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Rajan R

Prrf, the Navy? How are they even comparable with the Army? Switzerland doesn't have a Navy, why should America? Personally, I think the Navy is just a Coast Guard front, pretending to be fighting wars and all that. Whenever we bring up investment into the Army, those coasties always bring up things like aircraft carriers. Its still a ship, no?

Joseph E

Rajan, what? Are buses the Navy and trains the Army, or the other way around?

Jarrett, while we are talking about on-the-street BRT, today is the opening day for Swift BRT in Snohomish county, Washington state. This is a suburban county just north of Seattle.

Community Transit will open a 16.5 mile BRT route from Everett to Shoreline, mainly along Highway 99. Stations are very widely spaced, every 1 to 2 miles, which made if affordable to have TVMs, next bus signs, rain and wind screens and big, monumental markers. The buses are single-articulated with 3 wide doors; the front door accomodates wheelchairs/electric scooters, and the back has room for several bikes in an interesting diagonal rack.

According to the schedule, the 12-station route will take 38 minutes at 5 am or midnight, but up to 46 minutes in the AM and PM rush hours, for an overall speed of 21.5 to 26 mph (41.5 to 34.5 kph) end to end.

Community Transit has some nice videos, as seen on Seattle Transit Blog:
http://seattletransitblog.com/2009/11/29/swift-opening-day-is-here/#more-10140

The official website is quite useful: http://www.commtrans.org/Projects/Swift.cfm

I wonder if this route would not benefit from more frequent stations. Bike riders and "park-and-ride" riders probably benefit from 1.5 mile (2.5 km) station spacing in most of the route, but most people getting to the line on foot will probably have to transfer from a local bus. If your destination is not right next to a station (a real posssibility with the wide spacing) you will need to transfer again. I believe they may expect many people to transfer to king county buses at the south end or Sounder commuter trains at the north end of the line. It might have been better to continue the service all the way to downtown Seattle, but politically this might be a problem.

Anyone here from the Seattle area with more thoughts about Swift?

damnitjanet

I live in Los Angeles. I really don't see why the region (led by transit advocates) is building all of this additional rail infrastructure. It has always struck me as much cheaper to just convert some of the existing freeway lanes into exclusive bus lanes, than to spend billions of dollars ripping up streets to build subways. LA has earthquakes, large pockets of natural gas. (think la brea tar pits) and fairly temperate weather year round. Its not like the transit needs to be underground to avoid bad weather, but building tunnels here makes it really expensive. I really don't see any reason why transit in LA should be underground.

LA isn't Manhattan. Its spread out with multiple and diffused business districts (Century City, West LA or LAX are probably as big or bigger than downtown LA). It has also spent a good part of the last 60+ years building out a huge freeway network, all of which is accessible to buses. If the region didn't have all of this freeway network already built out and if there was one really strong central business district, I could see the merits for rail, but in LA the expansion of the rail system really just seems to be cannibalizing the bus network, which has the effect of making mass transit in LA less effective for all of the people who don't live or work in downtown LA. (I need to go from Sherman Oaks to Santa Monica)

I supported the transit tax in LA because I thought it would be used to expand the number and frequency of the bus lines.

Its not that I don't think LA needs more transit. It does. But I also don't see why it needs or will benefit from the rail network its building. When I read about how the goldline is projected to have only 13000 riders a day, it galls me about we spent 900 million dollars to serve so few riders. Really how expensive would it have been to just repaint a traffic lane in each direction on a freeway and turn it into dedicated bus lane? How many buses and how many bus drivers could you have paid for with just the interest on that 900 million dollars?

EngineerScotty

Many here would love to see freeway lanes removed and replaced with transit lanes; especially in the LA basin which has freeway lanes to spare.

But as you are probably aware, the politics for that won't work.

While LA the city has a strong political consensus for transit; CalTrans isn't about to tear down roadworks for transit, and anything that is Interstate-badged is further subject to federal regulations. Even something as trivial as putting in a HOV lane (of which LA has many) requires lots of bureaucracy to implement.

One other thing to note is that while Los Angeles the city is interested in transit development, many other parts of the region are not. Orange County is famously hostile to it.

