Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz says a mass transit system for T&T is long overdue.
But the form of mass transit best suited for T&T is debatable. Factors such as cost, time and reliability all play a central part in what form of mass transit system T&T should use–Rapid Rail, Light Rapid Rail are terms well-known by the T&T public. But consideration is being given by Cadiz to yet another mass transit system–The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The BRT is used in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Americas, China and India.
And now it is being considered as a third alternative for the country's mass transportation system.
According to publictransportation.about.com, "Bus Rapid Transit, often abbreviated as BRT, refers to a system of buses that operate more like a conventional rail system than the traditional local buses we are all accustomed to riding."
Its characteristics, the site said, "consists of conventional, although often articulated, transit buses stopping at much greater intervals than would be the case for local buses. Typically BRT stops are located 1/2 mile to one mile apart."
Most BRT lines are branded as different from regular buses in some manner; these brands could include a unique bus design, a different colour scheme, and the reference to the line by a subway-style nomenclature such as the "Red Line" instead of a traditional bus route number.
"Depending on the amount of money spent, BRT lines can operate in mixed traffic like other bus routes, in reserved bus lanes, or even in segregated rights of way. BRT stops can range from simple traditional bus stop signs to extensive shelters featuring real time arrival and departure times and off street ticketing machines. "BRT lines usually operate very frequently compared with other bus routes operated by the transit provider; usually buses come equal to or more often than every ten minutes, although in some cities with less robust transit BRT lines operate on a fifteen minute frequency. Night and weekend service is sometimes but not always provided," the Web site stated.
Cadiz, when asked why the system was being considered, said in an interview with the Sunday Guardian that the system would be significantly cheaper for the country since the infrastructural changes necessary for its implementation would be less than if rapid or light rail were introduced.
Cadiz said, however, the system chosen would be dependent on an update to the feasibility study done by the Patrick-Manning led PNM administration. The revised study, Cadiz said, could be done for less than $2 to 3 million. This revision, he said, would determine the type of mass transit system used.
The problem with Manning's rapid rail proposal, he said, was that it would have cost the country upwards of $22 billion dollars. While any attempt to implement a mass transportation system would cost billions of dollars, Cadiz said "the implementation of a system like BRT would be significantly less." Cadiz did not quantify exactly what significantly less meant.
He said BRT would work well in T&T because of the number of people transported an hour. He said approximately 20,000 people per hour were transferred along T&T's roadways.
Had the Rapid rail been implemented by the Manning administration, Cadiz said it would have required regular maintenance as well as upwards of 50,000 people travelling per hour.
Road systems such as the Priority Bus Route were already in place, which would make implementing the BRT as a mass transit system easier.
Cadiz said he hoped to make a decision about which mass transit system would be used by early 2015 after the study had been completed and after public consultation.
He said whichever system was chosen, it should last approximately 20 years before maintenance was required.
Pros and cons of BRT
A paper on www.mapc.org highlighted the pros and cons of the use of BRT
Here are some of them:
1) Flexibility-Bus routes can change and expand when needed. For example, if a roadway is closed or if destinations or demand changes.
2) Requires no special facilities-Buses can be use existing roadways and general traffic lanes can be converted into a busway.
3) Several bus routes can converge onto one busway thereby reducing the need for transfers. BRT therefore is more suitable for dispersed land use, such as suburban locations.
4) Lower capital costs for initial infrastructure investment. A study found that the capital costs for various types of BRT systems range from a low of US$200,000 per mile for an arterial street-based system to US$55 million per mile for a dedicated busway system.
5) Can serve a larger geographical location.
1) Buses have poor public image
2) Poor quality service–Service in many urban centers is deficient
3) Flexibility and decentralisation have downsides–These result in a lack of system visibility and permanence that drives public perceptions of unreliability and disorganisation
4) A temporary solution: Many BRTs are temporary solutions until an LRT (light rail) system is built.