Journal of Public Transportation Article in Volume 10, Issue 1 by Richard Stanger
The new 14.2-mile Orange Line Busway opened in October 2005. Many aspects of the Orange Line’s design should be copied elsewhere: its attractive guideway and stations, state-of-the-art buses, proof-of-payment fare collection, and well-done environmental mitigations. On the other hand, a typical Orange Line bus trip catches about 11 red lights and waits up to nine minutes for them to change. Its end-to-end travel speed is 20 mph. The travel time is also compromised by a 25 mph speed restriction at all intersections and speed limits along other portions of the busway.
The lesson of the Orange Line to transit planners is that an at-grade busway will almost certainly not get signal preemption. This means it will not have the crossing gates that allow its buses to cross intersections at speed. Therefore, every other effort should be made to increase a busway’s travel speed through off-board fare collection, well-located platforms, minimal speed restrictions, and quick transferring to connecting services. A busway will be less expensive to build than a light rail alternative, but without signal preemption its travel speed will be significantly less.
A light rail alternative for the Orange Line would have had required crossing gates. Even if trains operated at the same lower speeds as buses within median rights-of way, they would have been much faster (29 mph) and offered a more stable ride quality. View the full article or the entire Journal issue.