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BRT vs LRT

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BRT vs LRT
Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, November 30, 2012 8:39 PM

a synopsis of a study of the 2 methods brings up many questions as to how both are being evaluated after starting service. 2 main things are passenger growth and costs of building. study author says not enough information is required after service starts to evaluate a project especially on BRT. author will post more on study later but take a look so far -------

http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/blogs/lyndon-henry/research-study-new-lrt-projects-beat-brt-on-capital-cost-ridership-measures.html?channel=

 

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Posted by John WR on Saturday, December 01, 2012 3:28 AM

Lyndon Henry excludes BRT that runs in mixed traffic because he considers it not to be rapid transit at all.  He looks only at BRT on a dedicated roadway.  

However, by putting BRT on a dedicated roadway in congested areas and then moving it onto roads in outlying areas we can often get sufficient speed in both places with a cost reduction where buses are simply running on roads.  That is, of course, a compromise.  But it is a compromise with a lot of good points.  

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Posted by narig01 on Saturday, December 01, 2012 6:53 AM

BRT does not get a lot of oversight.  The biggest disadvantage is that you can not increase the capacity in relation to available manpower like you can with MU'ing streetcars with rail.

          The line I would cite as a major success in the late 70's was San Diego's San Ysidro line. It was a major embarrassment to USDOT. Not because it was built under budget, opened early, got 115% of its operating revenue from the fare box.  But because it did all this without any federal funding.

         San Francisco Muni is very happy with their rail fleet because of its crush capacity. Also San Francisco gets it's power from a city owned Hetch Hetchy dam.  Numerous times Muni has been quite glad to not have to pay unpredictable prices for diesel fuel.   In addition to it's rail fleet Muni also has an extensive electric bus fleet.  In addition Muni does not like having to use large(articulated) buses due to the fuel expense(in addition to some oddball engines). 

      Muni concluded a long time ago that BRT that was used is Los Angeles at the time was not the way to go. They also had a very good idea of the cost.

     I am not sure about Seattle's experience but I would note that they do not run diesel buses thru their tunnel's only electric.

       I would also point out that Los Angeles MTA has converted much of their BRT to rail and I think Salt Lake City did the same.

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Posted by Sam1 on Saturday, December 01, 2012 1:30 PM

"Our study..... Major challenges ..., were that not only is there no standard, consistent process for evaluating how well these projects meet their goals, but in fact crucial data elements are either obscured or unavailable for convenient public access."

If there are no standard, consistent processes for evaluating the projects, why would anyone place any credence in the author's conclusions?  

"Data for DMU light railway projects were also a problem......, reliable data for only one such project—North County Transportation District's Sprinter line linking Oceanside and Escondido, California."  

The cost of Capital Metro's Red line from Leander to downtown Austin, although not central Austin, which is a DMU line, is very well known. The data has been published in numerous sources. In addition, the annual operating costs for the Red Line are available in Austin's annual budgeting and financial statements.  This guy was an analyst for Capital Metro, and he does know the cost numbers that have been cited by several sources?

The capital costs to upgrade the Austin and Western for the Red Line commuter service are debatable. The debate centers around Capital Metro claiming that some of the upgrades would have been made irrespective of the planned operation of commuter trains on the railroad. They allocated these costs to freight operations.  I don't know of anyone who believes them.

"These results suggest that BRT projects do not have any particular advantage when very heavy installation (tunnels, elevated structure, etc.) is involved."  

Agreed!  But the BRT projects planned for Texas don't involve extensive capital expenditures. The buses will run along existing roadways, i.e. Preston Road in Dallas, Lamar Blvd. in Austin, etc. The capital improvements for Austin's 37.5 mile BRT system are estimated to be $1.3 million per mile.  They include pullover zones, new stations, traffic signal upgrades, etc. Similar numbers have been projected for Dallas and San Antonio. They do not include the cost of the buses.

The estimated cost of a proposed light rail system from Austin's airport to downtown and on to the University of Texas campus is approximately $48 to $50 million per mile. This does not include the equipment. These numbers square with the estimated cost to construct the light rail lines in Dallas.

