Monday, October 30, 2006

Wheelchairs and BRT

According to Jim Cunradi, Bus Rapid Transit Project Manager
for AC Transit, riding on BRT in a wheelchair would be similar
to the experience that it is today.

There would be less side-to-side motion and the overall ride
would be more comfortable. Securing wheelchairs inside the
bus would be the same as it is today.

The experience of boarding the bus would be much improved.
A BRT station is, with few exceptions, situated in the middle
of the street adjacent to the bus lanes. Unlike a conventional
bus which has to pull into the curb, the BRT bus pulls
straight into the station, very close to the boarding platform.
This means that the gap between the bus and the platform can
be much less than the gap that can be achieved by pulling into
conventional bus stops. The platform would be as level with
the bus as possible - 10.5 inches without precision docking
and 13 inches with precision docking.

In the first case, the wheelchair ramp would still need to be
deployed but the angle of the ramp would be less than when
it is deployed onto the sidewalk. If precision docking becomes
a reality, there would be no need to deploy the ramp for a wheelchair.

Precision docking uses technology, either mechanical or electronic,
to guide the bus to the platform. Tolerances of less than one inch
are easily achievable.

BRT Costs Much Less to Build Than LRT

The [Orange BRT] line, which debuted on Oct. 29, 2005, has averaged about 21,000 riders each weekday - more than the MTA's Gold Line, a light-rail system that cost more than triple that of the $330 million, 14-mile-long busway.

Orange Line's success touted
Monday's crash downplayed
LA Daily News

NORTH HOLLYWOOD - As throngs of morning commuters spilled from the bus, officials on Tuesday marked the upcoming anniversary of the Orange Line, touting the success of the year-old busway and downplaying Monday's crash that injured 17 commuters.

"This is the safest bus on the system," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a MTA board member and early Orange Line proponent. "We are looking to a better year that is better and safer."

The line, which debuted on Oct. 29, 2005, has averaged about 21,000 riders each weekday - more than the MTA's Gold Line, a light-rail system that cost more than triple that of the $330 million, 14-mile-long busway.

Just as important, officials said, is the busway's safety record. It has recorded fewer collisions than any other on the bus system and better than the light-rail Blue Line.

"To me, it's safe. All the years I have been riding a bus, I have never had a problem," said Ruth Tabudlo, a 54-year-old security guard who takes the line to arrive at her job in Van Nuys.

Officials believed Monday's crash was caused by a delivery truck that plowed into the Orange Line at Woodman Avenue. The still unidentified driver admitted running a red light, Yaroslavsky said.

"We have to convey to commuters in the San Fernando Valley that red means stop," said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Los Angeles, during the morning conference commemorating the upcoming anniversary.

The MTA has logged 30 crashes since the Orange Line opened. Ten of those collisions resulted in injuries, most minor. All were caused by drivers running red lights.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New York Announces Five BRT Lines

After two and a half years of study, the New York City Department of Transportation just announced the five routes that will be used in the its first Bus Rapid Transit program - one route in each borough.

Two of the routes will be completed in Fall 2007, and the others will be completed in 2008.

Bus lanes will be painted a different color from general traffic lanes. Buses will have cameras to photograph trucks and cars blocking the bus lanes, so they can be ticketed. On some routes, buses will communicate with the computer system that controls traffic lights, and the timing of the lights will be changed to accommodate the buses. At some bus stops, passengers will pay their fare to get into the bus stations rather than paying when they enter the bus, so they can board more quickly.

The bus lanes will be marked but will not be physically separated from other traffic lanes, as they are in most BRT systems. The Department of Transporation says it can keep these lanes clear by strict enforcement of the laws against blocking them, but this remains to be seen.

This system probably should be upgraded in the future so that passengers pay at all bus stops before boarding, so that all buses are connected with the computer system that controls traffic lights, and so that the bus lanes are physically separated from other traffic lanes. But the current plans are an excellent first step that can get BRT started quickly on many lines.

For more information, see

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Van Ness bus-only lanes get first airing

Van Ness bus-only lanes get first airing

Sajid Farooq, The Examiner
Oct 18, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO - Plan would set aside space for Muni, provide real-time arrival information for riders

City residents got their first look Tuesday night at plans for a rapid bus service that could reduce travel time up and down Van Ness Avenue and could be in effect by 2010.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is looking at creating a lane solely for buses, giving them priority at traffic signals and using real-time information technology at bus stops to tell riders when the next bus is arriving. The measures on one of The City’s most traveled thoroughfares would significantly speed up travel time, according to the authority, by allowing buses to travel unimpeded by cars or double-parked vehicles. A September poll done by David Binder showed 55 percent of city residents supported the idea of rapid bus service.

