Monday, January 28, 2008

Video Of BRT In Bogota

If you want to see BRT in action on a large scale, check out the video of BRT in Bogota, Colombia at

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Correcting Wolfgang Homburger's Piece about BRT in the Berkeley Daily Planet

Last fall, Wolfgang Homburger wrote an opinion piece in the Berkeley Daily Planet attacking Bus Rapid Transit. Friends of BRT researched his claims and found that many of them were inaccurate. Unfortunately, the Berkeley Daily Planet failed to publish our response to Wolfgang Homburger, though it was much better researched than most of their opinion pieces - perhaps as a result of their bias against BRT. We are posting our response here.

Correcting Wolfgang Homburger's Opinion Piece About Bus Rapid Transit

by Len Conly and Charles Siegel

Lecturer emeritus Wolf Homburger criticized Bus Rapid Transit in a recent opinion piece in the Daily Planet. After researching his points, Friends of BRT found that many of them are inaccurate.

Homburger claims that bus lanes will be underutilized because a bus will only come every 3.6 to 5 minutes. This is the classic traffic engineer bias that has caused many of the transportation problems that we face today. He is counting vehicles and not people!

This approach is gradually falling out of favor with practicing traffic engineers, who are beginning to realize that the capacity of the system to carry people is most important. The capacity of the two dedicated bus lanes to carry people would be high. In Berkeley, the two bus lanes are projected to carry more than the two car lanes. For example, on Telegraph Avenue just north of Ashby Avenue during the afternoon peak hour, 2,100 are forecast in autos and 2,500 in buses by 2025.

Homburger claims that "loss of a pair of lanes on Telegraph will increase congestion and the anger of residents on parallel streets where backups are already formidable." In reality, the BRT project would actually reduce, not increase, the number of cars entering the neighborhood.

For example, AC Transit analysis forecasts that the number of vehicles traffic crossing a line just north of Ashby Avenue stretching from Sacramento Street to College Avenue during the afternoon peak hour in 2025 would be 15,400 without BRT and 14,900 with BRT - a decrease of 500 cars. In addition, AC Transit could provide traffic calming devices to protect residents of streets near the BRT line.

Furthermore, the University will defer 500 parking spaces called for in the Long Range Development Plan "if AC Transit begins construction on a bus rapid transit route along Telegraph Avenue by 2010," a measure which should help to alleviate traffic in Berkeley in the future.

Homburger claims that, with BRT, traffic demand will exceed capacity at 27 intersections. AC Transit did identify several intersections that would experience significant degradation in performance before implementing mitigation measures, but Homberger does not mention that AC Transit is proposing mitigation measures such as adding additional turn lanes or
adjusting signal timing, which would reduce or eliminate the negative impacts to traffic. After mitigation, the number of intersections experiencing significant degradation in Berkeley would be zero (or one, depending on which alternative is chosen).

Homburger claims that the faster boarding and travel times with BRT are outweighed by longer access time required by wider bus station spacing. However, the number of riders for which this would be the case is very small for AC Transit's BRT proposal.

AC Transit is considering two scenarios for operating the BRT, and both would have convenient access to bus stations.

The "Separate BRT and Local" scenario includes express BRT buses making stops every one-half to two-thirds of a mile as well as local buses making stops about every one-sixth of a mile. Passengers placing a high value of short access time will still be able to ride on local buses under this scenario.

The "Combined BRT and Local" scenario envisions operating only BRT buses stopping on average every one-third of a mile. Under this scenario, the increase in access distance to a bus stop is at most one-sixth of a mile, approximately two city blocks, so overall access time is minimized. AC Transit ridership analysis has found higher ridership for the Combined BRT aand Local scenario because this operating scenario provides a better balance between improving transit travel time, reducing wait times and maintaining easy access.

Homburger claims that the East Bay BRT project has the lowest ridership to investment ratio of any BRT project in the country. This claim is not borne out by the data from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The project can hold its own with any other BRT system and many light rail systems in the country.

The cost per new rider, a measure the FTA has used to rate transit projects, is $12 to $23 for AC Transit's proposed BRT system. This compares favorably with comparable BRT projects in Cleveland, Boston, and Washington, which had a cost per new rider of $38, $33, and $20, respectively (in 2005 dollars).

Experience shows that BRT with dedicated lanes attract far more riders than ordinary bus service. For example, since opening in November 2005, ridership on the Los Angeles Orange Line BRT has increased from 16,000 per day to 21,000 today. Phase I of the Boston Silver Line BRT caused transit ridership to nearly double. On the Miami South Dade Busway average daily boardings increased approximately 130 percent from February 1997 to March 2002.

As Homburger himself says, 42,050 to 49,230 riders are forecast for this BRT corridor in 2025. That is more riders than any of the BRT lines just mentioned, and more riders than the entire Santa Clara Valley light rail system.

At some point in the future of the East Bay, it will become difficult to attract more jobs or housing without high-quality, high-capacity public transportation. The continued automobile dependency advocated by BRT opponents degrades the environment and contradicts the City's stated environmental and public transit goals.

Automobiles are Berkeley’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 47% of total emissions. Berkeley cannot meet the goals for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions called for by Measure G, which was supported by more than 80 percent of our voters, without promoting a mode shift from automobiles to alternative transportation. If the federal government acts effectively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there will be much more demand for bus service than we now project, and BRT will be even more successful than current projections show.

If the mutual goal of AC Transit, Berkeley and the Bay Area is to gradually move toward a mode shift away from single occupant cars and onto buses, trains and other alternative modes, then BRT must be an important part of this plan. In fact, AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit project would remove more cars from the road more cost-effectively than any other project in MTC's
Regional Transportation Plan.

Wolf Homburger's article in the Berkeley Daily Planet criticizing Bus Rapid Transit is available at