For FY11 the average subsidy for light rail passengers in Dallas was $4.82. The average for bus riders was $5.82. The subsidy for RBT riders probably would be between the two, suggesting that it would take a lot of riders and a long time for the spread to cover the capital cost variances. This is especially true after factoring in the financing costs.

What is the best solution to urban transportation problems is the key question. In some areas it may be light rail; in others it could be BRT. The notion that one size fits all does not sit well with me.  Neither does this study. 

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Posted by Sam1 on Saturday, December 01, 2012 1:37 PM

narig01

BRT does not get a lot of oversight.  The biggest disadvantage is that you can not increase the capacity in relation to available manpower like you can with MU'ing streetcars with rail.

          The line I would cite as a major success in the late 70's was San Diego's San Ysidro line. It was a major embarrassment to USDOT. Not because it was built under budget, opened early, got 115% of its operating revenue from the fare box.  But because it did all this without any federal funding.

         San Francisco Muni is very happy with their rail fleet because of its crush capacity. Also San Francisco gets it's power from a city owned Hetch Hetchy dam.  Numerous times Muni has been quite glad to not have to pay unpredictable prices for diesel fuel.   In addition to it's rail fleet Muni also has an extensive electric bus fleet.  In addition Muni does not like having to use large(articulated) buses due to the fuel expense(in addition to some oddball engines). 

      Muni concluded a long time ago that BRT that was used is Los Angeles at the time was not the way to go. They also had a very good idea of the cost.

     I am not sure about Seattle's experience but I would note that they do not run diesel buses thru their tunnel's only electric.

       I would also point out that Los Angeles MTA has converted much of their BRT to rail and I think Salt Lake City did the same.

Rgds IGN 

According to the San Diego Transit Fact Sheet, the current fare-box recovery for the trolleys is approximately 55 per cent.  That is better than anything that I have seen for any other transit system.

I was in Seattle just before Thanksgiving. I popped down to the transit tunnel, which is unique. The tunnel was hoisting light rail vehicles and fossil fueled buses.  I am not sure whether they were diesel or natural gas.  I did not seen any trolly buses in the tunnel.  

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, December 02, 2012 5:07 AM

Seattle's transit tunnel was opened with dual-mode trolleybus but the conversion to light rail involved changing the overhead to 12,50 or 1,500V DC precluding continued use of the dual-mode buses.   The bus operation now is supposed to be hybred, with battery power in the tunnel, but actually battery power is only used to start out of stations, then diesel is used to the next station.   As far as I am concerned this was a far more expensive and disruptive conversion than was needed.  Glad to comment further on  separate thread if desired.

Approximately 16,000 passengers per hour past a particular point in one direction on one lane, or more, rail is the way to go.   Less, bus.   Capitol costs vs. operating costs.   That is the rule-of-thumb gleaned from a number of successful projects.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, December 03, 2012 9:57 AM

One unquantifiable factor that is understandably overlooked is the cachet of rail service of any sort (light rail, rapid transit or commuter rail) over bus rapid transit in attracting riders.  For some reason, people who would not ride a bus would be willing to ride light rail or other rail services.

Paul The commute to work may be part of the daily grind, but I get two train rides a day out of it.
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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Monday, December 03, 2012 11:07 AM

16,000 passengers per hour minimum before rail?  That is 267 passengers per minute.  Let's see you move 250 passengers a minute in each direction past a particular point with buses.

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Posted by oltmannd on Monday, December 03, 2012 6:43 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

One unquantifiable factor that is understandably overlooked is the cachet of rail service of any sort (light rail, rapid transit or commuter rail) over bus rapid transit in attracting riders.  For some reason, people who would not ride a bus would be willing to ride light rail or other rail services.

It depends a lot on the bus.  If the BRT vehicle is really just a low floor urban, articulated vehicle, with lousy seats, HVAC, ride quality and noisy, with a 50 mph top speed.  you won't get many takers for a 40 minute ride, regardless of ROW.  

