Feasibility Study: Bus Rapid Transit Adaptation

This section describes an ambitious bus-based option for improving public transportation in the corridor. It reflects an adaptation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) concepts to the corridor and would utilize existing roadways (i.e., U.S. 422, U.S. 322 and I-83) which parallel the rail right-of-way. Unlike many BRT systems, the plan does not call for buses operating on entirely new and exclusive roadways. Instead, existing roadways will be used with consideration of both physical and operational features at select locations to expedite bus movements through the corridor. This could include additional bus-only lanes for selected segments and traffic control features to expedite bus movements.

BRT is characterized by a menu of enhancements designed to attract “choice” riders who have a car available for the trip, but opt to use the bus system instead. Since most persons in the corridor use a car to make their trips, the choice travelers represents a significant potential market for public transportation. BRT is differentiated from traditional bus service by four key characteristics:

• Higher Speed – This could be achieved through a variety of strategies including operation of buses on their own right-of-way (where feasible) or on existing streets with preferential treatment; limited stop bus service which would afford time savings in comparison to local bus routes that stop every block or two; and off-line fare collection or new fare technology (e.g., smart cards) to reduce bus dwell times.

• Reliability – A high level of on-time performance is essential to attract and retain choice riders.

• Passenger Amenities – This could include bus shelters, passenger kiosks, benches and other features that would afford a more comfortable environment for riders, and real-time information displays of the time of the next arriving bus.

• Branding – The objective is to distinguish the proposed service from that ordinarily operated by the transit agencies in the corridor in an effort to attract new riders who currently drive to make work and other trip purposes.
Maximum Bus Service Design – The plan outlined here is a Maximum Bus Plan that could be approached incrementally. The more capital-intensive improvements could be deferred until ridership grows to a point where the investments are more cost effective. The following principles guided the development of alignment and bus stops and are summarized below:

• Simple Route Alignment – The proposed route would extend from the core area of Lebanon to downtown Harrisburg principally along U.S. 422, U.S. 322 and I83.

• Limited Stop – The proposed bus service would only stop in the centers of the more densely developed areas and at major generators. •
High Frequency – As shown in Table 3-1, the proposed “Full Service” operating plan at this stage of the analysis that calls for a significant increase in service. During both the morning and afternoon weekday peak periods, westbound buses destined for Harrisburg would originate every 20 minutes at both Lebanon and Hershey.

The resulting peak headways would be 20 minutes on the outlying route segment between Lebanon and Hershey, while the western segment from Hershey to Harrisburg would have a combined headway of 10 minutes. Proposed hours of operation are shown in Table 3-2.

Integrate with Other Routes and Services – The current service operated by COLT and CAT could continue to operate since they only serve portions of the corridor. Further, in many areas their buses would provide local service. Similarly, steps would be taken to integrate the new service with that operated by Capitol Trailways.

• Flexible – A key feature of rubber tire transit technology is that it can be revised to respond to growth or special conditions such as seasonal activities. Several examples of how the flexibility of the Maximum Bus Plan could be advantageous in the future include:

• Provision of special services oriented to either visitors or employees of Hersheypark

• Operating buses that collect/distribute passengers in the fast growing residential areas along PA 39 and then join the trunk route in Hershey.

• Service to potential developments such as a proposed new mixed use/business park development south of Rt. 422 in the vicinity of Mt. Pleasant Road in South Annville Township and the proposed mixed-use development being discussed in the southwest quadrant of the intersection of Rt. 322 and Mushroom Hill Road in Swatara Township.

Route Alignment and Stations – The proposed bus service and the suggested stops have been preliminarily specified. The stop locations may be revised as this alternative is subject to further analysis during more detailed planning studies. Access to the stations would be by multiple modes including walking, connecting local bus service, auto (include park-ride and kiss-ride access mode), bicycle, and dedicated shuttles for select areas to provide convenient connections to/from major generators that are beyond walking distance to the designated stops. Parking facilities could utilize existing parking lots (e.g., shopping centers) or new construction. The alignment of the proposed route and stations are shown in Figure 1, and a description of the proposed station locations follows.

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