The battles over Durham-Orange Light Rail project continue

And the naysayers are getting creative:

To kill the project, opponents know they can’t appear to be anti-transit. Instead, they must convince you there are better, cheaper options. In their latest campaign, opponents revive their old claim that bus rapid transit (BRT), which uses buses on dedicated roadways instead of trains on light rail tracks, is inherently better and dramatically cheaper. But, they say, stubborn train lovers at GoTriangle refuse to examine a bus alternative.

Dedicated roadways for buses makes about as much sense as personal "pods" that individuals can hop into like their own little taxicabs. The traffic issues in driving a car from downtown Durham to downtown Chapel Hill and back have become horrendous, and further development *is* going to happen, whether people want it to or not. Between the two hospitals (Duke, UNC) alone, there are some 17,000 employees. That's not counting other University staff from the schools themselves. Light rail may not solve all the transportation/parking problems, but it is a critical element of the solution. Here's more from Orange Politics' Molly de Marco:

2) Real BRT would cost more to run in the long term, and still cost a lot to build. Critics claim we could build a BRT system in the Durham-Orange corridor for as little as 10 percent of the cost of light-rail transit. The only way BRT can actually be that cheap is if you take away two road lanes from cars for the bus to use. That’s clearly not an option along N.C. 54 or U.S. 15-501 because the N.C. Department of Transportation won’t permit it. The only way to get dedicated lanes is from widening the road. Building a dedicated roadway for BRT would cost 70 percent of the cost of building light rail tracks, and would be a losing investment over time. When people tell you BRT can be built for a fraction of light rail costs, they are telling you that they are comfortable drastically lowering the quality of transit service for everyone using it by making it slower and less reliable. Low-cost BRT projects are mostly stuck in mixed traffic with cars, and are not rapid transit in any way. Once built, buses cost more to operate and carry fewer passengers than light rail. For the money opponents are willing to spend, we wouldn’t get BRT, we’d only get a bus.

3) GoTriangle has nothing against BRT. In fact, they want to build it in Raleigh. Critics claim GoTriangle wants to build light rail because they’re transit nerds who love trains. They are indeed transit nerds; they know a lot about moving people efficiently from place to place. If GoTriangle were against BRT simply because they have romantic notions about trains, why are they planning for BRT service in Wake County? BRT is also going into project development in Chapel Hill’s north-south corridor. The truth is, our region’s transit plans call for both light rail and BRT – using each technology where careful study shows it to be the best solution.

The key to a robust rapid transit plan is intermodal connectivity. Bus routes that move laterally from light rail stops will extend the "service area" of the plan to where it's not just a corridor, but an entire region. But without that "anchor" of the light rail line, segments of each city face potential isolation in the future as route managers play the numbers game. And that may be the core of the opposition: The knowledge that light rail is a permanent move, and not something that must be fought for constantly. To them I would say, "That's the whole point."

Tags: