Trends and success stories nationwide make it the perfect time for Maryland to put bus rapid transit projects in gear ("Baltimore needs BRT," July 30).
More Americans are becoming intrigued by the convenience and cost-effectiveness of new public transportation options. The American Public Transportation Association's Transit Saving Report revealed that a two-person household can save, on average, more than $10,174 per year by downsizing to one car — and presumably utilizing their city's transit options more often. A 2013 America THINKS survey from HNTB Corporation revealed that 76 percent of Americans are open to taking public transportation over driving — up 7 percent from when HNTB last asked that question in 2010.
A BRT system delivers both convenience and affordability. BRT retains many of the features of rail-based public transit but is much easier and less expensive to implement. BRT funding often can often be cobbled together from multiple sources, including metropolitan planning organizations, municipal or county transportation funds, or even state highway maintenance budgets.
These systems also often carry additional benefits, including electronic and/or automatic payment methods, real-time arrival and departure updates and environmentally friendly vehicles.
BRT successes aren't hard to find.
A BRT endeavor in Kansas City, Mo., called the Metro Area Express, was smoothly integrated into an existing bus system. The project efficiently linked major areas of the city, uses the latest technology in the transit industry and serves as a prime example of where BRT is headed.
Cleveland's "HealthLine," a BRT system along the city's famed Euclid Avenue, connects educational institutions, medical and business centers. According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the system has spurred more than $5 billion in economic development along the corridor.
Sophisticated transportation agencies understand the value and economic benefits generated by BRT, but BRT alone can't sustain the transit needs of an entire community. A strong set of multiple public transportation systems is key to bolstering economic development across the region.
Pursuit of BRT systems, however, certainly demonstrates forward thinking to accommodate projected population growth and also spur economic expansion needed to sustain it.
The writer is senior rail project manager and vice president, southeast division, at HNTB Corporation, an infrastructure solutions firm.