by Daniel Adel : earthisland.org – excerpt
Light rail might have a certain cool cachet, but buses are the way to go
There has always been something romantic about trains. Think of the passenger rail of a century ago and you likely imagine classy sleeper coaches and fancy dining cars. Even the commuter rail of decades past – streetcars and interurbans – seems to possess a glamorous vibe. Maybe it’s just the fact that everyone dressed better back then, but once upon a time commuters rode in style.
Yet I wonder if our sentimentality for rail is keeping public transit stuck in the past. There seems to be a feeling that buses are “substandard” – second class – when compared to “genteel” rail. This is unfortunate – especially in an age in which mass transit funding is stalled. Our cultural bias for rail over busses is especially counterproductive given that, when we carefully examine the facts, buses are a smarter investment.
Just look at the successes of what’s called Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT…
Given that building a light rail system can cost up to 10 times as much as creating a BRT system, why are American cities still so focused on rail?… (more)