The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today celebrated the groundbreaking for the new Sun Metro Brio Rapid Transit System (BRT) -- the first 8.6-mile segment in a planned bus rapid transit (BRT) system serving El Paso. When completed, the first segment will provide efficient, state-of-the-art transit service to local universities, medical centers, and downtown cultural attractions.
"This new service delivers on President Obama's promise of bringing more good transportation choices to fast-growing cities like El Paso," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "With the introduction of bus rapid transit, thousands of riders throughout the city's Mesa corridor will have affordable, reliable access to jobs, education, medical services and other destinations."
FTA provided approximately $13.5 million toward the $27.1 million project for the initial segment. An additional $2 million was provided from the Federal Highway Administration's Congestion and Air Quality program, with the remaining $11.6 million coming from state and local sources.
The initial segment of the Brio BRT line will connect commuters, students, seniors and others with several major local facilities, including the University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso Community College, Providence Memorial Hospital, Las Palmas Medical Center, and the El Paso Museum of Art. The route will run northwest along Mesa Street from the current Downtown Transit Terminal near the Paso del Norte International Bridge and end at the newly constructed Westside Transit Terminal. This new service will mean shorter wait times with buses arriving every 10 minutes during peak hours, compared with waits of 30 minutes or more today.
"The people of El Paso have made it abundantly clear that public transportation is not a luxury, but a necessity, which is why Sun Metro's ridership has grown by nearly 30 percent over the last four years," said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, who toured the planned BRT route in February, 2011. "This is only the first step of the bold, local vision that will one day connect the entire El Paso region."
This initial BRT line will consist of 22 weather-protected bus shelters where passengers may board, and system features that include pre-paid ticket vending for more efficient boarding, real-time scheduling information, coordinated traffic signals to keep buses moving through traffic, and onboard Wi-Fi. Sun Metro has completed the design phase of two of the four planned corridors of its Brio Rapid Transit System. Currently, about 17 million people use bus service in El Paso annually.