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Thread: Bus rapid transit in Detroit

  1. #1
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Bus rapid transit in Detroit

    Disclaimer: I know we have discussed the previously proposed light rail system along Detroit's Woodward Corridor but a quick search did not result in any threads dedicated strictly to it so I am beginning a new one.


    For the past few years there has been a lot of effort and resources put into the development of a light rail system for the City of Detroit. About a year or so ago (I cannot recall exactly when), the various plans began to coalesce and a final plan was released which would be a line running up and down the center of Woodward Avenue (the Main Street for Detroit and its northern suburbs) from just outside of downtown eventually to 8 Mile Road (the northern city limit). Once downtown, the line would make a bit of a loop through the central area. The rail line was going to be paid for through a combination of federal and private grants, city and state funding, and a small coalition of wealthy private donors.

    From the start, I had some concerns about the system but was still hopeful it could actually get built.

    My first concern was that if the line ended at the city limit, nobody from the suburbs was going to bother to use it. I don't live far off of Woodward, but am about seven miles north of 8 Mile. I generally am not going to bother waiting for the slow and unconnective SMART bus system to take me down seven miles where I would have to transfer to the light rail system to go another 5 or 6 miles. I'm also unlikely to drive the seven miles to the train and park and to take it. At that point, I would just finish my trip in my car. I consider myself an advocate for public transit and if it's unattractive for me, it's probably unattractive for many others as well. I thought this was a great opportunity for the federal government to pump some real transportation dollars and stimulus into the region by going big or going home. They could have proposed the line along the entire length of the Woodward corridor from Detroit to Pontiac. Yes, I realize there would be about 10x as many local governments involved and fighting with each other if that were the case, but I can dream, right?

    My other major concern was that I thought the line should have been built as a loop one block off of Woodward in each direction (John R. to the east of Woodward and Cass/2nd to the west of Woodward for those familiar with the area). My belief was that building along these streets instead of Woodward would force a bit more pedestrian activity for those trying to get to something on Woodward and would put quite a few more residents and businesses within a closer radius of some form of the line. While a loop may look more expensive, I would imagine that there could be some cost, and more importantly construction time, savings by the fact that avoiding Woodward would avoid building on a state-owned trunk line and save MDOT from having to oversee aspects. Building along these relatively less traveled side streets would also help ease some of the congestion that would be caused by building on the more heavily trafficked Woodward Avenue. Lastly, a few of the major institutions that this line was intended to serve, would have been placed directly on the lines instead of a few blocks off (Wayne State University, the Detroit Medical Center, the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, the State of Michigan at the Cadillac Center, the Fischer Building). Another large institution, the Henry Ford Hospital, would also be significantly closer to the lines.

    Oh well. That's all a moot point now since the city and the federal government have announced that the plan has essentially been taken off the table for a Bus Rapid Transit system instead.

    I have seen/heard quite a bit of grumbling from friends and colleagues (planners and non-planners and urbanites and suburbanites alike) about this but I personally like the new proposal and am much more excited about it than I was about the light rail line, both about the route and the possibilities that it opens up (not to mention it just seems like a much more feasible system to get off the ground). But I will stipulate that no BRT system will likely be able to replicate the positive economic development spin offs around where the proposed light rail stops would have been.

    Here are the reasons I think this might actually be a better plan:

    Theoretically, a BRT system should be able to be implemented much more quickly than a light rail line. There will need to be some lane improvements to the streets and other infrastructure enhancements, purchasing of the buses, training, etc. but this seems much less burdensome than building a rail line (granted, I'm no engineer - civil, transportation, or otherwise).

    The new proposed route will actually run through the city and the suburbs in a big triangular loop (Gratiot Avenue out to Macomb County towards the northeast, then along M59, M53, and 16 Mile mile along the north, and Woodward back to Gratiot and downtown along the western edge of the route), plus a spur out to the west along Michigan Avenue towards Metropolitan Airport and Ann Arbor. IMO, having this connectivity between the city and the suburbs is a huge improvement in functionality.

