There are two all to common arguments for streetcars or trams that need to be put to rest. Both modes certainly have very valid arguments, often depending on the situation at hand, but a number of arguments are often used (normally against BRT alternatives) that just don’t hold water, at all.
Light Rail has a sense of permanence that non-rail transport modes lack
Developers need the permanence of the rail investment to help reduce risk.
A surprisingly common theme is that Light Rail Networks offer greater permanence, both in reality and in terms of perceptions.
The first idea can be dispelled by the three maps above. These show the tram networks. Central Los Angeles had a tightly packed network, with branches to the rest of the car-loving basin. Auckland City, New Zealand also had an extensive network. Even Suva, Fiji (not shown) had a small affair with trolleys. The “permanence” of these systems did nothing to stop them from being ripped out.
Perceptions are important, but perceptions of permanence can be created by any mode of transport. Brand image is a well studied science, and transit systems have adopted branding, physical indicators, etc to give a sense of permanence.
Bus Solutions Do not create Transit-Oriented Development
Transit-oriented development is the holy grail of transit planning. Building transit through cheap green-er field sites, and letting high density offices, residences and stores follow after. ToD is commonly toted as a reason to build LRT, not a BRT alternative.
Here in Copenhagen, Microsoft just decided to relocate its Danish headquarters near a future station for a planned light rail project. That stuff just doesn’t happen with BRT.
/r/urbanplanning Reddit user
Varying rationals for ToD exist, but the simplest one goes like this: Developers will respond to transport conditions. Provide a way for lots of people to easily get to and from the area without a car, and developers will build appropriately. If this is to be the case, surely any type of transit would do?
‘Transit’ Might Not Be Essential to Transit-Oriented Development
Note that the authors of this CityLab article don’t consider “Bus” as a mode of transit, but the report does state that bus connections were a factor in ToD growth. However the most important conclusions seems to be that Transit Orientated Development does not care how people get there – they just need to show up, without a car.
We found that the type and level of investment occurring near BRT stations appears comparable to the experience with TOD near rail transit. We also found that planning agencies generally made no distinction between BRT and rail in terms of its ability to attract TOD.
Relatively cut and dry conclusion.
This article makes a seemingly conservative solution that BRT “Done Right” can spur development – but it is worth noting their definition of doing “BRT” right is having things like dedicated lanes in congested areas and priority at intersections. Neither of these are particularly radical in the rest of the world (although priority isn’t always practical on very low headway systems).