Cobb and the BRT

July 15, 2014 16:30 pm

by Eric The Younger · 38 comments

Mike had an misguided confused one sided article in the Daily about Tim Lee’s efforts to place a Bus Rapid Transit Project on the county’s upcoming SPLOST list for vote in November.  I’m not sure who wrote it, as there is no byline, but they could use a little help.

First, lets talk about transit. It’s not just for poor people. Look at DC, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, and New York. Everybody uses transit in each of those cities. It cuts across economic boundaries.

I’ve been on the DC metro with Admirals and petty officers,  tourists (the fanny packs are the giveaway) and DC natives, students and the homeless. Everybody rides the Metro because it will almost always be faster than a car and it’s far cheaper than a Taxi or an Uber.

When you have a robust transit network, it’s quite efficient at moving people around. Congestion will always exist with roads. That’s if you add more or even take some away. We can look to Seoul, South Korea and see that congestion levels remained the similar before and after the removal of the central highway (Imagine removing the Downtown Connector from Atlanta). What did they replace it with? An incredibly efficient and increasingly desirable Bus Rapid Transit System.

Or let’s look a little closer to home for BRT at the Mistake by the Lake, Cleveland. (I’m sure many Georgia GOPers will enjoy utilizing this line at the Republican National Convention.) After 30 years of economic decline, they spent about $50 million on a 9.8 mile BRT line. That BRT line resulted in roughly $5 billion, yes that is supposed to be a “b,” in private investment along the route. It increased real estate values, brought new jobs and helped to revitalize a midtown that had been dying a slow death since the 1950’s. It also attracted people to move to the city, increasing its tax base.

As for the argument that there is always tax money going to sustain transit systems, that is true of roads as well. Look at the looming problems with the Highway Trust Fund because the gas tax has had diminishing returns in an environment where people are driving more fuel efficient cars and driving them less. If you look at MAP-21 (the last authorization bill) or the recent proposed stopgap, the funding for roads is coming from a variety of sources not related to a simple user fee.

I for one look forward to a BRT that attracts economic development to that area. Hopefully it will help alleviate some of the traffic congestion that will come from the new Braves Stadium complex. BRT has been great for Seoul, Bogata, Curitiba, Cleveland and many others. We’re going to need it in Cobb.

As a Cobb County Voter, I look forward to voting for a TSPLOST that includes a BRT. I also look forward to voting for Tim Lee again, as I have twice before.

 

Bridget Cantrell July 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Eric,

Would you explain in plain language the difference between Bus Rapid Transit and the CCT we already have? People fear what they don’t know.

I live .10mi from 41 and actually cross it to walk to Subway when I’m on health kicks. Over the last year or so both sides of 41 have received sidewalks, which I appreciate. If actual restaurants opened up instead of the existing McD’s, Burger King, and a gross BP station, I would be in heaven.

I don’t plan on moving any time soon, but even if I do, I’ll be keeping my house as a rental property (likely for college students or as a monthly corporate apartment).

Either way – easy transportation from the stadium through Southern Poly up to Kennesaw is of interest to me, but I don’t feel CCT is safe, reliable, or convenient.

This needs a marketing campaign to focus on safety and ease – not just traffic relief. Would I get on this bus with my niece to go to a game without feeling I need to take a loaded gun? Otherwise it will continually get shot down.

MattMD July 15, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Is CCT really that scary to you?

If so, why?

Bridget Cantrell July 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Culture and intimidation if I’m honest.

I live walking distance to the Elizabeth Inn, a temporary (6wk) shelter for homeless men and women. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve served and cleaned up multiple meals at the Elizabeth Inn, and every resident there is SO nice and grateful. But, multiple homeless people sit and hang out at the CCT stops. There are three stops from my front door to the intersection of Bells Ferry and 41.

Example: I walked to McD’s one Saturday for breakfast to wait for a locksmith when I locked myself out of both car and house. I had to pass this CCT stop to get to McD’s, and there were five men hanging out there. I felt that tightening of fear when I saw them blocking the sidewalk. Then, the ‘Bridget’ in me said, “I will not be afraid right outside my own home”, so I kept walking. One of the guys made a remark as I approached. Two of the other men immediately reprimanded him and said, “make room for her to pass.” I won’t get into what I’ve learned about “The Homeless Code”… but it’s fascinating.

