It's like light rail light.
COTA officials hope to introduce Bus Rapid Transit to the region in 2016 along the Cleveland Avenue corridor connecting downtown Columbus with the Northland area and beyond.
"It's not a rail line, but it imitates rail service in a lot of ways," Doug Moore, COTA's vice president of planning and development, told the Northland Community Council last week.
The website of the National BRT Institute, part of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, describes Bus Rapid Transit as an integrated system that uses "buses or specialized vehicles on roadways or dedicated lanes to quickly and efficiently transport passengers to their destinations, while offering the flexibility to meet transit demand."
Bus Rapid Transit along Cleveland Avenue would shave seven to 10 minutes off the commute time from the end of the line in Westerville to downtown Columbus, according to Moore. This would be accomplished by cutting down on the number of stops while also giving the buses "signal preemption" capabilities -- getting a green light to last a little longer or switching more quickly from red so the transit vehicle keeps moving.
The thinking behind this, Moore added, is that getting 40 people on a bus to their destination faster is more important than the interests of a lone motorist.
Existing bus service along Cleveland Avenue to all the current stops would not be discontinued, he said. He pointed out that a BRT line in Kansas City, Mo., proved to be so successful with passengers that the merely local service was eliminated.
He expressed some confidence that the proposal to bring Bus Rapid Transit to this region would meet the criteria established by the Federal Transit Administration and eventually would receive 80-percent funding toward the approximately $39.4 million project from the agency.
"We expect to get a letter approving the project in November, December," Moore said.
Funding approval would then be announced in February, he added.
The money would be used to purchase approximately 13 buses, which would be "branded" to stand out from regular ones, as well as construction upgraded shelters that would display arrivals in real time.
"We expect it to be a success and then to duplicate it in other corridors," Moore said. "You guys are getting it first."
The fare for Bus Rapid Transit service, which would mostly end at the Columbus Square Shopping Center with a few lines going farther north, would be the same as for local buses. Current plans, Moore said, call for using regular buses on the enhanced lines, but Columbus City Council has provided approval for possible use of articulated buses with increased passenger capacity.