Discrediting the Rapid Rail Messengers

By Stephen Kangal
January 12, 2007

Rapid RailArrogance and insensitivity continues to cloud what little judgment is left in Works Minister, Colm Imbert, in dealing with the increasing chorus of critics of his billion-dollar Trinidad Rapid Rail (TRRP) elephantine monstrosity. Imbert as a servant of the people must curb his penchant for discrediting and impugning the integrity of the TRRP messengers with the hope that their message will be ignored and seen as self-serving. Imbert and Manning are driven by objectivity. The rest of us in T&T are influenced by emotions especially when we disagree with their smelters and rail monstrosities.

These messengers from the JCC/APETT Team that appeared on CNC3 are calling for accountability, transparency and value-for-money concerns to be factored into Imbert’s adhocratic modus operandi in treating with the TRRP. They want a level playing field and not another Piarco feeding frenzy trough. In return Imbert brands them ” a special interest group” with “sectarian interest” bent on stopping his TRRP because their SNC Lavalin tender failed. He is always attributing an underlying motive to his detractors and not listening to their message.

I also have been the target of the venom and vitriol issued by Imbert. When I am finished with the prosecution of my case on the TRRP he will decline from a “douen” to a snail.

The more Imbert speaks in Parliament the more and more I am convinced that there is more in the TRRP mortar than the pestle. Is there a plane-train connection? With respect to the proposed route of the TRRP Imbert is a jumping jack going from the CRH (Senate 17 Nov. Statement) to the PBR (after the floods) and now back to the CRH (House Statement of 15 Dec.).

Imbert relies almost exclusively for his pro-TRRP justification on the advice of discredited rail consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB). They were fired for conflict of interest because of having secretive Bombardier connections. He fails to mention that Bombardier is also part of the Vinci Consortium, one of the two French bidders that will get the TRRP contract.

Is it not strange that two years after the foolish closure of the Trinidad Government Railways (TGR) by the PNM in 1965, a 1967 Transport Study recommended the restoration of the rail option and Imbert has the gall to say so. Will the PNM now re-introduce the sugar industry when it realizes its folly in the context of the ethanol/cellulose cash cow factors?

I am completely flabbergasted that no where in all his vaunted discourses does Imbert acknowledge the critical role that the Victor George’s privately owned Route Two Maxi-Taxis play as the principal mode of mass transit in the East-West Corridor at present? They do not figure at all in his future transport plans even though they have bailed out Government for years. For him these small business entrepreneurs do not exist because there is no room for kick-backs and corruption. He will cast them aside for his mega- TRRP. NIDCO, the executing state enterprise has no previous project management experience in the TRRP and is groping in the dark on the TRRP as is Minister Imbert.

According to Imbert, an hour’s journey today (by what means he does not say) along the CRH and the Butler Highway will in 2012 take 40 minutes and 20 minutes in 2015. An hour’s journey in peak time today will take you at present from Curepe Roundabout to the Uriah Intersection along the CRH and from the Sanctuary Flyover to the CRH along the Butler. What is Imbert telling us? What is the TRRP connection?

He also assured that express trains would cover the Arima-POS journey in 28 minutes. You cannot run express and local trains simultaneously on two tracks. Talk about lie, Imbert, that is a small-island white lie!

Why does not Imbert build the Southern Link Expressway to divert eastbound traffic away from the CRH and the PBR on the north or south banks of the Caroni River and solve our traffic gridlock. This can be done without any interference with the existing traffic situation. This will cause traffic going to Curepe and further eastwards to use this new route. It will also serve as an express route to and from the Airport.

He now discredits the Expressway by saying that it will cost $3bn and take nine years to build because of the need for environmental clearances. Why not add the fourth lane to the CRH eastbound and simultaneously build the Southern Link Expressway because while you build over-passes at the Aranguez and El Socorro intersections the existence of intersections east of the proposed Interchange will still continue to create the gridlock. Imbert is exaggerating the problems with the Freeway to justify his TRRP that also needs major environmental impact assessment studies and widespread stakeholder consultations.

There are no immediate and viable solutions to mitigate and reduce the Westbound POS- Lighthouse traffic gridlock except Governmental decentralistion of its offices. The PNM will never support this because their proverbial navel strings are buried in the POS Savannah in many ways that protect and promote the “divine right- to- rule monopoly of the center over the neglected periphery.”

