High Performance Sells

June 1, 2012
High-performance buses offering BRT features.

PULL QUOTE: "It’s about time speed and buses became better acquainted ... the workhorse bus has been lumbering in the slow lane with a subsequent lack of enthusiasm from customers" Also, do you have a generic fast-looking bus-like photo?

Exceeding the norm is an attractive proposition in nearly any endeavor, particularly in transportation. Faster, quieter, smoother, more convenient; Wi-Fi and other amenities; all are factors in increasing customer satisfaction. What if you, and more importantly, your customers, could describe selected buses and routes as high performance?

Spokane Transit Authority (STA) is starting a discussion with the community about a network of high-performance buses that offer many of the features normally associated with bus rapid transit. Ten-minute headways, pre-board ticketing and traffic light prioritization have been proposed to speed the buses along several high-volume routes.

Using regular buses, not the train-like buses typical of BRT, these routes would offer a speedy ride along the most trafficked corridors in the region. In a grid outlining three types of “premium services” STA is planning, the speeds are listed as Fast, Rapid, and Moderate. This exciting and innovative proposal is sure to draw plenty of attention to STA’s High Performance Transportation Network.

Implementing the plans will require capital investments and, if all goes well, federal funding could become available. STA has already requested a $1.2 million federal grant under New Starts/Small Starts to study upgrades to their Division Street route. Much like transit-oriented development around rail lines, these improvements, including upgraded stations/stops, are expected to boost housing and business development along the routes.

It’s about time speed and buses became better acquainted. Every other form of transportation has been pushing higher speeds, but the workhorse bus has been lumbering in the slow lane with a subsequent lack of enthusiasm from customers, or potential customers who have bypassed buses for being way too slow to reach their destination. Obviously many routes require frequent stops and nothing is going to change. But when feasibility studies can outline significant time-saving measures to be gained every day along major routes, that’s an exciting proposition to implement.