Another Perspective on Bus Rapid Transit

The post on buses in toll lanes has generated a lot of discussion.

Michael Wilson forwarded this article from Sierra magazine, containing an interview with Jamie Lerner, the former Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil.

The post on buses in toll lanes has generated a lot of discussion.

Michael Wilson forwarded this article from Sierra magazine, containing an interview with Jamie Lerner, the former Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil.

He argues that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on dedicated lanes is much easier to implement than a subway, or even surface rail.

Would this map to the United States? Over on the earlier post, Dan argues that higher labor costs and easier sources of capital than operating funding break down the paradigm.

What do other people think?

7 responses to “Another Perspective on Bus Rapid Transit”

  1. Reading the article, two key points he mentions.

    On light rail:

    Light rail is sometimes 10 to 20 times more expensive than a BRT, and it takes more time to implement. But it’s much better than a subway. When you have time and money and are able to subsidize the system, light rail is OK. But when you have to subsidize every ticket, you’re taking money from other social investments. That’s the main issue. You can have a BRT system that’s as good as an underground or light rail, and it pays for itself.

    >Does light rail vs a dedicated transit street (not travel lane) really cost 10 – 20 times more in the US? I kind of doubt it… also makes me wonder what kind of busses they are running in Brazil, and how much they cost.

    The second point:

    Sierra: Won’t there still be those who insist on driving?
    Lerner: You will always have taxis and cars. But there’s one condition: They should not share the same space with public transport. They have to be complementary. It’s not a question of trying to say which is better, it’s getting the best out of every system you have.

    >Reminds me of the third traffic lane on the transit mall… re: bad idea!

  2. Pure busways — where the buses are segregated from auto driving lanes like they would be with surface rail — can be almost as expensive as light rail to build. And then you have the cost of the multiple drivers.

    The Curitiba example is superficially appealing, but it succeeds in an environment where car ownership is much lower, where cars are banned from a large section of downtown Curitiba, and one with crowding conditions that would be unacceptable to North Americans.

    What works is rail. The highway lobby knows it works. That’s why they keep offering up “rail-like” alternatives that sound good, but don’t really get people out of their cars.

    I don’t think many cities that have built a busway are considering building a second or third busway. But most cities with a single rail line are eager to expand their systems.

    Busways are something whose time has come. And gone.

    John Schneider

  3. The only thing busways could be used for, in my opinion, is feeding Light Rail, and providing a corridor or branch-line that could be upgraded to rail as ridership permits. Problem is, Light Rail seems to be a bigger economic development engine than freeways and busways.

    Seattle has had a busway for a few years, not the Bus Tunnel, but a bus-only ROW in the old UP Right of Way between Royal Brougham and S. SPokane St, with stops at Holgate and Lander Streets. Routes from the Bus Tunnel heading South use it, in addition to the 39-Seward Park route, plus laying over ST Express Routes 510/511 and 545, Community Transit Route 414, and buses entering the Ryerson Base. It is utilitarian, but not much development along it, and about the only new thing built next to it is Central LINK LRT and it’s LANDER ST. Station.

    Minneapolis is considering BRT for a few corridors, and BRT is competing against LRT for the Central Corridor to St. Paul. LRT has a better chance for that one, as it will be an extension of the Hiawatha Line. Hiawatha is Light Rail, and it would be a disgrace to apply that name to a Busway. It was the name of the Milwaukee Road’s famous speedsters plying a route between Minneapolis/St. Paul-Milwaukee-Chicago, with steam locomotives often topping out at speeds in excess of 100MPH.

    We have people like Ted Van Dyk, John Niles, Don Padelford(local heir to a Department Store Fortune), Emory Bundy(ex-Station Manager at KING-TV), to a lesser extent Dori Monson(he used to work at KING BRoadcasting, now a talk-show host at a different radio station) and Tim Eyman(initiative-writer, uses the rest of the state to overturn local decisions on transit funding if he does not like what his neighbors say) that have waged a relentless attack on Light Rail, ever since before the first vote in 1995, and the successful vote the next year. They have pitched several all-bus proposals as an alternative to LRT.

    Here are some of my favorites:
    1)Ride Free Express, take LINK LRT Money(which raised in Seatlte/North King County ST Subarea could only be spent there) and use it to fund a Free Regional Bus system in the three county region. This one was backed by Chuck Collins, former Seattle Metro(when it was a seperate authority, independent of King County), who was in charge when Mayor Wes Uhlman asked for a Ride Free Zone in Downtown.

    2)Convert Arterials into mini-expressways using BRT and HOT Lanes, 230 miles in Seattle alone, which revolted against adding more freeways in the early 1970s. In fact on SR520 just east of the Montlake Flyer Stop for Metro Buses, is an on-ramp that goes nowhere and has no traffic on it, that is the only part of the ambitious R.H. Thompson Expressway, would have decimated the Eastern Parts of the City.

    3)Converting I-5 Express Lanes into 2 lane-each way HOT lanes with BRT. Great Idea, only no room to expand General Purpose Lanes to make up capacity.
    (Part of a broader article on Travel Value Pricing)

    4)BRT is beter because of the Geography of the area prohibits rail transit.
    That one cracks me up for sure, because in the days of streetcars, there were some steep grades that were not as bad as James, Yesler Way, and Madison St(Three streets that hosted Cable Cars, not streetcars), that had streetcars, including Queen Anne Ave, which locals still call the Counterbalance(due to counterweights needed for balance). Mr. Van Dyk wrote this one himself, and in teh Op-Ed, and the Post-Intelligencer keeps him on mainly to be fair and balanced.(Hearst Paper). Route 99, the currently suspended Waterfront Streetcar climbs up a hill to get to it’s terminus at 5th and Jackson St.

