Public Comment

Commentary: Bus Rapid Transit Success in Oregon

By Steve Geller
Friday November 02, 2007

From Oct. 8 through 11, I visited Eugene and rode their BRT. This is a brief summary of the longer trip report on my website,  

The “Emerald Express” (EmX) makes a 20-minute one-way trip between transit malls in Eugene and neighboring Springfield. EmX uses dedicated bus-only lanes (“busways”). People are riding the EmX and businesses along the route are doing fine. The route starts at Eugene Station, a transit mall in the middle of downtown, with bays for 19 buses. There are public rest rooms and a convenience store. EmX is a green articulated bus with two doors on both sides. The bus was custom-built by New Flyer, in Winnipeg, Canada. 

The EmX leaves the station and comes onto the first busway, a one-vehicle-wide strip of concrete marked “Bus Only.” Only the EmX uses the busways—not cars, trucks or even other buses. To make turns, cars cross the busway, but cars must yield to the EmX. Traffic lights nicely control this in most places. I saw an EmX driver give a warning honk to a car flashing its left-turn signal in the lane to the right of a busway. Because it’s free and there are two doors, the EmX doesn’t spend much time at the intermediate stations. Service seems to stay at the advertised every 10 minutes during most of the day (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and 15-20 minutes at other times, including weekends. EmX runs until 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and to 8 p.m. on Sundays.  

Eugene has two types of busway. One is a single lane of concrete. The other is two concrete tracks, with a strip of grass between the tracks. Part of the route is on a highway—three lanes in each direction. The bus shares lanes with cars, and pulls out of the left lane into the busway next to a station. Springfield has no busways, but there are only two stations there. I often noticed traffic congestion near the Springfield station. I didn’t see very many street people in either Eugene or Springfield—or on the buses. I got panhandled only once: a guy wheeling a bike asked me for 75 cents—that was in Eugene. Downtown Eugene looked prosperous and lively. In some places, EmX has a single busway for both directions. The change-over is at a station, where one bus pauses, and the other bus exits the single busway and veers onto a busway at the side of the station. 

The EmX is supposed to receive priority at signal-controlled intersections. This was not clearly evident to me. I did notice that the EmX got through intersections fairly quickly. In some places downtown, there were loading zones on the streets paralleling the busways. I didn’t see any serious conflict with delivery vehicles or parked cars. The EmX is an impressive and successful BRT. I think Berkeley has something to learn from Eugene. 


Steve Geller is a Berkeley resident.