3 Responses to “Discrediting the Rapid Rail Messengers”


  • I agree with Mr. Kangal that no proper feasibility study was done as is reflected by Imberts changing his story about the actual route of the RRS. Also the Ministry’s change in the total costs of the RRS to almost half based on the “going with the middle ground” of the costs in N. America and that of Asia shows a total lack of planning.

    But the Southern Link Expressway mentioned in this article which Mr Kangal seems to be in favor of is equally lacking in merit. What study was done for the Expressway? The fact is there are too many bottlenecks on the roads of T&T so to bypass the CHR via the Expressway will only allow the bottlenecks to be congested even faster than they are now. The Expressway will make people go from point A to point C to get to point B. It will make people who live North go South before getting home – a waste of fuel and a toll on the environment. (Didn’t Mr Kangal’s last article complain about the Environmental impact of a RRS?)

    Neither do we have room to widen all the roads unless the gov’t plans of aquiring every private property along the main roads. A system must be put in place to reduce the amount of cars on the roads. A RRS is one way, so is a reliable bus service and encouraging people to car pool by having car pool only lanes or even elevated Freeways.

    Getting 1,000 or 10,000 cars into POS fast does not solve the problem of traffic and parking in POS. If I know I can catch a train from Arima to POS and get there in 20-30 mins at rush hour and not have to worry about parking or getting my car towed or stolen I would take the train.

  • Bus Rapid Transit for Trinidad and Tobago?
    Every weekday, mornings and afternoons represent an inescapable challenge for persons trying to get into and out of the city of Port of Spain. “What the hell to do about the traffic, wasted time and crazy driving?” We seem to be fast approaching the point where there will be more vehicles than available road space. The taxis seem to disappear during peak periods, the maxis are driven crazily and more often than not drop passengers off at Curepe on mornings, and the bus company, PTSC, although finally getting its act together, certainly at present is incapable of dealing with the situation.
    As part of its Vision 20/20 the Government plans to spend millions of dollars to deliver a Tram? Subway? Monorail? Light Rail? Rapid Rail? Nobody seems sure at this point. What is to become of the Priority Bus Route? Trams, Subways, Monorails, and Lightrails have three major drawbacks in our current setting. Firstly the cost is daunting. Secondly, because they require special infrastructure, the implementation time from decision to first phase delivery is at least 28 months. Thirdly, any plan that, during construction will cause the Priority Bus route to be out of use during rush hours will result in untold chaos!
    The faster and less expensive alternative is a revitalised PTSC-run Bus Rapid Transit solution using a guided busway from Port of Spain to Sangre Grande and Curepe to San Fernando along the former Trinidad Government Railway Line.
    BRT as a traffic solution?
    Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a broad term given to a variety of different transportation systems, that, through infrastructural and scheduling improvements, attempt to use buses to provide a service that is of a higher quality than an ordinary bus line. Each BRT system utilizes different improvements, although many improvements are shared by many BRT systems. The goal of such systems is to at least approach the service quality of rail transit while still enjoying the cost savings of bus transit. The expression “BRT” is mainly used in North America. Elsewhere, one may speak of Quality Bus or simply Bus service while raising the quality.
    “Bus rapid transit” takes part of its name from “Rapid Transit” which describes a high-capacity rail transport system with its own right-of-way, its alignment often being elevated or running in tunnels, and typically running long trains on short routes of a few minutes. Because of the name similarity one tends to associate the merits of “Rapid Transit” also with the newer “BRT” expression.
    The BRT term encompasses a broad variety of modes, including those known or formerly known as Express Buses, Commuter Express Buses, Limited & Non Stop Buses, Limited Busways and Rapid Busways.

