Saturday, May 24, 2008

Betting on the Wrong Horse

Switchback is a great Boston transit blog. A recent post discusses how the MBTA bet on the wrong mode with gas prices on the rise. Some of the line is run on electricity with dual mode buses, but much of it is diesel buses.

The city bet on the wrong horse, or rather, bet on the wrong bus. Within the past ten years the T has sacrificed the A line tracks and half of the E, while pushing for a “bus rapid transit” system where residents demanded light rail. A light rail network that would ultimately cost less in infrastructure than the BRT network. All of this has been prompted by a fierce anti-rail ideology at work in both the MBTA and mayor’s office.

The anti-rail, pro-bus, pro-car agenda ignores basic logic and economics. Trains hold more people, run at faster speeds through tunnels, and offer comfortable, single-seat rides to anywhere in the urban core of Boston. They do this in vehicles which can operate for forty years as opposed to the ten to twelve of their rubber-wheeled counterparts. And they’re cheaper to run.

Personally I think building a subway for buses is insane especially when you have to destroy two perfectly good light rail tunnels to do it. You can't go as fast with drivers in the tunnels and you still get that awful bouncy jerkey bus ride and low capacity vehicles. Boston will increase its budget deficit operating these schemes. Perhaps the rise in oil will change some minds. It's not too late.

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