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What Is 'Bus Rapid Transit' And Why Does Metro Want To Build It Across Los Angeles?

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Metro's proposed $120 billion plan to fix transportation in Los Angeles includes more than just a bunch of train lines. Aside from improvements to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, the plan includes provisions to add Bus Rapid Transit corridors to both Vermont Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard. Metro's blog The Source actually posted a brief writeup about the proposed BRT corridor on Vermont Avenue on Thursday morning.

Bus Rapid Transit means a formally separated right-of-way for buses to travel on, so that buses that don't get stuck in traffic.

When we asked our readers why they don't use public transportation, the biggest complaint was that service—especially buses—was unreliable, and just as susceptible to traffic as cars. BRT lines eliminate all of this by giving buses dedicated, often totally separated, lanes. BRT lines also operate with significantly higher frequency rates than other buses. For example, the Orange Line in the Valley runs buses every four minutes during rush-hour.

The proposed BRT corridor on Vermont would stretch along the avenue from its intersection with Hollywood Boulevard all the way down south to the Green Line in Athens.

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Vermont Avenue is Los Angeles' second busiest bus corridor, falling in line right after Wilshire Boulevard. More than 45,000 people ride the bus on Vermont each day on the corridor's existing two bus lines. Metro also believes that this statistic, combined with the feasibility of building fully separated Bus Lanes on Vermont, make the area a prime candidate for BRT.

BRT on Vermont would translate into either curb-side or median running buses (like the one pictured above) that operate on their own signal cycles and flow regardless of how much traffic there otherwise is on the street. If Measure R2 is passed this November, Metro says folks could expect the Vermont line to open sometime around 2028.

Aside from riding a vehicle that doesn't get stuck in traffic, BRT riders pay before boarding, have dedicated station platforms distinct from sidewalk space, and can board a bus through any door. In theory, BRT can offer the same level of service as a rail line for a fraction of the cost.

When Metro says they want to build a BRT line along Vermont, they are imagining a transit corridor that can move people regardless of how many other vehicles also happen to be on the street at the same time. A quick survey of the comment section on both Metro's article and other spots across the internet, however, reveals lots of people aren't super happy with the proposition.

I disagree, as do the planners at Metro who selected Vermont because they believe it's a good choice for a dedicated bus corridor.

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When executed well, Bus Rapid Transit serves as a viable form of rapid transit that coincidentally happens to be far, far less expensive than rail. Cities across North America, especially in Mexico and Latin America, are increasingly rolling out BRT systems, realizing they are a healthy medium and relatively inexpensive means of serving sprawling cities without the density to necessarily demand spending big bucks on a rail line. Notoriously sprawling Mexico City's Metrobús System transports more than 900,000 people daily on its network of six BRT lines, with several future lines under construction.

Put a BRT line on most major boulevards in Los Angeles, and you might have a workable transportation system for most Angelenos.