    Hopefully this will be a catalyst for scrapping the DDOT and SMART systems entirely and having one system for the city and the burbs that operates the regular buses and the BRT.

    The added connectivity between the city and suburbs will hopefully lead to increased ridership which could further demonstrate the usefulness, need, and acceptance of public transportation in a region long thought to be adverse to it which would hopefully be a catalyst for additional lines (maybe some along Grand River, Grand Blvd, Van Dyke, Fort, The Lodge/M10/Northwestern Highway, 10 Mile/696, an extension of the Gratiot line to 23 Mile, Telegraph, and whatever roads people like to drive on out on the Westside or Downriver?).

    If the BRT system proves successful and the get to the point where they have seemingly exhausted possible new routes and are able to sustain ridership, this could possibly be an argument for and a stepping stone to the long hoped for light rail system and the spin off economic development that would occur around those light rail stations and the TOD it would bring.

    I've ridden on light rail systems and on BRT systems (in Los Angeles). And yes, BRT is not rail, but it is something, and it can work. Will it work here in Detroit? I will keep my fingers crossed.

    There are already quite a few articles on the topic on the websites for the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, but here is one that sums up the situation pretty well: Detroit light-rail plan is dead; high-speed city, suburban buses to be used instead
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  2. #2
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    Disclaimer: I know we have discussed the previously proposed light rail system along Detroit's Woodward Corridor but a quick search did not result in any threads dedicated strictly to it so I am beginning a new one.


    For the past few years there has been a lot of effort and resources put into the development of a light rail system for the City of Detroit. About a year or so ago (I cannot recall exactly when), the various plans began to coalesce and a final plan was released which would be a line running up and down the center of Woodward Avenue (the Main Street for Detroit and its northern suburbs) from just outside of downtown eventually to 8 Mile Road (the northern city limit). Once downtown, the line would make a bit of a loop through the central area. The rail line was going to be paid for through a combination of federal and private grants, city and state funding, and a small coalition of wealthy private donors.

    From the start, I had some concerns about the system but was still hopeful it could actually get built.

    My first concern was that if the line ended at the city limit, nobody from the suburbs was going to bother to use it. I don't live far off of Woodward, but am about seven miles north of 8 Mile. I generally am not going to bother waiting for the slow and unconnective SMART bus system to take me down seven miles where I would have to transfer to the light rail system to go another 5 or 6 miles. I'm also unlikely to drive the seven miles to the train and park and to take it. At that point, I would just finish my trip in my car. I consider myself an advocate for public transit and if it's unattractive for me, it's probably unattractive for many others as well. I thought this was a great opportunity for the federal government to pump some real transportation dollars and stimulus into the region by going big or going home. They could have proposed the line along the entire length of the Woodward corridor from Detroit to Pontiac. Yes, I realize there would be about 10x as many local governments involved and fighting with each other if that were the case, but I can dream, right?

    My other major concern was that I thought the line should have been built as a loop one block off of Woodward in each direction (John R. to the east of Woodward and Cass/2nd to the west of Woodward for those familiar with the area). My belief was that building along these streets instead of Woodward would force a bit more pedestrian activity for those trying to get to something on Woodward and would put quite a few more residents and businesses within a closer radius of some form of the line. While a loop may look more expensive, I would imagine that there could be some cost, and more importantly construction time, savings by the fact that avoiding Woodward would avoid building on a state-owned trunk line and save MDOT from having to oversee aspects. Building along these relatively less traveled side streets would also help ease some of the congestion that would be caused by building on the more heavily trafficked Woodward Avenue. Lastly, a few of the major institutions that this line was intended to serve, would have been placed directly on the lines instead of a few blocks off (Wayne State University, the Detroit Medical Center, the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, the State of Michigan at the Cadillac Center, the Fischer Building). Another large institution, the Henry Ford Hospital, would also be significantly closer to the lines.

    Oh well. That's all a moot point now since the city and the federal government have announced that the plan has essentially been taken off the table for a Bus Rapid Transit system instead.

