Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Does MTA Now Favor Rapid Bus?

Jennifer Deseo has done the public a service over at the Silver Spring Penguin by summarizing the ridership and cost estimates which MTA is presenting at the Purple Line meetings. Based on the numbers provided by MTA, bus-rapid transit appears to be the big winner. While the high-end estimates in terms of cost are 27% cheaper for bus-rapid transit, the decline in ridership is only around 4.5%.

Put another way, according to MTA is will be very expensive to capture the last few riders by switching from bus-rapid transit to a light-rail system. The light-rail alternative is faster according to MTA but not fast enough to pick up many more riders. Take a peek for yourself and figure out what you think over at the Silver Spring Penguin.

Meanwhile, Number Cruncher in the comments section of Silver Spring Penguin raises some good questions:

–What are the travel time projections and cost estimates associated with specific alignments under consideration. The big question for the East Silver Spring area is whether the Purple Line would go down Wayne Avenue or in between Thayer and Silver Spring Avenues. Which option is faster? Which would cost more?

–What are some of the estimates for other points of origin and destination (ie, how long would it take to go from Langley Park to Bethesda?)

–Are the travel times based on peak period times? Off peak times? An average of the two?

–I could not find a detailed description of the travel time and cost estimates on the MTA’s purple line website, Would it kill MTA to make something substantive available for the public?

I'm really surprised that MTA isn't providing better basic point-to-point information. Has anyone even seen information on the time between stops for the different options? Or is MTA simply projecting total time from end to end?

Of course, I agree with the comment that information should be made more easily available to the public on the web. As I predicted, it appears that the public is not being given detailed information about how these numbers are calculated which makes it difficult for anyone on either side of this debate to critique them.

Based on the comments so far, I think the other real surprise (besides the favorable numbers for bus-rapid transit) is that the public views even the estimates provided as too limited and incomplete. Clearly, we will need a real public comment period before MTA finalizes its estimates once the preliminary estimates are more complete and information about how these estimates are calculated is made available.

Indeed, I suspect that both Purple Line proponents and opponents are going to want more information even if proponents have been trumpeting the numbers as favorable to the Purple Line. Are the Action Committee for Transit and other Purple Line proponents willing to get behind a rapid-bus Purple Line? Or do they want to look at the numbers more closely so that they can make a case for the light-rail alternative?