Dreaming of an Oakland bus rapid transit line… in Vegas

19 Apr

A couple weeks ago I was in Las Vegas for a conference. Las Vegas brings plenty of images to mind for most people – gambling, bright lights, crowded streets, over the top architecture, drunken bachelor and bachelorette parties, and so much excess. But something you might not associate with Vegas is bus rapid transit (BRT), and even a transit wonk like me had never had that association until a couple weeks ago.

For the first time I stayed in downtown Las Vegas, which still has plenty of tourist-attracting hotels and casinos but also is filled with office buildings and some housing. It also has buses, lots and lots of buses. And on my second day in Vegas, as I was walking to an event, I was overjoyed to run into not one but two bus rapid transit lines!

Here are some of the photos I took:

You might not be able to tell from these photos, but these buses were packed! What you can tell from the photos is that the stations are gorgeous. Thinking about having infrastructure like this in Oakland along Telegraph and International makes me so excited.

When I returned to Oakland, I looked into the BRT lines a bit more and found that the one in the first four photos – Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) – has been in operation since 2004 and the line in the fifth photo opened last year. The lines have been incredibly successful, and Vegas broke ground on another BRT project earlier this year.

Judging by how crowded these buses were and by the variety of people getting on and off the buses, I was not surprised to find out that some riders were lured onto transit by BRT and might have never ridden a bus regularly otherwise:

One C-Line passenger, Chris Jacobs, a manager at Trump International Hotel, said, “This is the first time I’ve taken public transportation. Ever.” And he’s not alone.

The final environmental impact report for the East Bay BRT line is being done right now, and the project will soon come before the Oakland City Council. If these photos made you jealous, get ready to urge the Council to approve the system and move our bus system forward. I’ll post updates here as the project moves forward.

5 Responses to “Dreaming of an Oakland bus rapid transit line… in Vegas”

  1. Chuck April 19, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    I had no idea! That’s fantastic. Why on earth haven’t we heard about this in the local BRT discussion? Surely Las Vegas would resonate with area voters and powers-that-be moreso than, say, Curitiba.

    (Tangentially, I also wonder why the infrastructure improvements to Telegraph, in particular, aren’t a bigger part of the discussion; that road is a damn mess, and one wonders if it’ll be attended to with any urgency *without* the BRT installation…)

    • Becks April 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

      I think many people don’t know about it. I remember reading earlier this year that Vegas was getting a BRT line, but I didn’t realize they already had a few. But yeah, it’s a more apt comparison than to Curitiba. I plan to use these photos and the data in future BRT advocacy.

  2. Brian April 19, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    I rode the Vegas BRT before, when it had just started service. Good to hear ridership is so high.

    There’s also a BRT line up north. It runs between Eugene and Springfield in Oregon, not exactly as urban as the inner East Bay. If it works there, why not here?

    http://tinyurl.com/yjlpcq

  3. Christopher Kidd April 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    For other examples closer than Curitiba:
    Mexico City has an amazing BRT system with raised-platform stations and triple-articulated buses. The BRT buses are clearly differentiated from other buses, look beautiful and are packed at all hours of the day.

    Los Angeles has one of the most successful BRT lines in the United States. It runs 13 miles across the entire San Fernando Valley (soon to be expanded northwards another 6 miles to the Chatsworth Metrolink train station). The Orange line opened in 2005 and within 6 months managed to beat projected ridership for 2025. The Orange Line is now at capacity and Metro is trying to figure out ways to improve boarding times at stops to reduce headways and get more buses on the route. Metro is bringing a second BRT line to the Wilshire corridor, a boulevard far more congested and fought over than International or Telegraph will ever be.

    If LA, the car-capital of the world, can not only implement BRT but also be wildly successful at it, what is stopping Oakland? Are we really willing to admit that we’re less progressive in transportation than *Los Angeles*?

    • Becks April 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      In some ways, LA is already more progressive in transportation. For example, the City of LA provides many financial incentives to get employees to take transit or to carpool to work and discourages driving by making parking very expensive. They also require large employees to provide transit incentives.

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