Posts Tagged ‘Bus Rapid Transit’
The SMTA Board was briefed recently on two efforts to expand bus-rapid-transit service, also known as “BRT” (or the more appealing acronym “RTV” for “Rapid-Transit-Vehicle”). RTV systems are seen as a cost-effective alternative to either single-occupancy-vehicle automobile travel or more expensive fixed-rail transit systems.
The first is being pursued in Montgomery County by County Executive Ike Leggett’s Transit Implementation Task Force, which is looking at a county-wide system covering as many as 18 routes. The system under consideration would be the region’s first “gold” level RTV system, meaning its vehicles would move in their own dedicated lanes and provide a much higher level of service and shorter travel times than traditional bus systems.
The second is currently under study by metropolitan Washington’s Transportation Planning Board. New modeling data presented this week shows significant traffic relief — a 12% reduction in travel delays — can be achieved through a scaled-down combination of new toll lanes on major highways, conversion of some existing lanes to toll lanes, a network of regional bus-rapid-transit lines using those managed lanes, and more focused development around transit stations. The study also conclusively shows that transit-oriented land-use changes, by themselves, do nothing to relieve congestion, but in combination with new lane capacity and transit service, yield significant positive results. The best part of all, the revenue from these new toll lanes more than pays for the construction and operating costs of the entire system, including the new lanes and RTV transit system. You heard that right, a self-financing project that cuts congestion delays in the entire region by 12%. This ought to be one of THE top priorities for local jurisdictions in the Washington region.
A new report by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy sheds important new light on the growing worldwide trend away from light-rail-transit and toward new bus-rapid-transit (or BRT) systems. BRT generally offers lower levels of capital investment and more flexibility in its operations than most fixed rail systems.
What’s been missing so far, however, is any way to clearly evaluate what is and isn’t “true BRT” and the design attributes that are most important in identifying it. There is a world of difference, both in perception and reality, between running a bunch more smelly old busses on the same old routes and calling it “BRT” (which it is not), and investing in a true BRT system with the attributes cited in the report, which together provide an entirely new type of efficient and attractive mass transit experience. While the metrics in the report may not be perfect, they are a good place to start.
Cities around the world are figuring this out, and the U.S. is pretty far behind. This is another of the report’s key findings. However, both the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Montgomery County are taking a hard look at “BRT” at the regional and local levels (and yes, we have to come up with a better name for it – BRT doesn’t really cut it) .
It is too early to tell exactly what impact BRT can have in meeting our transportation needs in the Washington area, but the early indications seem promising.
Today the 2030 Group released a new study that was conducted jointly by SMTA and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, to explore how the region sets transportation priorities and what leading experts in the field feel those priorities should be. The survey was conducted over the past several months through telephone surveys and focus groups with over 40 top transportation professionals from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
1. The nation’s most congested region lacks a well-defined short-list of transportation investments that would have the greatest potential to reduce congestion/improve mobility over the next 20 years.
2. Among transportation professionals, significant consensus exists as to highway and public transit investments that would be the most productive.
3. The top-ten projects are listed in the report, including continued investment in Metro System Maintenance and Operations, New Potomac Bridges, and multi-modal projects to add capacity in several key transportation corridors.
4. The prioritization process should focus heavily on highway and transit investments that do the most to reduce travel times/delays, reduce congestion, and improve transportation network safety and reliability.
5. Meeting the region’s transportation challenges requires not only selecting/advancing the right priorities, but a new process that is more regional and professional and less parochial, political and ideologically driven.
The number-one priority identified by regional experts: Invest in current Metro system operations, core capacity and maintenance. Multi-modal investments to area highways, bridges and new transit lines to better connect regional activity centers and key economic corridors together throughout the region rounded out most of the remaining top-10 priorities, along with better land-use policies to encourage more transit-oriented development.
This independent study was sponsored by the 2030 Group, an association of business and community leaders working towards greater regional cooperation on long-term planning and economic issues.
The preliminary report on Montgomery County’s proposed Bus-Rapid-Transit (BRT) study is posted on-line, but in a recent email from the County, it was disclosed that due to a traffic model coding error, some of the results will need to be recalculated.
The net effect was that ridership figures across much of the system were overstated. County officials noted that the cost figures would likely be revised downward as well, as fewer BRT vehicles would be needed once the lower ridership numbers were adopted.
Read the preliminary report here.
This week the Montgomery County Council was briefed on the summary findings of a new report, due to be released soon, on the feasibility of building a new countywide rapid-transit system, using bus-rapid-transit (BRT) technology.
The proposed system would divert an estimated 85,000 drivers per day off existing roads, and cost roughly $2.5 billion to build, and another $144 to $173 million annually to operate.
Look for more detailed coverage here when the entire report is released. See our News Page for recent coverage in the Gazette.