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Readers Respond

Baltimore needs BRT

Recently, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford announced that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) should be considered as an alternative instead of the now-shelved Red Line light rail system ("Who knew Hogan, Rutherford were such transit geeks," July 15). Why? Costs. Light rail is extremely expensive — to the tune of approximately $150-to-$250 million per mile versus BRT which is typically $10-to-$30 million per mile. Specifically, the Red Line was projected to cost $205 million per mile, a $2.9 billion total, for the Woodlawn-to-Bayview route.

Without a doubt, budgets are past the point of stretched. The Sun reported in December that state tax revenue was nearly $1.2 billion short of Maryland's expenses while Baltimore City had a nearly $15 million shortfall. The challenge, however, remains that our region has some of the worst traffic in the nation. Recognizing that the population is only projected to continue to grow, this situation isn't going to get better.

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But how does our region continue to serve the transportation needs of a growing populous while providing a solution to help curb some of our traffic congestion? Three words: bus rapid transit. BRT can cost 20 percent of a light rail system but can capture 80-to-85 percent of light rail riders. It has the potential to save taxpayers millions of dollars while reducing traffic congestion.

This doesn't mean we are trading quality for cost. A BRT solution has all the amenities of modern rail. BRT is flexible and serves dual purposes: it can ride on dedicated lanes, but has the ability to leave those lanes and take another route if necessary. In fact, a BRT system could use the exact same layout as the proposed Red Line. Rail, by contrast, cannot switch routes once constructed.

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Nationally, BRT has resulted in upward of 400 percent of return on investment along transit corridors. There are more than a dozen BRT systems being planned throughout the United States. Some of the most state-of-the-art BRT systems can be found in Cleveland, Las Vegas and Eugene, Ore.

So many things can be achieved with a great BRT system when properly designed. BRT allows for more transit riders and a more green, sustainable community. Not only can help riders save precious time and money but it can also connect more people to much-needed jobs and educational opportunities.

The bottom line is that a BRT system presents Baltimore with a transportation option that is economically feasible and proven to reduce traffic congestion, while still providing a solid transit solution.

Wes Guckert, White Marsh

The writer is president of The Traffic Group, a traffic engineering and transportation planning firm.


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