Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rapid Bus Plus: an alternative to BRT

Rapid Bus Plus: an Alternative to Bus Rapid Transit
By Berkeleyans for Better Transportation Options (BBTOP)
Saturday, May 10

Rapid Bus Plus is a draft alternative to AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal. Our goal is to get the most environmental and economic benefits from each scarce transit dollar invested, while making no one worse off. To win new transit riders, we would enhance the best features of BRT, while expanding their benefits beyond the BART/Telegraph corridor (where buses already work well and commuters also have the BART alternative).

We would use proof-of-payment (POP) to speed up boarding: Buses could open all doors at every stop. But we encourage AC Transit to implement this across its whole fleet. We also encourage fleetwide signal-priority devices, which let buses electronically hold green lights to proceed faster.

We would maintain local bus service on Telegraph, and improve transfer times and reliability, fleetwide. Riders could check bus arrivals in real time, using cell or traditional phones. Through transit operations alone, we would exceed AC Transit's modest environmental targets for BRT: saving 690 gallons/day of fuel, and 6 tons/day of greenhouse gases.

We would deploy more efficient and accessible buses (hybrids) and run them on cleaner, lower-carbon fuels (biodiesel or natural gas). We would also use smaller, fuel-efficient buses to maintain high service frequency at off-hours.

We would achieve POP without expensive bus "stations" or automated ticket-vending machines.

We would also omit bus-only lanes, along with their impacts on Telegraph Ave. users, local merchants, and South Berkeley neighborhoods.

Higher gas prices are already achieving BRT's goal of reducing car traffic---so Rapid Bus can be still more rapid in shared lanes.

BBTOP is a broad-based coalition of Berkeley neighborhood residents, merchants, and transit wonks. We are proudly thinking outside the bus to bring worldwide transit "best practices" to the Bay Area.

After presenting Rapid Bus Plus to Berkeley's Planning Commission on May 14, we look forward to further refining this package through discussions with City officials and staff, AC Transit, UC Berkeley, and other community stakeholders.