Wednesday, February 25, 2009


There's a difference between "express bus" and "bus rapid transit".

An express bus is...well...a bus that operates on an express schedule,
frequently routed on streets/highways that have little congestion or
at least higher speeds. Frequently will travel on freeways. But does
not have a dedicated guideway, bus stops are generally ordinary bus
stops (often might more frequently have shelters or other amenities,
because they generally only stop at major transfer points or
park-and-rides or other large traffic generators). TriMet's 92, 94,
96 and 99 are examples of express buses, although only the 94 and 99
are "true" expresses, while the 92 and 96 operate express only on a
portion of their route (i.e. 92 east of Progress P&R, 96 on I-5
between Riverplace and Tualatin P&R).

"Bus Rapid Transit" is in a simplistic view, "light rail on rubber
wheels". It uses equipment that is often styled differently, has
multiple entrance/exit doors (sometimes on both sides of the vehicle),
has dedicated bus stops that are more similar to a light rail stop
than a bus stop, often (but not always) has off-board ticketing, and
has stop spacing that is more akin to light rail (1/2 mile to a mile
apart) than a bus (often as little as two blocks or 500 feet apart).
The nearest example of a BRT line is Eugene's EmX.

A subtype of Bus Rapid Transit is called "BRT-Lite", which has most
everything of BRT but generally doesn't operate on a separate
guideway, it operates in mixed traffic with treatment (i.e. frequent
bus-only lanes, queue-jumper traffic signals). It's intended
generally to supplement local bus service but provide a faster way for
longer trips; at lower cost. The best example is LACMTA's "Metro
Rapid" service - the red buses.

I am entirely in agreement, we need to look at a wide range of
services. Light rail has its place, no doubt. But we can't rely 100%
on light rail as our sole transit investment goal. Portland does not
exist in a linear form, and buses are an important part of our mix
both to connect with MAX, and to provide service where it is not
cost-effective to build MAX, or simply where we don't have the funds
to build MAX yet. Making the assuming that buses are only a "feeder"
role ignores that many of TriMet's successful routes - many of which
are designated "Frequent Service" aren't feeders but are truly
regional routes. The 12 which serves two counties and nine cities.
The 57 which serves four cities. The 33 which also runs through two
counties and four cities (plus a substantial unincorporated area).
The 72 which surrounds Portland, plus serves a portion of Clackamas
County. Lines like the 4, 9, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, 44. These aren't
feeder routes, these are nearly as important as MAX, and serve some of
Portland's historic "transit-oriented" neighborhoods that MAX will
never come close to.

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