After walking back from McD’s, I brought two large coffees and some extra cups and creamer to say thank you without saying thank you and then walked back home. I say all that to say this – Fear is simply a perspective, but there is no way in hell I would take the chance of that situation going bad if I were a mother or if I had my niece with me.

I would only support Bus Rapid Transit with a detailed plan for security, patrolling, and maintenance/cleanliness of stops.

MattMD July 16, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I don’t see CCT as being unsafe, there are more dangerous bars in Marietta. I don’t think people should be loitering at bus stops but that isn’t really a threat.

To your original post, I would tend to agree that CCT is not convenient and that reason is that it is a skeletal bus system. Cobb is a large county and it CCT just isn’t that comprehensive. To get to Austell from my house in Smyrna would take an hour and a half (I’m factoring in walking to the bus stop) where I can get there in my car in about 7-10 minutes.

BRT is likely the only viable solution as expanding heavy rail like MARTA, even if approved, is just cost prohibitive at this point. As I’ve stated before, if there had been decades of investment we might have a system like the DC Metro or BART but it is just too late now, I’m afraid.

Chris Huttman July 15, 2014 at 6:06 pm

I am scared of how long it took the one time I rode it (roughly) home from work – I was just going from the Marietta depot (coworker dropped me off) to Cumberland (wife picking up) and it must have taken nearly an hour.

Properly executed BRT would be 1,000x better.

Eric The Younger July 15, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Imagine a rail transit system except it uses buses instead of trains and runs on asphalt/concrete instead of rail. The best BRT systems (Seoul, Bogota, Curitiba, Cleveland) run buses in lanes that are not open to other vehicles. Generally they are placed in the median of a road rather than on the outside. Typically the buses do not run in mixed traffic. This is what allows for the incredible time savings that several areas have seen.

Another difference is the bus stops themselves. Generally they are elevated platforms for on level boarding. They are also much more substantial than they typical wind screen of a CCT or MARTA stop. Some are even climate controlled.

A BRT system can act as a trunk line for a typical bus system acting as feeder lines. A further benefit is that it is much easier to re route as demand changes than a rail system as demand shifts.

I can keep going into more wonk level detail if you would like.

Bridget Cantrell July 15, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Gimme all you got…

Photo, rendering, or YouTube of a typical station? i.e. what could I expect to see effectively in front of my house.

How are they patrolled and kept secure – would that mean more police force? I don’t want a rent-a-cop with a flashlight and bike shorts.

And by mixed traffic are you simply saying that these buses will be the only vehicles allowed in the center lane? That makes sense – I just want to make sure I understand your point.

Three Jack July 15, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Interesting stuff Eric. According to what I find, cost for the TransMilenio works out to about $8M per mile in US dollars. Not sure what that includes i.e. original cost only or with ongoing maintenance, etc. But if it could handle approximately 2m passengers per day utilizing 70 miles of BRT road space as in Bogota, that would certainly impact Metro Atl traffic.

Bridget Cantrell July 16, 2014 at 7:26 am

Cumberland Mall to Acworth is 16.2mi. Using round numbers, we’d be looking at roughly a $130M investment?

The unidentified article says, “If he can get the local funding through the SPLOST, he would count on raising $300 million more in grants from other sources including federal funds to build the BRT — which would need still more millions each year in operating costs.”

I’d like to see a line item budget showing number/locations of stations, cost per station to build, cost per station to operate, and contributing cost/impact per station to other items in the budget such as emergency services.

TheEiger July 16, 2014 at 9:01 am

“I’d like to see a line item budget showing number/locations of stations, cost per station to build, cost per station to operate, and contributing cost/impact per station to other items in the budget such as emergency services.”

Along with all of that I will want to see a survey of potential ridership. No need to build it if no says they will ride it.

Bridget Cantrell July 16, 2014 at 9:12 am

I gather you’re not in any sales related position?

TheEiger July 16, 2014 at 9:14 am

Wrong. But I guess you are of the mindset that if we build it they will come. They do ridership surveys all the time. This isn’t a new idea.

Bridget Cantrell July 16, 2014 at 9:33 am

You have to educate people before you ask if they want to buy it. You also have to explain how it works before you ask if they’ll use it.