    Now some areas that could host a busway, would be:
    1) SR99 from King County Line to the Aurora Bridge(until a canal crossing through Fremont and Phinney Ridge could be planned for LRT.

    2)Routes feeding Tacoma Community College Transit Center once Tacoma LINK is converted to Central LINK Standards and connected with the CENTRAL LINK(two extensions under review for ST2)

    3)Puyallup-Tacoma, Gig Harbor-Tacoma,

    4)BRT radiating from an Everett and Lynwood Hub. There are two short starter LRT lines for Snohomish County under ST2, there is a couple mile gap between the two lines, instead of Lynwood TC-Alderwood Mall-Ash Way Park and Ride and the Everett Station-Everett CC line, there should be one line from Lynwood TC to Everett CC, and the local and regional transit agencies should have BRT feed the the system, and convert the highest ridership lines to LRT at a future date.

    5)Mode for I-90 and SR-520 are to be determined, but the anti-rail transit people have said the High Capacity Transit means Light Rail. The Homer Hadley Bridge on I-90 was designed for LRT. LRT ought to be on SR520, although wave action can at times close the current span.

  4. It all boils down to one thing.

    What do and what will people in a particular area ride on?

    In Portland people will almost ride anything if it’s considered efficient, and if it’s easy to use.

    But a place of similar size, say Jacksonville Florida. People won’t ride on anything. They don’t like busses and they won’t spend money on trains.

    So if you take a positive environment (Portland) and you stuck BRT system into use instead of the MAX System even with the postiive attitudes here, you will DECREASE the amount of riders you have. The simple thing is that people do not like riding the bus. In order of preference (the general populace prefers); Cars, Trains, Lightrail/Subways, Bikes, Buses, Walking.

    Simple. If you want real ridership build trains/light rail/subways. If you’re just trying to get a stop gap measure in for the poor of the area, use busses.

  5. Our first LRT in Washington State, TacomaLINK was derided while under construction as a line from nowhere to nowhere. It connects two transit centers. Pierce Transit has one Transit Center at 10th and COmmerce in Downtown Tacoma, and another at Tacoma Dome Station. BOth have parking garages. TacomaLINK feeds SOUNDER at Freighthouse Square, and once the Pt. Defiance Bypass is complete, Amtrak Cascades trains will also pull into Tacoma Dome Station. The line hit ridership targets set for 2010, so the critics changed tactics, said they acknowledged that, but it did not count because it was free. Well, CentralLINK is under construction now, and the Emerald Mole had it’s ceremonial launch on wendsday, it starts chewing through Beacon Hill for real next week. I saw it on TV, and the CETA(Coaliation for Effective Transportation Alternatives, formed by Bundy and Niles), Tim Eyman, and other critics were not there. The whole Mt. Baker Station-Beacon Hill Station contract is due for completion in mid-2008, but that could be earlier. Just what I like about these contractors, they just build, they don’t listen to the project critics. Unlike the people in Olympia, that put every road improvement plan into hiatus when an initiative that will take the money away for is filed. That track cost them $66 million in buying power. Sound Transit’s lawyers showed them they had an out with I-776, since the MVET had been pledged to repay bonds issued in 1998, the tax would need to be collected until repayment, which the bonds were not due for retirement until 2028. Mr. Eyman immedeately told the RTA to buy back the debt with money on hand for LRT construction. Ignore the will of your own voters, obey the will of rural Eastern Washington Voters. GOod thing they decided to go for construction, tie the MVET up in the courts.

    The Airport was not to be reached until 2011, but a funny thing happened in the last 2 years to change their minds. Vancouver B.C. got the 2010 Winter Olympics, and their airport may get over-taxed, and Sea-Tac is the nearest commercial, International Airport that can handle the overflow, so the airport will be served by late 2009. Tukwilla contracts came in under-budget, helping to pay for the airport connection.

    I was looking at ST2 Candidate Projects, although there are bus system improvements such as more direct-access ramps and more parking at Park and Rides, SOUNDER and LINK have a fair share of the proposals. So far the only LRT line that has been dropped has been one line in Lynwood. The Everett Starter Line, Sea-Tac Airport-S.200th St. S. 200th St-Kent-Des Moines Road, and Kent-Demoines Road to Tacoma Dome Station segments are still under consideratation. South of Sea-Tac Airport it will run on Pacific Highway South/International Boulevard, also known as SR99. SR99 as US99 killed the Interurbans, and it’s modern successor will get revenge. I would like to see it go to Downtown Tacoma from Downtown Seattle, as King County Metro can drop at least 2 routes, 174 and 194(the latter is an express using I-5, it can be folded into ST Express 574), and 1 Pierce Transit route, 500.

  6. EvergreenTransitFan – looking at the article ‘Bus is Seattle’s best transit ticket’

    I particularly liked this line:

    Every metropolitan area differs from others. Rail systems are particularly suited to cities with high-density corridors. Think of high-rise apartments, condos, office buildings and dense neighborhoods flanking a rail line, with numerous stops, on flat topography. Our traffic patterns are more diffuse and our topography more difficult.

    As if Seattle doesn’t have a dense enough development for lightrail…! Has this author ever BEEN to Seattle?! My god… if LA, Phoenix and Houston can build successful lightrail systems… Seattle is a very dense city; coming from Portland, I’m always amazed at how built up it is. I’m sure Seattle’s light rail system will get a ton of riders, probably more than any city in the US once it is built.

    Has the author not even seen all the high-rise condo towers going up in Downtown?! lol… oh well, can’t please everybody. Some people also say the NYC subway is a failure.

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