However, if you offer up nice high floor, integrated HVAC, 70 mph, reclining seat, air ride machines, you won't have a problem, even if they use existing highways.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by oltmannd on Monday, December 03, 2012 6:48 PM

Phoebe Vet

16,000 passengers per hour minimum before rail?  That is 267 passengers per minute.  Let's see you move 250 passengers a minute in each direction past a particular point with buses.

55 people on 2 second headways at 60 mph is about it for a bus - 55 x 60 /2 = 1650 pass/min.  

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Posted by John WR on Monday, December 03, 2012 7:57 PM

Don,  

Could your clarify how we get buses to leave on a 2 second headway.

Do you mean that a bus can be loaded in 2 seconds?

Or do you mean that you could have several buses loading at the same time so they could leave 2 seconds apart?  And if so how many buses would that take?

Or do you mean something else?

John

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Posted by narig01 on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 3:26 AM

Sam1

According to the San Diego Transit Fact Sheet, the current fare-box recovery for the trolleys is approximately 55 per cent.  That is better than anything that I have seen for any other transit system.

I was in Seattle just before Thanksgiving. I popped down to the transit tunnel, which is unique. The tunnel was hoisting light rail vehicles and fossil fueled buses.  I am not sure whether they were diesel or natural gas.  I did not seen any trolly buses in the tunnel.  

 

            I was referring to the first 2 years of operation.  From downtown to the border at San Ysidro. It was a very heavily used line from the border to downtown.   This lines success was what convinced San Diego city  leaders that mass transit was worth the investment.  Especially compared to trying to build more highways.  

            Seattle, I'm not as familiar with Seattle's tunnel as I should be. I was wrong about Seattle.

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Posted by narig01 on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 3:27 AM

Also this is what I'd found on BRT.

:  http://improve-public-transport.wikispaces.com/intro_BRT#brtdefinition

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 3:30 AM

1.   My error.   The 16,000 figure was really for two lanes, on in each direction.   And 125 passengers per minute in one lane is a maximum feasible goal, with articulated buses carrying 125 passengers and operating at one per minute.   (In the Lincoln Tunnel bus lanes, one bus per 45 seconds is normal.).   This might require skip-stop service with long platform lanes that the express bus can pass.    8.000 is the right figure for one lane, not 16,000.  My apologies.    The headway in one lane is 60 seconds, not 2 seconds.

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 7:58 AM

daveklepper

1.   My error.   The 16,000 figure was really for two lanes, on in each direction.   And 125 passengers per minute in one lane is a maximum feasible goal, with articulated buses carrying 125 passengers and operating at one per minute.   (In the Lincoln Tunnel bus lanes, one bus per 45 seconds is normal.).   This might require skip-stop service with long platform lanes that the express bus can pass.    8.000 is the right figure for one lane, not 16,000.  My apologies.    The headway in one lane is 60 seconds, not 2 seconds.

I still find it difficult to imagine running 125 passenger articulated buses on one minute headways being more efficient than rail.  Those buses in the Lincoln Tunnel are not stopping to load passengers.

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Posted by John WR on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 9:39 AM

IGN,  

Thanks for the article.  However, it seems to me that it reflects the confusion about BRT.  It defines BRT as a system that uses its own dedicated right of way but goes on to say that BRT can run on regular city streets.  

It seems to me that if BRT runs on its own right of way that ROW must be purchased and build.  Does it cost more to purchase and build land for a roadway than it does for a railway?  

The article also says BRT buses can interfere with traffic signals so they can get all green lights.  However, such a traffic light control could be put on any bus.  Ordinary local buses would run faster if they had such a device.  

Then there is the fact that BRT has new buses with distinctive colors and more widely spaced bus stops with bus shelters rather than just bus stop signs.  But the new buses will get old and any bus may be painted a different color and bus shelters can be put up anywhere.  

Without the dedicated ROW it seems to me that BRT is a distinction without a difference and a big part of the savings are because buses run on existing streets.  With a dedicated ROW much of the cost advantage vanishes.  

