Amen, anyone complaining of the outrageous cost is being ridiculous because it’s literally the same for roads. Even without the congestion issue we had a viable electric and green transportation slashed while this 8 lane highway for majority gasoline cars is being built. You are 100% spot on and I love the comparison.
In reply to this post by Dave @ Building Bull City
While I think public transit is definitely the way to go, I'm not sure BRT would be that popular. This may be my personal opinion, but I think more people would prefer riding a train than riding a bus. If that is true, then you can relieve more congestion with trains than you would with the bus. Would like to see an opinion poll for sure.
Additionally, while BRT does have it's own lane, simply having a large bus pass you on the left can be intimidating for drivers, causing them to slow down and adding congestion.
I think a combination of commuter rails for people commuting from out of town, and safer bike routes/ bike lanes and greenways within town is the best way to go. Give people more options, and less people will be on the roads!
It might be worth betting on, though, given that no private entity would have to give up land to make it happen AND it would cost less (again, the cost argument is flawed, but the reality is that people often oppose expensive transit projects, even while spending a ton on roads for personal vehicles).
In terms of the intimidation of large busses, that might actually be a good thing.
1. Cars slow down (and are more safe)
2. Car travel continues to be less desirable as congestion is still bad
3. People opt for bus travel, which is more efficient, better for them, better for the environment, better for the city, etc.
Also, just to be clear, I am on board with your idea of safer bike routes and bike lanes and commuter rails. I think the best scenario is making car travel less desirable (by ending the crazy subsidies) and give as many alternative options as possible.
I think incentives that would make bus riding more desirable in Durham come down to two things for me.
1. Being fully electric buses, which from my understanding are not coming and instead will be a natural gas hybrid. Its better than gas/diesel but electric would be best. (Could be wrong though.)
2. Bus stop locations. This is the most difficult to solve. Most people wouldn't want to walk more than 10 minutes to a stop unless it was their only means of transportation. Urban sprawls can make this difficult at times.
Living in DC for three years, I had about 5 bus routes within a 3 minute walk of my apartment. Additionally a street car could bring me to Union Station in about 20 minutes. But I found the most efficient mode of transport in the city was the bike/metro combo. I could get pretty much anywhere in DC in about 45 minutes or less with that set up.
I think urban sprawl is the larger challenge at hand when it comes to transportation. But it's a double edge sword. Make Durham too dense and it will loose the charm that makes it so attractive. It's why I left DC and came here.
Let me start out by saying I love busses. I, too, used to live in DC and in both the places I lived, Adams Morgan (NW) and Eckington (NE) I used busses extensively as there wasn't an immediately convenient metro. I had a dozen route options that could easily and quickly get me to my destination or to a metro, if my trip were going further than one of the two "downtown" corridors (Capitol Hill or K St).
With that said, I honestly don't see how busses will ever work in Durham. We just don't have enough density...anywhere. While, in theory, the idea of a bus running down Holloway or Main to downtown is great, how many people is it helping? I regularly see the busses going through their routes with fewer than a dozen people on board, and I don't think the routes are that often, even? We just don't have enough high density corridors, with everyone traveling in the same direction, to really make it work.
I'm not suggesting that LR was the answer. I'm not convinced that the project would have had enough ridership to make it worth it, but maybe, just maybe, it would have spurred ultra-high density around the stops and in 10-15 years it would see lots of ridership (similar to the metro in Virginia). Having high density Residential/Office/Retail pop up within walking distance of LR stops would have solved the "character" problem by not forcing it all in the downtown core, but still creating effective ways for downtown to grow and others to get there. BRT just isn't going to spur that type of dense development I don't believe.
BRT sounds nice and all, but if it's just going to Chapel Hill...I'll drive to Trader Joe's or the once-a-year sporting event. To Raleigh? Woof. Give me commuter rail on the Amtrak/NCRR corridor.
So, there are two different arguments here. I don't think you are arguing that there woudn't be enough ridership along 15-501 (similar to the proposed light rail). The current busses are pretty packed along that route and they are not BRT, only come every 30 minutes (or 1-hour after around 6pm), are "meh" on a scale of reliability, and are certainly not works of art. The bus stops also leave something to be desired.
