With Broward County’s population soon to reach 2 million, increased traffic congestion isn’t only inevitable, it’s imminent. A smart resolution will require a comprehensive rethinking of the county’s mass-transit system. As the county continues to grow at a rapid pace, moving commuters through the system using conventional local bus systems is no longer adequate. Transit systems must find viable ways to attract nontraditional riders by getting them to their destinations more quickly and safely if we hope to persuade them to leave their cars at home. Luckily, there are good solutions.
Across the country, cities and counties, including Broward County, are looking to “bus rapid transit” (BRT) concepts to relieve road congestion, reduce pollution and support economic development. In many ways, BRT is similar to rail-based commuter systems, but can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost and finished in a fraction of the time. Routes are laid out clearly and simply, and buses can be given priority in traffic to get riders to their destinations on a reliable schedule.
These systems offer riders additional services that increasingly make mass transit a viable alternative for commuters, including options such as off-board fare collection and/or automatic payments, which increase passenger convenience and save time; updated real-time communications about arrival and departure times; fewer overall stops but added stops at park-and-ride facilities; buses with lower floors for easier entry; and traffic-signal priority to give buses an advantage over regular traffic.
Development of BRT options also has been shown to deliver success in spurring economic redevelopment, as evidenced along many corridors in the country including the Euclid corridor in Cleveland where more than $4 billion in redevelopment has occurred, and along Boston’s Silver Line BRT, where the private sector has invested more than $700 million.
HNTB, a national infrastructure-solutions firm with offices throughout the state, recently has been involved in the planning and design of several BRT operations in Florida and across the country, including a study just completed for Miami-Dade Transit and the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization.
That project involves decreasing transit times in a 15-mile corridor along U.S. 1 from Aventura Mall to Downtown Miami.
One thing has become clear about the increased traffic on our highways: America must find alternative innovations to solve our growing congestion problems. We must embrace a new generation of proven mass transit concepts aimed at attracting drivers off our highways to keep America moving smoothly. Now is the time to implement BRT and enjoy quicker commutes, the use of low-emission vehicles, off-board fare collection and real-time information.
Broward County leaders continue to demonstrate forward thinking on mobility and transit issues, and we must now make sure residents throughout the region know the benefits that these initiatives will bring.
Albert Sosa, vice president,
HNTB Corporation, Miami