Why don’t I take the bus more often? Part 3

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias wrote a piece last week about how buses are actually the most efficient form of urban transportation. That’s one of the underlying assumptions behind my recent posts about bus travel and how to make it easier; buses are cheap and efficient, so we should be taking full advantage of them.

A bus in downtown Salt Lake City

A bus in downtown Salt Lake City

Yglesias makes the important point that rather than build rail lines, we should just make buses more like rail. I completely agree. But I’m not sure I think we even have to go as far as his next point, which is adding Bus Rapid Transit. I think we could better harness the efficiency of buses just by adding things like maps.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is very cool, and I’ve been a fan since using one of the most famous examples in Curitiba, Brazil, a few years ago. Just as Yglesias argues, it incorporates the best things about rail transit into a much cheaper system.

But as a result, these systems are still more expensive than simply improving existing bus lines. For example, Yglesias writes that buses often stop too frequently, thus slowing them down. He also criticizes the pay-as-you-enter model, among other things.

However, those things can be fixed without building a multimillion dollar BRT system. In fact, almost every problem I can think of except traffic can be solved without building a major BRT.

This is a high-volume bus stop in Salt Lake City. It makes sense — and would be cheap — to add a route map here.

This is a high-volume bus stop in Salt Lake City. It makes sense — and would be cheap — to add a route map here.

My point: we don’t have to wait for massive funding and major changes to significantly improve our bus system. Though someday it would certainly be nice to see BRT in Utah — which will likely happen in Provo in the not-too-distant future — there are a multitude of smaller, easier changes we can make that will have a big payoff.

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