    I have seen/heard quite a bit of grumbling from friends and colleagues (planners and non-planners and urbanites and suburbanites alike) about this but I personally like the new proposal and am much more excited about it than I was about the light rail line, both about the route and the possibilities that it opens up (not to mention it just seems like a much more feasible system to get off the ground). But I will stipulate that no BRT system will likely be able to replicate the positive economic development spin offs around where the proposed light rail stops would have been.

    Here are the reasons I think this might actually be a better plan:

    Theoretically, a BRT system should be able to be implemented much more quickly than a light rail line. There will need to be some lane improvements to the streets and other infrastructure enhancements, purchasing of the buses, training, etc. but this seems much less burdensome than building a rail line (granted, I'm no engineer - civil, transportation, or otherwise).

    The new proposed route will actually run through the city and the suburbs in a big triangular loop (Gratiot Avenue out to Macomb County towards the northeast, then along M59, M53, and 16 Mile mile along the north, and Woodward back to Gratiot and downtown along the western edge of the route), plus a spur out to the west along Michigan Avenue towards Metropolitan Airport and Ann Arbor. IMO, having this connectivity between the city and the suburbs is a huge improvement in functionality.

    Hopefully this will be a catalyst for scrapping the DDOT and SMART systems entirely and having one system for the city and the burbs that operates the regular buses and the BRT.

    The added connectivity between the city and suburbs will hopefully lead to increased ridership which could further demonstrate the usefulness, need, and acceptance of public transportation in a region long thought to be adverse to it which would hopefully be a catalyst for additional lines (maybe some along Grand River, Grand Blvd, Van Dyke, Fort, The Lodge/M10/Northwestern Highway, 10 Mile/696, an extension of the Gratiot line to 23 Mile, Telegraph, and whatever roads people like to drive on out on the Westside or Downriver?).

    If the BRT system proves successful and the get to the point where they have seemingly exhausted possible new routes and are able to sustain ridership, this could possibly be an argument for and a stepping stone to the long hoped for light rail system and the spin off economic development that would occur around those light rail stations and the TOD it would bring.

    I've ridden on light rail systems and on BRT systems (in Los Angeles). And yes, BRT is not rail, but it is something, and it can work. Will it work here in Detroit? I will keep my fingers crossed.

    There are already quite a few articles on the topic on the websites for the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, but here is one that sums up the situation pretty well: Detroit light-rail plan is dead; high-speed city, suburban buses to be used instead
    I too am in favor of the BRT plan. The feds were very concerned about the operating costs of the light rail line, justifiably so in my opinion, based on the financial crisis Detroit is in.

    The BRT lines will be so much cheaper to build out. I know Detroit wanted to make a big splash, but you need to make baby steps when it comes to public transit.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I too am in favor of the BRT plan. The feds were very concerned about the operating costs of the light rail line, justifiably so in my opinion, based on the financial crisis Detroit is in.

    The BRT lines will be so much cheaper to build out. I know Detroit wanted to make a big splash, but you need to make baby steps when it comes to public transit.
    I'm in favor of it because there is less money to skim off the top, accept graft, bribe city officials, p**s away stupidly, and waste.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  4. #4
    WSU MUP Student

    Assuming that 8 mile road means its 8 miles from downtown Detroit and you said that you live 7 miles beyond that point, the percentage of people who choose transit for that distance is very small unless you have have heavy fixed rail like commuter trains. Fifteen miles is much further than Washington's beltway or Boston's 128. Beyond those zones, you have some transit use, but only a few and neither a bus nor a light rail line will help you.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    The FTA awarded my agency $3 million to study taking it from 8 Mile to Maple (15 Mile). I always thought it was silly to not take it at least to the zoo (10 Mile) as it is a major regional attraction. The 8 Mile location was always odd to me. To have it end at a closed fairground, cemetary and a subdivision full of mansions (including the boyhood home of Mr Romney) did not make much sense.

    What is odd is that my agency was never the lead on the Woodward LRT plan.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    BRT has serious issues, as I noted in the last BRT thread.
    Congratulations. Detroit will be getting a completely normal traditional bus route at an inflated cost with a fancy name. I'm sure adding a traditional buss route to the map will really work wonders for its transportation woes. BRT might be mildly useful, but none of the features of a BRT will make it past the first round of penny pinchers.

