Last week, while I was in Tucson helping break ground on the new Sun Link streetcar, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff was busy introducing transit innovations like Bus Rapid Transt in Austin, TX, and Roaring Forks, CO, and a BART commuter rail extension in San Jose, CA.
BRT is an enhanced system with modern buses operating on separate lanes or other transitways. By running on special lanes isolated from traffic, BRT combines the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail. And with high-tech vehicles and advanced infrastructure, BRT operates at faster speeds than conventional bus service while also providing greater reliability and increased customer convenience.
What communities get is essentially rail on wheels.
In Austin, Administrator Rogoff signed a grant agreement providing $38 million to build a bus rapid transit system in Austin, bringing additional transportation choices to one of the most congested mid-size cities in the country.
The new MetroRapid bus service will include 40 new bus stations with 40 clean diesel buses running along a 37.5 mile route parallel to the region’s main highways, I-35 and Loop-1. The service will make it easier for riders to access the State Capitol, the University of Texas, and the opportunities available in downtown Austin’s central business district.
Austin's Capital Metro also expects the project to create more than 100 construction-related jobs. And, the entire community will benefit from the reduced carbon emissions generated when riders choose to leave their cars in their driveways for the convenience of BRT.
As Administrator Rogoff said, “This project will help people breathe easier, spend less time sitting in traffic on I-35 and Loop-1 and keep more of their hard-earned money.”
During the last decade alone, Austin's population has grown by 41 percent. Now, that's the sign of a city on the rise, and there's no denying the considerable assets Austin offers. But that population growth has far outpaced Austin's ability to move people where they need to go. We don't want roadway congestion and carbon emissions to sap the energy of one of America's most dynamic communities.
That's why DOT and FTA are pleased to help Capital Metro get MetroRapid underway and pleased to support the economic development, jobs, and access to opportunity that BRT will bring to Austin.