This is not to day that BRT, even running on city streets, should not be used.  I don't see transit as a one size fits all proposition and different situations require different solutions.  

New Jersey Transit runs a system of GO buses which look like BRT but are not called by that name.  The buses are new NABIs, the same as used on local routes.  They run from eastern Essex county directly to Newark Airport and give people a one seat ride there.  They have fewer stops and shelters and are painted blue while most NJT buses are painted white.  I don't know what NJT's experience with them is but it seems like a good idea.  

John

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 10:17 AM

BRT is in the long range plans here.  It is my understanding that it is essentially a rubber tired equivalent of light rail.  It runs in a dedicated right of way and uses stations like light rail stops using tickets purchased at the stations rather than fares collected on board.

The BRT route has been partially built as part of the upgrade of the road where it is planned but the people who reside along that route are still demanding it be changed to light rail.  CATS says if they can find the money for light rail they can just put tracks in the busway but right now it doesn't look like the money will be available.  It does, however, demonstrate that there is a huge difference in the public perception of bus vs rail.  We had bus service that roughly paralleled the Blue Line light rail.  Since the Blue Line opened it has moved many times the number of people per day who used the bus when it was available.  The park and ride lot just off I-77 for the express bus to city center has 20 or 30 cars parked in it.  Not far away, just off I-485, is a parking deck that holds 1160 vehicles for the light rail station.  It fills up so early in the morning that CATS has been buying land around it to create more parking spaces.  The general public likes rail, but many of them would not use a bus.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 11:58 AM

Phoebe Vet

The BRT route has been partially built as part of the upgrade of the road where it is planned but the people who reside along that route are still demanding it be changed to light rail.    It does, however, demonstrate that there is a huge difference in the public perception of bus vs rail.

the article hat started this thread aluded to the preception by noting that light rail ridership incleases dramatically as brt stays mostly static.

 Since the Blue Line opened it has moved many times the number of people per day who used the bus when it was available.  The park and ride lot just off I-77 for the express bus to city center has 20 or 30 cars parked in it.  Not far away, just off I-485, is a parking deck that holds 1160 vehicles for the light rail station.  It fills up so early in the morning that CATS has been buying land around it to create more parking spaces.  The general public likes rail, but many of them would not use a bus.

a bus IMHO does not ride as well as a LRT

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Posted by oltmannd on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 3:15 PM

The "Catch 22" for BRT is generally that if you build it out complete with dedicated ROW and it's own stations and all the bells and whistles for the urban "last mile", what you have is a light rail line on rubber tires.   Same cost, same capacity*,  etc. So, you might as well do rail and get the "cache" - and a bit more safety.

If you try to do it on the cheap, you wind up with a gussied up urban bus route and it becomes apples and oranges.

The problem is that when BRT is proposed, it's never clear what's being talked about.  Often, it is the "on the cheap" version - just some driver controlled lights and by-pass lanes.

*there is a trade-off between the stopping distance of a bus and the capacity of a light rail train.  You can get more per train, but more buses per minute through-put.  They wash.

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Posted by Sam1 on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 6:19 PM

A key question is whether you need a system that can handle a throughput of 16,000 passengers per hour.  Clearly, this is not the case in Austin or San Antonio, and it is not likely to be the case.  Likewise, it is not the case in Dallas, which has built the most extensive light rail system in the southwest.

The average throughput on DART's light rail system is 1,884 passengers per hour.  The average rush hour throughput is 6,280 during the morning and evening rush hour. Neither of these figures come close to 16,000.  Moreover, the average passenger loads on DART's light rail lines, when adjusted for system expansion, have remained relatively stagnate. 

As noted in my previous post, there are areas of the country where light rail is the optimum choice.  But not every area! For the country as a whole, buses (rapid or otherwise) are a better public transit choice.

The BRT in Austin will run on city streets. It will not require capital intensive rights-of-way. And it will cost a small fraction of the estimated cost for the proposed light rail line, even adjusting for the difference in operating costs and the life expectancy of the capital equipment.

