A new, regional rapid transit network (perhaps called “TransNOVA”) is the key to unlocking this market. It would connect existing and emerging activity centers with high quality transit, providing beleaguered commuters with new options and promoting economic activity and transit-oriented development. It would attract jobs and residents to communities throughout the region and, with the right land use policies in place, would bring people and jobs closer together.To be honest, when "bus" is used in the same sentence as "transit" I tend to ignore the word "rapid" that might be in between. I believe that many people may dismiss buses as a long-term solution as quickly as I do, based on past experiences. (My own is with UTS, and while I really liked the UTS guys, it's not really a model for running a transit authority.) Buses are often seen as dirty, loud, cramped and perhaps even "low-class."
TransNOVA would benefit the entire region. It would extend far beyond the current Metro service area, serving communities like Fredericksburg, Warrenton, Culpeper, Winchester, and Leesburg. It also would serve communities closer to the urban core, such as Fort Belvoir. At least 14 state Senate districts, 28 Delegate districts, and 5 Congressional districts would benefit.
Using technologies like bus rapid transit (BRT), TransNOVA could be high quality, cost-effective, and implemented quickly. Pilot BRT corridors could be operating in 2-3 years, with substantial investments added over time. In some corridors, such as the Beltway and I-95/395, private sector funding and toll revenues can be used to help pay for the service. - William Vincent, Bacon's Rebellion
But "BRT" is not metro buses or commuter buses, but something quite different. BRT can mean dedicated bus "lanes" which have more in common with light rail than HOV lanes on highways. BRT can mean "buses" which are more close to the terminal tram at airports than the things our children take to school. I think that more than half the problem with getting support for BRT has to do with the misperception of it. Check out, for example, this video of riding the Boston "Silver Line" which is actually BRT, but has the look, feel and use of the T.
Below is the second-half of a short film promoting BRT. I am posting the second half because it gets into the financial and political methods of getting these kinds of systems done. The first half can be found here.
It should be noted that Mr. Vincent himself is the one who posted these videos, and he gets paid to advocate for BRT. That being said, it is a pretty compelling answer to our future transportation needs. And Mr. Vincent himself has acknowledged that rail is an important option, albeit for the future.
Using BRT, TransNOVA could provide a level and quality of service, as well as an ability to attract transit-oriented development, comparable to that of rail transit. Over time, as ridership builds and more funding becomes available, investments in rail could be considered. - Bacon's RebellionSo the answer might be BRT as a path to heavy rail, not as a replacement for heavy rail.
There is already precedent for high-volume commuter buses in Loudoun, and there is some momentum for a regional rapid-transit answer for northern Virginia. In a time of tight budgets and expanding transportation needs, BRT should be part of the conversation about our transit future.