Eugene’s BRT service is great! Check out the adorable video, complete with butterflies and whistling music. Hmm, though – they sure seem to make an effort to be anti-rail – note the line at the end: “There and back, with no clickety-clack.”

Apparently avoiding “clickety-clack” (which doesn’t exist on modern rail systems anyway) wasn’t such a great idea after all: fuel prices are forcing the Lane Transit District board to cut service – possibly dramatically, with some routes potentially going from 30 minute headways to 1 hour headways, some routes being completely eliminated, and increases in fares. Their base fare is already going up from $1.25 to $1.50 on July 1st, and that doesn’t eliminate the $2-3 million shortfall in their $36 million budget.

So, next time you ask yourself “When was the last time a bus route disappeared?” – here’s your answer, and it’s only going to get worse. All these areas have hydroelectric power with stable prices, too – I learned on a trip to Grand Coulee Dam last year, for example, that they have never increased their rates, and don’t plan to. MAX won’t be going anywhere, and nor will Link.

16 Replies to “Eugene BRT: Rosy Outlook and Harsh Reality”

  1. Everyone that I’ve talked to that rides the NYC Subways everyday loves the sound they make. Yea that clickety-clack of rails is so annoying to the vibrating throttle of diesel…

  2. Sure, I don’t mind it either.

    But for people who do: MAX, our streetcar, Skytrain, Link – these don’t make that noise.

  3. I wrote about this the other day. I have been saying this for a while, but I don’t get why BRT lines don’t use electric overhead. It’s not that much more expensive and much more worth it. You know, anything that uses gas is going to get screwed soon. I talked to a friend in China and she just bought a house in sprawl and a new car. Imagine how many people over there are doing that and we might be losing VMT, but they are skyrocketing it.

    Cities that bet on diesel buses alone are going to lose. Trolley bus and light rail for spine service should be the norm. Less energy use, more alternative sources, less point source pollution for less asthma. It’s not hard, it’s just everyone is too cheap to think ahead.

  4. Trolleybuses are virtually unheard of outside of the places where they’re already in place, which are not many. I suspect they’d be more popular if more people simply heard about them. I’d send a link to
    to any agency with BRT or considering it, no matter where it is, with a brief note saying this is how you beat future high gas prices and nothing else.

    Metro has trolleybuses but still doesn’t use them on its attempt at BRT, the 358 on Aurora, but Metro doesn’t use trolleybuses outside Seattle at all, mostly because of the complications of running them on the freeways and the Aurora Bridge. And when was the last time Metro put up any new trolleybus wires at all?

    Or maybe I’m offbase and most transit planners have heard at least a little about trolleybuses.

  5. Ben, More people ride electric transit in Seattle today than number of riders that will ride Central Link from downtown to SeaTac by 2020. And I’m not talking waterfront streetcar. In fact, electric transit ridership in Seattle is already nearly 70% of what it is Portland, and we don’t yet have light rail open (Source APTA).
    Glad we have electric transit. Glad we’re adding to it. Don’t discount the present over the unrealized future.

  6. I especially enjoy being engulfed in a cloud of non-clickety clack diesel smoke. And the rattling roar of the “green” diesel engine.

    Pantograph: come visit our broken-up roadways to find out why we don’t have more electric trolleys here.

    I finally figured out why many of the buses slow down to 5mph in the middle of the road, with nothing in front of them in several spots around the city. The pavement is so bad in some places (thanks, in part to the heavy buses) that anything above 5-10 mph will knock the polls off-wire.

    You can differentiate between the electric and diesel buses in this town: the electric buses resemble slugs. Fun to pass on your bike, though.

  7. “Don’t discount the present over the unrealized future.”

    Multimodal man plays the game most rail critics play: always hold out for some pie-in-the-sky plan to make their arguments pencil out.

    Overhead wires running up and down I-5, and across I-90 and 520? Low capacity buses stuck in traffic competing with grade-separated light rail?

    Good luck with that, guy.

  8. multimodal man – I have never heard of trolleybus BRT anywhere. All the BRT systems I’m aware of are diesel.

    I am just fine with trolleys – but even their operating costs are higher per passenger mile than rail is.

    Remember that the number of revenue hours being operated by trolleybuses in Seattle will far, far outstrip those operated by Link. And don’t be so sure about ridership – remember that the ridership projections for Link don’t include TOD.

  9. Brian S, you bring up an interesting point. Road maintenance. It’s something that doesn’t often get discussed but much of the reason for the broken pavement is the buses themselves which taxpayers have to fix. However its not added into the costs.

