Rapid Bus ain’t BRT

A collection of comments made elsewhere.
First, on KUT today,  you can hear yours truly with the following supporting arguments left out due to time, but brought over here from skyscraperpage:

1. Travel time savings quoted are versus the local (#1), not the existing express (#101). They’re still only 20%; pretty lame.
2. The signal-holding doodad won’t be much help in the most congested part of the corridor – anybody who spends any time between, say, south of 15th and 30th going northbound on an afternoon knows that the backup you’re in is from the next 10 lights, not just the one in front of you that the bus could modify.
Things commonly considered part of BRT which are missing completely from this plan: reserved lanes, queue-jumping lanes, off-board payment. Were it not for the signal-holding doodad (which won’t work anyways in most of this corridor), this would just be like normal bus service with new vehicles (they have articulated buses running normal and express routes in cities all over the country; the difference is that we apparently fooled the Feds into buying us new rolling stock on the justification this would be a BRT route instead of just a really marginal case of ‘better bus’).

Second, on Capital Metro’s self-congratulatory post:

Very misleading. The 20% travel time reduction is compared to the existing LOCAL service (#1), not to the existing express service (#101).
Y’all may have fooled the Feds into buying you new rolling stock under the guise of BRT, but some of us aren’t buying it. The signal-holding device won’t be worth anything in the afternoon congestion on Guadalupe (it’s not the light in front of the bus holding it up; it’s the light six blocks down and the cars in front).
About all this service WILL do is finally put a nail in the coffin of rail on Guadalupe – where, in any sane city, rail would be delivered first, as it’s where all the jobs and all the other activity centers are – not anywhere near the Red Line; not, even, over on San Jacinto.

Third, my letter to our city councilmembers who serve on Cap Metro’s board:

I hope you two will have the courage to once again forcibly steer Capital Metro off the path of Rapid Bus on Guadalupe, as your predecessors on the board did a few years back. Implementing Rapid Bus on the corridor that most needs rail transit in our city will be a decision we will be paying for 50 years from now, if not longer; and it will be politically impossible to move those buses off that high-density corridor once they’ve started running. In other words, even though we don’t have the political will right now to run trains on this corridor (even though everybody knows it’s the best place for them), we don’t want to preclude the option to do so later on; but Rapid Bus will, in fact, make it effectively impossible to do that later on.
Nothing in the plan has changed since the first time we decided we didn’t want to preclude rail on our highest density jobs/attractor corridor; there are no new proposals for anything more ‘rapid’; it’s still just going to be the Feds paying for most of a bunch of new rolling stock, with some signal-holding devices that won’t be able to provide any speed or reliability improvements in the most congested part of the corridor (since the vehicles today are usually stuck in backups from traffic lights many intersections ahead – not just the one directly in front). Capital Metro is misrepresenting this service as a 20% speed improvement – comparing to the #1 instead of to the existing #101; and any speed or reliability improvements over the #101 are likely to be so minimal that they won’t get a single person to leave their car at home and ride the bus instead.
Short link here: http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/archives/000629.html
Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you in this matter. We can’t afford to get this wrong.
Mike Dahmus
City of Austin Urban Transportation Commission 2000-2005