    What makes a BRT?
    These bus systems can come in a variety of different forms, from dedicated busways that have their own rights-of-way, to bus services that utilize ‘ Hire Only Vehicle’ lanes and dedicated freeway lanes to limited and non stop buses on pre-existing routes.
    An ideal Bus Rapid Transit Service would be expected to include some or all of the following features:
    • High-frequency, all-day service: Like other forms of rapid transit, BRT serves a diverse all-day market. Commuter Express Buses that run only during rush hours are not Bus Rapid Transit.
    • Bus-dedicated, grade-separated right-of-way: Right-of-way may be separated from all other traffic and dedicated to bus use. Such right of way may sometimes be elevated.
    • Bus lanes: A lane on an urban arterial or city street is reserved for the exclusive or near-exclusive use of buses.
    • Bus signal preference and preemption: Preferential treatment of buses at intersections can involve the extension of green time or actuation of the green light at signalized intersections upon detection of an approaching bus. Intersection priority can be particularly helpful when implemented in conjunction with bus lanes or streets, because general-purpose traffic does not intervene between buses and traffic signals.
    • Traffic management improvements: Low-cost infrastructure elements that can increase the speed and reliability of bus service include increased bus turnouts, bus boarding islands, and curb realignments.
    • Level boarding: Many BRT systems also use low floor buses (or high level platforms with standard floor buses) to speed up passenger boarding and enhance accessibility. Low floor buses offer better access to all passengers, including wheelchair users and pushchairs (like all parts of the bus, spaces in these areas are apt to be on a first come first served basis). Low floor buses should initially be allocated to the most popular services and those routes which carry most passengers, eventually expanding to other routes where practicable. Low-floor buses’, passenger compartment have a floor which is considerably lower than that of traditional models. A recent development in the transport industry, vehicles of this type have a stepless entry and usually have an area without seating next to at least one of the doors where wheelchairs can be parked. In addition to improving accessibility, low floors also allow fully-mobile passengers to board more quickly, and in some cases can produce improvements in overall speeds.

    • Improved riding quality with guided buses.
    • Increased capacity: Articulated, bi-articulated and or double decker buses.
    A BRT system may have a dedicated roadway in areas where traffic congestion is greatest or to bypass mixed traffic to reach the central business district (or “downtown”), but also utilizes existing highways and roadways where traffic is lighter to reduce costs. Optimally, such routes offer advantages over regular bus service with greater service frequency, increased capacity, and higher speed. BRT systems with an exclusively used right-of-way offer the prospect of a more comfortable ride than a normal bus immersed in stop-and-go traffic.
    The key argument in favor of BRT systems is that they can provide a quality of service similar to light rail or rapid transit systems, but at greatly reduced capital investment in vehicles and right-of-way. Key to this assumption is the utilization of existing streets, so that capital costs in these areas are only for the vehicles themselves and additional street furniture required for operation. Road maintenance costs are often not attributed to the bus service.
    BRT can be faster to implement and more affordable, flexible, and appropriate in scale than light rail. Buses also have a great deal of flexibility and can easily be rerouted when necessary.
    The possibility of incremental construction and implementation means that a BRT system can be easily tailored to meet the specific transportation needs and opportunities within individual neighborhoods and transportation corridors.
    In addition, bus rapid transit is often linked with intelligent transportation systems (ITS), and can involve special buses that control traffic signals, smart card systems, automatic vehicle location, dynamic message signs, and guided busways.
    Bus Rapid Transit Systems are currently in operation in Calgary, Halifax, Quebec, Montreal, Ontario, British Columbia, Mexico City, Albuquerque, Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Oregon, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minnesota, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Seattle, Bogotá Colombia, Florianópolis & Curitiba Brazil, Santiago Chile, Barquisimeto& Mérida Venezuela, Lima Peru, Taipei, Hangzhou & Beijing China, Jakarta Indonesia, Nagoya, Japan, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane & Perth Australia, Auckland New Zealand, Nantes France, Schiphol & Eindhoven The Netherlands, London, Bradford, Plymouth, Berkshire Dorset, York, Ipswich, Leeds, Manchester, Colchester, Oldham, Northampton, Glasgow, Leicester and Crawley, in the UK.
    Bus Rapid Transit systems share many of the benefits of conventional bus and rail systems but also have a number of unique benefits.

    For the transportation system and the State:

    • A potentially less expensive transit alternative – Depending on the specific system design, BRT capital costs are lower than light rail systems with similar capacity and service level.

    • A quicker solution : Based on a combination of design, construction, and cost factors, BRT systems can often be brought online faster than comparable rail systems. Also, because BRT systems can be implemented in stages as demand grows and funds become available, they offer an opportunity for incremental system development.

    • An opportunity to take advantage of underutilized rights-of-way – Like light rail, BRT systems can take advantage of existing rights-of-way and areas for stations to maximize the efficiency of transportation solutions and minimize community and environmental impacts.

