The Problem with BRT

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation, which (together with the Center for Biological Diversity) sued SANDAG over its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan in November 2011 and has since been joined in the litigation by Sierra Club and the Attorney General Harris, agrees that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in downtown San Diego is a poor use of resources.

CNFF previously submitted this comment letter to CCDC regarding the Downtown San Diego Mobility Strategy, discussing the then-effective 2007 version of SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan.

Specific to BRT in the downtown corridor, CNFF states:

“These types of BRT-related investments and improvements are completely inappropriate within downtown San Diego, especially when considering that there are almost no examples of cities where BRT was able to provide an intensive transit service in a large town. On the contrary, there are many examples of downtown transit systems that have attempted to use high-capacity BRT, and moved to rail (specifically light rail transit or LRT). One example is in Ottawa, Canada, which at one point was the poster child for busways, and is now switching to LRT. In Edinburgh, Scotland, the government is building their new LRT system on a failed and abandoned guided busway grade. Most staggering of all is the city of Portland, which created a long range plan in the 1970’s that called for a complete bus system. Portland now has one of the most famous and utilized LRT systems, within which buses play a supporting role to the rail lines.

The major significance of the Mobility Strategy is that it definitively states that business-as-usual (i.e. our current auto-based system) will not be able to provide adequate mobility needs for Downtown San Diego. The BRT system planned within the current RTP (the 2030 RTP) calls for extensive freeway expansion projects to create all purpose lanes, and also to add Managed Lanes for BRT. Adding capacity to freeways would constitute a complete business-as-usual scenario, and will only further support the auto-based transportation system that has been a proven failure for San Diego. In order to make a holistic change from sprawl to infill development, and to make urban areas like Downtown San Diego function, we must move away from highway infrastructure and immediately invest in rail transit. Furthermore, the BRT system called for within the 2030 RTP would cost the San Diego region billions of dollars. Given our region’s current economic shortfalls, we simply cannot afford to make infrastructure investment mistakes that will need to be corrected in the future.”

Read the letter for further discussion of transportation planning downtown San Diego.

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