Monday, October 06, 2008

Hats off to Fort Worth

Fort Worth is definitely doing it right. Over the last several months, the City of Fort Worth has been making headlines for its progressive approach to transportation planning and its efforts to reduce emissions and increase air quality by offering more public transportation options. Rat Trap Press has also posted some pics of his bike commute through downtown Fort Worth. Lovely!

This past summer, I commuted daily from Coppell to downtown Fort Worth to attend bar prep classes and was impressed by the public transportation system as well as the quaint downtown area. My fellow classmates used the rail system as well as the buses (the T) to travel all around downtown. I observed several cyclists utilizing the bus system because most of the buses have bike racks. If they don't, you can bring your bike on the bus. This is more than what Boston offers! In Boston, cyclists had to lock up their bike somewhere to ride the bus or they could ride the subway but only during non-peak hours which pretty much defeats the purpose. In addition to city-wide bus service, Fort Worth also is part of the The Trinity Railway Express network and has a rail station right downtown. The city then runs FREE bus service to and from the rail station and all around downtown. Commuters can also park for FREE at designated park-and-ride lots and then catch the bus to their office.

And the City is proposing to do even more and making the buses traveling into downtown much faster by implementing a new technology on the buses - traffic signal preemption devices. The device actually changes the light from red to green or if the light is green, it will stay green longer. Ingenius! Traffic signal preemption is widely used in the railroad industry (railroad crossings to prevent collisions) and also by light-rail and bus rapid transit systems to allow public transportation priority access through intersections. The advantages to these systems are obvious - increase in safety by avoiding collisions, emergency vehicles can respond quicker, trains run on time, and commuting times are greatly improved.

What a wonderful idea to use on buses. I rode the bus often in Boston and was always frustrated with how long it took to get anywhere. There are frequent stops to pick up and drop off passengers as well as long stops at red lights. Such technology would drastically reduce the commute times allowing routes to run more predictably and providing even more incentives to commuters to ride the bus instead of driving. Ride the bus -you'll get there faster!