    • Community enhancements and economic development – Accompanied by complementary land use and zoning policies, BRT systems can encourage compact, pedestrian and transit-friendly developments that are integrated into the surrounding area.

    • Environmental stewardship opportunities – Through the use of clean and alternative fuel vehicles and the reduction in automobile traffic and congestion, BRT systems can help achieve air quality and other environmental goals.

    • Operating flexibility – Depending on the system design, BRT systems offer operational flexibility generally not afforded by rail systems, such as the ability to temporarily re-route BRT vehicles from dedicated lanes to general traffic lanes based on system conditions. And, BRT can operate express and all stop service on the same running way by having bypass lanes at stations.

    • A means to increase transit ridership in select corridors – By making high-quality transit service more accessible and customer-friendly, BRT has the potential to increase overall transit ridership. It also can work as an impetus to increase ridership on other parts of the transit system.

    Principles of Bus Rapid Transit

    • Move people as effectively as rail at a significantly lower initial capital cost and shorter implementation period.
    • Fully utilize existing roadways, rights-of-way, and station sites.
    • Take advantage of available technology (e.g., automatic vehicle location, passenger information, signal priority, and “Smart Card” type fare collection.)
    • Apply incremental system development, based on demand and funding.
    • Maximize operating flexibility
    • Change the mindset for bus transit from conventional bus fleet operations to state-of-the-art transit systems that are convenient, reliable, attractive, and comfortable.

    Components of a Bus Rapid Transit System

    A BRT system combines flexible service and new technologies to improve customer convenience and reduce delays. While specific BRT applications vary, the components may include:

    (A) Running Ways. Exclusive guideways or dedicated lanes that allow BRT vehicles to be free of conflicting automobile traffic, parked or stopped vehicles, and other obstructions thus maximizing BRT operating speeds. In some situations, BRT vehicles also may operate in general traffic, trading speed and reliability for flexibility. “Queue jumper” is a term that refers to short exclusive lanes at signalized intersections that are used to allow BRT vehicles to jump to the head of the line and bypass stopped automobiles and traffic. A fast and reliable travel time – When operating in exclusive running ways or dedicated lanes, BRT systems can run at faster speeds than conventional buses in regular traffic and even as fast as light rail. By offering frequent service and avoiding traffic-related delays, BRT systems can provide riders with a more reliable travel time. Critical planning and design parameters include the ability to safely support rapid, reliable service, with convenient boarding and alighting.

    (B) Vehicles – modern, low-floor, high capacity rubber-tired vehicles that accommodate high volumes of riders and fast boarding and exiting. This may include articulated and bi articulated buses.BRT vehicles often use clean fuels or alternative power. For a more enjoyable trip BRT systems generally use rubber-tired, low-floor vehicles with wide doorways and aisles that are easy to board and comfortable to ride. In some instances, BRT vehicles are designed to provide premium seating and amenities such as those found on a commuter train.

    (C) Stations – Farther apart than local bus stops. They range from protected shelters to large transit centers. BRT stations are located within the communities they serve and provide real time passenger information, easy access to pedestrians and feeder services.

    (D) Route Structure and Schedule – established to maximize direct, no-transfer rides to multiple destinations and to create more flexible and continuous service for local and express bus service. An easier commute – By providing frequent service into neighborhoods and commercial areas, BRT systems can minimize walking and reduce the need for transfers from one mode to another (e.g., from bus to rail or automobile to bus or rail). BRT systems typically have frequent, all day service. The routes are direct and easy to understand, maximizing directness and minimizing transfers. They services are integrated with, not a replacement for, existing local bus services. In a typical BRT system there are a variety of express, limited-stop, non stop and local service options.

    (E) Fare Collection – designed to make it fast and easy to pay, often before boarding the vehicle, BRT fare collection systems include the use of self-service proof-of-payment systems or pre-paid stored-value fare cards, such as a “Smart Card” system. Pre-boarding fare collection systems provide quick and easy access for commuters.

    (F) Advanced Technology – the use of advanced technologies (or Intelligent Transportation Systems) to improve customer convenience, speed, reliability, and safety. Examples include systems that provide traffic signal preference for buses at intersections and cross streets, as well as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to provide passenger information such as real-time bus arrival information.