BRT can compete with light rail times for distances of 12 to 15 miles.  After that trains (light rail and commuter rail) win the race.

I lived in Australia for five years. Whilst there I traveled to Adelaide monthly on business. Adelaide has the O-Bahn, which is a 7.5 mile guided bus way. I have ridden it numerous times. The buses run at speeds up to 62.5 mph on a dedicated track. At interchanges they can leave the guideway and serve neighborhoods without requiring passengers to change mode of transit. The system offers flexibility that is impossible with rail. The system was costly, although no more than comparable light rail systems, but the City Council has scaled back plans to extend the system because of the cost. It has found that regular buses are more cost effective for a city like Adelaide. The system is not widespread throughout the world, but it is an indication of an alternative that may be a better fit than light rail.

I would like to see the studies that say people will ride light rail but would not ride a bus. I would like to understand the methodologies that drove the studies. And I would like to know whether the people conducting the survey told the respondents the cost and pricing differences. 

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 7:53 PM

If it runs in the street with no additional infrastucture it is not BRT it is just a bus.

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Posted by Sam1 on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 8:20 PM

Phoebe Vet

If it runs in the street with no additional infrastucture it is not BRT it is just a bus. 

That's not correct. BRT comes in a variety of flavors.   

You don't live in Austin, so you don't know what is planned for our fair city.  And my guess is that you have not been to many other cities to see what they serve up.  Most of us haven't.  

Since retiring I have traveled widely throughout the United States.  Two things have impressed me.  The U.S. is a very large country.  And it is very diverse.  What might work in one city does not necessarily mean that it would work everywhere.  Based on my observations, as well as readings, BRT is a good solution for many communities.  

Oh, by the way, you failed to answer any of the questions that I posed.  You know!  The basis of your market survey regarding people not riding BRT or buses in general because they favor light rail.  What is the basis for this conclusion?

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Posted by John WR on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 8:49 PM

As I recall, Sam, Shirley DeLibero came to Dallas and saw to it that the light rail got built.  Before she worked in Dallas she was Executive Director of New Jersey Transit.  She is remembered for giving large raises to top management officials for no particular reason.  

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 5:09 AM

To have close to 8000 passengers per hour for bus rapid transit, it is necessary to double the lanes at stops, so that one bus can pass another.    8000 passengers per hour is a general figure and particular circumstances can alter it.   For example, does an existing railroad or disused highway or what ever already exist?  If so, even for just part of the distance, the figure can be lowered for good economics for LRT.   Is there no way to fit a right of way wide enough for bus rapid transit in the landscape, urbanscape, but a narrower right of way suitable for rail vehicles can be fitted.   If so, then it is no longer a comparison between LRT and BRT, but between LRT and buses on a city street.   Then the figure drops to something like 2500 passenger per hour, a bus every three minutes.   Cannot even fit a lane for LRT through the city?   OK, a streetcar line in mixed traffic can also handle an articulated train every three minutes and can handle 200 passengers in each vehicle, for 4,000 passengers per hour in one lane.

The Pittsburgh eastside bus BRT has the pull-off lanes at bus stops.   I don't know what California does.

It is possible to design a guided bus system, and there are such in Europe, where BRT lanes can be as narrow as LRT lanes.   And such a bus can use normal steering when off the BRT line.

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Posted by John WR on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 7:22 PM

Well, yes, Sam.  BRT does have a variety of flavors.  Yes, you can put up special bus shelters and paint buses special colors and given them traffic controls so the lights will stay green for them.  But if they run on city streets they will have to share the streets with traffic.  When the streets are gridlocked the buses, which are a lot bigger than cars, will be gridlocked too.   Even special bus lanes will get backed up with a lot of other buses going on other routes.  But what you will not have is rapid transit.  Anyone who says that this is rapid transit is trying to fool all of the people all of the time.  

Of course you can build dedicated bus ways and have true bus rapid transit.  But I still ask where the big cost savings is if you have dedicated busways and have to buy the land and pave the streets just for the busways.