In theory, if BRT were done right, it could do all the things that the light rail could have done, creating hubs. It's just hard to imagine because nowhere in North America has really done busses right.
The other argument is low ridership along other lines, I assume. It's a very similar argument that people have against bike lanes - "nobody bikes along this route, so bike lanes are a waste". Nobody bikes along the route because it is a horrible, dangerous experience. For all the reasons outlined above about the current 15-501 route, the same can be said about riding the bus! It is a terrible experience and so nobody rides it. If you could have a bus that was SO good, clean, frequent, and FREE that you got just 5-10% of people along a corridor to commute via bus, it would absolutely be packed.
Just taking a morning commute, if a bus arrives every 10 minutes for two hours in the morning, that would be 12 morning commute busses. If you say that 20 people is a healthy number of people to be in the bus, then you only need 240 people to commute via bus along an entire route (not just one stop) for people to thing "ok, people ride the bus".
The point is that brand new electric busses with platform bus stops for BRT, FREE service across the system, outlets to plug in your phones, WiFi, and most importantly, super frequent, reliable service would still cost less than we spend on car infrastructure. Of course, it is sadly politically not feasible to create such a bold plan, so we are stuck with horrible busses and the perception of busses that goes with that.
The other argument is low ridership along other lines, I assume. It's a very similar argument that people have against bike lanes - "nobody bikes along this route, so bike lanes are a waste". Nobody bikes along the route because it is a horrible, dangerous experience.
How does the joke go? Hard to justify building a bridge based on the number of people swimming across the river? Or something like that.
I've written a lot about this topic on the downtown Raleigh forums, so I'm going to repeat some of it here.
While, in theory, the idea of a bus running down Holloway or Main to downtown is great, how many people is it helping?
A lot. I'm not sure of overall numbers, but the changes GODurham made last month brought an additional 12,000 people within a quarter mile of 15-minute frequency routes.
I regularly see the busses going through their routes with fewer than a dozen people on board
I mean, I see buses in Toronto going through downtown with fewer than a dozen people on board too. It depends on the route and time of day. During rush hour, the buses that I have ridden here are always full.
and I don't think the routes are that often, even?
There is 15-minute frequency service along Main Street, Holloway, Erwin, Chapel Hill Road, and Fayetteville Street for most of the day. This changes to 30-minute frequency at 7pm. I'd like to see this go down to 10 minutes eventually, but in the meantime, the priority should be to get 15-minute frequency on all other viable routes.
In response to your overall skepticism, I want to be clear that I don't think buses are ever going to be a viable form of transportation for most of our metro area. And for the portion that they are viable in, I do not expect to see many car-free households. However, I am confident that we can drastically decrease the dependency on cars for those that live within the urban grid of downtown and its adjacent neighborhoods. I am not sure what the population of these areas is, but I think it's at least 20-30k and will grow rapidly in the coming decades. I also think buses could be a viable form of commuting for other corridors that will likely densify, including the Southpoint area and Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. I expect to see more single-car households like mine, perhaps where one or both people use the bus to commute to work, but still have a car for trips where public transit is not convenient.
In my view, one of the biggest issues here is that it is still too convenient to drive, and the scales of convenience have not yet tipped in favor of transit. This will change naturally as traffic worsens, but parking reform can also help. I live on the edge of downtown, a 25 minute walk to my office, or a 10-minute bus ride that literally stops right outside my apartment (so… basically as good as it gets in terms of transit convenience). Two of my coworkers who live in the same building drive to work. Why? Our subsidized parking pass makes it more attractive than being at the mercy of a (formerly free), 15-minute frequency bus. Also: if they're willing to walk a bit, it’s possible to avoid paying for monthly parking altogether and just snag free street parking, and many of my coworkers do this. So this issue is not just about making transit attractive to people driving from the suburbs – we need to remember that there are people who live very close to downtown, in areas that are already adequately served by transit that are simply choosing not to use it because parking is too convenient.
Another problem is that buses here still have an image problem. One look at the demographic that uses the bus station tells you all you need to know. My bus route's ridership is -- I'm not exaggerating here -- 95% working class African Americans. The lack of diversity is shocking. There is a perception that the buses are only for a certain crowd of Durham, and I think professionals are swayed through a combination of discomfort and social stratification. If more of us would start using public transit, perhaps our peers would be more inclined to follow.