    Irrespective of how these elements are put together, all BRT systems emphasize speed, reliability and identity. These features help BRT systems’ serve passengers faster, more reliably and attract new riders from cars.
    What is a Guided Bus or Guided Busway anyway?
    A guided busway is a specially constructed, dedicated bus lane, the width of one bus, along which specially adapted buses can travel. The unique design of the busway prohibits its use by other vehicles meaning the bus has a clear road ahead. This helps the bus keep to the timetable, avoid getting caught in congestion hotspots, and gets its passengers where they need to be, comfortably safely and on time. The road is only built for specially fitted buses. Once entering the busway, the additional horizontal guide bearings fitted to the front (and sometimes rear) wheels steer the bus and keep it inside its track comparable to a train on a railway line. Thus motorists in standard cars will have significant trouble staying on the tracks if they attempt to drive on it. Upon entering a bus station, the driver must regain control of the steering, however he only needs to align the bus back onto the tracks to continue the journey. The busway has been a success as it shaves a considerable amount of time off a commuter’s travel time especially during peak periods
    How does the Guided Busway work?
    Guided buses are buses steered for part of, or the entire route by external means, usually on a dedicated track. This track, which often parallels existing roads, excludes all other traffic, permitting the maintenance of reliable schedules on heavily used corridors even during rush hours. Buses using the busway are fitted with small ‘guide wheels’ located immediately in front of the normal front bus wheels, and these engage vertical kerbs on either side of the track way. Away from the busway the guided bus behaves like any other bus with the driver using the steering wheel in the normal way. The start of the guideway is funneled from a wide track to the normal width. As the bus approaches the start of the busway the driver guides the bus into the special trackway. The guide wheels take over, guiding the bus along. At the end of the busway special traffic lights give the bus priority signal to rejoin the normal road. The trackway allows for high-speed operation (up to 115 km/h) on a narrow guideway. Leapfrogging traffic in this way can cut up to 10 minutes off normal journey times and even more in traffic peak periods.

    Only a few examples currently exist, but more are proposed in various countries. The longest guided busway in the world is the O-Bahn Busway route in Adelaide, South Australia, which has been operating quite successfully since the mid 1980s. In search of an alternative to light rail, the Australian authorities sent experts to examine an innovative guided bus system being developed in West Germany by Daimler-Benz for use in Essen, to enable buses to avoid traffic congestion. After extensive consultations with German authorities, State Transport Department engineers decided the O-Bahn could be used. The system was seen as far superior to previous proposals as it used less land, made less noise, was faster and cost less. In addition, its unique feature of a non-transfer service direct from suburban streets to the city centre made it more attractive.
    The design is fairly unique among public transport systems. Busways typically use dedicated bus lanes or separate carriageways, but the O-Bahn runs on specially built track, combining elements of both bus and rail systems. Interchanges allow buses to enter and exit the busway and to continue on suburban routes, avoiding the need for passengers to transfer. Buses travel at a maximum speed of 115 km/h, and that busway is capable of carrying 18,000 passengers an hour.
    In the case of breakdowns, a specially designed vehicle nicknamed ‘Dumbo’ is used to tow buses from the O-Bahn. In the early stages of design it was intended that all buses would have towing ability; however, this was soundly rejected by the drivers’ union and ‘Dumbo’ was purchased. If a bus tyre blows during a trip the guide-wheel prevents the bus from erratic movement, and a smaller aluminum inner tyre allows the bus to be driven to the nearest station at 40 km/h.
    The guide-wheel, which protrudes from the front sides and aligns with the track, is the most important part of the bus when travelling on the O-Bahn. Connected directly to the steering mechanism, it ‘steers’ the bus while on the track and prevents the main tyres from rubbing against the sides of the track. While it is not strictly necessary for drivers to hold the steering wheel when travelling on the O-Bahn because of the guide-wheel, safety procedures require the driver to be alert to their circumstances at all times. A rumble strip before stations is a reminder that they need to resume control. The guide-wheel is the most delicate part of the system and is designed to snap off upon sharp impact. Can this be applied to our circumstances? This kind of system is now in Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Manaus in Brazil, Bogota in Colombia and Leon in Mexico, where the majority of the buses are Volvos. BRT systems have also started, or are planned, in New Delhi, India, Jakarta, Indonesia Beijing and Shanghai, China, Mexico City and Santiago, Chile.

