The following is a response to a question in the comment stream of the post "Learning from Australia's Gold Coast Rapid Transit Project." Mike Francis asked: "George, what 'green' source of power would provide electricity for the light rail without generating the noxious gasses you so deplore? Your Queensland example has different goals than the CCT one of which is 'city building.' In MC people are trying to get from point A to point B not promote the development of a city."
Mike, there are alternative sources to produce electric power. It seems the existing Baltimore light rail transit, the proposed Baltimore Red Line, the Purple Line, Metrorail, Amtrak and new streetcars in D.C. are able to use electric power efficiently.
Curious—do you use buses on a regular basis? What LRT systems have you seen or used? Building separate lanes for buses is that much cheaper than LRT? More buses and bus drivers are required to handle the same capacity as fewer LRT cars. Over the long haul labor is very expensive. Buses last maybe 10 to 15 years at best, LRT can last up to 50 years. Buses require continuous local depot fueling facilities. Not only the buses are noxious but so too the fuel tanker trucks feeding them. Electricity can be purchased from most and source throughout the USA.
We have more buses now. And who uses them? The poor, indigent, students, elderly. Is that getting folks out of their luxury cars? Based on Interstate 270 congestion I would say not. Remember, originally the first choice of the Montgomery County Council was LRT for the Corridor Cities Transitway, but the state scared them into believing it would take forever to build it. But MD 200 (the Intercounty Connector) got built ASAP. Strange. Also, County Council members Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner are bus champions — but I doubt they ever use buses themselves. I doubt they have ever seen, ridden or really know about LRT.
Most cities around the USA want LRT. Most civilized cities elsewhere have lots of it. LRT is by far superior to any bus and in the long run provides great clean public transit, city building and economic benefits that buses will never match. If Montgomery County had the will we would be enjoying the benefits of LRT and not be stuck only with inferior bus service and more pollution.