15 Replies to “BRT v Rail in the Times”

  1. I think it’s a pretty fair piece that explains an issue that not many people understand. Unfortunately the article neglects to mention that there is no plan and there have been no serious studies regarding creating a BRT network in Seattle.

    I like this section of the article:

    Rail backers say buses get stuck in traffic.

    Community Transit buses arrive on time on more than 94 percent of their trips from Snohomish County to Bellevue and Seattle, which sounds good.

    But Community Transit pads its schedule to adapt to gradually slower highway travel. A morning ride from Lynnwood to Seattle was scheduled at 24 minutes in 2002, but is now 32 minutes. An afternoon ride from Overlake to Edmonds used to take 66 minutes, but is now 72 minutes.

    Buses rely on fast high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, but they’ve become so full they often fail to meet the state Department of Transportation’s 45 mph standard. DOT could kick out two-person carpools, but officials fear that more traffic would fill the general lanes.

    Tim Eyman’s Initiative 985, promoted as congestion relief for drivers, would further slow many buses, because HOV lanes would open to general traffic at 9 a.m. mornings and 6 p.m. evenings, government officials say. “At just a time when HOV lanes are going to be more important than ever, Eyman cuts them up,” complains former state Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald.

    Meanwhile, Metro is straining to meet a ridership surge.

    General manager Kevin Desmond says that barring major changes to Interstate 5, the quality of bus service will decline between Northgate and downtown. He doubts BRT can succeed there.

    For Northgate, “There is not an alternative to rail, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “That’s a very good investment.”

    1. The article does mention that there is no BRT plan, in a sidebar (I read the print version). It does not directly mention, however, some of the strongest pro-rail arguments (can scale to meet demand, for example).

    2. It’s not fair. I made my post above. It misses the simple, basic, completely unassailable point that in the long run, rail is VASTLY cheaper.

      1. If this piece was supposed to be anti-light rail and pro-BRT, it did a pretty bad job of accomplishing that goal. I imagine the anti-light rail people are on their websites talking about how the Times piece above misrepresents BRT and is promoting light rail.

      2. Joe Turner of the Tacoma Trib posted a work up I did of light rail versus bus costs (source, National Transit Database) in a number of western U.S. cities at http://blogs.thenewstribune.com/politics/2008/10/14/p32430 .
        The data I copied out from NTD shows that light rail in some cities is more expensive per passenger trip than bus service in the same cities.

        This notion of light rail being more “scaleable” in future years than bus service is at least challenged by the new Federal Transit Administration report on the cost of rehabilitation and refurbishment of the nation’s present-day rail systems. This report is summarized by Jim Simpson, the FTA Administrator as follows:

        “The problem is huge: $30 billion of heavy rail assets among the nation’s 15 largest rail agencies are in such poor condition they should be replaced immediately. An additional $7 billion is needed annually over the next 20 years to achieve a state of good repair for all our systems.” Full speech from October 6 is at http://www.fta.dot.gov/news/speeches/news_events_8780.html

  2. I liked the article, too, though it didn’t seem very coherent. It was more a random bunch of thoughts about BRT and light rail. The only big complaint is the mixing of costs from the 1980s (Portland MAX), today, and the future.

    A nice touch was that again the Times has a nice graphic showing the Link system.

  3. I agreed that it did not seem very coherent. I wish there would have been some comparison of operating costs as well since they did mention that a LRT has the ability to carry a higher capacity of people than buses, thus laying ground work for the argument that more buses on the road than trains would mean higher operating costs to run those buses.

    1. Nobody wants to have that discussion, on the other side. That $107 billion number the opposition throws around? The King County portion of that is EXACTLY what Metro will collect in the same time period – and it won’t move as many people.

      1. I haven’t been able to break out the Metro trips from the other local transit trips in ST’s Prop 1 plan description, but I was able using algebra to take the ST forecast that 65% of all transit trips in 2030 will involve ST, plus forecast transfer rates and boardings, to come up with the following breakdown of the composition of 544,000 transit trips forecast for 2030:

        182,000, purely Sound Transit
        190,000, purely local transit (Metro, CT, PT, and ET)
        172,000, mixed, with a transfer between local transit & ST
        544,000, Total transit trips in 2030 if Prop 1 passes

        2030 without Prop 1 (62,000 fewer transit trips) comes out like this:
        121,000, purely Sound Transit
        289,000, purely local transit
        72,000, mixed, with a transfer between local transit & ST
        482,000, Total transit trips in 2030 if Prop 1 is rejected

        A transit trip is a door-to-door one-way journey on transit.

        A boarding is a person boarding a transit vehicle, which may occur two or more times in a transit trip.

        Modeling usually assumes at most 1 transfer maximum, though we know 2 or more transfers might be needed in real life.

    2. Honestly he never looked for data or numbers. He just asked people their opinions.

      It’s the written version of 360 with anderson cooper. Entertaining? Sure. Informative? Not so much.

      1. MOST media has become like your description of 360, because information is boring. Just present both sides and get out. Numbers? I never did do well with those dang curly things.

      2. I’m really disappointed by the media in general this election cycle with regard to actual research. Any number of claims by both presidential candidates could have been determined to be true or false using a few day’s worth of research and a calculator. Instead, the major media left it up to blogs to determine what’s right and wrong – using bloggers that use their free time and good will to produce better research than the major news organizations despite the billions advertisers spend on TV every year.

        The same goes for Prop 1. How many work hours would it have taken the P.I. to dig into the numbers and determine what side is right on all of the major issues? A day? A week?

  4. It was mixed for me. It seems to take some positive things but it was at least to me, a balanced but incoherent to say the least.

    If anything, we should get together and write an article to put in these newspapers that gets our views out. We can rant about it on here but that isn’t going to get the message out.

  5. Mike Lindblom was doing a balancing act. He wants to preserve his reputation as a real reporter, but needed to slant it against rail to assuage the Blethens.

    One of the ‘tells’ was the very last quotation of the main article, just a fact free slam. Well, that’s life in the big city.

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