But how is the bus network being cannibalized? Is bus service being reduced to fund LRT operations (ignoring lines which are made redundant by LRT?) A well-placed LRT can often free up funds for additional bus service in other corridors (not all LRTs are well-placed, obviously).

calwatch

On the other hand, Orange County did build up its transit system to providing owl service, 15 minute service on major routes during rush hour, etc. It's just that no one was paying much attention when they did so, and all of that was curtailed when the funding dried up.

As far as Swift, you are lucky that they even got into the City of Everett. Everett and Community Transit have historically had a very antagonistic relationship towards each other. The existing local service requires a transfer at the city limits because of this antagonism. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/snohomishcountynews/2004065957_bus12n.html I wouldn't count on more of this cooperation any time soon.

Pantheon

I find it interesting that the two most heated and sensitive debates on this blog (streetcars, and now BRT) are both over technology. I presume that all of us are advocates for better transit and mobility, so why is the technology such a hot button topic?

I think both sides believe passionately in their cause, and both believe that the other camp is overlooking something critically important.

I find it passing strange to have been shoehorned into the "BRT" camp, because I don't actually see myself as an advocate of one technology or the other. I love rail. I rode the Link to Seatac for the first time today and it was great. But I only like rail when it is done right - I intensely disklike most of the MAX system, for example. And I recognize that doing it right costs a lot of money.

So I see my approach as fundamentally practical. I vary my opinion based on the individual city in question (though I am far from knowledgable about all facets of every city). As I see it, building a rail network makes sense in a city like Seattle because

a) there is a lot of money from the sales tax increase earmarked for transit

b) the compact size of the city means less space to cover, and

c) the existing bus network is really good, so nobody is suffering over the next couple of decades waiting for rail

In Portland, I am acutely aware of the fact that the bus system has fallen into disrepair while the city has pursued its rail adventures. As Jarrett pointed out in a prior post, the bus system is less today than it was in the 1970's when Portland instituted its frequent service lines. And the rail investments have been of limited usefulness, and seem to be geared more to gentrification and development purposes (the yellow line in particular) than to mobility. The most tragic part of the story is that in the case of the yellow line, the anticipated gentrification has not happened. Will the green line result in development along the freeway, or will it be yet another Portland failure?

I am far from an expert on Los Angeles, but I think there are several factors that make rail less attractive there than in a place like Seattle. Most obviously, the enormous geography of the place. Secondly, the more desperate spot that transit users there are in. But then maybe I'm wrong about the latter. How would Angelenos characterize their situation - are you reasonably happy with what you have? Does it meet your needs pretty well? Or are you desperate for some improvement of any kind?

Of course there is no reason why we can't do both rail and BRT. And in just about every city, both will be done. In Seattle for example, the coming 'A' line of the RapidRide service duplicates a future planned extension corridor for the Link. In an online interview, Karen Rosenzweig of Metro was asked why they are building a BRT route that duplicates a future light rail route. This was her response:

"One of advantages of RapidRide implementation is its relatively short implementation timeline, and future flexibility to modify the service. Whether light rail is implemented in this corridor in 10, 15 or 20 years, there is a long period of time where bus service can meet mobility needs in a corridor that has high demand and HOV/BAT facilities already in place. It integrates with the initial segment of Link to SeaTac Airport and spurs transit demand in what may become a future rail corridor. BRT is often used as a precursor to rail, creating the market for the larger, future investment."

Source: http://seatrans.blogspot.com/2008/03/rapid-ride-answers.html

So what I think the so-called "rail" people (I hesitate to pigeonhole people like that) are missing is that BRT is not the enemy of rail. It is part of the bigger picture that includes both. It can accomplish a lot today at a lower cost than rail. And while it may not be perfect, it is far better than what exists currently for the people who need it.

So what am I missing?

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@ Pantheon. Yes, that's pretty much the view that's arisen from my experience.

The added complexity is that you really have to evaluate things corridor by corridor. Lots of people think that Los Angeles is really spread out and Portland really compact. Really, Los Angeles is just massive in every dimension. Certain chunks of it are quite dense, and those chunks create enough of a market to support rail transit in my view.

So many of the comparisons you cite actually apply within urban regions. Yes, Seattle is really dense, but Snohomish County isn't so much, so I'm glad they're moving ahead with BRT while waiting, another decade or more, for light rail. And the constant pressure to push LRT outward from Seattle as fast as possible means it will never cover a lot of the densest parts of Seattle itself.

