Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bus vs. Light Rail

Here in Ohio, there is a debate over a proposed light rail corridor linking Cincinatti, Columbus, and Cleveland, the 3-C. Some are of the belief that "build it and the riders will come," while other point out flaws in the projected speed and cost of the project. In the latter camp, oddly enough, I might count the Federal Transit Authority Administrator Peter Rogoff. In a recent hard-hitting speech, he pointed to the irony and danger of building more infrastructure when we can't maintain what we have. Is it sustainable to expand infrastructure, even green infrastructure?

"Let's start with honesty:

Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don't want to hear. One is this -- Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive.

Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a "special" bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.

Once you've got special buses, it turns out that busways are cheap. Take that paint can and paint a designated bus lane on the street system. Throw in signal preemption, and you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.

A little honesty about the differences between bus and rail can have some profound effects..."

"If you can't afford your current footprint, does expanding that underfunded footprint really advance the President's goals for cutting oil use and greenhouse gases? Does it really advance our economic goals in any sustainable way?"

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