TheEiger July 16, 2014 at 9:43 am

You also can survey people to see where they are currently driving to work and survey the population densities around where the project is to be located. That is what I’m talking abo0ut. You don’t have to argue with me. Just ask GDOT or anyone that works in transportation to see if this is common. It is very common. Especially when you are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. This idea that if you just spend lots of money on something and tell people it is a good thing they will use it is dumb. These surveys can show things like if the buss stop was a quarter mile up the street from where it is currently then ridership would increase by x%. Very common. I promise. How many bus rapid transit projects have you built?

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 16, 2014 at 1:22 am

How much security such a future system would receive would depend on the amount and availability of operating revenue which is a major question mark right now.

Also, here is a video link that illustrates how Bus Rapid Transit works:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OWqRMfPrNs

Bridget Cantrell July 16, 2014 at 6:42 am

Thanks for that link, LDIG.

Eric,
Here is a link you might want to post at the bottom of the main point. It helps your case. I am MUCH more likely to support (and actually ride) this system than rail.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvZXRxnZIQk

Bridget Cantrell July 16, 2014 at 7:06 am

This one shows Chicago and has a great graphic of the street view. It shows “fast, easy, reliable.” For Cobb County, you’re going to need to incorporate “safe” for buy in.

I don’t hate it though…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_csc2ZDuQLo

Michael Silver July 16, 2014 at 7:58 am

Don’t worry, GeorgiaCarry has already solved your security wishes. You can carry on public transit thanks to them. Plus, you can be armed and walk by a bus stop without being charged with the felony crime of hijacking. That used to be the law before GCO started its work. GCO rocks!

I’m in Cobb (Powers Ferry – Terrell Mill area) and would love to see BRT up and down Cobb Parkway with parking at the stops. I’m not thrilled with the connection to midtown marta, I’d think a better link would be with the North Springs Station. That would give Cobb residents faster access to the businesses in North Fulton, Sandy Springs and down to Lenox. Plus North Springs would give folks in Gwinnett and North Fulton and attending braves games a way to not be on 285

$150M doesn’t seem to be enough to me to do it right. If we aren’t going to do it right, we shouldn’t try.

Rambler14 July 16, 2014 at 7:15 am

Think of CCT as a service to give you that 1-3 mile trip
and BRT as a service to give you the option of a longer trip (say, Kennesaw to Atlanta)

biggest differences between the two will be the distance between stops (CCT more frequent) and the way the busses will interact with other traffic (BRT usually has its own lanes, so the trip times are reduced)

http://www.cobbcounty.org/images/documents/dot/connect/Nov2013/2012trdfinaldraft.pdf

http://www.cobbcounty.org/images/documents/dot/studies/ConnectCobb/cobb-connect-fact-sheet-fall-2013%2010-16-13.pdf

http://www.flow-n.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/BRT.jpg

http://downtownfresnoblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/brt-from-smart-growth-america.gif

Bridget Cantrell July 16, 2014 at 11:06 am

Rambler,

This map is so helpful. Can you find me renderings of the Neighborhood (blue dot) and Village (gray dot) stations? This map shows 200 parking spaces outside my front door.

Sweet Jesus, I can’t believe I’m typing this…. “Tim Lee, have someone contact me. I’ll volunteer my time to help with PR.”

Rambler14 July 18, 2014 at 7:12 am

I can’t find any descriptions or renderings of the difference between the station types.

My guess:
the four dots blue/gray/green/pink are a sliding scale for the size of the station, number of parking spots included, residential vs. commercial style area, etc. The blue dots will be your smaller stations (based on anticipated number of riders using the stop) and the pink dots is where the regional destinations will be… for say, someone in Paulding County that wants to go see the Braves. They’ll drive 120 East and park at White Water, then take BRT to Cumberland North.

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 18, 2014 at 9:23 am

They need a heckuva lot more green dots (green dots = transit-oriented development) to help generate much more revenue for the system. They also need many more grade separations (with variable tolls on express lanes) than just at Windy Hill Road to help the system operate at higher speeds.

NoTeabagging July 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”Enrique Peñalosa, former Mayor of Bogota

Eric The Younger July 15, 2014 at 6:23 pm

I’m totally stealing this.

Chris Huttman July 15, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Excellent article – Cleveland’s BRT is the highest rated system in the USA but still pales in comparison to the Bogota system.

