For Austin, Wheels in Motion for Bus Rapid Transit by 2014

It’s been a little over two years since MetroRail debuted as Austin’s urban rail. Following a trend that started in Latin America and has spread throughout the world, Austin says it is preparing to break ground on a high-capacity rapid bus. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is coming to Austin.

Thanks in large part to Department of Transportation grant that will fund 80% of the project, construction of a two-route, $47.6 million rapid-bus system known as MetroRapid will begin this fall. The FTA’s Very Small Starts program will cover some 80 percent $47.6 million total cost.

Capital Metro says MetroRapid can anticipate at least 20,000 daily boardings after the service opens. Plans include two high-capacity, rapid bus lines that would run north-south across the city for a total of 37.5 miles. The North Lamar Boulevard/South Congress Avenue line will run for a total of 21 miles from Tech Ridge Park and Ride to Southpark Meadows. The Burnet/South Lamar Boulevard will total 16 miles and will run from North Austin Medical Center to Westgate Transit Center.

Like other BRT systems, MetroRapid will feature sleek, modern buses that are more efficient and have greater passenger amenities on the bus and at the station that a standard bus. MetroRapid’s fleet will consists of 60 accordion-style buses is expected to run at intervals of 10-15 minutes from 5am to 1am – much shorter than anything Austinites are used to.

The buses would arrive by 2014, and the lines would open after completion of 70 stations that would be located every mile or so, on both sides of the street. Each of these “Enhanced Bus Stops” with a bench, system map, standard route sign and a real-time digital display of anticipated arrival times.

Austins’s far from the only city in North America looking to BRT. In Texas alone, both San Antonio and El Paso
expect to open their own BRT systems within the next 1-3 years.

Lima’s New Metro System

Among Latin America’s capital cities, public transportation (or the lack thereof) is by far the worst. The first public transportation system in at least thirty years are up and running now, and change is in the air.

The long-awaited Lima Metro system is now a reality. Known to locals as the “Tren Eléctrico,” it will first connects central Lima to the southern part of the city. Line 1 consists of 16 stations and 22km of mostly elevated rail that, two weeks after opening, carries 140,000 passengers each day. There are plans for 11 more stations and, eventually, four additional lines planned that will supposedly run throughout the city by 2025. While Line 1 is elevated, planners suggest Lines 2-5 will be underground. Construction began President Alan Garcia’s first administration in 1987, but was suspended due to chronic corruption, mismanagement and an enormous $100m budget shortfall.

In addition to rail, Lima also opened a Bus Rapid Transit Construction (BRT) system in 2010 known as the Metropolitano. Inspired by Bogotá’s successful Transmilenio system, it used by 370,000 commuters daily. There are plans to open a east-west line known as Metropolitan II next year.

Both developments are most welcome to Lima, no doubt, but remain limited in scope. The question is what comes next. Because the Metro and Metropolitano are overseen by two different authorities, plans for expansion compete and overlap. What is needed is a single authority that will decide whether the priority should be further BRT lines, or if Lima should build an underground subway system in the spirit of Buenos Aires or Mexico City.