Three Reasons for Faster Buses
Priority treatments speed up buses, which saves everyone time and money, uses street space most efficiently, and attracts development.
Bus priority projects, such as those begun through the regional TIGER grant and included in the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network Plan, will improve travel times, increase service reliability, and attract thousand of new riders once fully implemented.
But let’s step back for a moment. Why are these improvements needed?
Priority Treatments Save Everyone Time and Money
On key arterial streets in the region at rush hour, buses crawl at less than 10 (orange lines on the map) or even 5 mph (red). Speeding up buses with transit signal priority (TSP) treatments and queue jump lanes, paired with new limited stop services (like MetroExtra) and other measures can boost ridership (PDF) by reducing travel times for riders. MTA-New York City Transit has seen a 20% increase in bus speeds and added 5,000 new riders with its initial Select Bus Service corridor.
If bus speeds can be increased enough, Metro might even remove buses from operation while still maintaining the same frequency. This would potentially save us millions of dollars each year, or enable us to redeploy the buses elsewhere.
Crowded Buses Deserve More Street Space
The best way to allocate highly coveted street space is based on what moves the most people, not the most vehicles. For example, Metro’s study of H & I Streets found that buses in that corridor carry about 40% of the people in less than two percent of the vehicles, despite buses traveling 50% slower than prevailing traffic. On 16th Street NW in the District, Metrobus services combine to carry about half of the people through the corridor, with just three percent of the inbound rush hour vehicles despite operating in heavy traffic each day.
Bus Rapid Transit Can Attract Development
High-end bus rapid transit systems take limited stop bus service to another level with a full range of treatments common to light rail lines such as dedicated lanes, off-board fare collection, and unique branding (PDF). Studies have shown (PDF) that BRT lines can attract development by increasing access from regional destinations to nearby properties. Here in our region Arlington and Alexandria have seen new development built in advance of the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transitway, now under construction with the help of federal TIGER funds.
What corridors would you identify as having frequent and full buses stuck in traffic?