Atlanta's new bus rapid transit project

The above video comes from MARTA, the agency that runs mass transit in the Atlanta metropolitan area, and is a brief look at the latest bus rapid transit project to hit the streets in the United States. The big to-do on the Q Line is the ability for buses to hold green lights and in a couple of spots, use a right-hand lane and traffic signals to jump ahead of traffic.

Here’s a description on MARTA’s website and here’s a story about the project in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And, here’s a good post at the City Fix blog critiquing the newspaper’s coverage. The gist of the criticism is that the paper failed to explain to readers that building a separate lane for buses doesn’t have to cost a king’s ransom — politicians can make the decision, however politically distasteful, to convert traffic lanes to transit lanes.

Attentive readers will recall that Federal Transit Administrator chief Peter Rogoff gave a much-publicized speech last spring in which he promoted bus rapid transit as a viable and sometimes financially preferable alternative to building rail. I expect we’ll be seeing more of these type of projects in the U.S. given the limited dollars for transit projects at most levels of government.

Of course, bus rapid transit can take many forms. Metro’s Orange Line, for example, is a bus lane that often has its own right-of-way, much like railroad tracks. Metro is also planning a rush-hour bus lane along 8.7 miles of the parking lane on Wilshire Boulevard, mostly in the city of Los Angeles.

The East San Fernando Valley North-South Transit Corridors project — which will be funded by Measure R — may include elements of BRT on four bus corridors — Reseda Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard, Van Nuys Boulevard and Lankershim/San Fernando boulevards.

6 replies

  1. I also completely agree with Miguel on all counts. I live in the south valley and have noticed the lack of true rapid transit planning and existing infrastructure and it is very frustrating that driving is still the best option despite two transit corridors that have not been well served (in addition to Ventura Blvd); The orange line and the ventura county metrolink line (which is baffling how under served that is. No weekend service, infrequent and oddly scheduled trains, and service stopping before 8 pm, ridiculous!!! ) Good point about the population and taxes too. With almost two million people, we deserve our share of what we pay into. BRT just doesn’t cut it. I’m really glad that future growth was also mentioned. Too often metro does not seem to even consider that when planning for a transit corridor and whether it will be rail or not and where grade separations ought to be (which is currently much, MUCH less than it ought to be for a region as large and populated as LA county.) We need true rapid transit, because it is the only way we can start to shift from a car dominated culture to something more varied.

  2. Thanks Steve,

    I take back what I said, my mistake. I should have know better seeing as I submitted the comment on a holiday weekend. You guys DO post most of the comments, that’s actually why I felt disappointed. I was reading over another article and saw some of the other comments people had left and,… well I felt I made a decent point :). But regardless, Thanks guys for rectifying the situation 🙂 you guys are awesome. The Source been part of my morning routine since your launch.. keep it up.


  3. I agree with Miguel that BRT is not the right tool for even medium density areas like the San Fernando Valley. The Orange Line runs at capacity in rush hour years before scheduled. BRT may be cheaper than light rail to construct but with light rail you at least triple the capacity, lower operating costs and in my opinion, more comfort. Transit systems should be planned to accommodate future growth as well as current demand. If it’s crowded now, what will the Orange Line look like 20 years from now? Unfortunately it may take that long to convert it to light rail. Miguel, you can blame your SFV politicians for that blunder.

  4. i’m disappointed that you guys didnt post my comment about the orange line. I feel it was a valid point and had some insight on other brt systems that are being considered in other high ridership areas that will end up costing us the tax payers more money when its realized that its not the right technology. I’ve been following the source since its conception but i really dont think I like where this is going. cherry pick you comments. Ridiculous.

    • Hi Miguel;

      I don’t believe we ever saw your comment. It’s not in the trash. Maybe it did not properly submit?

      FYI: The vast majority of comments submitted to The Source are approved.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. I dont think its fair that a lot of LA county is in the process of being connected by rail while most of the San Fernando Valley is still largely un served by real rapid transit. I commute from simi valley. My dad and I have owned a small business in Chatsworth for 20 years. I’ve taken the Orange line as an alternative to get into downtown via the subway but have recently been completely bypassing the orange line and driving directly to North Hollywood to catch the subway because the Orange Line is WAY to slow. BTW I do this on weekends as well so metrolink service is non existent. To take the orange line from one side to the other feels like an eternity and compared to other options it kind of is. The ride is really bumpy & jerky and it doesnt help that the buses are always completely packed so i’m often stuck standing instead of actually getting the seat i payed for which is sometimes, and even half the time OK, but come on most of the time! Really?! Also, the solution to full buses on the orange line makes no economic sense to me. Why pay 2 union bus workers to drive together when you can have a train with 3 cars that can hold hundreds of more paying passengers comfortably with only one conductor. Also, since there’s no way of the orange line converting to rail & the buses are pretty much set on a fixed guideway, why werent they made electric trolley buses? Just a thought. I know that’s not important right now so I’ll just leave that as is.
    Anyway, another issue is the fact that the time displays at the stations which show when the next bus is coming are almost always off. This can be really frustrating when in a hurry & really discourages wanting to ride.. the orange line is great to travel a few blocks over for locals close to colleges, malls or even NoHo, but to be honest its not a real “rapid” alternative. During rush hour the buses are stopped more often at lights making it even longer to get across the valley. The only time the orange line is fast is at night when all the lights turn green and travel time from end to end can be as short as 25 minutes. Please! Build something that gets a bit closer to the 118 or at least somewhat try to give the 101 a decent, comfortable, respectable alternative not only for the “poor” people of the valley, but maybe also for those south of Ventura Blvd. and over the the 3 near by hills (Simi Valley, Santa Clarita & everything west of woodland hills which is still part of LA county). For the amount of people in the valley and the tax income we generate for LA county we deserve much more than we have. I just hope this time NIMBY’s will learn from their mistake on the orange line to appose light-rail and actually push Rail and say heck no to BRT.
    Thing is this wont happen unless someone points out the real benefits a rail corridor will bring, publically like our mayor did with the Westside subway extention otherwise people will never know planning is going on in the SFV on a transit project kind of like me & the orange line.
    one last thing, my preference for a ligh-rail corridor is either heavy rail under ventura/101 or lightrail down Sherman Way as was originally there back in the 1920’s and early 30’s. Sherman Way has so much potential. Its sad that it is what it is. Light rail can completely turn that around.