The authority is finishing a study, which is expected to be completed by December after a series of community meetings, to examine the feasibility of implementing the bus rapid transit system, according to the Transportation Authority. On Tuesday, the Transportation Authority held a public workshop soliciting public input and displaying renderings of the new system.

Advocates of the setup say buses would run twice as fast because they would not be slowed down by vehicle traffic, and more riders would use the Muni service because of the speed.

“As far as we know, based on years of looking at the need and looking at other transit systems, the most important thing Muni needs to do to reduce costs and win back riders is implement bus rapid transit or similar measures on all of its core lines,” said Gabriel Metcalf, the executive director of San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

There are several different ways the express lane could be set up. One option would be to convert the center lanes to bus lanes and either separate them from traffic with landscaping or a curb that cars could not go over. Another option would be to convert the far right lanes on each side of traffic to bus-only lanes.

The authority said the service could cause the loss of some street parking and increased traffic congestion, though they say they believe the congestion increase would be minimal. If the plan is ultimately approved, no portion of Van Ness Avenue would be under construction for more than three months.

Metcalf said the system is a cost-effective way of providing safe and reliable transit across The City instead of building a subway system. The Transportation Authority estimates that the cost would range between $61 million and $65 million, depending on what option is chosen. About $20 million has been allocated from voter-approved transportation bond funds, while the rest would come from federal grants and other sources. If the authority’s board approves the plan in December, an environmental impact review would begin in the fall with the service potentially running by 2010.

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

* BRT is a system that combines features from rail systems with the flexibility and cost savings of using over-the-road vehicles.

* Vehicles usually operate in their own sealed-off lanes that speed up service and maximize their use.

* BRT services tend to run twice as fast as normal bus lines because they are not slowed down by vehicle traffic.

* The vehicles used are normal buses and no tracks or rails are needed.

* BRT service can be set up on normal streets by simply changing the way lanes are set up.

Source: BRT Policy Center, SPUR and San Francisco Transportation Authority

Friday, October 20, 2006

Transport Innovator

The Sept/Oct issue of Transport Innovator, a round up of news for policymakers and professionals interested in innovative, cost-effective solutions to today's transportation problems, can be read online at

This newsletter is presented by the Breakthrough Technologies Institute, a Washington DC-based non-profit that serves as a voice for technologies and public policy. Our program areas include hydrogen fuel cells, public transportation and diesel emissions. To learn more about our transportation projects, please visit

Free subscriptions to Transport Innovator are also available at

The publishers hope you find Transport Innovator useful and informative. Please let them know what you think. Suggestions about content, focus, and any other issues would be greatly appreciated. Please email comments to:

In this issue:

In the Spotlight

Two BRT Seminars in Seattle
Bus Rapid Transit and Innovative Bus Service:
TransMilenio integrates Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism
Officials approve extension of LA’s successful Orange Line busway
King County “Transit Now” plan goes to voters
Silver Streak rapid bus to launch service to Los Angeles in 2007
Snohomish County, Washington’s rapid bus line receives funding
Proposed Colorado BRT line receives funding
Survey finds San Franciscans support creation of BRT network
Chile’s Transantiago system places second large bus order
GEF to fund South African BRT under FIFA World Cup “Green Goal”
India’s government encouraging implementation of BRT in major cities
Alternative Fuels:
Alternative fuels the focus of September conference in Australia
Cities in Europe, Canada Partner to Purchase Hydrogen Buses
One in five Berlin buses to be hydrogen-powered by 2009
Fuel cell hybrid “midi-buses” for German cities
Brazilian fuel cell bus demonstrations planned for 2007
Twin Cities plans “greener” bus fleet
Hybrid-electric bus performance disappoints California transit agency
Ford offering hydrogen-powered ICE shuttle bus
Two European bus manufacturers adopt hybrid technology
29% of recent New Flyer bus orders for clean fuel vehicles
Climate Change:
California sues automakers over CO2 tailpipe emissions
Smart Australia offers Carbon Zero program to offset driver emissions
Transportation Policy and Studies:
Stockholm voters approve HOT lanes plan
Study predicts growth in bus demand
UN urges African cities to pursue funding for sustainable transport
New York City Transit offers podcasts

Chronicle Article On Mexico City BRT

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article named "Look out, BART -- here comes BRT." Here are a few excerpts:

Mexico City rolls out new kind of mass transit. Commuters crowding onto jumbo buses that operate like an above-ground subway.

