What makes Bus Rapid Transit different?
Bus Rapid Transit, the new light rail-like bus system coming to Pacific Avenue in 2022, will be picking up and dropping off passengers at stations in the middle along nearly half its route, the Pierce Transit board of commissioners decided Tuesday.
All seven present board members voted to choose the “hybrid” design that combines several different types of lanes and station configurations on the 14-mile route.
“What really prevailed in our thinking was a perceived safety factor with fewer lanes that people would have to cross to catch the bus,” said board chair Nancy Henderson.
The project will run between Commerce Street in Tacoma and state Route 7 in Spanaway.
When the $150 million system is operating, buses will travel in the center of the roadway for 6.1 miles from South 38th Street to South 121st Street. Of that distance, 3.6 miles will be on dedicated bus lanes that will be built in the road’s median.
The remaining 2.5 miles of that 6.1 mile portion will mix buses with traffic in the left lanes but still use stations built in the median.
There will be 32 pairs of stations located on the route, mostly at major intersections. For most of the 13 pairs of stations located in the median, one station will be just north of the cross street and its pair will be just to the south.
Transit riders along that stretch would be required to cross half the roadway to access stations located in the median.
The remaining stations will be built on the route’s outside lanes, adjacent to sidewalks and businesses.
From South 121st Street south to 204th Street East, buses would use the far right lanes to travel in. While they would usually be in mixed traffic, there are some stretches, most notably between 138th Street South and 159th Street South, that would use Business Access Transit lanes — lanes dedicated to only buses and vehicles accessing businesses and making right turns.
The board rejected the competing plan: on that would have had buses traveling in the curbside/business lanes for the entire route. Pierce Transit’s technical advisory committee had recommended that alternative.
The Tacoma City Council voted unanimously April 2 to endorse the middle of the road or hybrid option. In addition, the city’s Transportation Commission and transit advocate groups like Downtown on the Go were in favor of the hybrid option.
Both Downtown on the Go and Tacoma say the hybrid option is safer for pedestrians and favors future transportation orientated development.
Henderson said Tacoma’s decision to chose the hybrid option was a strong factor in her board’s decision.
“They are major players in this,” Henderson said. “This is going to impact their future growth and economic development.”
BRT uses stations that allow level (no stairs) boarding and high-frequency service to bring buses into the realm of rapid transit.
BRT buses will run every 10 minutes during morning and evening commutes and 15 minutes in off hours. Electronic reader boards will countdown the minutes until the next bus arrives.
The BRT buses will have multiple doors for boarding, and passengers will purchase tickets before entry (or use a fare card.)
Although versions of BRT exist in Washington, the closest full system exists in Everett.
Design work is in the near future for the BRT project, according to Pierce Transit spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet. The agency is asking for feedback, including on station locations, at RideBRT.com.
“That’s a good way for people to influence what the design will look like,” Japhet said. The project is only five percent designed.
There are more than 3,500 weekday boardings along the portion of Pierce Transit’s bus Route 1 that will become the BRT route.