All right, I've got a few minutes of computer time, so let's look at three stories from yesterday's Chron about the Metro plan changes. Here's a better look at what these Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) things are all about.
Las Vegas is one of a growing number of American communities embracing what transportation wonks call "bus rapid transit." It's a hybrid system that combines the flexibility and lower cost of bus travel with speed similar to train service. Another appealing aspect: The Federal Transportation Administration will provide start-up funds for bus rapid transit in an era when it questions the high cost of building rail.
On a recent weekday afternoon, MAX rider Mike Tamblyn, 38, was headed to work. He used to ride the old local bus along the same route to the downtown transit center, but says the service on MAX is much better.
"It's real quick. I can be home from work within an hour," Tamblyn said, adding that's half the time it took him on a traditional bus.
"Watch how quick this stop is," Tamblyn said as the MAX bus eased into the station. "There could be 15 people on the platform and they'd be on in no time."
A woman in a motorized cart was waiting at the station. The handicap ramp lowered in about 10 seconds, she rolled aboard, the driver helped her buckle in and the bus cleared the station in about a minute.
Bus driver Sigifredo Villa said he usually stops for about 30 seconds at each station. Because people buy their tickets from a vending machine, and are not required to show them when they board, they don't have to queue up at a fare box.
"We don't have to wait for people to dig for change," Villa said.
MAX is powered by a hybrid engine that automatically switches between electric and diesel. The buses include an automatic system that reads lines painted on the roadway to guide the vehicles as close as possible to the curb at stations built almost a foot off the ground. This allows passengers to enter the bus at the platform level, without stepping up.
Here's Metro explaining itself to the communities that are upset with the changes.
[Metro Vice Chairman Gerald] Smith told the audience of about 100, including several City Council members and legislators, that after Metro's board meeting Thursday several prominent residents — whom he described as "fully engaged" and "rather upset" — met with him and Metro staff.
"It's kind of awkward to be in this position. There were some things that probably could have been communicated better," Smith said.
He said the plan was changed to improve Metro's chances of getting federal dollars for future lines and that the guided buses would run on light rail roadbed, separately from cars, so that a changeover to rail could happen when ridership increases.
"The same type of infrastructure that was done for the Main Street line will be done in every single segment," he said. "This is not a regular bus. This is a million-dollar vehicle that looks like rail, operates like rail, and actually has more flexibility."
[Community of Faith Church Bishop James] Dixon apologized on behalf of Metro "that this community was not informed early on."
"This was a mistake," he said.
And finally, here's Rick Casey on the underlying politics.
One of the first things White did when he became mayor last year was to replace bad blood between Metro and the congressmen with new blood.
Metro President Shirley A. DeLibero, who had already announced her resignation when White assumed office, had never fully repaired her credibility after having been found to have falsely claimed two college degrees on her résumé.
White also replaced Metro Board Chairman Arthur Schechter, whose relations with Culberson were particularly strained.
Then White and the new Metro leadership, President Frank Wilson and Chairman David Wolff, set out to learn what it would take to get Culberson and DeLay on board.
The new plan dealt with DeLay's call for Metro to "think outside the box," and addressed cost concerns. The majority leader last August praised Metro after it scheduled a technology conference to explore alternatives to light rail.
And it is presumably no accident that the new plan includes commuter rail to Missouri City in DeLay's district, and out Highway 290 to Culberson's, and light rail to the Galleria, in Culberson's as well.