  7. #7

    proposed routes

    from what I have seen, the stops look rather limited. it seems that the scope is still not alrge enough. The Woodward Rails ystem was not either. We need the system to be comprehensive, up woodward and down gratiot is great but cuts out the entire west side of the region. What about Redford, Livonia, downriver cities, north western oakland county..

    Does anyone agree with this being a bit limited?

  8. #8

    WSU MUP

    Gotta Speak up are you in the program over there at Wayne State? How is it thus far, Im comtemplating enrollment.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaydetroit View post
    from what I have seen, the stops look rather limited. it seems that the scope is still not alrge enough. The Woodward Rails ystem was not either. We need the system to be comprehensive, up woodward and down gratiot is great but cuts out the entire west side of the region. What about Redford, Livonia, downriver cities, north western oakland county..

    Does anyone agree with this being a bit limited?
    Yep. Here's one solution:
    http://detnews.com/article/20111216/...on?odyssey=mod

    Let the record show that Livonia exempted itself from the SMART system. Apparently everyone there owns a reliable car, never drops it off at a repair shop, is completely able to get around without large-format public vehicles.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaydetroit View post
    from what I have seen, the stops look rather limited. it seems that the scope is still not alrge enough. The Woodward Rails ystem was not either. We need the system to be comprehensive, up woodward and down gratiot is great but cuts out the entire west side of the region. What about Redford, Livonia, downriver cities, north western oakland county..

    Does anyone agree with this being a bit limited?
    Yes, I agree that the scope is a bit limited, but I look at it as a step in the right direction. I would imagine they wanted to go up Woodward to start in order to replace the canceled light rail line and Gratiot is probably an easier route to make an initially loop with Woodward than Grand River would be. Once the route is up and running, they can then begin looking into adding additional service areas depending on ridership levels.

    Regarding the stops looking limited - that is by design. One of the problems with a traditional bus system like SMART or DDOT is that they have very frequent stops and the bus is never able to really make up any time. A BRT system would have many fewer stops and the riders will not have the option to pull the cord to get off every block, slowing the bus down even further, like they would on the other systems. Dedicated lanes for the buses should also have an impact on improving service times. Additionally, having only the designated stops along the fixed route will also help (hopefully) spur economic development at those points. No, it wouldn't be as much as what would occur near an actual rail stop, but it should be significantly more than what would occur at a traditional bus stop.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by jaydetroit View post
    Gotta Speak up are you in the program over there at Wayne State? How is it thus far, Im comtemplating enrollment.
    Sorry no. I received my MCRP years ago from another school.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    Yes, I agree that the scope is a bit limited, but I look at it as a step in the right direction. I would imagine they wanted to go up Woodward to start in order to replace the canceled light rail line and Gratiot is probably an easier route to make an initially loop with Woodward than Grand River would be. Once the route is up and running, they can then begin looking into adding additional service areas depending on ridership levels.

    Regarding the stops looking limited - that is by design. One of the problems with a traditional bus system like SMART or DDOT is that they have very frequent stops and the bus is never able to really make up any time. A BRT system would have many fewer stops and the riders will not have the option to pull the cord to get off every block, slowing the bus down even further, like they would on the other systems. Dedicated lanes for the buses should also have an impact on improving service times. Additionally, having only the designated stops along the fixed route will also help (hopefully) spur economic development at those points. No, it wouldn't be as much as what would occur near an actual rail stop, but it should be significantly more than what would occur at a traditional bus stop.


    Good point, in your second comment.

    I made the mistake of askinfg someone else this but it looks like you are the MUP grad student at Wayne state, either that or have already been through the program. Would you say it was a good program, I am thinking about enrolling. What are your thoughts?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Mods, feel free to move this to a separate thread if needed...

    Quote Originally posted by jaydetroit View post
    I made the mistake of askinfg someone else this but it looks like you are the MUP grad student at Wayne state, either that or have already been through the program. Would you say it was a good program, I am thinking about enrolling. What are your thoughts?
    I finished from there in 2009. I think it was an great program academically but I did have a few complaints. The major one was that the department seems to have a real missed opportunity in terms of what they could be doing to aid and study all of the economic development efforts going on in the Midtown area and the City in general. There seems to be very little communication between the department and the university administration regarding planning and economic development, which is a shame because the university is really pumping quite a bit of money into surrounding neighborhoods and becoming a real catalyst for change in Midtown. I always felt that the department should have been a bit more active in finding opportunities for faculty and grad students to provide assistance in those efforts. The same could be said for the rest of the city in general. For a while, the University of Detroit's very new and very tiny planning program was getting a lot of press for work they were collaborating on with the city and local non-profits. It seemed like a lot of those projects would have been great opportunities for WSU students. Granted, University of Detroit does have an established architecture program, but they have only gotten into planning within the last few years.

    Also, be aware going in that if you want studio time and to really learn how to put together a site plan, you will not get that at WSU. It is a very theory heavy program. I was lucky that I had a full-time job in the planning field almost as soon as I started the program but I think with the economy the way it is currently, sometimes I feel it might be difficult to break into the planning profession with such a theoretical education and very little practical application.


    I can share plenty more thoughts if desired but in the spirit of staying on the topic of BRT in the Detroit area, remember that if you live out on the east side or the northern 'burbs you may be able to take the BRT down to campus in a few years!
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  14. #14
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    BRT has serious issues, as I noted in the last BRT thread.
    Congratulations. Detroit will be getting a completely normal traditional bus route at an inflated cost with a fancy name. I'm sure adding a traditional buss route to the map will really work wonders for its transportation woes. BRT might be mildly useful, but none of the features of a BRT will make it past the first round of penny pinchers.
    Keep in mind that the transit agencies in Detroit are seriously broke. The reduction in property tax values, increases in fuel costs have seriously cut into thier ability to afford much in the way of high level service. At the same time the area suffers from large unemployment/underemployment making transit needed more than ever. SMART or DDOT whether separately or collectively could not afford to raise the money to match the federal dollars needed to build a similar light rail system or the funds to operate it. In my view anything that can increase transit capacity and improve service times is a good thing. Please remember that there will still be other bus routes to augment the BRT along metro Detroit's unusually wide avenues.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #15
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    BRT has serious issues, as I noted in the last BRT thread.
    Congratulations. Detroit will be getting a completely normal traditional bus route at an inflated cost with a fancy name. I'm sure adding a traditional buss route to the map will really work wonders for its transportation woes. BRT might be mildly useful, but none of the features of a BRT will make it past the first round of penny pinchers.
    Keep in mind that the transit agencies in Detroit are seriously broke. The reduction in property tax values, increases in fuel costs have seriously cut into thier ability to afford much in the way of high level service. At the same time the area suffers from large unemployment/underemployment making transit needed more than ever. SMART or DDOT whether separately or collectively could not afford to raise the money to match the federal dollars needed to build a similar light rail system or the funds to operate it. BRT is different than just a bus with a fancy name. It contains a lot of technology to move the buses faster down the route. In addition, Metro Detroit's main arteries do have significant unused capacity that could be used for bording areas. In my view anything that can increase transit capacity and improve service times is a good thing. Please remember that there will still be other bus routes to augment the BRT along metro Detroit's unusually wide avenues.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    With buses running a headway of one minute, according to the designers of the Adelaide system, a bus system can approach that of the smallest light rail systems. Does the Detroit system have a one minute headway?
    Where will the dedicated right of ways be? For BRT to be effective in the fashion of a BRT system, the bus has to be able to zoom around DOWNTOWN during rush hour without stopping at say, 40 MPH. Can the Detroit system do that? I doubt they will have any dedicated right of way at all.
    If they don't have either or both of the insanely short headways (plus signal priority and other ways to deal with the worst traffic at the very least) and a dedicated right of way in high traffic areas, they have essentially completely abandoned the transit plan and replaced it with one standard (non-BRT) bus line.

