Image by Bill.Roehl via Flickr For those of you who didn't know about it or didn't see it, the BRT or 'Bus Rapid Transit' dog and pony show rolled into town a couple of weeks ago once again proclaiming that BRT is the transit answer and how it is a cheaper alternative to Light Rail.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually in most cases BRT is more expensive than light rail if you look at comparable systems. The only problem is that when BRT is compared it shows a system with less features that light rail. However few BRT schemes are actually comparable to light rail so its impossible for people to see the price difference.
The only BRT scheme that has come close to the true nature of Light Rail is the new Orange Line in Los Angeles however it still has to deal with traffic lights instead of grade crossings so it is also no where close to light rail. Although ridership looks impressive right now they it is still impossible to determine if the ridership is all from the neighboring bus routes.
Ridership is also less than impressive with most new BRT lines. The line in Kansas has attracted little ridership, the Las Vegas system is carrying only a fraction more people than the buses it replaced, the Harbor Freeway busway in Los Angeles attracts few riders, and ridership on the El Monte Busway in Los Angeles has been stagnant for years. In addition busways in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Miami have failed to live up to expectations.
At least in Salt Lake County UTA is using BRT where it should be, in corridors that would not see TRAX in the next 30 years. 1300 East, Redwood Road and 3100 South are perfect areas to have BRT. BRT is not a low cost alternative to TRAX, it is a supplement to the TRAX system that can be an effective system of feeding riders into the much more popular TRAX system.
Now if only Utah County would see the light...