    If the concept of Bus Rapid Transit with Kerb Guided Buses is to be successful then quite a few things have to be in place.
    • Frequency on the schedule must be given priority. Passengers should not be made to wait more than ten minutes during peak and no more than 20 during off peak.
    • Schedules have to be tailored to the needs of passengers and not the other way around.
    • Once a schedule is posted it must be adhered to.
    • Definitely more buses would be required to be bought and outfitted with guide wheels. But what kind of buses?
    • Low entry/low floor buses for faster boarding and ease for the elderly and disabled.
    • The buses must be comfortable so that passengers would want to continue traveling.
    • The units also need to be large enough to move a significant volume of passengers, especially during peak. So articulated and bi articulated are recommended.
    • Can we consider the use of double decker buses? Do we have the infrastructure in place for them?
    • Shelters need to be constructed at stops to protect passengers from the elements while they wait.
    • Slightly raised platforms/pavements at stops to facilitate level boarding of buses.
    • Attention also needs to be placed on bus maintenance to avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience of breakdowns.
    • The re introduction of Express, Limited Stop and Non Stop services, especially during peak/rush hour.

    Arguments Against (BRT) Bus Rapid Transit and Guided Buses

    Opponents of Bus Rapid Transit initiatives argue that BRT is not an effective replacement for light rail or subway services. They argue that in order for BRT to have greatest effect, it must have its own right-of-way requiring space and often construction costs. In many cases, BRT does not, and shares the road with cars and other local buses. Buses run on an ordinary road surface, hence it is more difficult for BRT to claim exclusive street use. As a result, BRT operating in mixed traffic is subject to the same congestion, delays, and jarring and swaying rides as do ordinary city buses. Furthermore, signal priority systems, which are often the sole factor differentiating BRT from regular limited-stop bus service, might cause severe disruptions to traffic flow on major cross streets. Opponents argued that this merely redistributes, rather than reduces, the traffic congestion problems that BRT systems are designed to alleviate. On the other hand, many light rail systems also utilize signal priority system and railroad-style crossing gates to speed up service as well, and in the same time both BRT and light rail get more persons across a road junction than car traffic. So what’s the point?
    International transit studies confirm many benefits of BRT including increased ridership, reduced vehicle emissions, improved reliability, improved customer satisfaction. Analysis of transit supportive signal timing and the transit signal priority system that supports the service confirmed an improvement in travel times and reliability for all vehicles with negligible impact to regular traffic.
    Some South American systems (Curitiba, Brazil) claim capacity in the order of 40,000 passengers per hour per direction, levels that are consistent with some heavy rail, metro systems. Similarly, many more modest BRT systems operate with daily ridership that equals or exceeds that of light rail systems in other cities
    When a dedicated roadway is only available for part of the bus journey the BRT system is still subject to traffic congestion. But even then trip time is cut by the time saved on the busway. If more people used the bus service wouldn’t there be less traffic?
    As with truck traffic, heavy bus traffic with its high axle-load causes significant wear and tear of the road surface, and regular investment is required to maintain quality. This is a particular problem for guided busways, bus stops and similar situations where the wheels always pass exactly over the same spot. Trains and trams require specialized track maintenance also.
    Compared to standard bus service, BRT systems with dedicated right-of-way and thus an increased average transport speed can provide more passenger-miles with the same number of rolling stock and personnel. They also offer the prospect of a more fluent ride than a normal bus immersed in stop-and-go traffic.
    On a single route basis, the capacity of BRT and normal buses is smaller compared to tram (light rail, train) and rapid transit (metro, mass transit). Typical buses carry 70 passengers, articulated buses 130 passengers, and bi articulated buses 200 passengers. The maximum length for a street-running tram (in Germany) is 75 metres (about 250 feet). Metro trains can be 240 m (about 800 feet) long. With similar dwell times in stations the capacity scales with the length. However, many BRT systems (such as ours) are based on multiple bus routes sharing a common dedicated busway to bypass congestion, especially to/from the central business districts. In this form, the BRT system passenger capacity is limited only by vehicle capacity. (Cant we use biarticulated 200 passenger buses?) As buses can operate at headways as low as 10 seconds between vehicles (compared to at least one minute headways for rail vehicles), actual busway capacity can reach passenger rail capacities. At the high end, the Lincoln Tunnel XBL bus lane carries 62,000 commuters in the 4 hour morning peak, more than any Light Rail Line.
    The typical diesel engine on the bus causes noticeable levels or air pollution, noise and vibrations. Compare to the number of private cars and maxis used to transport the same amount of passengers.
