The Bus Transit Lane Concept Could Provide Real Answers to Funding Woes

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Atlantic Cities recently covered some awesome forays into transportation innovation happening in Tampa, Florida. Idaho could stand to have a conversation about the "BTL" concept.

The concept was put forth as a way to get transit authorities and highway authorities working together for the benefit of all. Traditionally, these two entities have been silo'd in separate spheres.

The BTL is a designated expressway corridor that gives first priority to transit buses. Once the buses are moving, the space will be sold to other drivers. For those who want to zip past traffic congestion, a small toll is a small price to pay.

This approach is smart because it solves the severe funding problems that most transit systems face. It instead creates a system that not only generates its own revenue, but eventually makes a profit as well.

Federal grans would pay for the construction of the corridor, but toll revenue from cars sharing the lanes would cover the cost of operating and maintaining the transit service. Such a system addresses the low farebox recovery rate of American buses--typical bus fares only cover about a third of the costs--potentially removing the need for tax payer subsidies. Simply put, transit would foot the initial bill and cars would take over from there.

Don't imagine that there would be nothing in this for drivers. Every car in the BTL is one less car turning the still-free freeway into a parking lot every morning. The tolls are voluntary, so they're not harming anyone. 

People who need transit could still get it while freeing up tax dollars for other projects in subsequent years. Buses would move faster, increasing ridership and decreasing emissions.

But is such a Win-Win-Win really feasible? Preliminary reports say that it is

  • Revenue projections show that 100% of transit costs would be covered by the BTL system.
  • A 65-mile route would produce a 30 year net revenue of $1.5 billion. 
  • There were three proposed routes. The lowest ROI for any route was 151%. The highest was 617%.
  • 90% of corridor capacity would actually remain open to cars, even if buses ran the corridor once every minute.
  • The least profitable route produced a 375% in ridership. The most profitable route produced an 1826% increase in ridership.

This is exactly the kind of thinking we need to adopt: smart solutions that make transportation work for all of our citizens and that actually create profitable assets rather than costly liabilities. 

The Rise of Multi-Modal

Monday, June 10, 2013
by: Vanassa Fry - District 4 Mobility Manager

As part of the US Department of Transportation’s Strategic Plan 2012-2016 former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood steered the nation towards a course of multimodal transportation that supports livable communities.  Not only does multimodal transportation offer safer, more convenient travel it also will help the US move away from our reliance on foreign oil.  Sounds like a good plan, right?  Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

For decades transportation modes have acted independently of one another in the way they’ve been managed and funded. Main Street could have a state highway bisecting it with only a few safe places to cross for the entire stretch through town.  A county’s road and bridge department rarely communicated with local public transportation entities and vice versa.  Now, with funding getting tighter for everyone and funders requesting collaboration on projects we’re seeing unusual partnerships form with successful outcomes.

Hailey, Idaho is one such success.  When the federal government released TIGER II funding Hailey partnered with Idaho Transportation Department, Mountain Rides Transportation Authority, Blaine County Recreation District, College of Southern Idaho and others to garner $3.5M in funds for the Woodside Boulevard Complete Streets Initiative.  Prior to the project, Woodside Boulevard, the thoroughfare through the densest part of town, offered little in the way of pedestrian and bicycle amenities, exposing riders and walkers to fast-moving traffic on the narrow street.  Drivers were challenged by the lack of traffic signals enabling access to the state highway.

Now sidewalks line both sides of the street, bike lanes allow riders to safely maneuver through the neighborhood, and cars and buses are able to make protected turns onto the state highway. This project and others across Idaho prove that Complete Streets projects are safer, promote economic vitality, are more convenient and offer transportation choices by not singling out one mode as more important than others.

Interested in learning more about how you can form collaborative relationships and pursue a Complete Streets project?  Contact your local mobility manager.  To learn more about other transportation options in Idaho visit I-way.org.  I-way can help you find an accessible and efficient transportation option to get you to your destination.

AASHTO's Future of Transportation for 2012: CTAI's Take

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) identified its list of top ten transportation topics for 2012. Below is our take on those that apply to CTAI’s members and Idaho:

1. Enacting a long-term transportation bill: CTAI will continue to work with Idaho’s congressional delegation and staff to push for the enactment of a long-term transportation bill.

2. Managing in lean times – addressing the problem of the nation’s aging bridges, highways, and transit systems with stagnant or reduced funding: As one of two states without a dedicated source of transportation funding, and given the current economic times, CTAI is working to educate Idahoans in support of transportation funding. We received a grant to develop the I’M4CTAI campaign in which we sign up at least 1,000 transportation supporters to advocate on behalf of Idaho’s transportation needs and sources of funding.

3. Responding to and planning for natural disasters: CTAI has been working with the Idaho Department of Homeland Security and is now working with the Idaho Department of Water Resources to identify Idaho’s transportation resources for recovery and rebuilding – in the event of a natural disaster in our state. Our partnerships with these agencies will help mobilize the vehicles needed to help get Idahoans out of danger and to help transportation providers rebuild after the disaster.

4. Reducing traffic deaths: CTAI supports safer roads and reduced deaths on Idaho roads and highways. CTAI will provide support for any legislation that improves traffic safety for Idahoans.

5. Increasing the visibility of transportation as an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign: CTAI will work through national agencies in the education of long term transportation needs for our politicians.

6. Generating new ways to fund transportation: As part of the I’M4CTAI campaign, CTAI will work to mobilize advocates and partner agencies in support of a local option tax authority to help cities and counties fund transportation needs in Idaho.

7. Advancing intercity passenger rail

8. Engaging the business community in support of transportation: CTAI mobility managers and staff will continue to educate Idaho Businesses on the benefits of improving transportation options such as public transportation, carpooling, vanpooling, and ridematching.

9. Serving a growing elderly population, both rural and urban: CTAI mobility managers and staff will continue to partner with senior centers and agencies that serve the elderly population in identifying opportunities and partnerships that will lead to improved transportation options for seniors.

10. Responding to new stormwater reforms and other environmental regulations.

Bike and Pedestrian Funding Still on the Chopping Block Come the March Reauthorization

Friday, September 16, 2011

Although the Senate has agreed to extend the existing transportation bill for six months without any policy changes, The Washington Post reports that Senator Coburn of Oklahoma is expected to work to eliminate the small program that funds the lion’s share of bike and pedestrian projects.

This program represents less than 2 percent of all federal transportation spending and for 20 years has been the primary funding source for sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and trails.

If you support biking and walking safety, contact your Congressmen and ask them to keep the funding in place to keep our bikers and walkers safe in our communities.

Transportation Reauthorization Extended...Again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Community Transportation Association of Idaho commends Congress for extending the nation's surface transportation at current funding levels.

"The six-month extension of federal highway and transit programs approved by Congress this week ensures the continuation of critical services and thousands of job-creating infrastructure projects across the nation," said Heather Wheeler, CTAI executive director. "We congratulate the leadership on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate for their hard work to bring about this extension. We encourage Congress and the Administration to develop and pass a robust, multi-year surface reauthorization bill over the next six months. CTAI is prepared to work with the Idaho Congressional Delegation with the development of this bill."

Watch the APTA video...