Great cities end up needing several complementary systems, each fitted to a certain group of corridors. And that's politically hard because of the political logic of extensions. It's way easier to extend an existing system than create a new one, because the existing system is something people can already visualize.

EngineerScotty

@Pantheon,

I would disagree that the purpose of the yellow line is primarily for redevelopment--right now, the line passes through existing urban fabric (and an active industrial zone on the north end). The true "purpose" of the line--service to Vancouver, WA (at least downtown, given the low density north of the river, as well as greater hostility to transit there) will need to wait until a new bridge is built across the Columbia. Some infill development is expected (and some has indeed occurred), but I don't think anybody was hoping to see an Orenco Station sprout up along Interstate Avenue.

Of course, the Yellow Line's stop spacings (about 1000m in the stretch between Expo Center and Rose Quarter) aren't entirely optimal for a regional connector, and are only competitive with driving (or an express bus on the freeway) during rush hour. And it's another 15 minutes to get to Portland State. But other than via a dedicated busway in the corridor, bus-based service is not likely to offer better performance or reliability. (And for what its worth, given that trains along Interstate seldom get up to speed, I've wondered about converting the Interstate Avenue stretch to dual-mode operation).

Long term, it would be nice to see more metro-like service in Portland. Right now, the main source of crosstown trips is probably west-siders looking to get to the airport.

Peter Smith

@Pantheon - i think you're missing a couple of things:

1. it's not a 'technology issue' -- it's a ride quality/experience issue. people are not robots, so they recognize that rail-based travel is inherently different, and better, than bus travel. they don't need statistics to tell them that buses suck -- they've ridden the buses and they want nothing to do with them. no mathematics necessary.

2. BRT certainly does kill rail. it may not happen in theoretical/fantasy-land where all transit planners are good-natured and politics are not involved, but in the real world it happens all the time. witness DC's huge fight over Purple Line Light Rail vs. BRT. most people wanted light rail, of course, but one of the Shell-funded BRT propaganda outfits recommended, surprise!, BRT. we don't have to like that it's BRT vs. LRT, but that's the reality. BRT can kill LRT and/or delay it for generations -- as it did in Curitiba, Bogota, etc. there's a reason that Alfred Sloan, former head of General Motors, declared that railroads (along with the legislatures) were one of his and his partners' two enemies. wishing that BRT didn't compete directly LRT won't ever make it true, and repeating the 'technology' mantra over and over again won't change folks' minds, either. make the bus experience remotely similar to riding a train, and then we can talk about 'technology' and other fun theory and statistics. but we know that will never happen until you put a bus on rails, as some are trying to do with guided buses and all sorts of other wacky technology in a seemingly-futile attempt to get buses to emulate rail. hey -- i'm not hating -- more power to them. innovation is good. just don't pretend that buses are rail -- they're not, but that's how they're sold here in the US. again, we don't have to agree with it, or like it, but that's reality.

damnitjanet

Scotty

The build out of light rail is affecting the bus network in two ways. First its just absorbing a lot of money that would otherwise go to the bus network. So when budget cuts come, it falls mostly on the bus lines.

But the second issue is that the bus lines are being redrawn to feed to rail network and that is hurting transit ridership too. When the old pure bus lines are replaced by bus transferring to rail, the overall length of the commute is extended because now the route needs to build in time for a transfer. What is happening is that the riders who have the means to drive to the park and ride lots, drive to the park and ride lots. That reduces the number of people on the bus portion of the route and then because there are no longer enough riders on the bus portion of route, they cut back/eliminate the bus portion of the service as a budget measure.

That is means that a lot of residents have less access to the transit network and a lot of destinations that were formerly served by the transit network are getting dropped by the transit network because the connecting bus service is getting dropped.

In Los Angeles, the biggest employment destinations are built near freeway interchanges (such as Warner Center). These skyscrapers aren't going to be moved. They have parking lots/structures around them and are spread out, where they really are going to be in walking distance of a rail stop.

So when these feeder bus lines are dropped, it dropping access to these transit destinations.

As a result I really fail to see how the build out of the rail network is somehow an improvement of transit access, or transit frequency. I just see it as massive financial black hole.

In the Netherlands the rational for building out the bike lanes was that if you wanted to encourage people to shift from cars to bikes, you needed to shift how the road space was allocated. In Los Angeles, I think the same principal applies to the freeway network. If the goal is a serious transfer of share from cars to transit, then you need to take space away from the cars and give it to the bus lines.

