TIGER Helps Orlando Connect Neighborhoods with New BRT Line

This is the third in a series of blogs that will explore the impact TIGER grants have on local communities by helping them better leverage financing options, meet transportation safety goals, and increase overall quality of life by introducing alternative modes of transportation.  Click here for the first and second blogs in the series. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is an innovative, high capacity, lower cost public transit solution that can significantly improve mobility in urban areas.  By using buses on dedicated lanes or special roadways, BRT offers the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail.  The result is less congestion and more passenger movement. The City of Orlando’s existing BRT system, LYMMO, was 2.5 miles and consisted of 13 stations which connected various parts of the city.   Orlando recognized the benefits of expanding their BRT system to create regional links with the existing BRT lines, increase intercity and multi-modal transportation options, and expand accessibility in various neighborhoods. In particular, the BRT expansion would provide increased access to employment and educational opportunities to residents of Parramore, a low-income neighborhood just west of the city’s downtown.  The city applied for and received a $10 million TIGER grant to implement these changes. According to the Federal Transit Administration, BRT is able to operate at faster speeds, provide greater service reliability and increase customer convenience.  Many communities are picking up on this as other forms of transit prove to be too expensive to invest in.  The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority received a TIGER grant to enhance BRT services with priority signalization and to provide real-time bus arrival information to customers on bus signs. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada also received a TIGER grant to improve transit service by converting breakdown lanes to bus-only lanes in the 12-mile corridor of Sahara Avenue, a major road running through the heart of Las Vegas.   The project improved mobility along one of the city’s most important corridors and helped support local economic activity by creating or sustaining nearly 600 private-sector jobs. Orlando’s planned BRT expansion, undertaken in partnership with LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, will be a free bus service to downtown Orlando, estimated to be operational from the Parramore neighborhood beginning in 2014.  Service will also be provided within the Parramore community as well.  The service will be funded through Orlando’s Downtown Development Board and Parking Division, and receives contributions from a variety of sources including federal dollars through TIGER. To learn more about Orlando’s Bus Rapid Transit and other TIGER grant programs, register to attend NLC’s Congress of Cities conference in Seattle, WA, November 13-16, 2013.  The conference will feature solutions to local challenges in the areas of infrastructure development and investment, environmental sustainability, and economic development.  For more information on bus rapid transit, please visit NLC’s Sustainable Cities Institute. About the TIGER Grants In 2009, the US Congress dedicated $1.5 million for the first round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Discretionary Grant program which was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  The overwhelming popularity of the TIGER grant program has sustained this resource for local governments for 5 years and counting now. Through the program, U.S. Department of Transportation provides competitive grants to local governments to invest in a variety of transportation initiatives that meet community needs while contributing to national transportation goals. JuliaPulidindi About the author: Julia Pulidindi is a Senior Associate for Infrastructure at the National League of Cities (NLC). Her work focuses on identifying local challenges and solutions to transportation and telecommunications infrastructure issues.  Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaPulidindi.