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Posted at 12:54 PM ET, 07/12/2012

One weakness of bus rapid transit

Planners often promote bus rapid transit (BRT) as cheap to build and more flexible than rail transit. But that flexibility also makes it even cheaper to dismantle. A stroke of the pen can completely destroy a BRT line.

Even the highest quality BRT systems run in lanes that could just as easily serve regular drivers. All it takes is one government decision to allow private cars on a BRT busway, and then blam: What you have isn’t really BRT anymore.

That’s exactly what may happen in Delhi, India, where the country’s supreme court is considering forcing the city to open up bus lanes for automobile traffic, amid complaints from drivers that it’s “unfair” to dedicate lanes to other road users. Delhi has 16 million residents, and fewer than 20 percent of them use cars. Nevertheless, it’s a serious possibility that the court will open the busways, effectively outlawing BRT.

Here in Washington, we have our own local example of a BRT line that has been systematically downgraded by being opened to cars, reducing the quality of bus service. The Shirley Highway Busway was the first exclusive bus facility on a U.S. urban highway when it opened in 1969. It was so successful that in the early 1970s, over 50 percent of all the passenger traffic on the Shirley Highway, the portion of I-95/I-395 from Woodbridge to the Potomac, traveled via bus.

[Continue reading Dan Malouff’s post at BeyondDC.]

Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  12:54 PM ET, 07/12/2012

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