Saturday, May 9, 2009

Initial Take Aways from the 2010 New Starts Report

Once a year Santa Transit comes and brings us the New Starts report (Warning 12mb) which lets us know which cities have been naughty or nice (err qualified for federal help building transit). The 2010 version came out this Friday and there were two places that caught my eye, Austin and Denver.


It looks like Austin has screwed itself yet again, this time by applying for federal funding to build rapid bus along the best corridor for light rail in the city. So if you live there don't expect anything that goes where lots of people go outside of downtown or riverside for perhaps another generation. I'm disappointed in it myself and it's getting harder to find a reason for me to ever move back. As bad as it is here in San Francisco (and it's pretty bad by international standards), it's way better than Austin, which for all its progressive action can't seem to shake the state off its back or get rid of the leaders at Cap Metro who are just begging for the transit agency to be dissolved. The bad PR is adding up. Just like the Oakland Airport Connector study by Transform, they call this street running bus BRT. Please stop. Either that or name it what it is, bus repackaged transit.

These lines look familiar?

Looks sorta like a certain transit plan we had in New Starts in 2001.


For a region who's been under the gun for spiking Fastracks costs they aren't doing themselves any favors asking for 39% and 28% for the Airport and Gold Line corridors. With Congressman Oberstar looking for modal parity, making highways and transit always pay the same share, it seems like only asking for this much match is silly. Now this might have something to do with the fact that you can only have one project at a time and currently they are funding the West corridor. Yet Houston has two corridors in currently which could get funding. Places like Utah have even made deals to get multiple lines funded. They shouldn't have to go at it mostly alone, just like the federal highways system, these lines are of utmost importance to regional productivity. It seems like they should get thier due as well.


It's also funny how the new starts report never seems up to date even when it comes out. With Sunrail "not quite dead yet" and the Silver Line III tunnel dead things seem to be decided pretty fast. In any event, I'm sure I'll have more things to talk about with this report but just wanted to share my initial reactions.


Matthew said...

Austin, when will you ever stop screwing yourself over? :-(

Makes you less want to come back, makes me less sad for leaving to Oregon.

Morgan Wick said...

Gotta start changing hearts and minds to make people in Austin realize how to do things right.

Matt Fisher said...

This thing in Austin is bad enough. It's a big "screw you" to Austinites. And they thought Austin was this "liberal island in a conservative sea" in Texas. And these people in Denver who are right wing are saying they should cut back, I'll bet.

I wish they would stop repackaging a bus in mixed traffic that isn't a local bus as "BRT". This is even done in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan's largest city, and in a city I like - Halifax, Nova Scotia. (I'm still happy to be from Newfoundland.)

Justin said...

A bus with fins, signal priority that is hardly ever used, and a nice shelter is considered BRT. Pathetic. I have no problem with BRT, when it is properly built, but it's nuts that anything other than a local bus line is considered BRT.

njh said...

Buses Regressing Trains?

AlexB said...

I lived in Austin for 5 years and remember when the light rail proposal failed by 2%. I am sure the "BRT" there is a joke, but it will help. The town is densifying (is that a word?) like crazy with the young and rich. I don't think a mildly improved bus line will discourage a better light rail line in the future. Things are changing so fast there. Don't forget it's Texas. Remember light rail in Houston? As soon as someone in charge decided it was a good idea, before anyone could blink, there was a light rail line. In 5 years there could be a new referendum to replace the "fancy bus" with a real train line. And it will pass if done right.

Matt Fisher said...

BRT is so loosely defined by its proponents. They say it can mean anything, as if they think the differences are insignificant. But there are serious differences between BRT and LRT, and the fake BRT, like what examples I gave, are where it only works in marketing. The example in Halifax I gave is just an express bus and not true BRT.

BRT should stand for "Bus Repackaged Transit" and not "Better Rapid Transit". Why? It's simply about image. Image is more important than adequate differences.