To Rail or Not to Rail?
After three decades, there is consensus — more (see A) or less (see B) — on the principles that define “smart growth.” However, debate continues about what precise policies should appropriately be labeled “smart growth” and which are most effective at promoting the principles that define smart growth.
ONE THING WE CAN AGREE ON??? —
Providing alternatives transportation choices and reducing overall reliance on the automobile for mobility are principles all smart growth advocates would agree with. Consensus breaks down somewhat once the discussion moves beyond principles and begins to address the specifics of alternative transportation models – What is the right mix of modes? What land-use reforms will be needed to complement the new transportation model? How will the projects be funded? And so on . . .
One key question that is raised in the discussion about how to implement smart transportation reform is whether a particular region would be best served by rail ( a fixed-guideway system) or Bus-Rapid Transit (aka “BRT” – a model that relies primarily on existing roadway infrastructure, but which might have some designated exclusive rights of way).
Journalist Diane DeRubertis poses this question and offers a thoughtful discussion at Plantizen:
When faced with the costs and logistics of rail, planners and city officials increasingly seem to favor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a trend likely to continue through the current recession. But even with the many persuasive arguments for BRT, the nagging question remains: why not rail? (CLICK HERE FOR FULL POST)
There is no simple answer to this question, nor an answer that applies uniformily across different regions of the country. Nonetheless, it is a question that the Lehigh Valley will have to grapple with when determining how best to shape the region’s transportation system for the 21st century.
NOTE (per comment from Bill): Pittsburgh has a light rail network as well. The map is below. Most of the coverage is south of Downtown. Light rail and BRT can clearly complement one another as well as complement traditional bus service.