Given how this region is already laid out, I really see rail as a poor means for providing transit to the region. Neither the majority of ridership nor the transit destinations are ever going to be in walking distance of the rail network. But when you are cannibalizing the bus network to build the rail network, ultimately you are just shrinking the overall transit network.

Dan Wentzel

"it's a ride quality/experience issue. people are not robots, so they recognize that rail-based travel is inherently different, and better, than bus travel. they don't need statistics to tell them that buses suck -- they've ridden the buses and they want nothing to do with them. no mathematics necessary."

---------------

Thank you, Peter for some common sense. People aren't as dumb as rumored. They know the difference between riding a real train and riding a bus pretending to be just as good as a train.

Dan Wentzel

"Given how this region is already laid out, I really see rail as a poor means for providing transit to the region. Neither the majority of ridership nor the transit destinations are ever going to be in walking distance of the rail network. But when you are cannibalizing the bus network to build the rail network, ultimately you are just shrinking the overall transit network."

--------------

I cannot disagree with the "L.A. is too big for rail" arguments of discredited organizations like the so-called Bus Riders "Union" more.

London is also a sprawling city like Los Angeles and they have a comprehensive bus system and 12 underground lines, an new overground network, dozens and dozens of commuter rail lines from mutliple "Union Stations" going in every direction, and a growing streetcar/tram network as well.

This is not a case of bus or rail. We need BOTH. Buses do not have the capacity to handle Los Angeles transportation needs themselves, not to mention the high operating labor costs per rider on buses. Paying for those operating costs of the type of bus-only transportation network that a group like the BRU envisions would truly be a black hole in annual transportation budgets.

We need to grow the transit pie for both bus and rail.

Dan Wentzel

http://www.transit-insider.org/master.html?http://www.transit-insider.org/bru/index.htm">http://www.transit-insider.org/bru/index.htm">http://www.transit-insider.org/master.html?http://www.transit-insider.org/bru/index.htm

People need to find out more about the discredited Bus Riders "Union" themselves. Kymberleigh Richards, a local transit advocate, has a page dedicated to exposing the myths about the so-called Bus Riders "Union".

Dan Wentzel

"When the old pure bus lines are replaced by bus transferring to rail, the overall length of the commute is extended because now the route needs to build in time for a transfer. "

----------

The rail runs faster than the bus in mixed traffic, so the trip isn't actually "longer'

=====================================

"That reduces the number of people on the bus portion of the route and then because there are no longer enough riders on the bus portion of route, they cut back/eliminate the bus portion of the service as a budget measure. "

-----------

So we are supposed to force people to ride slower buses because you feel that endagers a few people on "connecting" bus services? Please show an actual example of this happening. We can easily mitigate this.

==================================

"Neither the majority of ridership nor the transit destinations are ever going to be in walking distance of the rail network. But when you are cannibalizing the bus network to build the rail network, ultimately you are just shrinking the overall transit network."

------------

This is the most ridiculous statement. The idea that rail service is cannibalizing "bus service" instead of providing more mobility is too laughable to discuss seriously. And, look at the destinations that ARE or will be in walking distance to the rail network, especially as the Purple Line gets extended. Your argument supports expanding Metrorail to more places, not to eliminating Metrorail.

=================================

"L.A. has earthquakes, large pockets of natural gas. (think la brea tar pits) and fairly temperate weather year round."

--------

Janet hits ALL the BRU talking points and this one is just as ridiculous as the others. We also build parking lots in places with methane gas safely. Japan is earthquake country too and they are fine. In the 1989 San Francisco quake, the BART tunnel was safe while the Bay Bridge fell down.

I live in Los Angeles too, and thank goodness the BRU is sharply declining in influence and lacking in credibility.

And anyone who thinks that motorists would allow bus-only lanes on freeways is politically tone deaf. And countless people travel in Los Angeles every days in directions that to not mirror the freeways.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Bravo to Peter for continuing to stake out a pure pro-rail position that will help others locate their own point of view. He writes:

2. BRT certainly does kill rail. it may not happen in theoretical/fantasy-land where all transit planners are good-natured and politics are not involved, but in the real world it happens all the time. witness DC's huge fight over Purple Line Light Rail vs. BRT.

