The stations, again in the median, are either center platform stations boarding the vehicle on the left side or side platform stations still in the median boarding passengers on the right side of the vehicle. The vehicle is 63-ft. long, has doors on both sides, three doors on the right and two doors on the left.
"Even the vehicle was designed like a rail car would be in terms of the door configuration. We engineered into the system level platforms and precision docking, so like a rail system the vehicles pull into the station so it's a quick on and off, no steps at all, minimal gaps," explains Calabrese. It has "all the technology that the most modern light rail system would have, including real time information, traffic signal authorization and off board fare collection."
The speed limit on the exclusive BRT lane is 35 mph, compared to the legal speed limit on the adjacent auto lanes which is 25 mph. The HealthLine has reduced the number of stops from roughly 100 to 64. "So it stops less, and when it stops, it's for a shorter duration because of the technology we built into the level platforms and precision docking, and things such as that," Calabrese says.
The HealthLine uses a signal priority system that is GPS based, as is the real-time information. A precision docking system was built into the vehicle, which Calabrese describes as a combination of mechanical and electronic, a radar-like detection system that advices the operators how close to the curb they are as they're pulling in.
As one of the earlier adopters of BRT, GCRTA worked with New Flyer to develop the hybrid electric compulsion vehicle. "It's a very rail-like loading feature, right down to the same horn or the same bell as our light rail vehicles," Calabrese says.
While GCRTA branded the BRT service like many agencies do, one thing stands out: it sold the naming rights. Originally slated to be named the Silver Line, the name was changed to the HealthLine after two medical institutions along the corridor – Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital – bought the naming rights. "They're paying us between $18 and $25 million over 25 years for those rights. So, they can call it anything they want!" Calabrese says with a laugh. "I think we're the first system in the nation to sell the naming rights to the system. We have naming rights for the vehicles, for the system and then we also with our two partners, the two hospitals, are selling naming rights to individual stations along the corridor. The combination of the system naming rights and the station naming rights could gross us anywhere between $18 and 25 million."
Plans for the Future
Up to this point, the HealthLine hasn't been expanded at all. Calabrese says there are discussions but no solid plans at this time. However, GCRTA is working with the cities of Cleveland and Lake Wood, a city west of Cleveland, to take some of the technology and characteristics of Bus Rapid Transit on a future project called the Cliffton Transit Enhancement Project that is currently in design right now. "We're currently looking for funding. It's not directly attached to [the HealthLine], but it takes a lot of what we learned there to do something similar but not to the greatest detail as we did on Euclid because we just feel the money won't be available," Calabrese says.
In Atlanta, Route 121 along the Memorial Drive corridor, was a cause of congestion. On Sept. 27, 2010, the MARTA Q service began implementation to help alleviate some of that congestion.
"Essentially it was a service to enhance or provide an advantage for buses traveling on one of our heavily used corridors, Route 121," explains Johnny Dunning, Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority senior director of planning. "The planning for this has been a journey. We've actually been planning this for the last three or four years."
MARTA received federal funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) for the capital construction as well as the first three years of operation for the project.
Dunning describes the process as a journey because the project was slated to be in operation as early as 2009, if not the end of 2008. MARTA partnered with the Georgia Department of Transportation, which was working on a major interchange improvement project in the corridor as well, which helped with the MARTA Q project, but it slowed things down a bit.