November 29, 2010

Department of Pipe Dreams: Highway 680 Bus Rapid Transit, Pt I

Making fantasy transit maps is a favored pastime of at least a few urban planning bloggers, but I must confess this pipe dream was dreamed well before I read about Transbay's dream Bus Rapid Transit plans, mega MTA, or a Boston with an MBTA urban ring. Goes to show that fantasy is a standard, and seductive, business.

In this post I'll give a general overview of why a BRT line linking West Dublin/Pleasanton BART and Walnut Creek BART in the Highway 680 right of way would be a good idea, if wishes were horses. In Part II, I'll go into more detail about Bus Rapid Transit particulars, individual station locations and treatments, what kind of feeder bus networks would be needed, and what incentives and enhancements could boost hypothetical ridership.

The Pitch

Interstate 680, north of 580 and south of 24, is clogged with traffic, especially during commuter rush hour. Large sections of it are built out, making expansion difficult. The Walnut Creek BART Station in the north and Dublin/Pleasanton Station in the south take commuters into Oakland and San Francisco, but full parking lots and underused buses limit station capacity. The area in between the stations is a transit desert, served only by a scattering of County Connection bus lines. These bus lines already use the two BART stations as convenient route termini, but rely on the anonymous, tucked away, San Ramon Transit Center for their origin. Housing developments and sprawl continue at the edges of existing development, further impacting 680. Cities and towns surround 680, yet the corridor lacks density or sheer population to justify a BART connection. (BART is already in trouble for expensive boondoggles, landing on the wrong side of violent and financial civil rights disputes, and being politically obligated to build out to inefficient locations because those locations happen to contribute revenue to it.) 680 is the principal artery for the region, a necessity to get to either BART station, anywhere else in the Bay Area, and many local trips.

BRT on 680 would fill in the gap between D/P and Walnut Creek

Note how developments are concentrated around 680, but spreading eastward in San Ramon/Danville. BART Stations are located where 680 and 24 intersect in Walnut Creek, and 680 and 580 intersect in Dublin.

The Overview

Bus Rapid Transit for the 680 corridor would link the under-construction West Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station to the Walnut Creek Station. It would have its own dedicated right of way for the duration of the route, off board fare collection, and triple-door low floor buses (or raised platforms) to facilitate minimal holding times at stations. To cater to business commuters, the buses could offer wireless internet. Stations will be built around intersections where 680 crosses over or under major suburban arterials.

Like this, Transmilenio style (Bogotá, Colombia)

Investing in the highway right of way would centralize and reorient bus operations into a main trunk route fed by feeder buses. Feeder buses would run along the high-volume arterials that traverse the region--streets like Crow Canyon, Bollinger Canyon, Ygnacio Valley, and Stone Valley Roads. Users would need to get to the nearest arterial, and from there, using the system would intuitively mimic how they already move around the region: accessing and exiting 680.

While BRT could certainly be used for a variety of daily trips, its largest value-add will be for commuters traveling out to Oakland and San Francisco, or commuters coming in to the office parks in San Ramon and Pleasanton. BRT's guaranteed traffic-free ride to BART will reduce incentive to both a) drive to BART, and b) drive to the final workplace destination, taking cars off the road and diminishing rush hour traffic.

Stay tuned for the list of stations and locations of feeder routes!


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  2. That's the same idea I was thinking we can model the system like the Los Angeles metro silver line but off board fare payment