The problem is, the BRU complaint (which you'll hear more and more in other cities during the current season of bus service cuts) is that rail kills citywide bus networks. The huge cost of rail involves pouring so much money into a single street that there's no way to keep that from affecting the quality of service spread over the entire city.

I don't see how this changes unless agencies start finding firewalled funding streams that keep the bus service going, and growing with population, even as rail projects proceed.

Dan Wentzel

I'm going to recommend Kymberleigh Richard's Transit Insider site again. She has created a wonderful presentation about how transportation is funding in California.

California bus services are primarily in trouble because of raids on transportation funds by the bankrupt State.

Rail construction funding comes from a different pool of money than bus (and rail) operations funding. Metro really isn't as free as the BRU claims and the average person thinks is switch funds from rail construction to bus operations.

http://www.transit-insider.org/master.html?http://www.transit-insider.org/biography.htm">http://www.transit-insider.org/biography.htm">http://www.transit-insider.org/master.html?http://www.transit-insider.org/biography.htm

Every other State probably has their own peculiarities. Different states set up their transit agencies differently and no doubt fund them in ways distinct to their states and give local governments varying degrees of home rule.

Australia has 6 States and 2 Territories and Canada has 10 Provinces and 3 Territories.

Is that any simpler than having 50 States, the District of Columbia and 5 Territories?

How is transportation operations and constructed funded in Australia, Jarrett? Is there any federalism involved? Is New South Wales different from Queensland? Just curious. That's probably a discussion far afield from this thread, but an interesting topic nonetheless.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@ Dan. I've worked a lot in both Australia and Canada. Both countries are federations of states/provinces where the state/province remains the ultimate sovereign. As in the US, the principle is that states/provinces rule except on issues that have to cross their borders. Unlike the US, that principle is still actively in force restraining the size and role of national government.

The best metaphor for this in Australia is railroad gauges. States were separate and competing British colonies until 1901, and during that era they built rail networks with different gauges, a permanent barrier to interstate travel. Huge monies had to be spent in the 20c to extend NSW gauges over the border into Victoria and Queensland so that direct Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane trains would be possible.

Neither Canada nor Australia has anything on the scale of the US FTA as a central funding body. Australia is in the earliest stages of developing one, Infrastructure Australia. IA is an initiative of the current Labor goverment, in power only since 2007, and is evidence of a new view that urban competitiveness is a national issue.

EngineerScotty

Jarrett,

I'm assuming that you are discussing operational funding, as opposed to capital costs.

I do get a bit tired of the "rail kills busses" argument, naturally--that argument presupposes that one class of riders (or one mode) is more entitled to operational funds than another. If you have bus services being cut and the funds diverted to poorly-performing rail lines, then I see the complaint--this is not an optimal use of transit dollars.

But many of the complaints, including Pantheon's comments WRT MAX, aren't concerning poorly-performing rail lines; they concern well-performing rail lines that move a whole heck of a lot of people. I suspect that for many MAX critics in Portland (and moreso for the LA BRU), much of the bus/rail debate is a proxy for the larger question of which communities should get which level of service. BRU is, by all accounts, a left-wing organization which demands that transit be dedicated to poor and minority neighborhoods rather than wealthy white ones (and is openly hostile to wealthy neighborhoods); BRU may also have entanglement with transit unions who view rail (with fewer drivers per passenger) as a threat to jobs. In any case, BRT is concerned with a particular transit constituency only.

Portland doesn't have the poisonous racial politics of LA, but much of the complaints about MAX seem to stem from objections to transit service being redistributed from the inner city to the suburbs. Never mind that MAX runs full for much of the day; and provides a service that local busses can't match. (BRT probably could, though whether it would attract a similar level of ridership is the million-dollar question).

At any rate, according to the recent Tri-Met annual report, MAX sees about 100k boardings per day (35.2 million boardings/year), the bus system sees about 200k (66.2 Mbdg/y). Yet the total bus portion of the operating budget last FY was adound US$191 million; the MAX portion was only $67 million--bus served twice as many passengers as MAX, but cost the agency three times as much. These figures are derived from the 2009 fact sheet, and more accurate numbers are probably available (but I'm not sure where to find them), but there's a good reason that TriMet wants to invest more in light rail.

