The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

The importance of assessing impacts when selling BRT

It appears the rapid transit debate has reared its ugly little head again in Winnipeg.

And proponents of Bus Rapid Transit have found a fresh angle to peddle their pet project: new federal dollars.

A new pool of money -- about $18 million -- for Manitoba has been set aside by Ottawa for any project that falls into the category of environmentally friendly transportation.

It's a use-it-or-lose-it proposition from the feds. Provinces and cities have to apply for the money and actually use it on specific green projects.

Naturally, BRT proponents try to create the impression if the money isn't used for their project, we'll lose it, which is false.

The money can be used for green projects such as buying hybrid buses or promoting active transportation, including building a proper bike-path network this city so desperately needs.

The problem with the proposed BRT project is we have no idea what impact it may have on ridership or how much it would cost to build and operate.

They simply haven't done the due diligence on it.

The whole objective of rapid transit is to get more people out of their cars and into transit -- a laudable goal.

One of the most important factors in achieving that is travel time. Transit studies repeatedly show reducing travel time is one of the key determinants in boosting ridership.

If you can turn a 45-minute trip into a 25-minute one, for example, you're going to encourage more people to use transit.

So how many minutes would BRT shave off the travel time from downtown to the University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus -- the first phase of the proposal -- compared with the current bus system?

The proponents don't know. The last report on BRT in Winnipeg -- the city's Rapid Transit Task Force -- cites no estimates whatsoever on travel time for Phase One of the project.

They simply haven't done the research.

How much faster?

Many routes along Pembina Highway already shuttle people from downtown to the U of M in 20 minutes.

Could BRT on dedicated busways do it that much faster?

How much faster would they have to be than 20 minutes to change driver behaviour and encourage more people to use transit?

There's no analysis on that.

In fact, they don't even know how much the project -- which includes moving rail lines and building overpasses -- would cost. All of the task force's cost predictions are "high level estimates." They also have no idea what the operating costs would be for BRT.

"Operational costs cannot be estimated until functional design studies, including detailed ridership studies, are completed for each route," the report says.


The truth is, the task force admits right in its own report that much more research is required before they can move ahead and they don't know for sure where the BRT corridors should go.

"Each corridor must still be evaluated through a functional design process -- engineering studies and community consultations -- prior to determination of final locations and extent," the report says.

I see.

This is what BRT proponents want us to sign on to.

No thank you.

I'd be the first to support a transit project that could demonstrate how it would increase ridership, and at what cost.

But you need proper costing and ridership data to make that determination.

Unfortunately, none of that has been done here.

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