Comment 110068

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted March 09, 2015 at 12:49:59 in reply to Comment 110062

Oh just one more thing, before all the pro LRT people jump all over me, I am not against LRT. For the pro BRT people, a good BRT system done well and effectively is never cheap! If your primary argument for BRT is, like LRT but cheaper, your BRT system will fail, and fail big! All these cost arguments for BRT being so much cheaper to build than LRT hides the fact that many of the cheaper BRT systems can't move anywhere near as many people as even a starter LRT system can.

To make BRT really useful you have to do what Ottawa and York Region have done. Invest a great amount of money in expensive physically segregated rights of way that allow for maximum bus flows, not painted bus lanes on city streets although, they can be effective as well. Those painted bus lanes have severe limitations in high volume bus operations. If the bus is alone in mixed traffic it is not BRT, its an express bus regardless what politicians are promising.

Great care must be taken in how stations are designed. The number of buses that can stop at each station must be maximized meaning, bigger rail like stations with passenger platforms that can actually function moving buses in large number are better. This means allowing for bus passing lanes at each station in both directions. Deciding whether a BRT system is a open or closed one and then designing a operating plan that maximizes each types most positive elements.

Branding the system not the vehicles is a big advantage. Lots of marketing names get used and many systems have built nice GPS equipped bus stops. You can make the buses nicer all you want but, that is not going to help if the bus is slow or stuck in mixed traffic. Ottawa's experience shows that, people want a fast trip first and a seat if possible please. Buses equipped with WiFi that, look like trains are useless if you can't get on it because the transit agency couldn't afford to buy and or operate more of them.

The final point is that, if you want a BRT system over an LRT system because you believe its cheaper to initially build, you will most likely get a BRT system that isn't much better than an express bus operating in mixed traffic. Real BRT systems that have been effective over a long period of time at attracting passengers are just as expensive LRT to build and usually get more expensive than LRT to operate over time. This is the primary reason why Ottawa is converting the central Transitway to a LRT line. Yes, the right of way was designed to be converted to LRT many years ago so it has rail like shallow curve allowances and a very flat (really expensive) route, thus the conversion cost is greatly reduced. But, it was the operating cost that really made the conversion to rail an easy decision.

Are there BRT systems that handle more people than Ottawa's peak hour passenger demand of 10500 people/hour/direction and 185-200 vehicles/hour/direction? Yes, there are but, the physical length of the required downtown station platforms to maximize the needed space for handling up to 8-10 buses loading at the same time plus, a passing lane at every station and in each direction was going to turn downtown Ottawa into a bus filled expressway, not a nice experience for everyone involved and down right unpleasant for the businesses operating downtown, including some major Ottawa hotels. The operating costs of having so much of the available fleet downtown regardless, if it was stuck in on street painted lanes or a Transitway right of way through the core of the city, which Ottawa lacked, was at first slowly but now not so slowly strangling the operating budget of OC Transpo. There was just not enough room physically downtown for anymore buses and even less budgetary room for the increasing number of bus driver/operators. Will Ottawa still operate Transitways for years to come, yes, there are still many km's of Transitway untouched by the LRT plans and we are still building more of them in the southern areas of the city. One thing the Transitway was not was cheap but, it was and still is very effective at moving people. It all depends on how you use it.

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