"The ridership growth has been growing at a faster pace and a steadier pace than our actual growth, so in terms of measuring success, I can say we've stayed in front of just the pure growth. We know that we are reaching into a whole new marketplace which again was a ridership challenge, to reach beyond the riders that have to take transit to a whole new generation of riders."
"We spent a great effort on branding the service initially – everything from the fabric on the seats to the look of the bus, the paint of the bus," Albers says.
Along with the look of the bus, the name of the system was important to branding.
"We didn't call it York Region Transit or a more government type name. We called it Viva, which is like a celebration. It's very geared toward lifestyle and making choices on how to move about and how it shapes urban development, how the two sort of work together," Albers says. "It was a big effort to do that and to not confuse the public. We made it clear through our branding and marketing that it's two services in one system. You have the conventional service and the rapid transit service, but they work together in one system."
Thus far in phase two, one rapid way has been opened on the Viva system. Currently there are a number of other sections under construction now that will be completed between the year 2010 and 2015.
Lane Transit District EmX
Back in the mid 1990s Lane Transit District received a challenge from its board president: find something beyond traditional transit to really address what he saw as the next step in serving the community and attracting people who had a choice to ride transit.
"He just didn't see that traditional transit would meet their needs, so he challenged us to go see what other models were out there," says Andy Vobora, director of service planning, accessibility and marketing, Lane Transit District. "We did some research in South America and Europe and found the Bus Rapid Transit concept and brought that back to the board and they liked it. We started working with FTA and were deemed one of the first cities for a demonstration project, and the smallest of those 10 cities by far. We wanted to show that Bus Rapid Transit could work in a medium-sized community like ours."
BRT was adopted in the regional transportation plan in the early 2000s and Lane Transit District received approval for the first line, which spanned 4 miles connecting the two downtown centers – Eugene and Springfield. BRT made its debut with the opening of EmX in January 2007. Since then approximately 5.5 miles have been added to that original line; currently approximately 9 of the 61-mile planned system is built, Vobora says.
EmX uses three different lane types. The first two segments have sections of exclusive right of ways in which the bus operates in its own curbed lane. Then there are also segments that are transversable lanes, allowing other traffic to have access to business and intersections, Vobora explains. The third lane type, which was just implemented for the first time with the new Gateway line, is called a business access and transit lane – a BAT lane- and they are shared use lanes. Flexibility is the key to EmX's operation.
"That's one of the great things we've found about Bus Rapid Transit is the flexibility to react to the built environment and to look at the impact on businesses and realize some of those impacts are so significant it's probably a good tradeoff to go back into mixed traffic if you have to," Vobora says. "There are certainly areas that congestion is so significant that if you gave up the right of way there you would really damage your efficiencies. It's a balancing act but we really like that flexibility."
EmX uses signal priority for its buses. "The bus on the original line goes over loops that are in the pavement that signal the intersection. If it can buy us six or seven additional seconds of green time to get through the light it does," Vobora explains. "If it is in a red cycle, it will shorten that by six to eight seconds. It doesn't really affect the other traffic movement through the area and that's worked well."
Vobora says the original line has a number of segments of bidirectional exclusive bus lanes, meaning the bus travels in both direction in one lane using block signaling.