Apparently, Phoenix is experimenting with a new style of bus transport that looks and operates like a train:
The Mesa Link debuted the same week as light rail. For now, Link involves a fleet of 10 buses. Each $756,000 vehicle carries a transponder to coordinate traffic lights and keep the bus on schedule for a 12-mile run in 45 minutes.
It's the start of a much more ambitious program.
Over the next few months, the Regional Public Transportation Authority, which coordinates Valley Metro bus service, will build stations and add technology to the Mesa line to give it more of the pace and feel of a train.
Basically, they are building the thing to look and operate like a light rail train, only running on tires on the existing road. The travel time may seem slow, but it is nearly identical to the average speed of our light rail line (20 miles in a claimed 70 minutes, though a number of riders say its slower). And the capacity is nearly identical.
So with the same speed and the same capacity and similar scheduled service with similar style stations, here is the real appeal:
In 2010, a second line will be created to run 12 miles along Arizona Avenue in Mesa and Chandler. It will feature 10 stations and cost $28 million for construction and the purchase of nine buses. Future lines are planned for Scottsdale Road, Baseline Road and Chandler Boulevard.
The 20-mile light-rail line cost $1.4 billion to build.
Holy cr*p. $70 million a mile for light rail vs. $2.3 million a mile for this system. That is 30x cheaper. The only discernible difference is one runs on steel rails and the other on tires. Oh, and the rail line, in most places it was built, completely removed up to two lanes of existing roadway capacity, while the bus-type system leaves the roadway intact and just uses a fraction of one lane's capacity.
Now, I would have to sit down and look at the numbers and the service profile to decide if this new bus system made sense financially vs. the old bus system, but why are we even considering extending light rail? And why oh why did we build this white elephant in the first place.