As I travel U.S. cities, it is unusual for public transit not to come up as a priority. But buses are rarely mentioned. Cities want the sexy stuff -- light rail, trolleys and trams. I was reminded of this as I was reading again about Bogota's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and London's newly redesigned buses.Aside from mass implementation, there is not much that can be done to improve the feel of riding the bus. Oakland tried this with buying the Van Hools (a whole other discussion) and many other agencies have tried or are trying small fixes such as San Francisco's stop spacing redo. It's still a bus and it has it's function in the transit spectrum. The problem is that it runs in traffic with cars and stops every other block. And all United States systems are woefully underfunded, bus or otherwise, such that better diversity in service is not provided.
But then there is this:
And the TransMilenio carries none of the negative stereotypes associated with buses.Say what? Just because Enrique Penalosa says that doesn't mean it is so. I've obviously never been to Bogota nor plan on going, but the BRT there has many freeway centered sections and still runs on rubber tires and still operates using a third world pay scale for its drivers. This means no pedestrian friendly TOD opportunities around the station and you're still on the bouncy bus when the concrete shifts. Not to mention the crowding and operating costs.
Flickr photo by Pattoncito
I understand the allure of BRT, and I honestly think that more bus routes should get a lane such that BRT is more the norm in dense urban areas. This only comes with a change in our own perceptions of what is a priority, not so much the current perception of what buses are. This means building more metro systems, more light rail, and dedicating more lanes to transit and bikes. That is a fundamental shift that needs to happen, not just focusing on making buses a tiny bit better by renaming them.