Giving Buses a Boost: Where the Bus Transformation Study is Headed

Imagine this: In 2030, bus transit could be the region’s preferred mode of transportation. That’s what the Bus Transformation Study is aiming for, and it would certainly require nothing short of a transformation—with the business community playing an essential stakeholder role.

Yesterday morning we hosted Robert Puentes, President & CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, to talk about how that transformation could happen. He is the Chair of the Executive Steering Committee for the study. FC2 Trustee Deborah Ratner Salzberg (Brookfield Properties), who also serves on the Executive Committee, led the discussion.

Our bus system is a critical component of our transportation network, but it could be providing better service to the region. Too many of today’s bus routes were placed along old trolley lines decades ago and were never revisited. Service is often unreliable. Without dedicated lanes, buses get just as mired in traffic as cars. The region has lots of local bus systems with not enough coordination. No wonder ridership is down 13 percent since 2012.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Buses can be a more competitive option if only we rethought the whole system, from every angle. The study lays out all of the elements of change—such as being more customer-focused, giving buses more priority on major roads, making service more reliable and rational, better balancing local and regional responsibilities, streamlining back-office functions and creating a regional steward to push through and manage all these changes. Fortunately there is a precedent for success. New York City, for example, did its own full-scale modernization plan and its bus ridership went up.

While the delivery of the Bus Transformation Study will be a milestone towards better bus service, a lot of work still needs to be done. We are just passed the starting gate in what will be a decade-long effort to ensure the implementation of efforts to improve service. In May 2019, the Transformation Study’s draft, high-level strategy was released. A more specific set of action steps will be published this fall, building momentum to hit the 2030 target.

Just as the business community has played a clear role in the completion of the study, so too will the business community be engaged in turning the plan  into action.