    In contrast to BRT, both light rail and rapid transit require the placement of rails for the whole line. Rail tends to provide a smoother ride and is known to attract significantly higher passenger numbers than road-based systems. An advantage of BRT, however, is that its maintenance facilities can be located anywhere, whereas for rail there must be a facility for each separate line.
    BRT also suffers from image problems associated with buses. Some argue they do not attract the ridership of rail lines. Quite often buses of any kind are far less attractive to choice riders who could drive automobiles but prefer transit for certain trips because of speed, convenience and comfort often found in light rail and subway systems. Bus systems suffer not only from poorer speed and ride quality, but from the perception of buses as a social accommodation, a means of transportation used by those who have no other choice. And that’s probably why robberies and muggings don’t ever take place on buses in this country. Modern buses currently in use in Trinidad feature, airconditioning, airplane type seats, music and DVD players.
    All types of people use trains. It has the potential to capture a large number of travellers. Buses have a negative image of being mainly used by the poor, elderly, schoolchildren and women. Very few male professionals use buses regularly. And that’s probably why robberies and muggings don’t ever take place on our buses.
    Buses are less comfortable than trains. Steel wheel on steel rail can give a very smooth ride. The lack of reliability and difference in comfort mean that people will give up their cars to travel by trains but they will not easily switch from cars to buses. Modern buses currently in use in Trinidad feature, airconditioning, airplane type seats, music and DVD players.
    Assuming that guided buses can be shown to work from an engineering standpoint, are they more effective than conventional diesel buses operating on busways or in dedicated lanes? Yes. Nothing besides buses will be able to use the particular road. Our current, unguided Priority Bus Route with all types of vehicles and endless morning traffic should be proof enough.
    What is the advantage of guided buses compared to conventional diesel buses operating on a dedicated or limited access traffic lane? The answer: The guided bus is faster, smoother, safer and more comfortable than a conventional diesel bus operating in a dedicated lane. It also has the advantage of being able to run on any route. Guided busways offer the advantages of light rail at lower cost. Guided bus systems use adapted conventional buses to run on a dedicated guideway. The buses can operate normally on normal roads.
    In order for busways to run as safely as trains, a number of additional features would be required such as level crossing protection, signalling and radio control involving rigorous safety checks will be required. Won’t rail or trams require the same?
    Busways have two important drawbacks. Freight cannot be carried, unlike railways which can carry freight to numerous industrial areas. Do subways, maxis and trams carry freight?
    Second, the use of buses involves more pollution overall and particularly at the point of use. Furthermore, railways can be electrified to use electricity from power stations where pollution is more easily controlled at source. Rely on T&TEC for transport too? What about power failures, rate increases or strikes?
    The guided bus shares the train’s ability to run on a segregated route away from other traffic. Its single advantage over the train is its ability to go on the public roads as well, so that (like a bus) people can board and alight at more locations.
    Trains and trams offer mainline service only, most passengers will have to change vehicle at stations. The Bus offers 1 ticket, 1 seat ride and can make national journeys without changing vehicle. Persons in Trincity, Bon Air, Maloney and La Horquetta will have to travel to meet the train. In many cases the same buses that people oppose will have to act as feeders to the rail. Whilst people may need to drive to a railway station, or even take a bus to it, the guided bus theory says they can get to their final destination using just one bus virtually from their doorstop.
    Increased number of passengers on trains does not increase journey time. Assuming there is no conductor, and just a single door (like most buses), every extra passenger boarding and alighting slows down the bus. What about using Ltd Stop & Non Stop buses then?
    The reason for the BRT system’s success is that it is very cost-effective. The alternative is often the subway. Investment costs for a BRT system are up to 9 times less than the metro and operational costs are 50 per cent less. The BRT system, with dedicated / guided bus lanes, achieves the same passenger capacity and is often just as fast. The advantage with the bus solution is that bus stops can be closer together than on the metro and there are often more terminals where people can change routes.

  • Franklyn, that was a well researched article. You laid out both the pros and cons and explained in detail what the BRT is. As opposed to simply saying the RRS is a waste of time and “my idea better.”

    That is why a proper study must be done. You comment was much more intelligent than all of the articles on this Blog relating to the RRS and done by people whose areas of expertise clearly has nothing to do with mass transit.

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