    I mean, when we build rail everything gets lumped in as a total including guideway, moving utilities, vehicles etc. We don’t do that for roads that need to be fixed fairly often when huge beasts are crushing the pavement every day. In LA there is a law that on neighborhood streets, vehicles over a certain weight are not allowed. This means hummers. I’m glad the transit agency doesn’t have to pay for the road maintenance, but I wish more folks would honestly assess the costs.

    As for the trolley buses, Dayton Ohio has them still. I think it would be a good way to get smaller cities to participate in funding at the federal level and generate a national plan for alternative propulsion. We’re not going to be able to put rail on every corridor and buses are still primary the workhorses of every transit agency(except NYC) so lets sort out a way to breath easier and pay less for gas is all i’m saying.

  10. pantograph, Strasbourg has trams as a primary mover, and buses as a secondary. I think that a city that develops without highways might actually see this pretty often.

  11. Trolleybuses are all over in Europe. I wouldn’t be so opposed to BRT if it actually used overhead wires. Like I said before, we need to us all-four (five) transit planning.

    Heavy Rail
    Light Rail/Streetcar
    (Commuter Rail)

  12. the silver line BRT in boston uses trolley overhead in its tunnel sections and i think a couple other places; the buses are diesel on the more outlying portions of the route.

    i haven’t lived in boston since the silver line opened and have only used it once or twice but from what i can tell it’s not really very popular compared to light or heavy rail.

    many bostonians consider the silver line kind of a piece of crap compared to what else is offered in the city. the E line of boston’s green line was replaced by a “rapid-ride-like” bus from forest hills to copley there. i think it’s route 39. nobody rides it. we all used to ride the E line that ran on the same stretch (i grew up off of the E and there is an extremely long and potent history to the disappearance of this particular part of the rail line).

  13. Yeah, it’s really popular, alright. Better be at $800 million per mile. Or whatever the Silver Line’s cost ended up being. Nothing like a huge cement trench with 25 ft walls to foster transit oriented development.

    Pantograph, Bridging The Gap (paving the roads) cost the average household in Seattle $250 per year. Double what Prop 1 – 50 miles of light rail + a bunch of freeways) would have cost. And the majority of pavement being laid is on aterials served by buses.

    Ron Sims doesn’t calculate the cost of re-surfacing 15th ave nw in his goofy Transit Now Republican Math pronouncements. Just ask MultimodalMan.

  14. Well, that’s the thing- it’s plain to see that most energy in the future will be transmitted and used in the form of electricity. And once you’re hanging wire and rebuilding the street to take the weight of the buses, you might as well put in rails and start gathering some economy and ride quality.

  15. Ben:
    Quito Ecuador uses electric trolleybus on its BRT line.

    Using ETB on a BRT line may be a good choice, especially as diesel prices rise. As with the other choices, it depends upon budget and rights of way available.

    In the 1990s, Essen Germany had joint operation in a transit tunnel by LRT and guided ETB. Guadalahara Mexico once had an ETB tunnel. Is part of the Nice France BRT systeem electric?

    There are hundreds of cities with ETB throughout Europe, Asian, and Latin America. In North America, they are used in Vancouver, SF Muni, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, and Alberta. The Dayton system is tiny and the service frequency is poor. ETB makes more sense with high levels of service frequency.

    Converting the BRT to ETB may be a good idea as diesel rises in price and the concern over global warming grows. There is ETB overhead designed for high speed operation; priority through traffic is key, just as it is for LRT.

    Brian: any diesel bus on the ETB routes or similar routes are also slug like; consider diesel routes 8, 11, 27; they operate in dense urban settings with close stop spacing and no priority through traffic, just like the ETB.

    Andrew: the MBTA Silver line uses CNG outside its tunnel; I rode the surface portion in 2000. It is not the same high quality as the heavy rail red, blue, and orange lines, but it was much cheaper. The notion of a bus tunnel under the harbor was odd. Many of the transit projects that were supposed to come with the big dig have been delayed or cheapened.

    Folks have to be careful to secure additional transit funding. the modal wars are not always helpful. We have to select the appropriate mode and application depending upon budget and right of way available.

    Rail has disappeared just as bus lines have disappeared. Consider the Seattle streetcar network in 1940; the George Benson line was sacrificed for SAM; the red line is LA.

  16. anonymous: The situation surrounding the old streetcars is pretty well understood, and not something that would happen again. The waterfront streetcar was a tourist attraction, not really transit.

    None of those things are going to happen to something like Link or the Seattle Streetcar, because the incentives for auto-centric travel like we had in the first half of this century aren’t ever coming back.

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