Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bus rapid transit: not exactly a reconsideration, but...

I have written plenty about bus rapid transit over the years.  Mostly I focus on how the various components of how BRT is defined in places like Curitiba Brazil and Bogota Colombia, in particular separated or dedicated transitways and prepayment before boarding (like how you pay when you go in to a subway station, and not when you get on the train) aren't part of the definition in the US mostly.

Instead what is BRT in South America is used as a justification to not build light rail in the US--e.g., this was a big element of arguments by the Chevy Chase government in Montgomery County Maryland (see "Town of Chevy Chase weighs Purple Line law suit" from the Gazette)--even though we aren't building equivalent systems, and better bus service is neither the same thing as light rail nor is it BRT.


For example, one of the BRT systems heralded in the US is the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles.  See "Orange Line busway is Metro's quiet success story" from the Los Angeles Times

Maybe its 26,000 riders doesn't seem particularly noteworthy for all of the attention the line gets--that's a little higher than the ridership on the Pennsylvania-Wisconsin Avenue buslines in DC, but compared to traditional bus service, it's a definite improvement.

BUT, on the other hand, you can argue that in and of itself, better bus service, especially in areas that financially can't justify fixed rail transit service, is a good thing.

SO I just want people to be honest about what they are arguing.  And what the metrics are, and what the outcomes are, and what we should be expecting and be happy about.

In places where we expect many tens of thousands of people to use the lines, such as with the Purple Line, where daily ridership of 70,000 is a reasonable estimate, we aren't likely to build real BRT, and we should bite the bullet and build light rail.

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