Costing some $30 million, the Metrobus is the gridlocked capital's ambitious plan to streamline traffic, rid streets of smoke-belching buses and entice drivers to ride modern, comfortable buses that ply express lanes.

The pilot line, which rolled out in mid-June, makes 36 stops along the congested Avenida Insurgentes, the city's main north-south thoroughfare, which stretches 121/2 miles in each direction. Each of the 80 double-length Volvo buses has a capacity of 160 passengers.

Riders run a "smart card" through a turnstile to enter a raised, steel- mesh-encased station along Avenida Insurgentes' median and then enter the bus through four doors, like a subway. The system attracted 4.5 million passengers in its first three weeks, and it is currently carrying as many as 250,000 passengers daily, according to Adriana Lobo, director of the nonprofit Center for Sustainable Transport, a nongovernmental organization.

The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is designed to offer the low price of a bus -- 33 cents a ride in Mexico City -- and the speed of a light rail system.

The first BRT was rolled out in 1974 in the Brazilian city of Curitiba, where more than 70 percent of the population use the system. Bogota followed with its own version in 2000 that currently serves about 750,000 commuters daily.

Urban planners are slowly looking at BRT as a cheaper alternative to subway and light rail.

Embarq, an environmental organization based in Washington and affiliated with the World Resources Institute, says dozens of similar systems are being considered around the world. Las Vegas recently started a BRT system, and Seattle and Houston are among several cities studying the rapid buses.

In San Francisco, BRT is being planned for Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue, according to Aaron Golub of the University of California Transportation Center, a statewide program. "I see more and more cities looking to BRTs and scrapping their light-rail and subway plans," he said.

Metrobus officials say the system's success depends on performance. "We can't have riders wondering where's the bus -- that's half the battle," said Calderón. "We're just making sure that if a bus is set to leave at 5:03 p.m., then it leaves at 5:03 p.m."

Most important, Metrobus appears to be attracting a new type of commuter. "I'm spotting a bigger mix of people, executive types who never rode the old microbuses," said Clara Salazar, an urban studies professor at Mexico City's Colegio de Mexico. "Here, mass transit is considered a poor man's ride."

Leonardo Ortiz, 40, a cell-phone-company executive, is one such commuter. This "makes the city more livable," he said. "The old jitneys were savage. This takes us to a higher level."

For the entire article, see

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Fast, frequent, fabulous' transit ready to roll in S.F.

"With this as background, one of the most interesting stories in transportation over the last 10 years has been the migration of a new form of public transit from South America, to Europe, to Canada, and finally to the United States. It goes by the name of Bus Rapid Transit."

Guest opinion

'Fast, frequent, fabulous' transit ready to roll in S.F.

San Francisco Business Times - April 7, 2006
by Gabriel Metaclf

It's starting to seem normal for transportation projects to cost billions of dollars.

From the projects that make sense (extending Caltrain to a downtown Transbay Terminal) to the ones that don't (extending BART to San Jose) to the ones that are simply necessary (the new Bay Bridge), we all expect that nothing can be done for less than a billion.

These mega-projects are popular with the voters, but that doesn't mean they are opening up their wallets to pay for them. Instead, transportation officials scrape together money from dozens of sources to accommodate our still-growing need to get around.

The bus arrives

With this as background, one of the most interesting stories in transportation over the last 10 years has been the migration of a new form of public transit from South America, to Europe, to Canada, and finally to the United States. It goes by the name of Bus Rapid Transit.

The idea is simply this: to run commuter-quality buses on dedicated busways instead of building rail and tunneling underground, designing the bus-ways to approximate the speed, smoothness, and attractiveness of rail. This means getting buses out of traffic and into their own lanes, creating attractive "stations" instead of miserly "bus stops," having people purchase tickets at the station instead of sticking dollar bills in as they board, making fewer stops along the routes, and giving the buses automatic signal preemption at intersections. Los Angeles describes its new bus rapid transit system with the slogan, "fast, frequent, fabulous."