Whether or not it provides the sort of service the community best needs is a political question, but TriMet sees the volumes necessary to make rail a worthwhile investment from a financial point of view.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@ Scotty. I'm talking about both capital and operating funding, to the degree that there's no firewall between them. Bus service cuts are mostly about operating funds, but the BRU got traction partly because LACMTA couldn't show that it's capital investments in rail were having no impact on its operating budget decisions that drove bus service.

There's no question that the BRU is playing class and race politics, and that there are legitimate arguments with that approach. I'm less interested in the specifics of the BRU and its leadership than in the phenomenon of their emergence, which I think could occur in other cities. My overall point, which I'll try to pull together into a post, is that a lot of people who comment on public transport from an urbanist perspective are just not seeing the BRU's constituency or understanding their needs.

The moral of the BRU story, to me, is "build rail where rail makes sense, but be careful to avoid a situation where you are cutting major bus service as a result of your investments in rail, or even creating the appearance of doing so." That's not just bad politics, it's bad planning.

Dan Wentzel

There is another moral to the BRU story.

If you demagogue instead of provide reasonable transit solutions, at some point no one will take you seriously.

NO ONE in Los Angeles in any position of power takes their transit policies seriously anymore, and only a few still give credence to the politics. Now that the consent agreement with Metro has expired, the only power and influence they have is to make nuisances of themselves at transit authority meetings.

If other groups start to form and other cities, they should learn a lesson in overplaying your hand.

Race and class still play a tremendous role in transportation planning, but it isn't because anyone in any power has any interest in implementing the BRU's anti-rail, but-only transit policies.

anonymouse

My main argument against the BRU has been that their position basically amounts to demanding a transit service so poor that only people with no choice would ride it. They say that rail is racist because white people ride it, but that's only the case because it's actually competitive with car travel during rush hour. The bus is not, and it really is the last resort for most people: something like 75% of bus riders don't have a driver's license. And lest we forget, the BRU position during the month-long transit strike was "we must support the drivers" rather than supporting the bus riders who couldn't get to work. I'm not even sure they like the idea of the Rapid, actually, I think they may have been against it at one point, seeing it as yet another ploy to reduce local bus service. And of course they're espousing a radical-Marxist position in the rest of their politics. Why even acknowledge them?

calwatch

Because rich people fund them and make them important, so they have to be part of the dialogue. Unfortunately, that's why.

There is a point where buses saturate a corridor so much that something needs to be done to move people faster - think Wilshire Boulevard. But there are also areas where rail is being built simply because there's an available right of way (the Foothill Gold Line, for one example). Orange County, until recently, was a good example of a bus-based system that was somewhat successful - and the limitations of that approach. OCTA's service was aimed primarily at attracting demographics predisposed to transit and perhaps those who were on the margins with affordable public transit, while discounting the market in more affluent areas. When the middle class doesn't use transit, it becomes easy for demagogues like OCTA board member and Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach to advocate complete elimination of them. http://orangejuiceblog.com/2009/08/supervisor-john-moorlach-wants-to-get-rid-of-public-buses/

Pantheon

To Peter Smith:

A clarification regarding your first point.

"1. it's not a 'technology issue' -- it's a ride quality/experience issue. people are not robots, so they recognize that rail-based travel is inherently different, and better, than bus travel. they don't need statistics to tell them that buses suck -- they've ridden the buses and they want nothing to do with them. no mathematics necessary."

When I use the word technology, I am referring to precisely the things you mentioned. If we start from the premise that we want the fastest service possible, and favour one mode over the other because it is faster, we are doing it for reasons that are extrinisic to the technology. But whenever we discuss what a bus or train looks like, sounds like, or feels like, those are intrinsic to the technology. So perceived ride quality concerns the technology itself, as opposed to extrinsic factors such as mobility or cost.

Pantheon

I would like to respond to several comments posted in numerous threads, the gist of which is that BRT will not entice people out of their cars. Now it may or may not be the case that rail will be more effective (for whatever reason) at coaxing people out of their cars. But it is not true that BRT has no success with this. Here are the results from some case studies where BRT was instituted:

- 18% to 30% of riders were new riders in Houston

- Los Angeles had a 26% to 33% gain in riders, one-third of which was new riders

- Vancouver had 8,000 new riders, 20% of whom previously used automobiles and 5% of whom were taking new trips

- Adelaide had a 76% gain in ridership

- Brisbane had a 42% gain in ridership

- Leeds had a 50% gain in ridership

- Pittsuburgh had a 38% gain in ridership

- In Hartford, half of the estimated 20,000 daily riders are expected to be former motorists

Not only were up to 30% of Houston riders new, but 72% of them were diverted from automobiles.

