- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The just-released Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) feasibility study gives area commuters a way forward and indicates BRT could be operational by 2014.

The report tells us that traffic might be reduced by as many as 85,000 motorists and that a BRT system would increase overall county transit ridership by as much as 11 percent. Today, 90,000 people use the Ride-On system. That means BRT would potentially double ridership in a few short years.

BRT is a system of buses running in special lanes, picking up passengers only at designated stops. The Montgomery County study shows the need for 16 BRT routes, with more than 1,000 passengers boarding each mile on 13 of the routes. Modern BRT systems use high-capacity, low-emission buses that run in lanes free of cars, stop signs and traffic lights. They offer the same conveniences that subway system passengers enjoy: the option of paying before boarding, entrance at multiple points, traffic avoidance and the possibility of tracking the progress of each bus from station to station. BRT provides these conveniences much more cheaply and more quickly than the proposed alternatives now being considered. Gov. Martin O’Malley is weighing the options carefully.

More than 100 cities around the world have BRT systems and more than 20 added new systems - or expanded older ones - just last year. The United States lags, but Cleveland, Los Angeles and Boston have established systems and many others are in the planning stage.

It takes only about two years, on average, to construct a BRT lane, while a typical subway corridor takes at least a decade. Cleveland completed its Healthline in just three years. Around the globe, Mexico’s Guadalajara, Colombia’s Bogota and China’s Guangzhou each saw their BRT lines go from initial conception to commercial operations in less than three years.

State, local and federal funding for rapid transit is going to be extremely limited for the foreseeable future. At the same time, rising energy prices are increasing demand for mass transit. BRT offers a cost-effective way to get more people out of their cars and to their destinations fast.

SALVATORE L. MAURO

President, Volvo Group North America

New York

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