I’d like to expand on Daimajin’s short comments about Snohomish BRT. First of all, you can find a lot more info than the Times article here. It’s a big improvement over King County’s plans, although of course the geographic scope is smaller.
Kudos to Snohomish County leaders for getting this done with an electorate that is generally less transit-friendly than King County. Bonus points for getting it done without a tax or fare increase, and not taking it through a laborious public vote.
The project should be done in 2009. King County’s version, RapidRide, won’t have its earliest portion done before 2010 despite being launched over a year earlier. It will mesh quite nicely with RapidRide’s Aurora Service, terminating at Aurora Village. People living along this corridor can access jobs in places like Fremont far faster than the current best option of going downtown, and then back north.
Swift would appear to have the same features as RapidRide, except:
- The 10-minute headways will be 20 hours a day (instead of peak-only).
- It has on-board bike racks served by their own door(!)
- Ticket machines are at the stations, while RapidRide envisions that passengers will still fumble for change on board.
- Seven miles of the route will actually be bus-only instead of HOV. Anyone who’s ridden 405 Northbound in the afternoon can tell you the difference, although Swift will still have to deal with the usual idiots trying to turn right.
I really wish the people responsible for this were running the BRT shop at Metro. They seem to be doing a lot more with a lot less, at least in this narrow case.
But in spite of all the things they’ve done right, it’s still not light rail. An 80-passenger bus every 10 minutes is nothing like an 800-passenger train every six in terms of capacity, and therefore has dramatically lower potential for high-density development along the line. It also will not be truly separated from traffic. At the same time, what they’ve done here is about as much as you can do with buses before you start to approach the cost of rail.
In the long run, light rail can be run with four or two-minute headways. Buses can’t, because the timing is unreliable and they end up bunched up (See: Metro Route 48). Bigger trains, shorter headways: Light Rail moves a lot more people than BRT, even when BRT is done right.
But BRT is a good option for a corridor that won’t see rail for a long, long time.
UPDATE: Reading between the lines more carefully, I should point out one weakness in the plan: apparently, the ten miles of the line that are not bus-only lanes are general purpose lanes. Given the rather tight constraints they were under, I still think they did a really good job. It’s just not quite as much of a slam dunk over RapidRide.