'Bus rapid transit' a commuter rail alternative

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski The Capital Times:

When people in Dane County hear the words "regional transit authority," what usually comes to mind is the area's hot debate over installing a $250 million, 16-mile commuter rail line running from Middleton to the town of Burke near Sun Prairie.

Advocates of the city's Metro bus system, however, are seeking to expand that definition by bringing another option back to the table: bus rapid transit.

Bus rapid transit, or BRT, was discussed as an alternative in an ongoing regional study called Transport 2020, but concerns about the potential cost of the system and its ability to provide faster public transit in the long-term ultimately led to its shelving.

Because of the stiff competition for federal rail funding, however, bus advocates say bus rapid transit could be an effective complement or alternative to commuter rail. Dane County withdrew its funding application to the Federal Transit Administration in December because of the lack of a local funding source for commuter rail, but talk of transit was renewed this summer after Gov. Jim Doyle authorized a Madison-area regional transit authority in his 2010 budget. The authority could levy up to a half-percent sales tax, or an estimated $38 million a year in transit funds, but local officials have said that will not happen until there is a referendum on the tax.