Policy Study

Rubber Tire Transit

A Viable Alternative to Rail

Executive Summary

Rubber Tire Guideways are, to a significant extent, “the road not taken” for guideway transportation improvements in Los Angeles and throughout the United States.

Busways, high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, bus malls, and other rubber tire guideway modes have shown that they can often provide greater transportation capacity improvement, usable by more people, at lower cost than comparable rail modes in many transportation corridors. In many cases, however, such non-rail guideways have not been fairly considered as alternatives to rail lines-if they have been considered at all.

Rubber Tire Guideways are certainly not the right solution for every transportation situation and there are many cases where rail transit is an appropriate and productive component of an overall urban transportation network. However, in cases where decisions are being made for new transportation improvements that may include guideway solutions, Rubber Tire Guideways have proven productivity and cost-effectiveness characteristics that should lead to their serious consideration as traditional/nontraditional transit alternatives.

Selection of transit system components should be conducted in a fair and competent manner, with the technology choice decision not being made until after the study is performed. In Los Angeles, the authors conclude:

  • HOV lanes should be given a much higher priority for construction and implementation than rail guideways. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) projections give HOV lanes far higher transportation productivity and cost-effectiveness;
  • Wherever possible and where excess capacity exists, HOT lanes should be implemented on new HOV lanes, and considered as retrofit options for existing HOV lanes;
  • Where justified, MTA should provide a high priority to expanding bus and alternative transit service on HOV lanes in its planning and financial budgeting; and
  • MTA should consider more Rubber Tire Guideway projects, particularly projects serving the central business district.