Will Durant July 15, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Would this not negate the big selling point on the $800 million dollar Lexus Lane project? The trade off that tolls could never pay for the construction costs let alone the maintenance and upkeep was to allow buses a minimum speed limit to give them better commute times. Rather than spend taxpayer’s dollars to the tune of the most expensive single project in the history of the state to subsidize an easier commute for the wealthy why wasn’t a cheaper BRT not done from jump?

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 16, 2014 at 12:26 am

Cobb is doing this the wrong way. Instead of attempting to use SPLOST money to fund BRT, Cobb should be leveraging private funds from the prime commercial real estate along the corridor to overhaul Cobb Parkway into a managed arterial with an upgradable high-capacity transit line down the median.

WeymanCWannamakerJr July 16, 2014 at 4:06 am

I know a better method to fund BRT as well. We’ll get Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, and even Mickey and Judy and have us a SHOW! We’ll charge everyone a quarter and before you can say Developers-Only-Pay-For-Commissioners we can cover all of the costs.

Somehow I’ve missed hearing about all of these “prime commercial real estate” developers that are clamoring to pay the infrastructure costs up front to enhance their holdings you keep dreaming up. I think my dream has a better chance of happening.

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 16, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Real estate developers aren’t “clamoring” to pay infrastructure costs, they’re “clamoring” to pocket billions in profits….Something that investing in high-capacity transportation infrastructure can and will help them to do.

WeymanCWannamakerJr July 18, 2014 at 2:30 am

The M.O. in the metro area to date is for developers to buy cheap land in the suburbs and pay off county commissioners to zone it for them regardless of any growth or infrastructure strategies. Build their project and get the hell out of Dodge leaving the counties to pass perpetual SPLOSTS to get the infrastructure in after the fact. Much more money to be made in buying low and selling high. vs buying high and trying to sell even higher. Pastures, woodlands, and commissioners all can be had on the cheap.

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 18, 2014 at 8:57 am

That’s an excellent point….But the demand for housing in the 21st Century will not only be for “greenfield” development in outlying suburban areas but will also be for higher-density mixed-use “brownfield” development and redevelopment along high-capacity transportation corridors in already-developed urban and post-suburban areas.

Bridget Cantrell July 16, 2014 at 6:52 am

At the 9:30 mark in the video I posted above, they talk about selling the air rights above the BRT stations. That’s an idea worth exploring. The city owns/maintains the station, but it directly serves and incorporates into office buildings, hospitals, etc.

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 16, 2014 at 11:23 pm

You’ve got the right idea, Ms. Cantrell as the stations (and the land along the transit lines) when built as mixed-use transit-oriented developments can serve as substantial revenue generators for an otherwise severely cash-strapped transit system.

Charlie July 16, 2014 at 11:55 am

Point that needs to be made. When we’re talking about long term transportation solutions, we’re talking a minimum of a 25 year time horizon.

The Bill Byrnes of the world that believe anything different from what they personally choose to use represent Agenda 21 won’t be the ones using this transit. The Erics and The Bridgets and those younger than them will.

Sadly, those that cling to their fear of change vote in greater numbers than those who will still be commuting when these solutions are implemented.

Harry July 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Just understand that the Atlanta area will never be a good candidate for public transport. People live all over the region in low density, and go to work in different places all over the region. It’s (un)organized chaos. BRT, heavy rail, and commuter rail just won’t work here. This summer I’ve visited some places where it does work well, but Atlanta except in very limited cases along the Peachtree spine etc, will not be an economically viable project.

Charlie July 18, 2014 at 2:02 pm

See the above paragraph Harry. No one will ever force you to ride transit. But despite the expansive nature of Atlanta where “everyone commutes to everywhere”, the fact that we do have 6-8 lanes of traffic heading the same way along interstates well into the suburbs says there are spines well away from Peachtree where there is a market for something other than cars with one passenger.

Harry July 18, 2014 at 2:34 pm

I wish you were right, and no one is forcing me to ride transit which I have already done multiple times this summer. Because there a lot of cars on a limited number of freeways doesn’t negate the fact that those cars are coming from and going to highly dispersed locations. If you can conceive a public transit solution that can economically handle this with reasonable commut times, please let me know.

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 18, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Metro Atlanta is a good candidate for public transport, Metro Atlanta just needs to fund and operate its high-capacity transportation system (both roads and transit) much more effectively than it currently does and has over the last 2 decades.

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