10 June, 2009

JTA'S BRT TRUNK LINE NIGHTMARE COMES TRUE IN MIAMI

So Jacksonville, has bought the Bus Rapid Transit sales pitch, hook, line, and sinker. For over a year I have been raving on about BRT being nothing more then a cafe of advanced "bus think". The parade of supposed success story's keeps changing:

Pittsburgh
Cleveland
Boston
Santiago De Chile
Curitiba Brasil
Los Angeles El Monte busway
Bogota...etc...

Who are these people? Gentle Reader, these are the same highway boys that scrapped the nations streetcars and interurban's in favor of buses. Go figure, the rail industry has 7 large companies and dozens of small shortline businesses, but most private passenger traffic died in 1971 as Amtrak took over. The industry has ZERO real interest in running our government trains on their tracks unless there is a huge incentive in plant expansion.

Otherwise there are some 70 odd cities with at least a mile or two of streetcar or interurban tracks in North America. Most of these operations are less the 20 years old. While thousands of communities cashiered the streetcars in favor of supposedly "flexible bus transit."

States including Florida, once had laws on the book that every able bodied male MUST serve a week or so each year working on roads. Those same roads were largely paid for with railroad tax money. Once the roadways reached the point of saturation, most Americans shifted their loyalty to automobiles. So when the evil streetcar holocaust snatched the big trolleys from nearly every town on the continent, nobody seemed to care. So how loaded are the dice for the rail proponents such as this blog? Glad you asked:

State and Federal Highways, aka: roads and bridges, are in endless expansion within finite space. Tax Payers that support highways should look for the same return on investment that Airlines, buses or Amtrak gets. But we all know THAT won't happen.

In Jacksonville the same highway boys rolled out a 26 mile "Bus Rapid Transit" plan that in reality was a BILLION DOLLAR road project. The mantra went up from JTA that "highway=cheap", "rail=bad". So this blog, along with metrojacksonville.com, jaxoutloud.com, urbanjacksonville.com, started exposing this true boondoggle for what it's really worth. "Just like rail only cheaper..." Only someone forgot to look up the word CHEAPER in the dictionary:

CHEAPER
brassy: tastelessly showy; "a flash car"; "a flashy ring"; "garish colors"; "a gaudy costume"; "loud sport shirts"; "a meretricious yet stylish book"; "tawdry ornaments"
bum: of very poor quality; flimsy; embarrassingly stingy
The term derives from the Latin miser, meaning "poor" or "wretched," comparable to the modern word "miserable"Low and/or reduced in price; Of poor quality; Of little worth


So what are the folks at JTA and Miami-Dade REALLY selling us? Let's try that slogan again and insert the meaning of the word into our sentence:

"BRT - Just like rail only wretched, of poor quality and little worth."
"BRT - Just like rail only flimsy, gaudy and embarrassingly stingy."

Ever wonder where the billions of development promised by BRT really happen. Everyone knows the meaning of "cheaper" and none of them are going to plunk down $100 million on a new office tower without fixed, permanent transit.

So are we surprised that Miami-Dade is taking a "perfect example" of BRT built on a former railroad from Miami to Kendall and a converting it to toll road? No! A BRT system that was to show all of Florida just how much better BRT is then rail. So now with the railroad long gone, and the busway empty of either buses or passengers we see our State going even farther backwards.

So our lessons for the day:

BRT should NEVER be built where rail is already in place.
BRT does not live up to its claim to be "As good as rail."
BRT does tend to live down to the word cheap.
Commuter Rail or Light Rail would have been more attractive in the first place
Once the rail is gone, we may never see it again in any given corridor.
Once the BRT is gone, all we have to show for our $ Billions are a few more highway lane miles and a collection of newer buses.

Those example BRT models? Let's see if this is just a Florida ghost or a true fleecing of the flock.