Another criticism people have made about BRT is that it does not carry the same redevelopment benefits as rail. But let's look at the case studies:

- The Pittsburgh East Busway had 59 new developments with an 1500-ft radius of stations, totalling $302 million in land development benefits

- In Ottawa, there was $1 Billion (Cdn) in new development at transitway stations

- In Brisbane, property values within 6 miles of a station grew 2 to 3 times faster than those at greater distances

- In Adelaide, the Tea Tree Gulley area is becoming an urban village

(And after all, who wouldn't want to live somewhere with a name like Tea Tree Gulley?).

Source: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_rpt_90v1.pdf

(Pgs., 5-6, 24, 52)

Peter Smith

The problem is, the BRU complaint (which you'll hear more and more in other cities during the current season of bus service cuts) is that rail kills citywide bus networks.

for the record, i agree with this BRU complaint. in other words, BRT competes with LRT, and vice-versa, in capital costs, in operating costs, etc. of course they compete.

that it takes so much effort to establish elementary truths like this shows you that there are quite a few dishonest players (conservatives, Republicans, liars, professional liars, Shell Foundation, CityFix/EMBARQ, WRI, NBRTI, the tire companies, etc.) in the game.

at least now there's a growing set of High Speed Rail PR outfits (i.e. professional liars) starting to pump out their own version of the truth -- it's only fair that the bus people should have to spend their time re-killing zombies, too.

i don't expect the rail folks will have a government-funded public relations outfit like the NBRTI anytime soon, but you never know...

EngineerScotty


Whether or not ride quality is important is of course a political decision, and like many factors might be a cover for something else--but it is an important consideration. Now it may be the case that the transit authority decides to de-emphasize ride quality; that's a perfectly legitimate decision. A TA might also decide that ride quality is important, and that they are willing to spend money on it.

Regarding the whole "bus competes with rail" point in general--so what? Transit in Portland competes with transit in Seattle for federal dollars. TriMet's #12 line (a frequent service bus line in SW Portland) competes with the #33 (one that runs to Oregon City)--TriMet could, if they choose, boost service on the #33 by cutting service on the #12. The point is, ALL transit services that are dependent on subsidies for their operations or construction, "compete" in some sense in that there are more needs than funds to go around.

For this reason, the rail/bus competition meme is kind of obnoxious. It undermines the goal of trying to provide the best service overall; and it serves as proxy for a lot of political and cultural wars that have nothing, really, to do with transit--everything from racial grievances to energy politics, not to mention the financial interests of the associated industries.

Alon Levy

Pantheon, the main complaint about BRT isn't that its ridership is zero; it's that its ridership is low. And no, 3-fold growth in property values doesn't mean much. I've seen studies (no reference - sorry, I don't remember) showing that els increase property values by a factor of 4, and subways by a factor of 10.

Pantheon

Alon,

Those are good points. I wasn't intending to suggest that BRT is necessarily just as good as rail at a) getting people out of their cars and b) creating urban renewal and gentrification. It may indeed be just as good as rail, or it may not be. But I wanted to make the point that these benefits, which many often exclusively associate with rail, are in fact also associated with BRT to a certain extent.

Nathanael
So what I think the so-called "rail" people (I hesitate to pigeonhole people like that) are missing is that BRT is not the enemy of rail.

Not *necessarily* the enemy would be more accurate.

It was the enemy in the Orange Line (in LA) -- the politics of this are crystal clear and well recorded, right down to pro-bus anti-rail politicians screwing with the laws to prevent light rail in a corridor which used to have it. It was the enemy in the "Silver Line" in Boston.

The Metro Rapid, in contrast, is what lightrailnow.org called "Better Bus" and advocated for.

Nathanael

"But there are also areas where rail is being built simply because there's an available right of way (the Foothill Gold Line, for one example)."

And a lot of rail advocates think that particular project is ridiculous. That is a line which used to be steam-train low-frequency rail -- what we would call commuter rail today. What would serve it best? Commuter rail. What are they proposing? Dense-stop-spacing light rail in an area which simply doesn't need it, which would provide a *very slow* trip to Union Station.

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the firm

Jarrett is now in ...

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