Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 19, 2009


Baltimore Business Journal - Enhanced buses are a better option than light-rail cars along the proposed Purple Line in Maryland, according to a study from the World Resources Institute. The D.C.-based institute says that buses would be cheaper and combat global warming better than a light-rail system. . .

Light-rail transit features electric streetcars on rails and bus rapid transit has high-capacity express buses with designated lanes and multiple doorways.

The analysis compares both choices in the "medium investment" range, and says bus rapid transit would cut carbon dioxide emissions by almost 9,000 metric tons per year -- the same as taking about 1,600 cars off the road. MTA estimates the bus option would cost $580 million in capital investment and $17 million in yearly operational costs.

An equivalent light rail system would cost more than double, requiring $1.2 billion in capital and $25 million for annual upkeep. . .

Committee for Transit - A pro-bus think tank has failed to put a dent in the Maryland Transit Administration's analysis of the light rail option for the Purple Line. The World Research Institute's review of the air pollution section of the Purple Line reported that light rail performs slightly better than the state agency reported. The MTA compared light rail to so-called bus rapid transit for six types of air pollution. For five out of the six, light rail performed better. This finding is consistent with an independent analysis of light rail and [bus rapid transit] air emissions by Christopher Puchalsky of the University of Pennsylvania. The WRI chose to look at the one pollutant out of the six for which buses outperformed rail, CO2.

Richard Layman, Urban Places & Spaces - The thing you have to remember is that WRI is an active proponent of BRT as a transportation solution overseas, and they work on many projects there.

There is no question that BRT works great overseas, where far more people don't own cars compared to the U.S., and where people are willing to endure crush loads double what people are willing to endure in North America. In other words, they fit about 160 people on a 60 foot bus. . .

This fails to take into account three realities: (1) most people in the U.S., especially in the suburbs, have cars, access to cars, or could buy them; (2) to get people with the option of automobility to use transit you have to provide a high quality alternative; (3) research has proven time and time again that choice riders will ride fixed rail and except in rare instances, they won't ride bus.


Blogger Lars said...

Here in Boston we have the silver line, which is a rapid bus line. It has it's own lanes, multiple doors (only one door on though), and extends service where previously the "T" had no reach. This line works great to go to the new convention center and especially the airport (now making one transfer from commuter rail, private bus, or Amtrak to the Airport). However, these destinations have underground and exclusive lanes where nothing drives besides busses. When the Silver Line is above ground and servicing Dorchester and Roxbury, it shares the road with traffic. So in the winter when roads narrow due to snow and abandoned cars, it has less room to operate. Also, while having it's own lane, it must share this lane with motorists making turns, which subjects it to congestion. It was certainly built at a much lower cost than below ground rail systems, but it operates much slower for a large part of the population that needs it.

January 19, 2009 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Chris Collins said...

The "Silver Line" has two legs - one goes from South Station (the main train terminal) to Logan Airport, via the Federal Courthouse and Convention Center. It serves as a business travelers express bus to logan from South Station, and an express from the Courthouse to South Station for the Big Whigs and their aparatchicks.

There is a totally seperate leg of the "Silver Line" that is supposed to be the equivalent service to a trolley/subway extended to serve areas currently without light rail. By coincidence, these areas tend to be poorer and browner than most of those served by the train system.

The section of the "Silver Line" that serves affluent, white suburbanites works wonderfully. The section that serves the working brown locals is a bus route with a fancy paint job.

January 19, 2009 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to live in Cleveland Ohio in the 70s and preferred riding the light rail system (The Rapid Transit) to riding the bus. The buses, even the new ones, were slow, crowed, noisy and smelly. Cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

I now live in central Florida and wish there was light rail here as the traffic is the absolute pits.


January 19, 2009 11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've lived in a lot of major cities around the world and have always used the PT, I have noticed that a well equipped fleet of buses is faster and more efficient than light rail. Hopefully they'll invest in some double deckers.

January 20, 2009 3:08 AM  
Blogger xilii said...

Another thing is that if there's a traffic problem, a bus can make a detour, but a train is stuck on its tracks - assuming light rail would run along established roadways.

January 20, 2009 12:37 PM  
Anonymous wellbasically said...

Boston's "Silver Line" has one major advantage. The dedicated lane brings the busses out of the traffic for most of the trip. In most other areas the busses are a major CAUSE of congestion. In addition the bus lane is used illegally by all kinds of Boston car scofflaws but at least they are out of the main flow of traffic. Overall it's a pretty good street because of the extra lanes.

Trains running down the middle of the street are the worst disruptor to car, bus and traffic. We have those in Boston too, in a very brown neighborhood for what it's worth, and it's a nightmare. But when the trolleys have a dedicated median, they still affect traffic by destroying flexible movement along the route, and that is especially true for walkers, who have to be fenced away from crossing the tracks.

January 20, 2009 2:56 PM  

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