Saturday, November 22, 2008

Not a Train, Never Will Be

BRT is not "rail-like". It is not a replacement for rail but rather an upgrade on a specific corridor from what exists. Buses in their own lanes are better, but they are not "rail-like".

In addition, the opposition needs to stop whining about the bus bringing higher densities to the corridor and reducing parking spaces. Parking is not free and the pavement has a better use than storing your car. You live in the East Bay on the best corridors to reduce VMT and oil dependence, and I imagine you talk about being green all the time. Yet you oppose density and better transit that will help that goal.

Cunradi agreed parking space losses are a serious issue. To offset the impact, the transit district will consider developing parking lots or garages, or installing parking meters on commercial side streets so the spaces turn over faster, he said.

Greg Harper, an AC Transit board member from Emeryville, said the fear of denser development is an underlying fear that has fueled opposition to bus rapid transit.

The transit district should not be responsible for replacing parking. The city should not be responsible for paying for parking for specific merchants or anyone for that matter. Parking is not free. Losing a number of parking spaces is a small price to pay for better transit.

Also a bit of warning to those who think that BRT is "rail-like". BRT will never be replaced by light rail. There is no example of BRT ever being taken out and replaced by rail. Once its there, that's it. Buses. That is not to say that it doesn't have its place in the network, but if a corridor needs rail, and buses are used, an upgrade is a long time coming, if ever.


Anonymous said...

They did put rail in on the Portland bus mall, but obviously that's not a replacement for an existing BRT service.

jon said...

very well said. i agree these convertable busway/brt to rail claims have been made for years, yet never happen and never will. i know convertable busway to lrt was mentioned in LA with their master plan 25 years ago and may have also been made with pittsburgh's busways. if anything it will be like portland's mall as johnwirtz said and as seattle did in the bus tunnel... by combining bus and rail. seattle still kept their south seattle busway and just built LRT next to it.

its too bad the east bay BRT wont be LRT though. i would bet it would be received much better in the community. so are other AC Transit bus lines going to share the busway or is it solely going to be used by the BRT bus line buses only?

Andy said...

The 98 B-line bus in Vancouver, BC is being replaced with the Canada line automated metro which is grade seperated.

While the B-lines are not true BRT (somewhere between an express bus and BRT) there were various bus priority measures, the stops were very far apart and a busway was built for the outer portion in the suburban municipality of Richmond.

Anonymous said...

Ac's BRT project traces back to a study they ordered on how to comply w/ the 1990 Clean Air Act. The consultants studied 7 major routes/corridors San Pablo Av, College/Broadway, Macarthur, Telegraph, two East Oakland routes, and an Airport route. While the report studied Light Rail and Electric Trolleybues both of which would have greater ridership potential than enhanced bus (BRT before the snappy name), the net results have been the BRT Lite on San Pablo and Telegraph/East 14th. At one of the community dog and pony shows some years back, the citizenry cheered Light Rail; but the AC Board decided BRT was the goal. As to sharing the bus lanes, AC isn't even smart enough to put the signal preempt hardware on local buses on the Rapid routes.

Anonymous said...

"There is no example of BRT ever being taken out and replaced by rail."

Seattle Bus, I mean Transit Tunnel.
Portland Bus, I mean Transit Mall.

It *has* been done. The trouble is that it costs just as much to convert a busway to a rail line as it does to build the rail line fresh. (At least in the Seattle Tunnel they didn't have to dig the tunnel again, but everything else had to be rebuilt.) The BRT spending is a *total waste*.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I don't think you can use Seattle or Portland as examples as Seattle had rails installed in the ground (and had to be ripped up again anyway) and Portland was a downtown bus mall and not BRT. I can see bus malls being replaced and perhaps that it what will happen in Minneapolis as well, but as far as a whole or part of a BRT route, it has never happened.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Ottawa recently replace a BRT line with a DMU line? Or maybe they just custom built?

Not sure.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Ottawa's O Train runs on previous freight tracks. I don't think there is a plan to replace the BRT lines with Light Rail though there is a light rail network proposal.

Josh said...

So how about BRT on Geary?

My understanding is they are studying several different options, including at least two BRT configurations - one being built specifically to make it easier to convert to light rail.

I'd be a fool to think that's the option they'll choose, since it will obviously cost more without providing any more immediate benefit.

But is that a good sign? Is it worth working harder to pressure SFMTA to just do it right the first time? Is Nat Ford more willing to revisit that than Michael Burns would have been?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think BRT on Geary is an awful mistake. Others might have more info on this than I. I would suggest checking out Eric's Transbay Blog for more info. I'll write something up about it soon.

Anonymous said...

Pittsburgh may eventually convert the East Busway to light rail, largely because they've overwhelmed the capacity of the busway (!), and they keep talking about it over and over again. Even did a study on it recently (but decided to get to the North Shore first, which is actually more important, so reasonable).

But again, the problem is that the bus-to-rail conversion costs nearly as much as building the rail line fresh. You can't even reuse many of the elevated structures. And the busway cost a bundle to start with.

A "convertible" busway is just like a "convertible" superhighway, a power line corridor, or any other old right-of-way, for the purposes of getting rail into it. It's a substantial loss compared to building the rail immediately, assuming the rail is cost-effective within a few decades.

Josh said...

Rail-Ready Geary BRT:

"No BRT projects have yet been
converted to LRT, largely because it remains a new mode of transit service, particularly in the U.S. Though existing
operations were not full-featured BRT, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel project currently in progress is illustrative,
as it represents the first conversion of a bus transitway to rail service. LRT requirements incorporated into design and
construction of BRT projects should, at a minimum, incorporate the structural (loading) and horizontal and vertical
geometric needs of LRT. Beyond this and a few other investments, however, the marginal benefits of preinstalling
and/or preconstructing additional structures and systems for future LRT alignments are minimal unless all such systems
are installed. With this most elaborate level of rail-ready BRT design, however, the project cost would be nearly double
the estimates of the needs assessment and the Client’s consulting team. These higher costs result in a considerable
narrowing of the marginal savings associated with a BRT deployment over an immediate LRT construction on Geary.

(emphasis mine)

Also, I'll be your best friend if you can find a bigger version of this :-)

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Everyone seems to use the Seattle Bus Tunnel but fail to mention its only a short stretch downtown and they put the tracks in, only to have to rip them up later which caused great annoyance. The annoyance is what merchants etc want to avoid. They won't want to tear up their street twice.

I'll see if i can't find that diagram.

Matt Fisher said...

They shouldn't be paving any more rail lines for use as busways. It sickens me. I can't believe that here in Ottawa, we shut down the Union Station and moved rail lines out of downtown, in addition to paving over a rail line for BRT.

If they really do want anything "rail like", they should just go with rail. I can't stand the idea that BRT can be "convertible" to rail "when ridership gets high enough".

Muni's proposal for BRT on Geary, BTW, is ill considered in this era. Why are we convinced that we can "substitute" buses for trains? To quote Homer Simpson, "D'oh!"

Matt Fisher said...

I forgot: The Union Station we had here in Ottawa is now the Government Conference Centre. The National Capital Commission (NCC), a federal government agency responsible for planning in the Ottawa/Gatineau area (by the way, Gatineau used to be Hull until 2002) had a preference for moving rail lines from downtown. They relocated the station to a less convenient location. We might as well have been "Autowa".

Certainly, I prefer converting busways to rail, but it won't be an easy task. This is my desire. I've seen some on the Internet make this their preference in visions. I also oppose building busways first under a false pretense (see my comment above).

There is really is a plan to convert the Transitway to rail, but only partly. And in my last comment, I meant "paving over".