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Controversies Compared: Rail vs. Bus Rapid Transit

A common perception says that rail is the most politically difficult transit investment. Yet a recent article examines the examples of Nashville and Cincinnati to claim that sometimes, political opposition is just about transit, period.
April 10, 2014, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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As any city that’s proposed a rail line in recent decades knows, “it's tempting to think cities might have an easier time implementing new transit lines if they simply planned BRT from the start,” writes Dan Malouf. But the conclusion of Malouf’s recent article is a reason for caution when faced with that temptation because “[unfortunately], BRT often faces the exact same opposition.”

To make the point that when it comes to transit, political opposition doesn’t distinguish between modes, Malouf examines the proposed (and legislatively opposed) BRT plans in Nashville to the much-maligned streetcar proposal in Cincinnati.

Both cities would seem primed for transit improvements. “Both Nashville and Cincinnati are among America's most car-dependent and least transit-accessible large cities. Nashville's entire regional transit agency only carries about 31,000 passengers per day. Cincinnati's carries about 58,000.”

Malouf’s take is that these cities’ tradition of neglect produces a default opposition to transit plans. “In places like Nashville and Cincinnati, authorities have ignored transit for so long that any attempt to take it seriously is inherently controversial, regardless of the mode.”

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Published on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 in Greater Greater Washington
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