One of the City’s initiatives for transit in the near future is “rapid transit”. When I first heard the term, I admit that the first thing I thought of was what Edmonton has: a kind of tracked, above-ground series of cars that look as much like subway cars as anything else. That’s not what BRT looks like. It’s simply a system where buses are given more priority than they are now: they have dedicated lanes to prevent them being held up by congested traffic; traffic lights are set up to allow the buses to proceed with fewer slow downs so that passengers cover the same amount of distance in fewer minutes.
This causes some real concerns for many motorists. Over the last number of months, for instance, several businesses on Broadway have wondered how on earth a dedicated bus lane could be feasible when there are only two lanes each way in the first place. What if I’m trying to park in the only lane for regular traffic and you’re behind me? How do you get by me if the only other lane is a bus lane? Do you just have to sit there and wait for me? City officials, faced with that question, cannot tell you that you can go around by using the bus lane for a moment, but that’s the reality of what you’d do: you’d zip around the parking car and then go back into the regular lane.
Another concern is the “rapid” part of the BRT, with some alarmists wondering how on earth their neighbourhood will survive buses thundering down roads that may contain children. The answer to that, again, is pretty simple: the speed of the buses doesn’t change – they don’t charge down our streets any faster than they do now. They also don’t stop for lights as long; they don’t have to pick through traffic; the flow is smoother: the trip is faster without the bus ever going faster than it does now.
We’re often hesitant to change. We worry if the system will be worse, if the experts who run our cities are really experts at all. Once we’ve found a way to handle our daily commute, we don’t want to redo it. If I’m stuck in traffic for twenty minutes, I may hate it, but at least I know that I can handle it; after all, I’ve been stuck in traffic every day for the last several years, so I’m used to it. The whole idea of trying new ideas is to try and try again to make our lives more manageable. BRT is one more weapon to allow not only you and me, but our neighbours, a way to go about our lives.