Respondents to METRO’s bus rapid transit (BRT) survey cite numerous benefits the projects have brought to their respective regions, including decreased transit travel times; reduced parking demand in central business districts, urban neighborhoods and university campuses; and direct connections to jobs, housing and other types of transit oriented development.
Other positive impacts reported include congestion management, accommodating ridership volume and aesthetically improving “aging” corridors.
Service launches, groundbreaking
Some notable BRT services that will reap similar benefits include Grand Rapids, Mich.-based The Rapid, which launched its 9.6-mile Silver Line system last year, as well as Sun Metro’s 8.6-mile system, known as Sun Metro Brio, along the Mesa Corridor in El Paso, Texas last fall.
Jacksonville (Fla.) Transportation Authority broke ground on its nearly six-mile First Coast Flyer BRT Downtown Project in November. The initial downtown line costs $13.4 million, with $9.3 million provided by FTA. With 12 stations, this is the initial segment of a five-phased BRT system planned for the region.
And, at press time, the Connecticut Department of Transportation was readying the launch of its CTfastrak system, which is slated to open March 28. The 9.4-mile system will link many major regional employment, shopping and healthcare destinations, as well as connections to the New Haven Line-Waterbury branch rail in Waterbury and Amtrak service in Hartford.
Costs, vehicles and features
For this year’s survey, the total capital costs of all projects reported was $1.6 billion, slightly less than last year’s $1.8 billion. Once again, West Coast-based projects made up a majority of the respondents.
When analyzing vehicle types, 91% reported that they are using or plan to use low-floor, articulated vehicles with enhanced aesthetics. Only 17% selected conventional vehicles for their routes.
More than one-half of operators (61%) reported three doors on their vehicles, with five doors coming in second at 17%. Eight percent of operators said their vehicle had two doors.
Fifty-four percent plan to use hybrid-electric propulsion for their vehicles, while 36% plan on using CNG. One-third plan on tapping clean diesel for their fleet and only one operator plans to use trolleys.
The top vehicle amenities chosen by operators were bicycle racks on the front bumper and conventional transit seating, both with 58% reporting. Inside bicycle racks were popular for 41% of those reporting and 33% chose added comfort non-reclining seats.
Curb-level boarding was selected by a majority of operators, with 66% reporting, while one-third chose floor-level boarding and to use bridge plates at doors.
For fare collection, 83% of operators will use cash/coin, while about 50% plan on using off-board/on-board/magnetic strip and smart cards. Two systems reported they will be using mobile payments.
Federal funding (FTA’s Very Small Starts, Small Starts, CMAQ and ARRA) made up two-thirds of the funding for projects. State and local support made up nearly half of funding received.
Business community opposition, traffic signal priority problems, coordination with planning partners, right- of-way and service design issues were some of the challenges that emerged during the projects.
One of the new questions this year was whether the primary objective of the project was to generate economic development, with a majority (81%) responding that it was not the main objective.
When asked which running way features apply, three-fourths of operators reported mixed-flow arterials. At-grade transitways came in second, with 41% reporting, while 16% plan for mixed-flow freeways and dedicated arterials.
Signal manipulation, vehicle tracking and passenger information were ITS applications being employed by 100% of respondents. Eighty-three percent are using voice annunciation technology, while 58% are using ITS for security. Other ITS uses included collision sensing technology, real-time bus arrival information and parking occupancy displays.
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