Lessons from LA: Looking at BRT
In the first in a series on Los Angeles' traffic problems, Council member Wendy Greuel, the Director of L.A.'s County Regional Transit Planning, Rex Gephardt, and Executive Director of the Transit Coalition, Bart Reed, discuss the L.A. Bus Rapid Transit program as a crucial part of the larger LA public transit system and a natural evolutionary step towards light rail.
Wendy Greuel: [00:00] Traffic has become the number one issue in the city of Los Angeles. It doesn’t matter who you meet, who you talk to, one of the first things they’re saying to you is I’m so sorry I’m late, I caught traffic on this four or five, or I was unable to get where I needed to be. And we want to change that in the city. We want to be able to say people have options, they don’t need to get in their car to be able to get to their ultimate destination.
Rex Gephardt: [00:22] Los Angeles has had a little bit of a fight to do that. I mean it’s been difficult because you’re right, people come out here to own their own home and own cars and leave when they want to leave and get to some point where they want to get to and have that mode take them exactly where they want to end up. And until recently they haven’t had much of another choice.
Wendy Greuel: [00:43] Our two active politicians are just looking to their next election what they can be able to accomplish. Many of the things that we’re setting in motion will probably come to fruition after I’m gone as an elected official. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t important today.
Wendy Greuel: [00:59] Well we’re here in a Metro Stop at Universal City as part of a continuum we’re trying to create in Los Angeles, a seamless system. But one of the challenges we face is that the city of Los Angeles has not had its own real strategic plan about how we’re going to move the city forward, how we’re going to look at the combination of land use and transportation, how the two interconnect. Also looking at the fact of that we’re in a subway but in Los Angeles being able to build a subway costs a lot of money to continue it. And so we have rail, we have buses, we have bikeways. We’re looking at every component so that we can design a system that is going to be seamless, and that is coordinated with the other levels of government.
Rex Gephardt: [01:39] To justify rail programmes for the last 40 years, agencies have simply written documents that said we’re going to have this many people ride the rail system and it’s going to cost that amount. Not often did that come true. The ridership estimates were generally overestimated, and the costs were generally underestimated. That’s just a general statement and everybody in the United States knows that. The reason that we’re choosing it and the reason that the Federal Government came up with the idea of Bus Rapid Transit was to save cost, and the idea with the Federal Government was to try to come up with a system, a network of either bus or rail, something, that would cost maybe 10% of what light rail would cost, but have a reasonably equivalent impact in terms of moving people.
Wendy Greuel: [02:25] For me, it’s not about… you know, we know that everyone can’t take public transportation everyday and in fact that wouldn’t be the best way to be able to address some of the problems here. We need to look at a variety of options, but if someone takes it once a week, once a month, and if everyone did that, whether it was for their work or for social kinds of things, we could make a big difference in our transportation system.
Bart Reed: [02:45] There are certain elements about Bus Rapid Transit like prepaid boarding and able to handle crowds. Every month since the day it opened it’s been getting ridership, it carries around 25,000 riders a month. If it was the light rail rather than a busway it would probably be carrying closer to 35 to 40,000 people per day, just because of the preference of light rail versus bus.
Rex Gephardt: [03:09] We will have the biggest buses you could possibly put out there, they’d be operating every two minutes, which is really about a minute faster than the signal [unintelligible 03:16] can even handle. The next step to hold more people is rail. And the Federal Government likes to see Bus Rapid Transit essentially justify new rail programmes.
Wendy Greuel: [03:26] I also have challenges with people understanding what a transit corridor is in Los Angeles. Many of my constituents feel that some of the major thoroughfares are not transit corridors cos they’re not a subway or a light rail. Now they maybe right in some locations, but others, we need to educate them about having that balance where you have some mixed use. So on the ground level you may have services available to you and the upper levels you’ll have housing, where people then can walk to their jobs, where they can walk to the grocery store, where they can walk to dinner. And then secondly, they can potentially take public transportation to their next location. And so we’re trying to change that mindset and to work to get Los Angeles moving again in looking at all aspects of transportation.http://transcriptdivas.ca/transcription-canada/