Monday, February 16, 2009

Houston to SF: Light-Rail-Ready BRT Ain't Worth It

By 2012, only nine years after voters narrowly approved the plan, Houston will have gone from one Main Street light rail line to a network of six rail lines. This is Texas, people. Here in nominally transit-friendly San Francisco, it has been 20 years since the passage of Prop B (by a much wider margin, i might add) called for "fixed guideway capital improvements in the Bayshore, Geary and North Beach corridors," and we are still years away from breaking ground on the Central Subway.

Of special interest, given the specific language of Prop B calling for "fixed guideway" (rail) improvements along the Geary corridor, is the decision by the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority to build light rail, rather than BRT. It seems that back when Houstonian, Republican House Majority Leader and die-hard rail foe Tom Delay has a finger on the purse strings, he cut any funding for light rail expansion. This led the city to consider BRT on some of the lines instead of rail.
In 2007, after Mr. Delay’s dramatic fall from power and the takeover of Congress by more transit-friendly Democrats, Metro reversed its decision, deciding finally that building light rail from the start would make the most sense. -The Transport Politic
I'll resist the urge so many transit advocates feel to point out that the SFCTA does not consider things like "sense" when planning projects. But the fact remains, a city in Texas is planning to seriously expand its transit infrastructure in a cost-effective and permanent way, while San Francisco wastes money and time on a half-step (at best). What's wrong with this picture?


Crimson said...

Interesting post. Because of my own crappy experiences with buses, I'm skeptical about BRT, but there seem to be a lot of people who are strongly in favor of it. (See my post:

You're more of an expert than me. What are the advantages of light rail over BRT?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think San Francisco and every other city has been tricked into cost shock instead of looking long term.