Why I Support BRT: County Council Testimony
As someone who has relied on METRO for more than a decade, I wanted to speak out in support of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and lane repurposing during this week’s County Council hearings. The multiple shortcomings in our transportation system in metro-area Maryland is a serious problem, negatively impacting everything from the environment to our quality of life as well as our ability to attract and retain businesses. At the state level, we can help by allocating new state revenue gained from the gas tax towards supporting BRT. By earmarking such funding, we make taking cars off the road a priority and create more reliable transit for people who rely on public transportation now just to get to work or to buy groceries.
Currently, there is a debate between two different visions of how to run BRT: “lane repurposing,” where existing traffic lanes are designated for Rapid Transit buses only along with existing bus only lanes, or “mixed lanes,” where Rapid Transit buses share the same lanes as cars. I believe that to make BRT effective, it is essential that we preserve bus only lanes. Eliminating bus only lanes would undermine BRT by taking away its main goal: to get people to their destinations faster. Unfortunately, building new bus only lanes in order to retain the same number of cars lanes is not a realistic option, especially since the cost of repurposing lanes is exponentially lower.
If we can develop BRT in a cutting-edge transportation system that is able to help people travel en masse faster than in separate cars, we have a winning transportation option that creates victories for our environment, economy and quality of life. But, to achieve success we must make BRT a budgetary priority and design alternatives that keep more cars off our roads to reduce gridlock. Lane repurposing is key, because the success of BRT relies on creating a more appealing alternative for consumers move faster than in a car. While we continue to take important steps towards addressing our gridlock problems, we cannot afford to undermine this opportunity by eliminating the incentive for BRT ridership.