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Thread: Bus rapid transit or BRT article

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Bus rapid transit or BRT article

    Print headline in the Louisville Courier-Journal: Bus transit fans say rail gets too much support
    Article link: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/na...d/7481767.html

    HIGHLIGHTS:
    Advocates of "bus rapid transit" say the country is wasting billions of dollars to build glitzy urban rail systems when people can travel more cheaply and with less environmental impact by bus.

    Bus rapid transit, or BRT, should not be confused with traditional urban bus systems, its most fervent advocates point out.

    New showcase systems in Los Angeles; Adelaide, Australia; Bogota, Colombia and other cities have been received enthusiastically by commuters.
    So why the disconnect between cost and federal funding?

    "To be quite blunt about it, there's a lot more money to be made building rail systems than there is building BRT systems," he said. "So you have major engineering and construction firms lobbying cities to build rail so they can make more money."

    In addition to the local preference for rail systems, the federal transit agency is hamstrung by congressional earmarks in its budget.

    ...rail-based plans were often viewed as the mark of "a world-class city" and an image-enhancer that could attract developers.
    Are you a BRT or rail person ?
    The economics of the 2 systems seems obvious, but as the article points out the lobbying effort and the image issue.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jkellerfsu's avatar
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    The engineering firms aren't the reason.....there is PLENTY of money to be made in designing bus rapid transit - either way it's $$$ for the engineers.

  3. #3

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    BRT advocates need to start getting the word out that BRTs aren't the same as regular bus routes, explaining what they are and what their advantages are over standard bus routes or LRT lines.

    I don't like the concept of the BRT lines using fancier, more luxurious buses -- the quality of the entire fleet should be raised if it is such an issue in a city. Buses can be kept clean and functional without being luxury cruisers. I don't think a two-tier system is the way to go... the performance of the BRT over a regular bus should be the reason for any fare premium, not fancy seats or tinted windows.

    BRTs are at a disadvantage since they aren't "monumental" or "sexy" in the way a new LRT line, streetcar line, or an interchange is. Nobody is going to get excited here about getting a BRT line named after themselves.

  4. #4
    I live near a BRT which I really really really dislike. The problem: its only BRT in the section where there is little or no traffic. As soon as it hits congestion, there is no rooom for a dedicated lane so the busses sit in traffic. In theory, BRT could be great. In practice, they are simply bad bus routes. I would support one in my (or any) community where they are implemented 100% of the way. Even 95% doesn't work. I think the federal law definition allows for only 70% or 80% of a line to be true BRT.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    What would be the minimum needed for BRT? This is what I gaather from my readings:

    - Relatively short headways during peak hours of service
    - A coordinated system between GPS and traffic signals so the bus is allowed to pre-empt in nearly all events (exceptions for emergency vehicles only).
    - Eight-of-way wide enough to allow the bus to move with traffic, with a separated ROW in the case of highly congested areas..
    - Well defined maps to help the users with connecting to lower and higher level transit.
    - Low floor buses, with the ideal of being able to roll wheeled passengers directly onto and off of bus within seconds.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    In theory i'm a bus person, but I don't like the focus on BRT. They're making some bad assumptions, and pushing systems which work well on paper, and would work well on the ground, but will not see the light of day in that form.
    For it to be meaningful, it has to have extensive dedicated right of way. Not just priority, DEDICATED. Zero other traffic. Even light traffic degrades the performance. Those get politically attacked from the word go and it seems to be very difficult to get them to stick. Adelaide managed by making their ROW facility in such a way that it is physically impossible to be used by cars; most systems can't say that.
    And even though Adelaide is proud of their system, one of their bragging points is that it's capacity "approaches the lower bounds of rail". To do that, they have a system designed to run with headways of under thirty seconds. It is also quite possible that the O-bahn has cannibalized resources from the rest of the city's transit in the way that the BRT advocates claim rail do. Certainly the fact that between 1981-1991 (the two censuses bracketing the 1986 opening) the city as a wholes transit mode share to work dropped from 13.4833% to 8.9319% is troubling. There is not a single section of Adelaide where the transit mode share increased between those two years, in spite of the cheer of the new transit solutions.

    There's a lot of talk about how rail systems need a lot of subsidy out of road funds that buses don't. Let's imagine that suddenly the countryside was filled with rail lines and that the mode share of transit and auto driving flip-flopped. Gas tax revenue would fall through the floor! How would we be able to pay to maintain the highways for the sake of emergency vehicles and such? Well, probably you could take it out of the farebox revenues.. wouldn't that be cross-subsidy though? The gas tax argument is vacuous as a result because it's essentially just saying that cars are popular.

    Bus advocates like to bring up the falsified Snell Red Cars hypothesis a lot. 'See?' they say, 'The trains cost too much money and were inefficient, the market couldn't support them!' Well... that's partly right.. the market COULDN'T support them, when their fares were locked at $0.05 by law and custom. That would've been easily dealt with with some subsidy or by letting them increase the fare (the market at work for the latter) but it just wasn't politically possible to do, and the public support and subsidy was flowing into the road system at the time. Of course nobody is going to want to ride the train when it's run down and messy because nobody has been able to afford to do basic maintenance on the system in decades. Their particular status trapped between public and private killed them in the end. A fully private system would have had a fully privatized toll road system competing against it from the word go, which would have been equally annoying; a fully public and supported system would have had the network maintained in excellent condition at public expense, rather than expecting it to 'directly pay it's own way'.
    Roads don't -directly- pay their own way, they're paid for by public revenues that just happen to come from a strongly correlated source. When I put gasoline in a lawn mower or some such thing, that lawn mower is paying gas taxes and it does not in the most remote way 'use the road'.