John

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Posted by Sam1 on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 7:46 PM

John WR

Well, yes, Sam.  BRT does have a variety of flavors.  Yes, you can put up special bus shelters and paint buses special colors and given them traffic controls so the lights will stay green for them.  But if they run on city streets they will have to share the streets with traffic.  When the streets are gridlocked the buses, which are a lot bigger than cars, will be gridlocked too.   Even special bus lanes will get backed up with a lot of other buses going on other routes.  But what you will not have is rapid transit.  Anyone who says that this is rapid transit is trying to fool all of the people all of the time.  

Of course you can build dedicated bus ways and have true bus rapid transit.  But I still ask where the big cost savings is if you have dedicated busways and have to buy the land and pave the streets just for the busways.

John 

The point that I have apparently not been able to get across is that there are numerous places in the United States where BRT can operate on existing roadways, with some technological improvements, and not be mired in gridlock. The proposed route in Austin, TX, is not encumbered by gridlock. RBT is the best solution according to the professional transport planners.

The cost of the proposed RBT in Austin is $1.3 million per mile. The cost to build a light rail system is $48 to $50 million a mile. One does not even need to do the math to understand that the BRT is a much better alternative than laying a light rail line along Lamar Blvd. in Austin.  Or Preston Road in Dallas.  There is no way that the operating cost spread between the light rail and the BRT will recapture the capital cost differentials. The math does not work.

This year I have traveled to San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Jacksonville, Miami, Key West, and New Orleans. Plus numerous trips to Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso and Brownsville. In most of the locations that I have visited, I have sampled the public transport. I am too cheap, erh frugal, to pay for a taxi.

Here is something that I have learned from my travels. The United States is a very large country. And it is a very diverse country with diverse transport needs. What is a good public transport solution in Texas may not be a good solution in New Jersey and vice versa.

A person living in Texas who thinks that he knows what is best for Chicago has a fool for a guide. And the same thing applies to people outside of Texas who believe that they know what would work best in Texas or anywhere else outside of where they live and work.

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Posted by John WR on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 8:25 PM

Sam,  

I did some net surfing about Austin and I learned that that not all Austin citizens agree with you.  However, certainly some do agree with you.  I think your work is to persuade your fellow citizens of your position.  What I think here in New Jersey don't make no nevermind.  Since putting buses on existing streets is a lot cheaper than building a dedicated right of way I think your position will most likely prevail.

John

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Posted by Sam1 on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 10:37 PM

John WR

Sam,  

I did some net surfing about Austin and I learned that that not all Austin citizens agree with you.  However, certainly some do agree with you.  I think your work is to persuade your fellow citizens of your position.  What I think here in New Jersey don't make no nevermind.  Since putting buses on existing streets is a lot cheaper than building a dedicated right of way I think your position will most likely prevail.

John 

Who are these citizens?  Are they transportation planners?  Have you ever been to Austin?  If the answer is yes, when?  

It has nothing to do with my position. Capital Metro planners have decided that BRT is the best solution for the planned application.  San Antonio has decided that buses, including BRT, are the best solution for its current needs, although they may opt for light rail 20 to 30 years from now.  

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Posted by John WR on Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:43 PM

No, Sam.  I've never been to Austin.  And I cannot give you the names of people who disagree with you.  But certainly you don't believe that everyone in Austin agrees with you, or at least I hope you don't.  All I am saying is that there are people in Austin who disagree with you.  I certainly would not deny that there are people in New Jersey who disagree with me.  And remember, this is America.  We all have opinions on just about everything.  People who are not transportation planners have opinions about transportation.    Most of all, I don't challenge your position.  You live in Austin, clearly you are intelligent and you have well thought out views.  But there is no disrespect to you in saying that there are people in Austin who disagree with you.  

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, December 07, 2012 12:18 PM

Phoebe Vet

If it runs in the street with no additional infrastucture it is not BRT it is just a bus.

Sort of like, "If it runs in the street with no additional infrastucture it is not Light Rail it is just a trolley car."?

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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