O’Malley’s Light Rail or Ehrlich’s Bus Rapid Transit: Which One is Better for Us?

O'Malley and Ehrlich Televised Debate 10/11/10

On one hand, you have O’Malley’s plans for light rail.  On the other hand, you have Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit system.  Which one do you think is better for Washington, D.C. metro area commuters? 

As per usual, there are plenty of pros and cons on each side.  Bus rapid transit would involve setting aside bus-only lanes (not sure if this means stealing existing lanes from automobile traffic or not) along portions of existing routes.  The light rail would be built along an existing route and would not create additional traffic

Baltimore Sun’s Michael Dresser says Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit system would be a little cheaper to build — estimates are $1.2 billion — as opposed to $1.68 billion for O’Malley’s light rail project.  However, at an estimated $5.9 billion, the annual operating costs for buses quickly turn that positive on its head — light rail would only cost about half of that — an estimated $3.2 million annually.  

Ehrlich — who is not opposed to not building anything at all — says the money is simply not there to build.  Light rail proponents at Maryland Transit Authority disagree, saying that money could be made available soon through President Obama’s long-term transportation bill.  

Developers, proponents of transit-oriented development, the Prince George’s County council, the Montgomery County council, and a host of area businesses like the idea of light rail because it has a permanency that rapid bus transit does not that would make it ideal for becoming hubs of future business activity, creating much-needed jobs in the area.     

There are more pros and cons of both, but I’ll stop right here.  Personally, I’m for O’Malley’s decision to go with light rail.  It would be a shame to waste almost a decade of planning and the $40 million that MTA has already invested into deciding which way to go, only to implement the more expensive of the two — or even worse — nothing at all. 

Do you have an opinion about this one way or another?  Don’t be shy – I’m very interested in learning your thoughts.

  1. me
    October 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    The light rail would be able to carry more people than a bus. Even though it’s cheaper it would make sense to move as many peoople around at one time as possible. If it’s going to take away lanes then there’s no way I’d think of considereing it. Traffic is already horrible why make it worse when there is another option.

    • October 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm

      Hi, Me.

      I agree! The fact that light rail carries more people per square foot is also another reason why I support it over bus rapid transit. It just makes more sense. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!


  2. DeLante
    October 20, 2010 at 8:45 am

    The light rail is the way to go. I was just talking to my wife this weekend about how congested the street are in the middle of the day as well as weekends. There are just too many vehicles traveling around town. Buses add to that congestion. And since MD will be adding more street cameras, drivers are going to be more cautious, which means traffic will slow down and this will also add to more problems on the streets. And lets not talk about rainy days with traffic.

    • October 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm

      Greetings, DeLante!

      I’m sure that most people probably agree with you that light rail is the best of the two solutions, given the pros and cons. I didn’t know that Maryland was going to be installing more street cameras. That’s good to know. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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