The promise of Bus Rapid Transit is that a city like San Francisco can establish a whole network of super-speedy transit that can get people anywhere they need, at a fraction of the cost of building rail. Bus rapid transit is 50 percent to 80 percent cheaper to build than other options such as light rail.

San Francisco is in the early stages of building this rapid transit network. The completion of the network is the key to reducing Muni's operating costs and attracting more middle-class riders to transit. And this, in turn, is the key to enabling continued economic growth.

Transportation infrastructure is quickly becoming the major constraint to growth, especially in the greater downtown area. Transit lines that bring workers to downtown must expand their capacity if new jobs are going to be created. For the rest of the city, the rapid transit network is more of a quality of life and environmental issue.

The first, and perhaps most important, segment of the citywide Bus Rapid Transit network is the Geary line, which carries around 50,000 passengers each day, second only to BART for the number of people carried on any transit corridor in the Bay Area. It will cost about $200 million to build the Geary segment, a bargain price. The design will be ready to convert to rail as ridership levels grow and funding becomes available.

Sweet scenario

The plan for Bus Rapid Transit on Geary is following a scenario familiar to every transit improvement in the world: Some of the local merchants, who will ultimately benefit the most, are opposed. The great citywide interest in getting the project built is harder to mobilize. But the project is so beneficial that all reasonable people know it will be completed, sooner or later.

Picture Geary Boulevard becoming the new hot shopping street because hundreds of thousands of new people can finally get there quickly, easily, and comfortably. Neighborhoods across the city demand that they are the next to be served by Bus Rapid Transit. Muni hires drivers and buys new vehicles to accommodate the surging ridership. We have a transportation system we can be proud of.

All aboard!

Gabriel Metcalf is executive director of SPUR, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

Send us your comments More Latest News

Sunday, October 01, 2006


The Geary Citizens Advisory Committee meets to discuss the proposed construction of a BRT line on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. The meetings take place at 100 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, the headquarters of AAA of Northern California.

There were about 12 members of the Advisory Committee in attendance, along with the Executive Director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) and Julie Kirschbaum, a Senior Transportation Planner with SFCTA. One member of the committee was openly opposed to BRT - I believe that he made a motion that the Chair be removed because he was not neutral on the issue of BRT, but the motion died for lack of a second. A few seemed skeptical.

Several members of the committee expressed concerned about current problems with MUNI. They were worried that MUNI's poor performance was going to weaken public support for any new transportation initiatives such as BRT. (See "Year-end report tells troubling tale for Muni August 16, 2006" at

During the public comment period, someone from a group called Committee to Save Geary Blvd spoke in opposition to any changes on Geary Boulevard.

The staff presented data on delay times experienced by autos at different intersections along Geary at present and what they were projected to be with Center Lane BRT. They also screened a video simulation of what Center Lane BRT would look like in operation and mentioned the fact that there was an engineering problem with Center Lane BRT at the intersection of Geary and Masonic which had to do with the time it would take pedestrians to cross Geary.

Aside from the Geary and Masonic intersection, no other serious obstacles seemed to exist. With a dedicated lane BRT system in place, riders on the Geary line will experience significantly reduced travel times.

During the public comment period I introduced myself as the Co-Chair of an East Bay group called Friends of BRT which was supporting the introduction of BRT in the East Bay. I gave a copy of the Friends of BRT brochure to Ms. Kirschbaum and to a member of the Advisory Committee named Brian Larkin. I left copies of the brochure on an information table at the entrance to the meeting room. In particular I brought up the role that BRT can play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from transportation and mentioned the role that transportation is playing in causing global warming.

Roy Nakadegawa, former member of both the BART and AC Transit Board of Directors, attended the meeting. During a conversation after the meeting with the Executive Director of SFCTA, he mentioned the fact that he had met with someone involved with BRT in Ottawa who had told him that due to the increased speed of service with the BRT that operating costs were reduced such that the busway would pay for itself in 20 years. If I understand the point correctly, the fact that the buses are moving faster means that you need fewer of them. I am going to interview Roy on this point and post a note expanding on it.

After the meeting, a member of the committee told me that she had never thought about the role that BRT could play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. She thanked me for making that connection for her.

Len Conly