolling stock on one line is not compatible with another line due to differing track gauges or some other reason. For example, the recently opened rail line to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia uses different rolling stock and technology than the two previous lines, making interchanges impossible. Even if the rolling stock is the same, the necessity to insert deadhead trips into the existing rail schedule makes scheduling interline movements extremely difficult.
Now that we know that any major expansion of bus service and any new rail line will need new maintenance and storage facilities, we can consider the ideal placement of new depots. Obviously rail yards need to be next to the rail line, which greatly limits the number of available yard location options. Ideally the yard will be near one end of the line, to reduce the amount of time the trains will need to deadhead back to the yard when they are done for the day. Even more ideal would be to have the garage near the end of the line which has the greater demand heading away from it in the morning and towards it in the evening. Often, in cities that have peak hour demand to the downtown area in the morning and from it in the evening, this would be the suburban terminus.
Facility planners have a lot more leeway in placing new bus garages. Similarly to rail yard placement the ideal place for a bus garage is near the terminus of as many bus routes as possible that has the greater demand heading away from it in the morning and towards it in the evening. This place could be in the central city in areas that have a lot of reverse commute demand to the suburbs.
Even more important than placement near bus route termini is placing your garage along an existing bus route, preferably one that is very frequent. Placing your garage along an existing bus route will allow for more street reliefs and fewer pull reliefs ( refresh your memory on how driver runs are created ). Street reliefs, where the driver walks from the garage (or even, for some operators, from home) to pick up the bus that they will drive for their run are much cheaper than pull reliefs, where the driver reports to the garage to pick up a bus that they then drive to the start of their route.
I encourage agencies looking to locate a new garage to employ one of several software packages ( ESRI , maker of Arcview software is the creator of one such package) that use a wide variety of data to find the ideal location for new facilities.
Bus garages and rail yards are considered locally unwanted land uses (LULUs) due to the perception that large amounts of noise and pollution are produced there. Because of this view, I recommend that they be located at least 1/4 mile from the nearest residences, regardless of the availability of industrially zoned land. Remember that buses will have to drive along roads to reach the new garage, and any use of residential streets will not be looked upon favorably by home owners. This distance is especially warranted if the new facility will provide natural gas fueling tanks. While natural gas is very safe, explosions are not unheard of; the most recent one being an explosion at a Pierce Transit (Tacoma, WA) bus depot in February 2011 that resulted in the evacuation of residents within 1/4 mile of the facility.