Bus rapid transit makes more sense than light rail

COST Commentary: COST has consistently recommended Bus Rapid Transit (called ‘Rapid Bus’ in Austin) as the most cost effective way to serve Austin transit users in major corridors. If Capital Metro had implemented Rapid Bus in 2007, as promised in the Lamar and South Congress corridor, it would have dramatically improved transit for more than 20 times the daily riders of the Red Line Commuter at a fraction of the costs. Instead, Cap Metro prioritized the exorbitantly expensive and ineffective Red Line, delaying more effective ‘Rapid Bus’ for at least 6 years to 2013 as now shown in their plan.

Published in Gasette.Net, Maryland Community Newspapers Online Friday, Aug. 13, 2010

I read with interest the letter to the editor from Michael J. Thompson [“We need immediate action to relieve congestion,” July 30] related to the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

[Republican lieutenant governor candidate Mary] Kane made the statement that government could not afford to build the Purple Line as light-rail transit.

The cost of the Purple Line as an LRT is estimated at $1.2 billion, or $76 million per mile. The LRT is proposed for the median area of many arterial roadways at a width of about 25 feet. An extension of Metro as a bus rapid transit, however, could be built in the same 25-foot-wide area at a cost of $10 million to $15 million per mile, or a 20 percent savings over the proposed LRT.

While I am in favor of as much mass transit as possible, today we cannot afford to build the Purple Line as light-rail transit. What we should be able to afford, however, is a bus rapid transit system using dedicated high-quality vehicles such as the ones in use throughout Europe, Asia, South America and Central America.

In the U.S., the dedicated rapid transit systems in Eugene, Ore., and Cleveland are great examples of BRTs that just plain “work.”

BRT is an innovative, high-capacity, lower-cost public transit solution that can achieve the performance and benefits of the proposed, much more expensive, LRT.

We need to rethink LRT for the Purple Line and start thinking about a more cost-effective way to create dedicated high-quality rapid transit for Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Please go to our website at www.trafficgroup.com for more information on the benefits of BRT, including charts, graphs, photographs and other useful data.

John W. Guckert, Rosedale

The letter writer is president and CEO of The Traffic Group, a traffic and transportation planning firm based in Baltimore County.

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