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Technology aids development of public transportation

Andy Tucker / flickr

Cities across the United States are completing and planning improvements to their public transportation systems. These improvements are efforts by metropolitan transit agencies, in concert with local, state and federal governments, to relieve congestion on city streets and provide a transportation alternative that will save money for individual citizens and reduce fuel usage.

The federal government pumps billions of dollars each year into public transportation improvements. Local and state sources provide funding, too. The improvements include bus, streetcar and light-rail projects.

There has been significant growth of late in bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. Whereas traditional pubic bus routes involve a lot of stop-and-go, BRT run more like a train, oftentimes following a dedicated route with far fewer stops. A BRT gets passengers to their destination much quicker.

Rapid growth globally

BRT has grown by 383 percent in the past decade, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a New York-based interest group. But much of the growth has occurred outside the U.S., primarily in China and Brazil.

In the United States, BRT growth has come at a slower pace, but the lower cost may make the lines a more attractive alternative for cities and local governments facing growing traffic congestion and constrained budgets. BRT capital costs generally are 30 to 60 percent of the cost of light rail, the group claims.

Orange Line in Twin Cities

One example of a proposed BRT project is Metro Transit’s Orange Line in Minneapolis. The $150 million project is designed to alleviate traffic on Interstate 35W, one of Minnesota’s busiest transportation corridors. Buses would run in a 17-mile dedicated lane from Burnsville to downtown Minneapolis, initially serving approximately 14,000 commuters a day. That number is expected to grow to more than 26,000 by 2040.

BRT generally have sleeker-looking buses that mimic light-rail trains. Payment is made in advance, stations are more elaborate than regular bus stops, and service is provided more frequently. The Orange Line, for example, is expected to run every 10 minutes at peak times, and every 15 minutes during the midday and on weekends. The ride would be 55 percent faster than Metro Transit’s current express bus that runs along the same route.

Project challenges

While there are clear advantages to a BRT system, there can be challenges as well. Development of a dedicated lane is one of the biggest challenges. If the existing highway corridor cannot accommodate an additional lane, then the corridor must be widened. While such a project carries substantial expense, the cost can be greatly reduced through utilization of technological advancements that standardize processes and increase efficiencies.

Widening the highway is a major undertaking that first requires tracking and acquisition of right of way. In the past, completing right of way work on a project of that magnitude required many days in the county courthouse and in the field, meeting and negotiating with property owners.

Web-based software

Web-based software operated through a centralized database allows organizations to manage right-of-way projects and land assets in a real-time, paperless environment that enables collaboration, efficiency and error reduction. The software runs paperless reports on the progress of the right-of-way project. The Web-based platform allows field agents to access and upload project information and updates on mobile devices.

GIS mapping delivers an integrated geospatial view of the project area. It provides information on utility crossings. That information can be useful should utility infrastructure have to be relocated.

The software also assists in siting and development of new facilities along the BRT route. The organization would have a Web-based tool to track all of its facilities and bus fleet and manage regular inspections and maintenance through automated reminders.

Want to learn more about how Web-based software can benefit your public transportation organization? Visit or call 614-389-4871. Or, schedule a demonstration to see our product in action.

Dan Liggett is Communications and Public Relations Consultant for geoAMPS, a company in the Columbus, OH area that specializes in software solutions to manage land rights and infrastructure assets.

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