    Call it what it is: "Detroit scraps transit plans."

  17. #17
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Keep in mind that the transit agencies in Detroit are seriously broke. The reduction in property tax values, increases in fuel costs have seriously cut into thier ability to afford much in the way of high level service. At the same time the area suffers from large unemployment/underemployment making transit needed more than ever. SMART or DDOT whether separately or collectively could not afford to raise the money to match the federal dollars needed to build a similar light rail system or the funds to operate it. BRT is different than just a bus with a fancy name. It contains a lot of technology to move the buses faster down the route. In addition, Metro Detroit's main arteries do have significant unused capacity that could be used for bording areas. In my view anything that can increase transit capacity and improve service times is a good thing. Please remember that there will still be other bus routes to augment the BRT along metro Detroit's unusually wide avenues.
    How expensive would it be to simply establish express and limited stops bus routes without the flowery 'BRT' embellishments? Also, for costs on the transit system, what percentage goes to labor vs. fuel and vehicle purchases and maintenance? ISTR that bus drivers in many bigger metros do seriously well in pay and bennies and are some of the highest-paid government agency workers of all.

    Mike

  18. #18
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    How expensive would it be to simply establish express and limited stops bus routes without the flowery 'BRT' embellishments? Also, for costs on the transit system, what percentage goes to labor vs. fuel and vehicle purchases and maintenance? ISTR that bus drivers in many bigger metros do seriously well in pay and bennies and are some of the highest-paid government agency workers of all.

    Mike
    We have upgraded all of the controllers to modern ITS standards along our major thoughoughfares. Making them work with pre-emtion for buses/emergency vehicles would be mostly a software cost. We would only need the flowery stuff like at grade roll offs at the major transfer points such as Warren Avenue or S of Campus Martius.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Short version: can anybody point me to an example of a BRT system that has been picked up and moved to another corridor after being established at one point?


    One of my frustrations in the recent announcements has been that nobody in metro Detroit seems to understand "bus rapid transit" as something qualitatively different than "faster local bus service". The media has all been talking about "fast buses" or "high-speed buses", with some in the advocacy community feeding that perception, while the folks who originally pitched the concept were talking BRT -- and they've tried pretty strenuously to avoid even calling it that (instead going for "rolling rapid transit") in order to head off misconceptions that this is just a fast bus.

    This is particularly problematic when we get into any discussion of economic impact -- while I certainly don't expect BRT to have 100% of the development-driving power of a light rail system, I think that comparison is more apt that comparing it to a local bus line. (And I'm a firm believer that most of the development-supporting power of a transit system is in the planning that happens around it, rather than the technology.) Unfortunately, the "fast buses" misconception is coming on strong on this point, e.g. http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/in...ail_in_de.html:

    "As a completely separate idea, the rapid bus would be great," Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, told MLive.com earlier this month. "But itís absolutely no comparison with light rail. Rapid bus is a great transportation tool. Light Rail adds a great revitalization and economic development aspect that buses completely miss."
    The "BRT can't drive economic development" mantra seems to be driven by an assumption of BRT as a transitory thing -- that developers won't plan around it because they can't rely on its being there tomorrow. This is fundamentally at odds with my understanding of BRT as a fixed-route and effectively fixed-guideway system, but seems to be coloring the discussion pretty heavily. Detroit is years of work away from establishing this proposed BRT system, and I'd like to see that work actually focus on "BRT" and not on "fast buses".

  20. #20
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Monkeyflower. It is doubtful that metro Detroit will be able to raise the capital needed to build an LRT line anywhere. It also has huge issues in finding the funds to operate the current system. The money used to match is drying up fast as it is tied to both housing values and gas use.

    The system currently does not serve those who need it the most. Who are we supposed to build the system for, how are we going to pay for it?

    The local 'transit advocates' seem to think that we need a world class system. The local politicos want to improve how it works for the existing ridership.

