A largely ignored one-quarter of Calgarians will travel a little more efficiently starting today with the introduction of the Southeast Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service.

 

The BRT will run 118 high-capacity (articulated, accordion-like) buses that will roughly mirror the route of the future southeast LRT line.

Call it a poor man’s version of the LRT. Call it what you like — I call it a step forward for our city.

Increased population and traffic congestion in this quadrant won’t wait for the real thing — the southeast LRT line, which doesn’t have any funding in place and isn’t even in the plans for at least 10 to 20 years. And, so, enter the BRT.

This new Southeast BRT has more than $20 million secured over the next four years to make transit a more reliable option, particularly for off-peak period riders and those travelling to industrial or other employment areas in southeast Calgary — transit users that have been overlooked in the past.

During peak periods, buses will run every 10 minutes or better and in off-peak periods, service will be every 20 to 30 minutes.

While the buses, unlike the LRT, will be competing with traffic, new priority signals using Opticom™ technology at most traffic lights will shorten a red or increase a green light when a BRT bus is coming.

The BRT will be similar to the LRT in that the stops will be less frequent than the milk run experience of a regular bus route.

By 2012, electronic passenger information panels will display real time bus arrival information.

Today’s inauguration of the southeast BRT is a sign that perhaps Calgary, too, is growing up and getting serious about some real, effective transportation solutions.

Let’s hope so.