"That's what we've always heard from non riders – if you are going to get me to ride transit it has to be faster and it has to be more frequent; I don't want to have to plan my life around a bus that comes every hour or half hour and the reliability, I can't miss my transfers and things like that," he says. "That's what we really tried to highlight."
The branding surrounding EmX reflects a light rail feel – from the look of the vehicles to the stations – but with a bus.
"We wanted to really look distinctly different, clean, unique, crisp and that was a big part of the advertising," Vobora says.
The estimates were that BRT would increase ridership about 40% over a 20-year period. "That's one thing that we're learning; that the models don't predict ridership very well," Vobora says. "That segment served by traditional transit was averaging about 2,700 boardings on weekdays and in the first month of EmX service we had over 4,000 average boardings and it grew from there in the first year. By the end of the first year we were just under 6,000."
Vobora says ridership did dip slightly when the recession hit, but the whole system saw a dip in ridership at that time. He says it has all come back pretty strong over the last year.
"A couple of other changes have helped it to grow in ridership. Just because of the economy and changes in our system to save money, we cut out some routes with similar or duplicated parts of the EmX service, so that drove more people to ride it and that was good. It was a good use of those resources and it could absorb that," Vobora explains.
As of January, when the first extension was opened, ridership had grown to average 7,000 a day.
Vobora says before EmX the original line took about 17 to 23 minutes. The goal of EmX was to average 16 minutes or less, and it has attained that.
"We'll have trips that make it in 12 or 13 minutes and some that will go over the 16 minutes at certain points of the day, but we average under 16. So, it's about a six-minute savings on that trip. A lot of people didn't think that was a great investment to save six minutes, but that's pretty huge on 25% of your travel time," Vobora says. "Most people who were driving a car would pick a route that would save them that kind of travel time. For us, it means again that the same level of service with traditional transit service would have taken us another bus, so we saved a whole bus on operating costs. I think with just a few modifications and just a little bit more dual lane throughout the system instead of that single lane guideway, we could get the average down to 12 or 13 minutes. We can really move along."
Bus Rapid Transit has gained in popularity over the last few years; however, how Bus Rapid Transit works often varies from agency to agency. Here we'll take a look at five different BRT systems – how they work, why they work and what their challenges are.
Brampton Transit Züm
In Brampton, Ontario, BRT is a new venture. Brampton Transit launched Züm in September 2010 on Queen Street and will introduce a line on the Main Street corridor in the fall of 2011. In 2012 Züm will launch on the Steeles Avenue corridor. The idea of BRT, however, has been floating around the city of Brampton since 2004 when the transportation master transit plan was approved by the city.
"In the development of that plan it was determined to meet the growth of our city, the growth alone would not have the capacity and we'd need to look at a rapid transit solution," explains Sue Sonner, Executive Director of Transit, Brampton. "So that's when the planning started - initially looking at lobbying for funding for BRT. Once we got the funding confirmed we started more detail planning in terms of the infrastructure we put in place, the vehicles we used and how the service would operate. That work led up to our launch this past September 2010."