This article in The Atlantic Cities discusses the growing popularity of bus rapid transit systems around the world as well as the benefits of such systems. Bus rapid transit is much cheaper to build than subways or light rails and it is hard to imagine they are significantly slower than these other forms of transportation. Along with being cheaper to build, buses are cheaper to manage than subways or light rails. It is cheaper to fix a decaying road or broken bus engine than to send people into a subway to fix a track or to replace expensive light rail machinery. Furthermore, bus rapid transit is time efficient. Living in Boston, I’ve spent hours and hours in total time trucking up and down stairs to enter and exit the subway system, whereas I can simply walk onto a bus.
However, bus rapid transit may not be alluring to people because of the stigma attached to buses - buses are cheap, outdated forms of transportation. While this may be a concern, it doesn’t appear to be a major obstacle - Cleveland and many other cities have thriving rapid bus transit systems.
Bus rapid transit seems perfectly suited for Jacksonville, FL. Jacksonville is the biggest city in the nation in terms of land-size, making the city’s transportation system extremely important. However, public transportation is an oft-cited concern for many residents. To get around the city in a timely manner, people need a car. This dynamic holds Jacksonville back - it makes the city feel out of touch and is not conducive to intermingling and a sharing of ideas. A solution is needed and that solution appears to be bus rapid transit.
In addition to not having spare funding to take on a costly endeavor like building a city-wide light rail or subway, Jacksonville is located in a state that is at sea-level. Thus, a subway is unlikely a realistic possibility. However, the city does have great road infrastructure. This infrastructure can be leveraged to cheaply build an effective bus rapid transit system.
Recently, Jacksonville started developing a bus rapid transit and should be applauded for doing so. Other cities with similar characteristics may be wise to do the same.