  • Cleveland - The Euclid corridor claims millions in development and nearly every cent is socialized federal, state and local offices and the BRT has fallen short in every survey, Light Rail may soon replace the mega bucks spent on this "system."
  • 1978 – Pittsburgh's South Busway, projected to carry 35,000 weekday rider-trips, actually attracted only 20,000 rider-trips initially, and that level has now dropped to about 14,500, less than pre-busway ridership in the affected corridor. Meanwhile, a parallel LRT upgrade has attracted approximately fifty percent more passengers.[Source: Port Authority Transit data]
  • Boston - The highly vaunted "Silver Line BRT" will not be expanded in fact it's roadway was the most expensive piece of highway work in history, rail will take it from here on.
  • Santiago De Chile - IF you manage to get on a bus, be ready to duck flying bricks (you can feel the hate for this BRT in the air) and of course they're now building a Subway.
  • Curitiba Brasil - These folks claimed the worlds most successful BRT operation, they even got the bus traffic to move at 12 mph. Now they are quickly building a rail system.
  • 1973 – The El Monte Busway in suburban Los Angeles, installed on a former interurban railway alignment in the median of I-10, has been moderately successful, peaking with a ridership of about 30,000 per day. However, influential planners, highway engineers, and political leaders, perceiving unused capacity between the buses, in the 1980s opened the facility up to use by car pools. With the buses now delayed by "HOV" automobile traffic, ridership has dropped to about 20,000, a reduction of 33 percent. Meanwhile, a commuter rail line constructed by California down the middle of the "BRT" alignment, implemented to speed person-movement in the corridor, has been quite successful - consistently gaining ridership. [Source: LACMTA data]
  • Bogota - Ever imagine 350 North Americans packed into a single bus? Bogota with 5 rail lines going to waste, is holding tight to BRT in the hopes they can still sell it to stupid Americans. Just imagine what they could do with a series of 8 car push-pull commuter trains, but if your not into riots, military police or sardines, better steer clear of this system. It's so good in fact that it's ILLEGAL for a US/EEUU citizen to ride it!

"BRT" - You Can Build it ... But Will They Come?
Light Rail Progress – Updated December 2002

Proponents of "BRT" (so-called "Bus Rapid Transit"), including the US Federal Transit Administration, assume that, service characteristics (like access time, total travel time, and cost) being equal, the ability of "BRT" service to attract riders is equivalent to that of LRT (light rail transit). Accordingly, the FTA mandates that in ridership forecasting models – such as those commonly used in Major investment Studies for federally funded new starts – bus and rail modes must be treated as virtually indistinguishable to passengers. in fact, speculative ridership models sometimes assign higher trip projections to a "BRT" system alternative, on the basis of input assumptions of supposed bus "flexibility", such as neighborhood access, "seamless", transfer-free trips, express services leapfrogging around local services, etc.

But do these theoretical projections jibe with reality? The empirical evidence would appear to suggest otherwise.
Altogether, analysis has shown that, for new starts installed in corridors serving the core areas of US cities, "BRT" busways have attracted only one-third of the rider-trips estimated for them by FTA-approved modelling. LRT has attracted 122 percent. The palpable effect of this is that, on most new LRT systems, parking lots are jammed, and riders are crowding on trains; in contrast, typical new "BRT" systems may experience modest increases in ridership, but certainly not the avalanche of passengers seen on LRT.

Denver's new LRT extension was overwhelmed with passengers, a Denver Business Journal reporter assured readers that "Packed light-rail cars, overflowing parking lots and passengers left behind on station platforms aren't unique to the Regional Transportation District's new Southwest light-rail line." On the contrary, "They are scenes repeated around the country as people flock to new rail transit lines in numbers far beyond initial projections."[Source: Denver Business Journal 26 January 2001]

Now this from the Miami Herald, "Oh the Humanity," looks like someone figured out how to build another turnpike with FTA mass transit funds.




South Miami-Dade Busway may give way to cars

Officials plan to vote on a controversial plan to convert South Miami-Dade's Busway into a highway with toll express lanes.

A proposed plan would convert the South Miami-Dade Busway into -- among other alternatives -- a four-lane highway with express toll lanes where private vehicles would share the road with buses.

