Removing BRT from the SPLOST doesn’t kill BRT. It just means that it shouldn’t be possible to use the SPLOST as the funding source for BRT. So Mr. Golden certainly provided a warning that GDOT does not care that Cobb taxpayers oppose the Cobb Parkway BRT project.
As recent letter writer, David Welden correctly pointed out, if Golden wants to make it look like he and Cobb County are conspiring to force Cobb taxpayers to pay for building the $500 million BRT boondoggle, it will give ammunition to SPLOST opponents to defeat the SPLOST.
According to AT, Golden told the MDJ that he likes BRTs in concept. “They (BRT) give you the flexibility to change the route if the one you’re using doesn’t make sense. It’s not like you have fixed rail and it doesn’t work.”
If Golden is talking about the same Cobb Parkway BRT project that Cobb County has been studying, then his statement is not correct.
Cobb is proposing to build a “fixed guideway.” This means that Cobb would build dedicated BRT lanes in which only the BRT would operate. And like rail, fixed guideway BRT doesn’t just stop at bus stops on the side of the street. Fixed guideway BRT stops at transit stations, which are also a built infrastructure.
Once all the “fixed” infrastructure is built, the BRT cannot be moved. “Fixed” means fixed-in-place.
The real reason that Cobb decided on BRT over light rail is because the Cobb Connect Alternatives Analysis projected that light rail would cost $3.6 billion to build and up to $30 million per year in operating and maintenance costs. Cobb realized it had no path for coming up with that much money for both the capital costs and the operating and maintenance costs.
So, Cobb settled on fixed guideway BRT, because it was still a fixed guideway, but less expensive than rail. Once Cobb builds the fixed guideway, and builds the transit stations, it is in fact like “fixed rail” in that it cannot be moved. Functionally, BRT is in fact more like rail than a regular bus.
(Others have proposed a concept of “arterial BRT,” in which BRT vehicles would operate in regular traffic lanes with other vehicles. That is not what Cobb has proposed, and arterial BRT would not require the accommodations that Golden discussed with AT.)
So, Golden’s claim that Cobb Parkway BRT would have the flexibility to change the route is wrong.
Golden told AT one thing I agree with. Cobb has been claiming that commuters will use BRT for their commute to and from work. I have repeatedly pointed out that BRT will provide a trip time that is too uncompetitive with driving and that few people would make that choice.
I have also repeatedly pointed out that the only form of transit that could get a lot more rush hour commuters out of their cars and into transit is when we could get the express buses operating in the new managed lanes.
So please note that AT reported that Golden said the express buses operating in the managed lanes would not be in competition with BRT, because these two forms of transit would serve different sets of people. Golden correctly acknowledged that longer distance rush hour commuters would be best served by the express buses operating in the managed lanes, and that Cobb Parkway BRT “would move people back and forth from stops along Cobb Parkway.”
I appreciate Golden acknowledging this point, but we already have CCT buses to “move people back and forth along Cobb Parkway.” Do Cobb taxpayers need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to luxurify existing Cobb Parkway transit service? And do Cobb taxpayers need to be on the hook for the $6 million annual operating and maintenance costs just to luxurify transit service in just this one corridor?
“Fixed guideway” transit spends hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to incentivize development on properties close to the planned transit stations. Is that what government needs to be spending our money on?
If we take incentivizing development of targeted parcels of private property out of the equation, we can improve transit service on Cobb Parkway at a tiny fraction of the cost of BRT.
Golden isn’t helping the SPLOST and he isn’t helping the taxpayers of Cobb County.
Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition. His views do not necessarily represent the views of CCCC.