The latest gaffe in the effort to sell a skeptical public on Bus Rapid Transit was a photo op that backfired at the Montgomery County Fair. After several years of claiming BRT vehicles would be futuristic, and more like railcars than buses, a BRT vehicle presented to media at the fair looked...exactly like a bus! Inside and out, the vehicle resembled the Metro buses we ride all over the DC area today. Just how this would help overcome the lower ridership potential of buses versus rail was not explained.
I'm also curious - who paid to transport this vehicle to the fair, and for all of the display materials and signage? It would be very costly to do so. Was this lobbying by a company for the theoretical fleet contract? An organization (financially backed by whom?)? Or was it paid for by the taxpayers?
The media blitz contained no mention of the 155 homes and businesses that would be condemned between Olney and Wheaton alone to build the BRT line along Georgia Avenue. What would be condemned in Rockville and Bethesda for a line that duplicates the Red Line, and dumps downtown DC-bound commuters short of the DC-MD line?
Signage promoted "Rapid Transit" (note they dropped the "bus" part), but the vehicle screamed "bus." At a speed of 12 miles in 50 minutes, they may want to consider dropping the "Rapid" term, as well. While there was no indication of who paid for the BRT vehicle, there was also no indication of how the BRT system will be paid for.
Overall, there seems to be a much more compelling need to finance 8-car trains for Metro with some of the $5 billion that would be spent on BRT. We know Metro - as with rail transit in general - would have higher ridership than BRT. Increased capacity on the Red Line would be far more effective in accommodating current and future development in downtown Bethesda, and along Rockville Pike. It would also avoid the currently-planned seizure of automobile lanes for BRT, which would reduce auto capacity on that congested corridor by 33%.
Rail transit, and a new Potomac River crossing, would have far greater impact on economic development and job creation than BRT.