Wednesday, May 9, 2012

BRT Primer

See the draft London, Ont. Transportation Master Plan at Smart Moves Open House.
Taking the bus in London, Ontario, can be a nasty experience --- or so I've been told. I usually walk, or ride my bike, or drive my car. Like the majority of Londoners, for longer trips I prefer my car to the bus.

One of the few experiences I've had with London Transit was when my car died while downtown and I tried walking home. Not quite halfway home a bus pulled up and stopped. I was taking a breather and just happened to be at a bus stop. I explained I didn't have any change and was just taking a break from a long hike home. The driver looked at the sweating, panting, old geezer standing at the open door to his bus. He ordered me to climb aboard.

I thanked him. My failing, old heart thanked him. I climbed the stairs onto the bus and slumped down in the first seat. The very next day, I dropped off my fare at the bus terminal on Highbury Ave. I may not take the bus regularly but I think London Transit is a fine operation thanks to that driver's kindness.

Now, the London Transit Commission (LTC) is going to try and win not just my respect but my business. The LTC is unveiling the new Transportation Master Plan (TMP) May 16 in the Carousel Room at Western Fair. The promise is to put BRT at the core of  the latest proposal for curing London's mass transit ills.

What is BRT?

BRT stands for Bus Rapid Transit: a bus service providing a level of service comparable to rail when it comes to frequency of service, capacity, quality and reliability. Ideally, BRT accomplishes all this with greater flexibility and lower capital investment costs.

Knowing very little about BRT, I googled the topic and discovered the Valley Transit Authority (VTA) of Santa Clara, California has posted an excellent primer on BRT design, complete with guidelines. If your are going to the May meeting at Western Fair, take a look at the VTA posted report detailing their take on BRT.

An articulated bus used by the VTA, Santa Clara, CA on their valley rapid BRT system.

The BRT idea sounds good but note that valley rapid is still in its infancy. It is still being evaluated. This is an ongoing story as far as Santa Clara, CA. is concerned. We will just have to "stay tuned" to learn the outcome.

There is a BRT system in Ottawa, ON. You may be interested in the post Myth vs. Reality: Has Ottawa "BRT" Provided Light-Rail Service at Much Lower Cost? This article supplies more links if you want to dig even deeper. Keep in mind this info comes from a source that is not wowed by the BRT approach as followed in Ottawa.

A BRT line in Cleveland, Ohio has gotten mixed reviews.
I find it interesting that Cleveland, Ohio has a working BRT route. I believe it was Randy Richmond of The London Free Press who made a derogatory comment about Cleveland in one of the articles in the ongoing LFP series on improving London. I thought his remark was not only unnecessary but unwise. When looking for inspirational ideas for improving one's community, one should never flippantly write off another community.

Of all people, I should think reporters should keep open minds.

Grand Rapids, Michigan is one my favorite Rust Belt cities. It has had a tough go of things over the past few decades but the city has kept its spirit. The Heritage Hill area is quite remarkable and well worth a visit. Check the Internet and find a bed and breakfast in one of the old mansions.

Grand Rapids is giving serious consideration to a BRT route. The above video was done by a chap from Grand Rapids who went to Cleveland to see BRT in use.

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