In addition, MARTA Q is currently still using the Breeze Smart Card that is used on the traditional service as well. "At the park and ride lot folks can load the media at the Breeze machine there and then come on in, but at the same time they still need to load up like they would any other service," Dunning says.
However, off board fare collection is a service Dunning says they'd like to move to in future. The MARTA Q service uses the same vehicles as the conventional bus system. Dunning explains that MARTA recently had a procurement of 101 40-foot, CNG powered buses and "didn't get a chance to go out and get any unique buses for the corridor given the times that we're in. There has been some thoughts though that we may want to go with a full-scale BRT implementation, that you would want introduce some kind of high capacity vehicles, but we haven't gotten to that point yet."
So far, the numbers are pointing toward success for MARTA Q. Prior to the launch of MARTA Q, the local Route 121 was carrying approximately 5,500 riders. After the launch of the Q, it is still carrying about 4,000 riders. However, the two new services collectively are carrying 1,300 riders a day, and it only operates during peak hours.
"That is what we have seen so far preliminarily, I keep emphasizing that because we really want to continue studying that because we think it will be higher than that. We have about 300 new riders in the corridor associated with this service," Dunning says.
With only six months of service under its belt, the MARTA Q is off to a good start.
York Region Transit Viva
Back in 2000 the York region in Ontario knew it was time to look at its key corridors and implement a rapid transit system. It knew it had to be done, but how should it be done? It was decided to introduce rapid transit with a three-phased approach. The first phase of Viva, the rapid transit system, opened in 2005 and involved constructing shelters on the curbed side lanes and operating a BRT system in mixed traffic.
"That was something that could be done very quickly and it could be done without modifying any existing environmental assessments," explains Dale Albers, chief communications officer, York Region Transit.
Phase one included adding a mixed traffic BRT system to the main north-south and east-west corridors. Phase two was we will take the vehicles out of mixed traffic and put them into a dedicated lane, an exclusive upgrade busway, Albers explains. Eventually, phase three will convert those exclusive rapid ways into light rail. There is no set timeline for phase three and it will be dictated by ridership demand.
"We're taking a very large region that is in a process of quickly urbanizing; our challenge is to change the social behavior of that region from being a largely car driven society to a transit friendly community. Again, bringing it forward in phases, introducing them to rapid transit and other rapid transit elements and basically winning their loyalty and emotional connection to the system was a large part of our strategy," explains Mary-Frances Turner, president of York Region Transit.
Currently YRT is in the process of transition for the curb side service to the dedicated rapid ways thanks to $1.4 billion in funding from the Ontario government, according to Albers.
Viva stations are being designed to light rail standards to help ease the transition, as well as lower the cost, of the eventual transition to a light rail rapid transit system.
The Viva system covers approximately 80 km, with 67 km of the system being in its own segregated rapid ways. "The rest will be operating in mixed traffic due to whatever physical restraints primarily or really low ridership in that quadrant without traffic demands that warrant it," Turner explains.
While the Viva buses are operating in mixed traffic currently, they do have signal priority. Stations have been placed on the far side of the intersection so the buses go through the lights first and then they stop to pick up passengers or drop off passengers, explains Albers. The curb side stations feature automated scheduling and real time traveler information, showing when the next three buses are coming.
"Also along the bottom is a variable message [we can send] to that particular station if we need to, such as bus delayed due to car accident, or it could be a marketing initiative," Albers says.