Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bus Rapid Transit

I found a Seattle Times from November 13 2005 with this great article about using dedicated bus lanes for mass transit.

Monorail has been voted down. Sound Transit light rail is proceeding so slowly that most of us will be dead before there is very much mileage. Dedicated bus lanes could be a magic, or almost magic, answer. Like walking, it may not be some "block buster" fantasy, but it is something; actually something quite impressive.

Often people will overlook the things right under their noses. It's our "throw away and start over" society. Building a whole new transit system from scratch often means we get "just about nothing" as the plans must be scaled back for cost.

Rather than trying to be so revolutionary and then falling back to nothing, it might be better to stick closer to what's already built; the massive highway system. It can be modified. Putting some dedicated bus lanes on a few cross metro area routes could make a real big difference in the not too distant future.

Here is a link to the web site for that proposal. Better explained than I could do.

The case for bus rapid transit


Anonymous said...

Robert, I went back and got the article by Padelford from the link you gave for it a few days ago. It's interesting, but I don't know if I'm really convinced. For example, he claims BRT would cost a tenth what rail costs for the same value. But it seems like this
gets to a real basic problem: can you expect the citizens of Puget Sound to give up all those
already-existing freeway lanes or parking spaces for buses? It seems, as I said a long time ago, that people would rather pay for an expensive system they might not use themselves that ADDS to their options than vote for something that TAKES AWAY from their options. That is, their present options to drive and park. And if BRT involves building a lot of NEW
lanes, how do we know it would be any cheaper than rail?

Also, consider this. I think one of the beauties of rail is that, while it's super expensive to build it sometimes, once it's built, most of your expense is
over. Whereas buses, if they don't involve adding a lot of new lanes, are something that can get cancelled if the public gets into a budget crunch. Or if BRT
does involve building lots of lanes, someday the
voters might decide to convert them all to auto use.

I like rail better because it seems like it makes a more "permanent" change in a community. But maybe you're right that it takes a lot longer.

Here's another thing he said that I wonder about:

"Capacity vs light rail. The plain fact is that Bus Rapid Transit on HOT lanes (BRT/HOT) has more capacity than heavy rail (BART-type) let alone light rail
(Portland Max-type) systems. The reason for this is that the capacity of any transit system is determined at the stations. With rail a train cannot, of course,
enter the station unless the one before it has left.
The time between trains is called the "headway," and
it invariably is two or three minutes at a minimum,
more on "non-grade-separated" systems (systems running
on surface streets and therefore prone to auto and truck interference, such as Sound Transit’s Initial Segment of light rail). With BRT/HOT, however, the
transit unit (bus) pulls off the right of way (HOT lane) to discharge and take on passengers. Under these circumstances, you can put a transit unit down the
right of way every few seconds rather than every few
minutes. (Note that buses on busways also have the ability to unload and load passengers "off-line" in the manner of BRT/HOT.)"

I do wonder if that's true, though. I'm trying to
imagine the difference between rail and buses. It seems like it would depend on how big the rail trains were. If they were as big as BART trains usually are,
then maybe they would need more "headway" than buses.
But imagine the downtown bus tunnel stations: they
have at least two "bays" on each side. That means that at least two buses can stop in the station on each side in very quick succession. And I assume the
bus system is monitored so that no more than one bus needs to stop at each bay at one time. Actually, it
seems like the bays are long enough that more than one
bus can stop at each one. I'm not sure about that, but I think I've seen two stop at close to the same
time. But even if SoundMove trains are twice as long
as normal buses, it doesn't seem like it would be a tough engineering problem to have them come in and leave just as fast as buses. But I could be wrong.

As I've said before, there are things about SoundMove I don't like. Since they say the tunnel will be able to handle both buses and trains for awhile, I don't
know why they have to be in such a hurry to demolish The Convention Place station and eliminate any
connection the tunnel has with the freeway. And the line to Capitol Hill should branch out from the
downtown tunnel before it gets to Pine Street, which is way too far north to connect with First Hill. But maybe it's too late now to change any of those elements of the plan.

You probably heard the Sound Transit management was talking about eliminating the First Hill Station for awhile, but from what I last read, there's now a proposal to just move it a bit. I hope they don't cancel it.

I disagree with what Mayor Riordan of LA is quoted as saying. I think that's pretty short-sighted. Yes, it may not seem like the rail systems have helped much yet, but I predict that in the next few decades, the
areas that are connected by the subway will boom. And I doubt that BRT would work in LA: that's such a car-based culture that I doubt people would be willing
to give up any of their parking spaces or freeway lanes. Once again, it's a matter of adding options instead of taking them away. But of course that shows
how rich our society is, that we could even consider doing something like this. But LA is definitely a place that is rich enough to add options. It has to
be one of the richest places in the world.

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