Bus Rapid Transit vs. Commuter Rail

July 10, 2006 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A Photo Essay: Las Vegas BRT vs. Dallas Trinity Railway Express Bus Rapid Transit vs. Commuter Rail – Part 3 of a 5 part series


To date, much has been  said by the Metro Jacksonville Group regarding the potholes in our existing Bus  Rapid Transit plans and the need to seriously consider regional commuter rail as  an alternative mass transit source and higher priority.  However, pictures speak  a thousand words.  Now its time to take a photo tour of North America’s first  city to implement the Irisbus Civis as Bus Rapid Transit, as well as one of the  newer commuter rail lines running in the South.






The Las Vegas system connects downtown to Nellis Air Force Base.  Irisbus Civis is billed as an optically guided bus that uses white lines in the pavement to direct it.  

The dedicated bus-only lane utilizing traffic signal priority began service in June, 2004. This system is considered a national FTA demonstration project for BRT.  This is the type of bus JTA is seriously considering for our proposed BRT system.
A photo tour of Bus Rapid Transit

Irisbus Civis coming out of its bay in the Las Vegas Downtown Transit Centre



Interior of  the guided bus


In several  areas, BRT is nothing more than bus lanes on existing streets


This picture serves as a  good example of what our BRT will resemble along Phillips Hwy.



Here is the  guided bus stuck in traffic. So much for "Bus Rapid  Transit"...



The Irisbus  Civis isn't guided all the way but only uses the white guiding lines when  docking in the station. Note how easily it fades away....



One of the  marketing ploys of Irisbus is how the guided bus docks so close to the station  that it would look and feel like heavy or light rail. However, for those  familiar with rail transit, that is so untrue as seen in the following four  photographs





These photographs show  how stations (bus stops) are set up to give the look and feel of rail





  As you can clearly see in these photographs,    this is a state-of-the-art BUS SYSTEM.  With our rising levels of congestion,    some of these design features need to be considered for our bus systems.     However, make no doubt about it, this is not true rapid transit, and is not    totally separated from everyday vehicular traffic.  We need to seriously ask    ourselves if this potentially $700+ million investment is worth the risk, in    its current state.




The Trinity Railway  Express (TRE) story started as far back as the mid-1980s, when the cities of  Dallas and Fort Worth had the vision to purchase 34 miles of the, now bankrupt,  Rock Island railroad for $34 million, with the hopes of one day starting a  commuter rail line between the two cities.


After years of inaction,  the cities finally began planning for the system in 1994.  Initial service on a  10 mile section began in 1997.  Initial passenger rail cars were rented from  Amtrak and the Connecticut DOT.  In 2001, ridership saw a huge increase with the  opening of American Airlines Center (TOD) and the extension of the line to  downtown Fort Worth.  Ridership has increased from 175,969 riders in 1997 to 2.16 million as of  2004.


For more info: www.winwaed.com


TRE runs from  downtown Dallas’ Union Station 34 miles west to Downtown Fort Worth.  A station  serving DFW Airport is one of the 10 stops along the route.


A photo tour of TRE  Commuter Rail


Union Station in downtown  Dallas connects the TRE to Dallas’ new light rail system



Trinity’s rail cars  include….



An aerial of the  Medical/Market Center station.  In Jacksonville, the S-Line corridor could  easily provide a similar type station for Jacksonville, giving commuters direct  non-vehicular access to Shands Medical Center.



Interior of typical  Bi-Level passenger rail car



Passengers wait at the  Dallas/Fort Worth Airport station



Commuter rail remains a  cheap form of mass transit, because it runs on existing railroad tracks



Fort Worth Intermodal  Transportation Center is within walking distance of Sundance Square



The TRE has become an  effective alternative form of transit in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.



Implementing commuter  rail on existing freight rail tracks also opens the doors to transit oriented  developments on old industrial sites and under-utilized land.  The Victory  development, just outside of downtown Dallas is a prime example of urban TOD.   When complete, the project, constructed on a 72 acre former railyard site, will  include American Airlines Center (home of the Dallas Mavericks, a 32 story W  Hotel, mid-rise residential units and retail space.


American Airlines Center  and the Victory Development are served by TRE commuter rail



After carefully  evaluating these examples, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that rail  transit is superior to buses (in any form).  The age old argument favoring BRT  is that rail is more expensive, but in this case it is most likely less than  half the cost of our planned BRT system and can be up and running in a shorter  amount of time, if it became a higher priority.  Now that we’ve laid the case  for commuter rail, its now time to prove why Jacksonville’s layout is set up  perfectly for a successful commuter rail system.