by Ned Oliver
A proposed bus rapid transit line along Broad Street will eliminate 708 on-street parking spaces to make way for dedicated bus lanes, GRTC officials said at public meeting on the project Monday.
The transit agency also released station locations and designs for the planned line, which is expected to cost $54 million. Of that, $42 million will be covered by state and federal grants.
The potential loss of parking downtown didn't seem to concern the meeting's two-dozen attendees, but if recent wrangling over other proposed alternative transit projects is any indication, the issue could end up dominating debate over the bus line.
Stephen McNally, a GRTC project administrator, says the number of spaces lost sounds big, but represents only eight percent of existing parking spaces in the vicinity of the project. Of the 708 spaces, about 100 are currently loading zones. “The capacity is there now to absorb that loss,” he says.
The plan eliminates all on-street parking between Interstate 195 and 14th Street, replacing it with a permanent bus lane. From 195 to Adams, the bus lane will run in the median and be separated from traffic. Entering the central business district, the lanes will transition to a curb running lane.
Along much of the corridor parking is already banned during rush hour to make way for temporary bus lanes. McNally says the curb running lane in the business district won’t be any wider than the existing rush-hour bus lane, meaning the 10.5-feet-wide buses still won’t quite fit in the 9-foot-wide lanes.
The project is expected provide 65 percent faster service than current bus service on Broad Street. The efficiency comes from operating the bus like a light rail line -- with more buses, fewer stops, dedicated lanes and priority at traffic lights at some intersections.
GRTC plans to operate buses every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off peak hours. The fare will be the same as other buses, currently $1.50. (Not totally related but worth noting: GRTC’s CEO, David Green, says the agency is in the process of installing new fare boxes that will allow the sale of day, week and month passes.)
The stations will have real time arrival information, bicycle storage and tickets will be sold prior to boarding the bus.
The locations of the 14 planned stations have been tweaked since the last time the project was presented. A station planned for Hamilton and I-195 has been moved to Cleveland Street to better serve Scott’s Addition.
The project also shifts a downtown station to the location of the proposed Stone Brewing Co. restaurant and brewery.
Members of the public questioned the logic behind some of the placements. One woman wondered why the project didn’t provide easier access to the Kroger on Lombardy. Others noted that the stations didn’t seem to mesh with existing lines connecting Broad Street to the North Side.
There were also questions about the seemingly erratic placement of stations, for example the plan lumps three within blocks from each other downtown and at Rocketts Landing and Stone Brewing. In other areas, the closest stations are as far as two miles apart.
McNally said the proposed stops are the result of a series of studies and public comment sessions. He says infrastructure issues also dictated location: the presence of traffic signals, drainage and underground utilities.
GRTC officials say they expect more than 3,000 daily boardings. They were unable to immediately say how many daily boardings the current bus line serving Broad Street gets, but predict the project will draw 500 new daily riders.
While GRTC released preliminary renderings of the stations, they don’t plan to release renderings of the rapid-transit branded buses until Spring. They recently held a survey to name the system.
McNally says they’ll be the same buses the system currently uses, only painted differently and with a fairing on the front to make them look faster.