    We can't do both without major reform. I've rode DDOT since I was a toddler and have also used SMART and its precursor SEMTA on a intermittent basis. Both systems are shells of what they used to be. It is my hope that these discussions along with the reality experienced by SMART having to cut many of its routes and DDOT not being able to fix its buses will force this change.

    There are many levels to BRT. If you build a full BRT system you would still have flexibility to move those buses, but you won't get the full advantage of having the ADA nicities. That is a huge advantage that BRT has is providing for the movement of folks with disabilities for little cost. Compare this to the cost of paratransit. I was in Cleveland last week and experienced the Euclid line. It has helped spur economic investment and help to tie CSU, Cleveland Clinic, University Circle with downtown. Its flat out amazing how there is all of this new development in a once thought of dead city center.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by monkeyflower View post
    The "BRT can't drive economic development" mantra seems to be driven by an assumption of BRT as a transitory thing -- that developers won't plan around it because they can't rely on its being there tomorrow. This is fundamentally at odds with my understanding of BRT as a fixed-route and effectively fixed-guideway system, but seems to be coloring the discussion pretty heavily. Detroit is years of work away from establishing this proposed BRT system, and I'd like to see that work actually focus on "BRT" and not on "fast buses".
    That's because the number of actual BRT systems that spring from a discussion of BRT approaches zero in a manner similar to a calculus equation, but the normal bus routes that are left over afterward are still claimed to be BRT. I can claim that my cat's tail is a leg, but it doesn't mean I have a five-legged cat. The hurdles needed to create an actual BRT system in the U.S. are virtually insurmountable in a major urban area, and the resistance to destroying the essential features of such a system are essentially zero.

  22. #22
    Every time BRT comes up in a thread I point out that the Silver Line BRT in Boston is atrocious. Something in the US DNA makes building a real BRT impossible.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    Every time BRT comes up in a thread I point out that the Silver Line BRT in Boston is atrocious. Something in the US DNA makes building a real BRT impossible.
    Probably the fact that Americans have a deeply ingrained social and psychological aversion to buses...
    "It's human nature, you can't do anything about that" - Alan Greenspan

    Check out my blog!

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by bsteckler View post
    Probably the fact that Americans have a deeply ingrained social and psychological aversion to buses...
    A few years ago I was working on a transit project that included making recommendations between BRT and LRT. In discussions with local developers we were told that people will not pay a premium on new units that are located next to a BRT system, but they would pay extra for units that are next to an LRT system, even if the capacity and speed of service was the same. In this particular context it would make a significant difference in the amount of development that would occur and the timing of development along the corridor (e.g. a BRT system would mean developers would build somewhere else first while an LRT would make this corridor the prime location for them). So, even though the short and medium-term ridership targets could have been accommodated with the BRT system, the City chose to go with an LRT system because of the economic uplift (e.g. increase in property taxes) that system would bring. Over a twenty year period the LRT would more than pay for itself while also doing a much better job at reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality. In other words you have to spend money to make money. The same city however also approved a BRT system at about the same time because along that route the opportunity for economic uplift was a lot less.

    Regarding BRT, I think the biggest problem is the lack of a clear definition of what ďBRTĒ is. At what point does an express bus route become a BRT? In my mind a BRT needs to have dedicated lanes, either within the street or along its own network of transitways, but many cities call buses with nothing more the que-jumping lanes at intersections BRT. If thatís the case then the definition is irrelevant - whatís important is the potential capacity and the ability to attract choice riders. If an express bus route has the ability to carry the desired number of passengers and can attract those riders then it doesnít really matter if itís called a BRT or an express bus route.

  25. #25
    Member
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    Ypsilanti, Michigan
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    What is BRT?

    "Bus Rapid Transit" is pretty clearly defined (at least among transit geeks). To be true BRT, it needs these four characteristics:
    1) Stations that passengers must pay to enter;
    2) Level boarding;
    3) Dedicated right-of-way; and
    4) Precedence at major intersections.
    Some add:
    5) Frequent service
    but I don't know of anyplace where minimum peak-hour frequency has been defined.
    Last edited by WakeUp; 25 Jan 2012 at 12:14 PM.

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