Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Boston, Day Four - This morning I discovered that I didn't need to have gotten soaked in the rain last night walking from the Convention Center to South Station - there's a stop, World Trade Center, right across the street from the Convention Center on the Silver Line. I hadn't even known there was a Silver Line - there wasn't one when I lived here in Boston back in the '70s.

This morning, though, it was still raining, so I walked from the Radisson to Boylston Station and took the Red Line to Park, switched to the Green Line and rode it to South Station, and then got on the newly-discovered Silver Line to the WTC and walked over to the Massachusetts Convention and Conference Center (MCCA, although every time I see the initials, I think "Macaca").

Anyway, the Silver Line was a double revelation to me - the first was its mere existence, and second it was my first experience riding on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). BRT has been proposed for Atlanta's Beltline, much to the disappointment on most residents, who were hoping for light rail. Their complaints are two-fold: first, that roads, as opposed to rails, for the buses might mean that cars might later ride on the Beltline, which would then just devolve into yet another highway. The second concern, especially in my neighborhood where the path for the Beltline rail is not quite as apparent as elsewhere, is that the buses will run on our city streets, further congesting our already traffic-choked roads.

However, I could see from this morning's BRT ride that if the Beltline is developed anything like the Silver Line, these fears are unfounded. The roadway for the BRT was way too narrow for anything but a professional driver in the bus - the BRT path is nothing like a city street. In addition, the linked buses looked like they wouldn't be able to navigate very well on city streets, relieving the second concern.

All in all, the BRT experience felt very much like the light-rail experience - the bus pulled into the South Street Station Silver Line stop just like the streetcars do, the doors opened just like on the streetcars and the seats were arranged just like the streetcars. The bus proceeded through the subway tunnel just like a streetcar, and even after it came aboveground just at the WTC, the "road" still resembled track more than it resembled something you'd drive a car along.

None of these observations will be popular among the Beltline advocates who are dismayed by the very idea of it going BRT. However, based on my Silver Line ride this morning, I think the concept is compatible with the Beltline.

Oh, by the way, for no other reason than that the rain finally stopped and I could use the exercise after sitting at the conference all day, I chose to walk home tonight rather than take the Silver Line again. A nice night for walking, and the view out my window finally cleared up.

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