The Bogota system is indeed wonderful; it may be the gold standard for BRT in the world. It is interesting how BRT seems to have really taken off more in South America than anywhere else. I think you have hit it on the head with this:
"However, I have seen buses work well on corridors in Europe -- Dublin, for example -- in support of dense housing strands. But the bus service must be at frequent intervals and take you where you want to go, which in most cities is downtown but in Raleigh is downtown or a shopping mall or NCSU."
Whereas light rail is a great tool for shaping future development (look no further than Charlotte, where 60% of new apartments announced this year are within a 15-minute walk of the Blue Line), buses do their best work when supporting existing underserved demand. Unfortunately, when it comes to BRT, one thing I have seen first hand as a transportation planner is that bus lines are being set up and labeled "BRT" but with only some or even none of the features that truly make BRT what it is.
Another challenge we face with buses is that our development patterns make planning effective bus routes an absolute nightmare. I did some work on bus routes in northern New Jersey that was extremely frustrating; roads meander and don't connect in a logical manner and people are spread out in such a way that to serve everyone without making the ride last an eternity is nearly impossible. To that end, I think you have identified something very important when you say "2X skimpy is still pretty skimpy." Bus planners are under a lot of pressure to capture as many people as possible within range of a stop, and the result is that a lot of people are served, but no one is served well, meaning few choice riders use it. Service frequency is so critical, so I think you are right that certain corridors should be emphasized.
There is a book on this very topic that I enjoyed very much; "Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age" by Paul Mees. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to dive into these issues more. Also, I loved your remarks on housing; could not agree more, though I think the "big box" developments can be good as long as they include retail spots on most of the ground floor space, and I don't think Raleigh can be too picky right now as they need to bring as many residents downtown as possible.
While I agree that boosting bus service first is a good plan (and don't forget the transit plan calls for a doubling of bus service before commuter rail or light rail), I would take issue with one thing you said:
"...our #buses plan can throw off the same level of redevelopment en route that a so-called fixed guideway (a light-rail or streetcar line) would."
This just hasn't been true anywhere to my knowledge. It's one of the main selling points of fixed guideway systems. Buses simply do not catalyze development; they do not have enough of a sense of permanence. Only in true BRT (bus rapid transit) systems with completely separated guideways, pre-board fare collection and all of the other bells and whistles does this happen, and in that case you are looking at something very similar to a light rail anyway.
Russ, wasn't the Viaduct plan pitched as the first stage in the long term vision for developing the full Union Station? It will accommodate the current Amtrak alignment and potential commuter rail as I recall but future light rail and SEHSR would need to be connected later. I agree that the Viaduct plan is the most logical way to proceed to get things moving quickly and with limited funding, but I just hope that in a decade or two we aren't looking back and looking at a missed opportunity. Either way, it is hard to complain too much about new development and 450 potential jobs coming to downtown, and hopefully any development on that site could help anchor a future transit hub.
Wow. That is upsetting.
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