By Tyler Falk
Posting in Cities
Five U.S. cities are reinventing what it means to ride the bus. They're using a system called bus rapid transit. It's gaining in popularity because it's quick and reliable, but for a fraction of the cost of rail. Find out what cities are leading the way.
With buses accounting for about half of transit rides in the U.S., how can cities make their bus systems quicker and more reliable?
A new report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy identifies five U.S. cities that are trying to do just that.
The five cities cited as the best cities in the U.S. for bus-based transportation include: Los Angeles, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Eugene, Ore., and Pittsburgh.
But what sets these cities apart from the average city bus service in the U.S.? The answer: bus rapid transit (BRT).
BRT reinvents what buses can do for transit riders by making buses more like light rail, but at a fraction of the costs.
BRT does that by using exclusive lanes that remove the buses from traffic congestion. The boarding process is also more efficient with BRT because it uses stations at each bus stop. You pay upon entering the stations rather than on the bus. (Check out this video to see BRT in action.)
Unfortunately, compared with other BRT systems around the world, even the best systems in the U.S. can't compete. The report develops a rating system that evaluates bus services and gives the best cities gold, silver, or bronze rating. The best cities in the U.S. only received a bronze rating.
But the report does identifies three BRT systems in the planning stage -- in San Francisco, Chicago, and Montgomery County, Maryland -- that could set the bar even higher for BRT in the U.S. and could reach the gold rating standard.
“These systems are poised to redefine how Americans see and use buses, critical at a time of increasingly scarce transportation funding,” says Walter Hook, ITDP Executive Director. “But based on what we’ve seen in our work in cities around the world, we think there’s still more that could be done. Getting at least one truly world-class BRT system built in the U.S. could inspire cities around the country to rethink the way they use buses in the fight against increasing traffic congestion and rising fuel prices.”
Photo: NYC DOT
May 26, 2011
I wonder on many barrels of oil it takes to keep these buses operating the most efficient. If they would start using synthetic oil, transmission fluid, and gear lube, they could save thousands of dollars, and reduce the amount of oil we have to refine. There is no crude oil in synthetic lubricants. The chemicals they use are derivatives of oil, but the chemist build the synthetic lubricant specifically for each and every application it is to be used for. Crude oil starts with the same base stock and then add additive after additive to get it to meet certain specifications. Green lubes are built by a company that has never bought or drilled for 1 barrel of oil. Any synthetic is better than mineral oil, but why buy from the big oil companies that are still drilling and importing crude oil everyday. www.lubragreen.com. STOP USING PETROLEUM OIL FOREVER. Use code 166252 and buy at dealer cost.
How could cities developed a century ago have foreseen the glut of motor vehicles while the streets were crowded with horse drawn wagons and electric trolley cars? Tough? Look at old Europe and older Japanese cities with very narrow streets best maneuvered on horseback. Today, the modern bus route would have clearly marked bus-only paths like that shown in the photo. Synchronized traffic signals, some with on-demand sensors would help, too. Where are the politicians who will offend the vast majority of four-wheeler drivers who vote?
Rapid transit cannot be interfered with by normal vehicle and pedestrian traffic. There is nothing rapid about being stuck in the same traffic as the rest of the road vehicles. This is slightly better than street cars in that no modification to the road foundation is necessary, but is still a very short-sighted solution that won't fix the problem. Refusal to plan for the future is why all these urban areas currently have inadequate rapid transit.
Many east cost US cities had dedicated rapid transit. Trollys. In bygone days you could jump on a trolly at the MA/NH line and be on Cape Cod a few hours later. The dedicated lanes were marked with rails. They were ripped up to make room for more cars. With a little design work many cities could bring them back in short order.