Thursday, February 23, 2012

Enhanced Bus / Bus Rapid Transit - A Vision for the Lehigh Valley Vol 4, Issue 5

LANta has a vision that the Lehigh Valley (LV) will profit from an Enhanced Bus/Bus Rapid Transit Plan. The first meeting of this Advisory Committee was held on December 14, 2011 and at that time the committee was presented with an overview of the Enhanced Bus/Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) study process. The input and guidance from this committee will ensure that the plan reflects the purpose and visualization of our community. The group will meet six times over the course of the next nine months, with a target of September 2012 for project completion.

The plan will build upon the recommendations of the Moving LANta Forward 12-year Strategic Plan. Two of the primary items that MLF accomplished were 1) a comprehensive examination of bus routes in the LV, and 2) establishing a regional cooperative framework for plan¬ning transit improvements in the LV, focusing on how to make the system more robust and how to provide a higher level of service along priority economic development corridors. The recent retooling of the system began the process of identifying priority routes know as the 100 series, this study will focus principally on how to enhance service on primary routes.

The consulting team of AECOM of New York, NY is the lead consultant on the project, Bill Ahlert of HDR Engineering in Bethlehem, PA is the land use planning consultant, and Chad Helmer of Taggart Associates of Bethlehem, PA is the outreach consultant. This study team outlined a number of study goals, key issues, overall approach and timeline of the study. The overall study process was reviewed with the members. Some of them are as follows.

• The study builds upon and advances of the MLF effort to define how best to implement enhanced bus and BRT services in the Lehigh Valley.
• The study will enhance the link between transit and land use in the LV.
• The overall approach will be to identify priority corridors for detailed analysis based on collaboration with municipal and regional planning officials, develop evaluation criteria, create conceptual Enhanced Bus/BRT service plans for these corridors, evaluate the plans versus criteria and develop a detailed plan for the highest ranking corridor. The study will ultimately serve as the Alternatives Analysis for a “Very Small Starts” funding application to the FTA.
• The study will include significant public involvement and stakeholder outreach programs.
• Traffic and land use data is currently being gathered for eight priority trunk corridors throughout the region. Evaluation criteria for these corridors will likely include ridership, adjacent/ nearby land uses, time travel reductions, reliability, implementability, capital and operating costs and environmental considerations.
• Possible enhancements to be considered include “low intensity” options such as new low-floor and/or articulated buses, improved passenger shelters, route modifications, limited stop and/or express services, traffic signal priority and intelligent transportation system applications. There will also be “high intensity” options such as dedicated bus lanes, enhanced bus stations, integrated transit oriented development and computer-assisted dispatching.

Plans will be evaluated using a triple bottom line approach (considering economic environ¬mental and social impacts) resulting in a sustainable return on investment. The final plan will include a transit plan, traffic plan, financial plan and implementation plan/schedule.

The second meeting of this committee will be held February 29, 2012 and at this time they will discuss the overall Enhanced Bus/BRT program goals. The discussion will also focus on how various potential Enhanced Bus and BRT corridors will be evaluated to prioritize them for future planning and enhancements. Committee members will provide input regarding the importance of each criteria to our community and how they should be weighted for the purpose of evaluation. The meeting will end with the next steps in the process being described and discussed.