    Buses are important, they're likely to be the main workhorse of transit systems worldwide for decades to come. But they're not a train, nor is a train a bus. The whole argument is stupid.

    And yes, I agree that we shouldn't need buzz words like "BRT" to make the bus fleet more comfortable. Just upgrade your damn bus fleet with low floors, wide doors, improved multichannel payment methods, coordinated network scheduling, and the like and you'll see a big improvement without trying to argue with the people trying to get transit spines in place.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    One of the things that surprises me is how quickly 'trnsit advocates' are to write off this mode entirely. If the goal is to move people effectively and at a reasonable cost, I guess I can't figure out why the same folks who are 'pro-trolley/light-rail' can dismiss BRT as being nothing more than a bus. I can;t tell you the number of people who have told me that they would refuse to take a bus, but if they were given light rail, they would ride it every day. Does that make any sense??
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    There is a Commuter Study being done by a local MPO, and even though it is suppose to address rail and BRT feasibility, all anybody talks about is the rail. But I think BRTs can be great, if done properly.

    GottaSpeakup, I thought the whole point of a BRT that there be a dedicated lane (in addition to fancy, low emissions buses, etc). I'm surprised they let traffic clog up the BRT lane.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I think is gottaspeakup is trying to make is that some folks put the purfume on the pig and call it BRT. There needs to be more than that, or it is simply just a bus.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  10. #10
    Thank you DT!

    The problem is that what is built is rarely real BRT. I think people would be much more in support of it if it were. The BRT-lite that is usually built is not much different than a regular bus.

    I refer to Boston's Silver Line South End portion. As JMello has said, it is clogged by double parked cars and other cars use the right of way along Washington Street. In Chinatown, there are no dedicated lanes. The buses just sit in traffic. Only in a few non-heavily traveled areas does it work. But it is still called a BRT.

  11. #11
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by jkellerfsu View post
    The engineering firms aren't the reason.....there is PLENTY of money to be made in designing bus rapid transit - either way it's $$$ for the engineers.
    Exactly...most times a municipality has already made up its mind as to what type of system they want before a consultant ever gets involved.

    From personal experience, my thinking has shifted a bit on BRT. I think it is more useful for line-haul routes, where capacity is not an issue and everyone gets a seat. Standing on a packed transit bus doing up to 80+ km/h, with frequent stops is not a pleasant experience.

    I find Ottawa's system, which seems to get held up as a shining example of BRT, to be sorely lacking on some fronts, but I think most of it has to do with the way the overall route system is operated. As a rider it is very frustrating to see 10 out of service buses go by (deadheading out to the beginning of their routes) before one very packed in-service bus shows up. The sheer number of routes running on the transitway can also make it difficult to figure out which buses will actually take you to your destination.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    I refer to Boston's Silver Line South End portion. As JMello has said, it is clogged by double parked cars and other cars use the right of way along Washington Street. In Chinatown, there are no dedicated lanes. The buses just sit in traffic. Only in a few non-heavily traveled areas does it work. But it is still called a BRT.
    That's why it has the nickname "Silver Lie" or Silver Li[n]e."

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    I can't figure out why the same folks who are 'pro-trolley/light-rail' can dismiss BRT as being nothing more than a bus.
    Because as a rule, once it's gone past the various politicos and bean-counters and such to the point where the ribbon is being cut, it IS "nothing more than a bus". All the features that make it work are invariably left bleeding on the cutting room floor. That's why there's so much confusion about what constitutes a BRT, because they say they're going to put in BRT, but when it's delivered, it isn't BRT anymore.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    The problem with BRT is that most things being sold as BRT are not rapid transit. And the cost of making BRT true rapid transit in dense cities approaches the cost of light rail. Most BRT lines are buses with a little bit of high tech that makes them follow their schedules a little better and a small segment or two of dedicated ROW.

    The only places I have seen anything close to true BRT are in Seattle (the downtown bus tunnel, which then allows many different bus lines to fan out when they get out of downtown) and the University of Minnesota's busway connecting the Mpls and St. Paul campuses (which doubles as a great bike path).

    I think BRT could work in less dense cities that can't support LRT, perhaps, if congestion were less of an issue.

    The one in Boston stinks (the only part that works is the South Boston Piers Transitway, which is very short) - it is better than a normal T bus but really only comparable to some of the Crosstown (CT) buses, which also have limited stops. And the Urban Ring Phase 2, while an OK idea, really begs the point that BRT won't work in the congested core of Boston without its own ROW. At that point light rail begins to seem attractive.

    Part of the problem is that the feds seem to think they can spread out limited funding to more cities by funding cheaper BRT lines rather than less, but more effective, LRT lines. Until that changes, metro areas will chase federal money by looking towards BRT.

  15. #15
    What's i've seen in terms of cost of BRT vs. LRT is that while the initial capital costs for BRT are significantly lower, in the long-run the relatively lower operational and maintenance costs of LRT makes it a better financial decision in the long run. However, the big ticket item from the outset scares alot of people off from LRT.

  16. #16
         
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    I am a rail person but I see how a BRT system can be effective and useful. for sure, both systems bring more money to the engineers and planners.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian andreplanner's avatar
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    BRT, LRT, Subway - It all depends where you are and what the end result is. Eventually BRT systems are planned for some form of LRT in the end, which ends up being a waste of money. The longer you wait to build heavy infrastructure, the higher the constructions costs are.

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