Thursday, July 23, 2009

BRT Not as Efficient, But Cheaper in Long Run

I decided to republish the following remarks I made in response to a few people at a forum called Skyscraper City on the topic for the New York City Subway. In it, I describe briefly why Bus Rapid Transit should be considered instead of a new subway line on Second Avenue, whose opening was just recently delayed another 2 years on top of a previous delay of 2 years. This delay is only for Phase 1 of 4...

Original Post:

BRT is not the right idea. This is the United States; no matter how fancy the bus, there's still the stigma.[/quote]
What stigma? Buses are used to connect to subways and for cross-borough travel here in NYC all the time. True, BRT is slower than subway and is more affected by weather conditions, but the proposal of Bus Rapid Transit takes a fresh approach at bus travel by having as much of a physically separated lane for buses. Think about it: along with prioritized signaling, attractive stations, longer distances btwn stops, and paid-before-boarding will make BRT run faster than conventional buses and close to subway functionality.

And here's another reason to support BRT over a new subway route: wouldn't you want your taxes to be used more effectively?

(More info at:

[Quote=ArthurK] As I think about it, a BRT is far less effective compared to the SAS. There's no way a bus in Manhattan can keep up with the speed and quality of an (express) subway. Plus: you waste a lot of space at street level. Plus: the SAS will be integrated in the NYC subway network, with Q-trains running from Brooklyn via lower Manhattan and the SAS to 125th street, and a possible further extention into The Bronx. That's almost impossible with bus services. Manhattan is just to crowded for a BRT at street level.
The construction of the SAS is IMHO an effective way of spending taxes. And it gives no pollution at street level and is sustainable for the future.[/QUOTE]

[Quote=davsot]Honestly, I just think that trains are way more efficient. If you manage your power sources correctly, subways don't pollute. Subways might be a tad bit quieter.
Buses pollute directly, though it doesn't need to be said they are more efficient than private cars.[/QUOTE]
True, a bus will never beat a train running under normal speeds. And trust me, as a railfan, there is no doubt I would prefer a subway over a bus. But the point of BRT is not to equal the subway but act as a substitution to complement it - currently the Lexington Ave. Line is the most crowded line during rush hours and is frequently delayed because of it is over-capacity. Having anything running parallel service would help relieve this line.

The new express track for the Q train has already been shelved several months ago with the elimination of the central track of the 96th St station on the SAS. An extension into the Bronx is unlikely in the next 430 years since it would involve completely new construction. Construction costs will undoubtedly rise and the current projection of 2018 is the completion date of ONLY PHASE I. 3 more phases remain.

Why BRT saves more money in the long run:
  • No foundation/settlement issues during construction-something that, especially with the legacy of Manhattan buildings, is constantly in the news.
  • There is no need to power lights in the tunnels or stations, street lights are already present
  • Signaling powering and maintenance is provided by DOT, initial build costs are cheap
  • Track flooding, a major problem, creates the need for higher maintenance costs for pumps, leak prevention, etc.
  • No need for powering fans for ventilation-BRT is out in the open
  • Today's MTA buses are "Clean Air Hybrid-Electric Buses": quiet and a lot less polluting. New buses are also handicapped accessible with planks that fold out onto the street. Eliminates the need for installing costly elevators, especially since they breakdown all the time and take forever to repair.
  • Opens the way for a shared and protected bike lane
  • Space is not an issue: 2nd Ave is 4 lanes (+2 for parking), and the point of building mass transit is to discourage driving = less pollution

Published Post Number:142/148
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