Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bus Rapid Transit

The Gateway Corridor Commission still can't decide if they want bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail transit (LRT) on Hudson Road in St. Paul. They have a lunchtime talk for Monday, June 24, 2013 (11am-1pm) at the Oak Marsh Golf Course, 526 Inwood Av N, Oakdale. There is no cost to attend and a light lunch will be provided. Registration is required (St. Paul Chamber or Woodbury Chamber). Joseph Calabrese, the Cleveland RTA $243,386/year manager, will explain Cleveland's HealthLine bus, formerly known as the Silver Line, formerly known as the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
Bus Rapid Transit is a bus. Sometimes it has stations with platforms, sometimes dedicated lanes, sometimes it uses honor-based fareboxes, and sometimes it's really just a bus route with an expensive name. As a bus, it has braking and steering advantages over light rail trains and its capital infrastructure costs are less than light rail. Buses have transparency and accountability advantages over light rail. On a bus, you can see the driver and what the driver is doing. As the bus goes by you can see how many people are on the bus. On light rail the windows are obscured with film preventing the operator from being seen and preventing the lack of riders from being seen from outside.

HealthLine - Cleveland's BRT Example
HealthLine is a $197 million, 6.8 mile($29 million per mile) RTA Euclid Avenue bus rapid transit system in Cleveland, Ohio. Construction began in 2006, was completed in 2008, and inconvenienced Euclid Avenue consumers and businesses, causing many businesses to close.

HealthLine bus passenger lists the problems:
     most bus riders must stand (BRT has half the seats of a traditional bus)
     half of the bus seats are on raised platforms (difficult for seniors & disabled)
     narrow aisles & 18" seats
   ♦  station platforms not marked as eastbound or westbound
   ♦  riders don't know where to stand on the platform or which doors to go in
   ♦  two foot leaping gap between bus & station platform
   ♦  fareboxes that don't work
   ♦  bus shelters with 2 or 3 cold metal seats

HealthLine buses are slower than expected, 25 mph in pedestrian zones. The rules were changed to allow buses a 35 mph limit. Either way it's not rapid transit (10.6mph average speed), has problems with traffic signals and crashes. Euclid Avenue had 411 reported collisions from October 2008 to July 2011, plus:
2013 March 12 - HealthLine bus hit a car at Euclid & East 4th at 10:30am sending 8 people to hospitals, including both drivers.
2011 November 1 - HealthLine bus hit a car at Euclid & East 89th at 2pm. Both vehicles were westbound. The car wanted to make a right turn.
2011 October 24 - HealthLine bus hit a car at Euclid & East 9th at 12:30pm.
HealthLine uses New Flyer articulated buses made in Winnipeg, Canada; Crookston, MN; and St. Cloud, MN. (Light rail uses Siemens and Bombardier trains from Germany.)

Here's another Cleveland opinion of HealthLine.

Gateway Corridor Bus Rapid Transit
The problem with the Gateway Corridor is that it can't beat I-94.

The best place for a bus rapid transit is where it can be rapid -- on the highway. Buses can't travel fast on residential streets, like the St. Paul portion of Hudson Road. Many express buses already run successfully on I-94 (MetroTransit express 294, limited stop 350, express 351, express 353, express 355, express 375), using the shoulder to move around traffic instead of a dedicated lane. And the Gateway Corridor ridership can't justify the opportunity cost of dedicating an I-94 lane each way for either a bus or a train.

Bus rapid transit on Hudson Road in St. Paul would be painfully slow for Woodbury travelers and would not be beneficial to Hudson Road residents and businesses. Snow plows would hack at the dividing curbs. But buses have the breaking and steering advantage over trains (improved safety) and reduced infrastructure (lower capital costs and maintenance).

The Gateway Corridor Solution
If the list of eastside buses above aren't enough, add another bus to I-94, with seating like existing MetroTransit buses and without removing a lane from traffic.


  1. The Gateway Corridor is a step in the right direction for the twin cities. As somebody who rides transit, I know that BRT/LRT provides a higher level of service than regular city buses. The Gateway Corridor will make the East Metro a better place to live by providing a safer, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly way to travel the area. The twin cities are currently severely lacking in the area of transit, and just driving is not sustainable. With correct engineering the BRT/LRT in this corridor will make these communities better places to live.

  2. If you are looking at a map of Minneapolis-St. Paul, yes, the Gateway Corridor fiasco is on the right, heading to Wisconsin. You say you ride transit, but the area severely lacks transit?!? Which are you arguing for, bus or train? MTC already has several express buses running on 94. How would anything else improve on what is already here?