Friday, August 01, 2008

Bus Rapid Transit Will Provide Far Better Service Than Rapid Bus Plus

Roy Nakadegawa asked me to post this.

Bus Rapid Transit Will Provide Far Better Service Than Rapid Bus Plus
by Roy Nakadegawa P.E.

Weekly one reads of environmental and climatic devastations attribute to the increase of Greenhouse gases. For our Region half of our GHGemissions is attributed to transportation. We emit the greatest amount of GHG on a per capita basis than any country because of our great use of the auto. As a responsible world citizen shouldn’t we reduce the emissions from autos and consider building more walkable communities and using public transit?

Berkeley a well known progressive city has an opportunity to consider the development of a faster, reliable and convenient transit systemcalled Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that will compete favorably to the auto. But there is resistance from a group called “Berkeleyans For BetterTransportation Options (BBTOP)”

BBTOP has proposed a plan they call Rapid Bus Plus (RB+) in lieu of BRT. Their proposal would add some features of BRT, which BBTOP claim would work almost as well without BRT’s dedicated bus lanes.

Researching their plan, it appears it will not provide any significant improvement over the current 1R Rapid Bus (1R).

BBTOP plan’s major addition to current 1R bus in time saving is the use Proof of Payment (POP), which saves time because riders will nothave to take time to pay fares when they enter the bus.

Studies indicate that POP will decrease the dwell time roughly 2-2.5 seconds per passenger when groups of five or more board at a stop. It isestimated around 7,300 daily trips are made on 1R within Berkeley. About 12% of these trips will be during peak hour or 875 boardings. Ifthe buses operate at 4-minute intervals (15 buses per hour), each bus will carry an average 59 riders per bus. With POP and 59 boardings, triptime saving with would be about 2.1 minutes per bus during peak hour.

However, for the handicapped in Portland, they deploy the ramp/lift 0.07% of their total trips and estimated that each boarding cycle takesan average of 81 seconds. The percent of riders using the ramp/lift is greater in Berkeley than in Portland, because Berkeley has long historyfor accommodating handicapped people and have attracted a greater users. Using the slightly higher number of 0.08% of ramp/lift users for Berkeley, with 875 boardings during a peak hour involves 7.0 handicapped boardings per hour. Spreading this among the 15 buses, the average will be 0.47 handicapped boarding per bus, or an average delay of 38 seconds for each bus.

With curbside boarding, the buses also need to maneuver out and back into traffic, adding an average delay of 4 seconds per stop. With 5 stops in Berkeley the delay will be 20 seconds for each bus.

Because of these two delays, the time saving from POP will be reduced to about 1 minutes per bus.

But, there is another current problem where the 1R frequently operates off schedule that RB+ does not address. Even during off peak the 1R carrying less passengers one sees the 1R buses often enter Berkeley in tandem or just a minute apart.

One of the most successful rapid bus line, Wilshire/Whittier Metro Rapid Bus in L.A. combined with their local bus handles 90,000 trips per day. It has experienced deteriorating irregular service due to increased Traffic, so they have now applied for funds to convert 7 miles of this line to operate as BRT.

Since, RB+ with POP will not prevent buses from being stuck in traffic to save about 1 minutes per bus, as calculated above, this time savings will decrease as well as its reliability as traffic increases.

In the near future, Berkeley’s traffic will increase far more than what we ever experienced for Berkeley will build 2,500 living units in the downtown area while the University will build major attractions and offices, plus there are plans for a large hotel with meeting facilities, all which will attract additional offices, businesses, jobs and people.

For improved transit, the BRT with dedicated lanes will have raised platforms to allow level boarding for the disabled with buses equipped with guided docking that assures a narrows gap that allows boarding similar to BART. This eliminates the delay to use of ramp/lift and there will be no delay for buses to merge into traffic, so its total time saving would clearly be three times greater than RB+ and provide greater reliability.

With BRT, the handicapped would have more immediate and greater access than access to BART stations for it would eliminate the need to use the time consuming elevators before and after using BART.

BRT buses will not have to maneuver through traffic and will be able to take maximum advantage of signal priority because buses will not be backed up behind other vehicles at intersections, as the 1R or the RB+ will be. BRT buses will by-pass the queued cars.

In summary, as traffic increases BRT will be far superior to BBTOP’s RB+ proposal. BRT will take full advantage of POP, provide EASY boarding for all with increased reliability and convenience and its time saving will increase more than three times over that of RB+ deteriorating one minute. For these reasons, the BRT with will reduce GHG, provide a good transit alternative that attracts more transit users, similar what BART has experienced with growing congestion and increasing cost of fuel.