December 15, 2011

Detroit pulls plug on light rail, favors bus rapid transit

DETROIT — On Tuesday Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pulled the plug on the city's $528 million light rail project in favor of a regional rapid-transit bus system. Economics was the major factor for scrapping the M1 Rail project, a proposed light rail line along Woodward from downtown to the city limit at Eight Mile Road, reported Detroit Free Press. To read the full story, click here.

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  • Dave S[ December 19th, 2011 @ 4:40am ]

    The upfront capital costs to build Bus Rapid Transit can be cheaper than Light Rail, depending on what is included in the BRT system and how it is designed. What is often overlooked are the long-term operating costs. If the area has high enough ridership, light rail usually will win out in the long term as being the more cost effective option. Probably the most expensive capital component in most light rail systems is the overhead catenary (traction power) system. However electricity costs are far more stable and less expensive than diesel costs, and over the life of the system, the savings in energy costs often pay for the cost of the catenary system. The most significant ongoing cost to most transit agencies is labor. Light rail wins in this category as well in areas where there is sufficient ridership. One light rail vehicle can carry as many passengers as 2 busses. A three car light rail train can carry as many passengers as 6 busses – all using only one operator instead of 6 operators. Even with maintenance of way personnel added in, light rail systems usually require less personnel to operate per passenger than BRT systems. Studies also clearly show that on a given route, BRT only attracts 80% of the ridership that a LRT system would in the same corridor, with LRT usually providing faster and more reliable service. As for vehicle costs, Light Rail vehicles are more expensive than busses, however they generally have a 30 year service life, whereas you would have to buy more busses to carry the same amount of passengers, with busses usually having a service life of 10 to 15 years. Studies have also shown that LRT attracts more Transit Oriented Development than BRT systems. Finally, BRT systems do not have the capacity that a LRT system can provide, eventually the most heavily used BRT systems often look to upgrade to rail as bus bunching and overcrowding occurs as demand exceeds capacity. The bottom line is that if a city or agency has a short term vision and is

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