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Image Problem for Buses - 3/2/15

Buses have an image problem.  Transit agencies around the country are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new rail infrastructure that is often no faster than existing bus service, but benefits from a better image.  As writer Josh Barro recently pointed out in a piece published in the New York Times, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed AirTrain link from La Guardia Airport could be the latest example. 

The project could cost in the range of one billion dollars, but it won’t be any faster than taking existing bus service to the airport.  In California, Bay Area Rapid Transit spent nearly half a billion dollars to construct a three-mile rail connector to Oakland’s airport.  This piece of infrastructure saves approximately three thousand daily riders four minutes over the shuttle bus service it replaced. 

Atlanta’s downtown streetcar was relatively cheap at $100 million, but Rebecca Burns, a writer at Atlanta magazine, took it to work for a week and determined that it was a bit slower than walking.  Closer to home, Washington’s brand new streetcars, expected to serve fifteen hundred riders per day along H Street Northeast, are slowing the bus service that already serves twelve thousand daily riders.

Anirban Basu, Chariman Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group (SPG), is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's leading economic consultants. Prior to founding SPG he was Chairman and CEO of Optimal Solutions Group, a company he co-founded and which continues to operate. Anirban has also served as Director of Applied Economics and Senior Economist for RESI, where he used his extensive knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic region to support numerous clients in their strategic decision-making processes. Clients have included the Maryland Department of Transportation, St. Paul Companies, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players Committee and the Martin O'Malley mayoral campaign.