Rapid Bus Still Ain’t Rapid

A quick hit, since I’m about to go to bed early with a raging ear infection while on a business trip to scenic Huntsville, AL. This is a comment I just posted on Cap Metro’s blog in response to the announcement that they’re shooting again for “rapid” bus on the only good rail corridor in the city.

Rapid Bus continues to be a complete waste of time and money – our council members were right to put the kibosh on it the last time through. Investing this much money on a half-baked solution for the most important transit corridor in Austin is stupid, especially since this particular solution won’t actually work here (too many times the traffic backup goes far beyond the light immediately in front of the bus in question).
In other cities, and in a smarter Austin, we’d be seeing packed light rail trains run down Lamar and Guadalupe by now. There is no way rapid bus can provide enough mobility benefits here to be worth a tenth the investment you’re going to dump into this dead-end technology; and I hope our council members cut this program off again.
It’s time to demand that the residents of Austin, who provide almost all of Capital Metro’s funds, get some rail transit rather than spending our money providing train service to suburbs like Cedar Park that don’t even pay Capital Metro taxes. Rapid bus is an insult to the taxpayers of Austin, and it’s not going to be rapid.

I urge each and every of the ten readers of this crackplog to write to your city council members and ask them to stop Capital Metro from spending money on this ridiculous project – if CM feels like spending some money serving Austin for a change, there are far better projects on which to do it.

  • http://www.sgml2.net DSK

    But, but… I don’t *have* any city council members. =(

  • http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/ mdahmus

    You are responsible for getting Laura Morrison on board.

  • http://austinzoning.typepad.com/austincontrarian/ AC

    Actually, Morrison might get on board. As bad as she’ll be on development issues, she’s likely to be skeptical of these half-baked CM schemes.

  • http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/ mdahmus

    Doubt it. Her constituency believes firmly the canard that bus service can be (and should be) ‘improved’ before we spend any money on rail – and this falls right into that bucket.

  • http://austinzoning.typepad.com/austincontrarian/ AC

    You do agree, don’t you, that it makes sense to increase frequency of buses on the S. Lamar/Guadulupe/N. Lamar corridor?
    This is a bad idea because of the investment in new super buses.

  • http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/ mdahmus

    There’s a lot of money wasted on engineering for a solution that even when fully engineered is really crappy compared to a bus in its own lane, which is really crappy compared to a train. It’s like spending 80% as much for a solution only 10% as good.
    The vehicle is a small part of the problem – they’re spending a ton of money designing different kinds of shelters, traffic light systems, and whatnot – which would be worth it IF the service provided was a lot better than the existing express buses.
    In other words, you’re right, we need more buses on these routes, yesterday; but you could just buy 10 more regular/express buses and the total cost would get lost in the engineering budget alone for the rapid bus plan. (And again, there’s little actual engineering going on – just a lot of BS studies).

  • chris_whit

    Mike, I just rode on a rapid bus in Mexico City that is faster than car traffic, and a very successful system with over 260k riders. There are always differences between one system one place and another, so it is not ever going to be exactly the same as what Capital Metro is proposing. However, it does illustrate that the name of the game is “execution” Also, even though you are a rail proponent, if properly executed, rapid bus may be an excellent way to prove the market and make rail an easier “sell” in a referendum. Plus, we are likely going to miss the statutory deadline for a rail referendum, and bus rapid offers a way to proceed with something in the meantime. I encourage further thought about this before we categorically dismiss the option.

  • http://mdahmus.monkeysysystems.com/blog/ mdahmus

    Chris, with all due respect, I’m really tired of hearing examples from the 3rd world of why BRT will, can, might work here, when we have actual examples of it not working in our very own country.
    Poor people who have no choice will ride the bus no matter what. But in this country, “rapid bus” means spending a lot of money on branding and shelters without giving it its own lane; without making it any more attractive to choice commuters; and without doing anything to move to rail in the long-run.
    The key point about “execution” is that in THIS country, where voters DRIVE, you will usually fail in getting a dedicated runningway for the BRT solution, which makes it absolutely pointless. However, political will DOES exist to take lanes away for rail transit – it’s happened all over the country.

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