BY ALFONSO CHARDY
achardy@MiamiHerald.com
For years, motorists in South Miami-Dade have longed to drive on the two-lane bus road on the west side of the chronically congested South Dixie Highway.
Now they might get their wish if county commissioners and other local elected officials approve a proposed plan to convert the Busway into -- among other alternatives -- a four-lane highway with express toll lanes where private vehicles would share the road with buses. The revenue would then be used to fund the cash-strapped county transit agency.
The July 23 vote by commissioners and mayors who are members of the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization would enable the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority to obtain a detailed study on ways to convert the Busway.
It would bring dramatic change to the Dadeland-to-Florida City roadway, which was built to encourage motorists to take buses that travel more quickly because they benefit from green-light priority at intersections.
But the strategy didn't work out well because Miami-Dade Transit was never able to operate many buses on the roadway. Currently, between 10 to 27 buses per hour during rush periods serving some 20,000 passengers per day use the Busway. At times the north-south roadway is practically empty.
Transit advocates now fear that modifying the Busway to allow private vehicles would further discourage commuters from using public transportation and reward solo drivers.
DIFFERING VIEWS
Katy Sorenson, a county commissioner and MPO member, provided a hint of the looming controversy when at last month's MPO meeting she urged fellow board members not to take actions that would steer people away from public transit.
''When the issue was brought up a year ago, I had some reservations, because undermining transit is the last thing I would want to do,'' she said. ``This would not necessarily undermine transit and it could provide a funding mechanism for transit. But I want to make sure that in this effort, transit is priority one and secondarily congestion relief.''
Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, also an MPO member, suggested he was more interested in relieving congestion even if that means allowing private vehicles on a bus-exclusive roadway.
''I would support moving forward,'' Gimenez said, alluding to the coming vote on the conversion study. ``If it competes with Miami-Dade Transit, so be it.''
The majority of members at the May 28 meeting seemed to support the conversion study, but not all 22 members were present.
OPTIONS
Three possible conversion alternatives were outlined to MPO members in May by an MPO staffer who said the options would be analyzed more in-depth in the Busway study.
Alternatives described by Larry Foutz, the MPO's transportation systems manager, included:
• Leaving the Busway as is, but allowing private vehicles to use it by paying a toll that would be deducted electronically via SunPass accounts.
• Adding one or two lanes, plus flyover bridges at certain or all intersections to ensure faster travel times for buses and toll-paying private vehicles.
• Building a four-lane elevated highway, moving traffic at expressway speeds along a totally rebuilt Busway from Mowry Drive in Homestead to the Dadeland South Metrorail station in Kendall.
Making no changes to the roadway and adding toll-paying traffic would cost almost nothing, Foutz said, but the option would only allow no more than 5,000 vehicles per day to use the facility and would likely slow the buses.
The other alternatives would add more vehicles to the roadway and range in cost from $228 million to $1.8 billion.
The most expensive, what Foutz called the ''Taj Mahal'' of the options, would be the elevated expressway-style alternative.
Under any option, Foutz said, toll rates would be relatively high because officials want to keep demand as low as possible to maintain fast travel times.
TOLL RATES
Tolls, in anticipated 2030 dollars, would range from $11.25 to $12.75 for travel from one end of the Busway to the other.
Depending on the toll rate and number of toll-paying vehicles, revenue would range between $11 million and $37 million per year.
The Busway was built along an old Florida East Coast railroad corridor that the Florida Department of Transportation acquired in 1988. Subsequently, the right-of-way ownership was transferred to Miami-Dade County.





1 comment:

  1. Thogh I've always been a proponent of light rail and streetcars and favor them over BRT, your facts are a bit one-sided.

    #1 I've ridden the Bogota system. With police everywhere, it is one of the safest and cleanest places in that capital. Nobody challenged this gringo family's right to be on the system. By the way, it appears to work only when it is out on high-speed corridors. In the middle of town these articulated buses mix with pedestrians, cars and trucks and move at a snails pace.

    #2 Mexico City has both a massive subway system and a BRT. The BRT is considered the premium service. I'm no expert on the subject, but I suspect pricing has a lot to do with it. The subway is far cheaper than the BRT.

    ReplyDelete

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