Friday, October 24, 2008

Euclid Corridor BRT Opens

The Euclid Corridor BRT opens this weekend in Cleveland making it the third true BRT line to launch in recent years (Orange Line and Eugene EMX). Expectations will be high, err low. Projected 2025 ridership stated in the Plain Dealer is 15,000. That's a far cry from the previous projections of 39,000 cited by the FTA. Given the amount of destinations and jobs on the line I doubt it will take long to get to 15,000.

They basically reconstructed the street and are running the same buses as the Eugene system. It's also another case of a project in the FTA process opening over 10 years after conception. I thought BRT was supposed to be cheaper and quicker to implement? Though if it started today, the project wouldn't even be funded under Ma Peters. It got a Medium Low in Cost-Effectiveness and cost $21 million per mile. I thought the reason for BRT projects was because they are more cost-effective. Basically what this proves is that the FTA doesn't want to spend money on projects that give transit its own ROW. No not painting lanes on the street, but a true separation from other traffic that makes it more effective. Today, its required to get a medium in CE as we've discussed before.
Those projects that do not currently have a rating of "medium" in cost-effectiveness would automatically be precluded from funding recommendation by the FTA, notwithstanding the merits of other criteria applicable to those projects.
This is part of the cutdown in projects that has been going on lately. It's recently dropped from 85 projects in the pipe before the 2005 "medium" enforcement to 2007. Not counting small starts, this year only has 31 projects in the New Starts report.

Lest you think that projects are rightly being cut, it should be noted that Denver's Southeast Corridor, Charlotte's South Corridor, the Los Angeles Orange Line, and the Minneapolis Hiawatha Line all had a Medium Low ratings. Those projects have all passed their projections yet would not have been funded under the current process. Anyone else tired of cost-effectiveness being used as a blunt object to bludgeon the alternatives that will truly get people into transit, including rail AND true BRT?

Let's see how this line goes. I still wish it would have been rail and electrified, but it's an improvement in the corridor, one that the FTA would not approve of these days.


Justin said...

Hopefully things will change under a Obama government.

Rob Pitingolo said...

Having lived in Cleveland during the planning and building of the Euclid Corridor BRT line, hopefully I can shed a little extra insight. on this project.

Rightly or wrongly, the project has been fairly controversial with locals - you can see what I mean by looking at the comment section on any Plain Dealer article written about the EC project. Some of the criticism comes from a misunderstanding of who funded the project and where the money came from. Other criticism comes from the idea that building the EC meant that we squandered resources that could have been used for a better transit project.

It is true that EC replaced an existing bus line on Euclid Ave. It is also true that the old bus line was horribly crowded, slow, and inefficient. A primary selling point of the EC is that it connects the city's two biggest employment centers: downtown and University Circle. Of course, we already have the Red Line (heavy rail) that connects those two neighborhoods (although the stations could be relocated to better serve that end; and one of them is currently planned to be rebuilt).

The alignment of the BRT line is one of the biggest disappointments to me. The alignment that was built continues down Euclid Ave. into East Cleveland, which few locals will argue is the city's roughest, most rundown, and unsalvageable parts of the area. It is also an area that is already served by the Red Line.

It would have been exciting to see an alignment that turned south and east at University Circle and provided transit service to neighborhoods like Cleveland Heights and University Heights. It would have also certainly been more exciting to have a new electric rail line (whether light or heavy) down Euclid Ave. and into neighborhoods that currently lack good transit service to University Circle and downtown.

Ridership expectations may not necessarily be high, as the PD claims, but the stakes certainly are high. Critics are ready to pounce on the project and officially label it as a failure and waste of valuable resources.