ACE Gold Line bus originally uploaded by Erik Weber
Last week while attending SAS Global Forum 2011 in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to take two different different forms of bus transit to and from “Downtown Las Vegas”. The first was local bus service on a double-decker bus known as The Deuce and the second known as SDX (AKA Strip and Downtown Express) was a BRT bus much like the NABI buses the MVTA plans to use when BRT is finally done tearing up Cedar Ave.
We picked up The Deuce right in front of our hotel. There was a handy pre-pay kiosk there which charged us $7.00/each for an all-day pass on the RTC bus system. While the first double-decker bus quickly filled, we were able to wait another 12 minutes for the next one to arrive. We made our way up to the second floor and began our 45+ minute journey to travel the 4 (yes, we could have walked nearly as fast) miles down the strip. Along the route the bus made 15 stops, mostly at hotels and other major destinations, and many times the bus was at absolute capacity.
On our way home I decided to forgo the 45+ minute trip and instead we walked a few blocks to the Bonneville Transit Center, which aside from the fact that it was manned by human beings behind a counter and had about 10x as many buses available for a variety of routes going in all directions, it was very similar to the brand new Apple Valley Transit Station in design and layout. It was at the Bonneville Transit Center that we picked up the SDX BRT bus for another trip through the dedicated BRT lane with lights that were preempted by the buses back to the hotel. While faster, it still made many stops and had problems navigating the busy Las Vegas streets. I won’t even bother to go into much detail on the dangerous driving of the bus driver we had and the concern The Wife and I both had for keeping The Rooster on my lap as the “train-like” bus whipped around corners and hinged precariously in the middle.
BRT works in Las Vegas for one single reason: there are places in Vegas along the BRT route that people want to see along a single road and those places are not situated in one large area. People want to hop from Mandalay Bay to the Flamingo and stop later at the Wynn. They want to get back on and then head down to Fremont Street and come back to their room at the Mirage. It makes sense to have a bunch of stops along a single trunk route for people to get on and off. In addition each of the BRT locations had at least one other bus route which was serviced by the same stop.
Unfortunately Dakota County’s vision for BRT doesn’t meet this at all. MVTA’s BRT is best served by large park and rides fed by local bus routes, not by individual stations along Cedar. People living in Lakeville are not going to want to ride to 140th and Cedar and then head back again and I can absolutely guarantee no one in Bloomington or Eagan is going to take BRT to 215th street in Lakeville to check out Jeff Belzer’s Chevy dealership.
BRT in Las Vegas was slow, incredibly expensive ($5 on the strip for two hours or $7 for 24 hours), and the preemption and bus only lanes really did little to decrease the amount of time it would have taken to walk or bike that same route. While it worked in Vegas, it is definitely going to be a gigantic failure in Dakota County simply because we do not have an infrastructure along Cedar Ave which lends itself to this sort of transit method.
It is clear that we have been right all along. We would be much better served with one or two large park and rides fed by smaller park and rides fed by their own local loops. BRT is not going to be the bringer of business and residential growth that LRT has simply because it’s not as attractive and it simply is ridiculous in the way Dakota County is currently developing and is planned for future development.
Based on my experience with BRT what do you think about Dakota County BRT? Has it changed your mind at all by looking at the RTC/BRT routes? Can you envision businesses worthy of a visit from Bloomington popping up along BRT routes? Are you concerned that BRT will raise the transit costs and make it unaffordable? Whatever you have to say about BRT in Dakota County and how it compares to an area where BRT does actually seem to work go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your own thoughts.