Support the Provo Bus Rapid Transit System

brtBus Rapid Transit is an extended bus system that works like light rail, with dedicated lanes, step-on buses, and raised platform stations. The transit system was anticipated to go from the Provo Frontrunner station, around BYU, and up to UVU. Its zero-entry buses, in particular, would have been particularly helpful in connecting cyclists with other forms of transportation. However, the plan and funding (which would have come from county and federal sources)  is currently in jeopardy.

The plan for the bus rapid transit system has been blocked by a recent city council vote. Mayor Curtis is currently seeking alternative ways to accomplishing the project and a grassroots citizens group has also begun efforts for a referendum.

The following statement in support of Bus Rapid Transit was written by Aaron Skabelund, Chair of the Provo Bicycle Committee:

The Provo Bicycle Committee calls on Provo to bring Bus Rapid Transit to our community. It is imperative that we as a community create a much more robust mass transit infrastructure as one part of an overall transportation system that provides our residents with viable mobility choices and improves the quality of our air and lives. We need to make riding mass transit, bicycling, and walking real alternatives to driving. An efficient mass transit system is good for bicycling and walking and together they provide people with more choices.

Cities across the country and throughout the globe that are bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly always have great mass transit systems.  Let’s consider one, Boulder, Colorado, that is similar to Provo. It is comparable in population, elevation, climate (temperatures and snowfall), size of its university, and distance to an international airport.  In the late 1980s, the Boulder City Council decided that—financially, physically, and in quality-of-life terms—it made sense to provide mobility not through new or wider roads, but through a wide array of transportation choices that make it easy not to drive. Boulder is part of the Regional Transportation District (Colorado’s UTA), which owns and operates Boulder’s Community Transit Network, a fleet of buses that transports passengers throughout Boulder and connects to the regional line including Denver. The Boulder intra-city system is hugely popular (over 30,000 transit trips a day in a city of 100,000) and its brilliantly branded and appealing Hop, Jump, and Skip buses provide riders with a variety of convenient options. Likewise, Boulder created a state-of-the-art bicycle and pedestrian network of bicycle of over 100 miles of multiuse pathways. As a result of these infrastructural improvements, the mode share of work/school commuting and all trips has dramatically decreased for single-occupant vehicles (-18 and -8 %) and correspondingly rose for mass transit, bicycling, and walking. It is no surprise that Boulder is the “least obese city” in the country.

We have some catching up to do and we can do it. Provo is now linked to SLC and the airport via Frontrunner and TRAX but within Provo mass transit is substandard.  This is why we need BRT.  I have a colleague at BYU who rides Frontrunner from SLC but rides her bike from the station because the lack of a convenient intra-city system.  We have the wonderful Provo River multiuse trail, a smattering of bike lanes and many streets with sidewalks, but we must create an interconnected system of trails and lanes and fill in gaps where sidewalks are missing. In short, we need to create a physical infrastructure and culture that does not see buses, bikes, and walking as “alternative” forms of transportation, but as practical and attractive choices of mobility.  BRT, by linking BYU, Utah Valley’s largest commuting magnet and transportation hub, to downtown Provo and Frontrunner as well as Orem, and by bringing in $150 million to make improvements for bicycling and walking, is essential step in constructing a robust transportation infrastructure. Let’s create a system that makes Provo an even better place to live and that rivals that of other university-cities. We need BRT now!

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