Aah, it’s been a while since I talked about BRT. The Berkeley Daily Planet, or, as I like to call it, the We Hate BRT Weekly, has worn me down with their incessant lying and uninformed ranting and I just don’t even want to have to think about it ever. I don’t have the faintest idea how the Friends of BRT people can stomach having to respond to their jibberish week after week after week. For the last six months, I haven’t even been able to muster up even a teeny tiny shred of anger or frustration or desire to refute all the completely wrong things that get said in there. Instead, I just roll my eyes, tell myself that they’re all crazy and (lately) that Measure KK is going to get steamrolled, because most people are at least relatively reasonable and aren’t inclined to listen when some nutcase tries to tell them that the bus is part of the military-industrial complex that we need to fight with every fiber in our soul. BRT = Dick Cheney just isn’t a compelling argument, folks.
Anyway, I was thinking about this yesterday, as I often do, while I was riding the bus. For me, the saddest thing about the anti-BRT people is just how little they understand about what AC Transit is proposing, and how completely clueless they are about how buses work and what the problems with them are. I mean, their “Rapid Bus Plus” “idea” is so pathetically out of touch with any sort of reality that it’s hard to get angry. Reading that, you mostly just feel sorry for them. I want to give them a hearty pat on the back, tell them it’s a good idea and I’m glad they’re helping, and then send them away, like you’d do with a small child or an elderly relative.
One of the criticisms you frequently hear from BRT opponents, and one that I think probably sounds pretty reasonable to the average person who hasn’t formed an opinion on the subject either way, is that BRT won’t actually save very much time. They claim that most riders will only save a few minutes with BRT compared to using the current 1R. Such complaints miss the point.
The problem with the bus isn’t speed. When the 1 is running totally on schedule, it actually doesn’t take all that long to get you where you need to go. Unfortunately, because it spends all its time sitting in unpredictable car traffic, it often doesn’t run on schedule. It gets backed up, buses start bunching, crowds start accumulating at every stop, which puts everything even more behind schedule – it’s a mess. And this is the problem with the bus, the problem that BRT and a dedicated lane solves – it isn’t reliable. You can’t trust that it’s going to conform to that schedule.
Let me tell you a story. Yesterday, I had a meeting at 3:30. I look up the schedule and see that I should be able to board the 1 downtown at 3:02 and arrive at my destination on time. Of course, that would be cutting things pretty close, and being a frequent bus rider, I know better than to give myself no window for delays, so I elect to take the 2:47 bus instead, which I will theoretically exit at 3:13. Now that makes me almost 20 minutes early, which is a little annoying, but hey – better safe than sorry, right?
So I go to the bus stop at 2:45, and of course, no bus. I wait. By 2:50, I’m starting to get annoyed. I light a cigarette, because, well, I’m superstitious. Big shock, it doesn’t work and I actually manage to smoke the entire thing. Still no bus. Finally, the bus shows up at 2:55. I figure I’m still okay, good thing I took the earlier one. But of course, traffic. Painful, painful traffic. International was a mess. I’m sure you can imagine what a cheerful mood I was in when we finally arrived at my destination at 3:42. I walked into my meeting fifteen minutes late and looked like a total asshole.
This doesn’t happen all the time. Or even most of the time. But it happens often enough that it keeps people from riding the bus. Look, people need to stop relying on their cars to go everywhere. It isn’t sustainable. And we have seen over and over and over again, all over the country, that people are willing to get out of their cars and use transit instead when that transit is fast and reliable. Reliable. That’s the key word. People will use transit – yes, even buses – and do, in Los Angeles, in Boston, in Orlando, in Kansas City, in Cleveland, in Pittsburg, and all sorts of other places when they can trust that it will take them where they need to go in the promised time. And that’s what BRT will deliver. There is no substitute.
- 02.11.08: Is BRT redundant with BART?
- 10.18.07: East Bay BRT Q&A
- 10.08.07: More whining about BRT
- 07.25.07: The Buses from Brazil
- 06.28.07: I am at a complete loss as to why this concept is so difficult to grasp