On Tuesday, the ITDP awarded the BRT Standard bronze to Eugene’s Emerald Express (EmX) Green Line. Awards were accepted by Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg, and Lane Transit District Board President Doris Towery for the Cities of Eugene’s and Springfield’s collaboration with Lane Transit District LTD, on the development of the EmX BRT.
ITDP released the first comprehensive BRT Standard in March, a defining and scoring designation for bus rapid transit (BRT) systems around the world. Similar to the LEED designation for green buildings, BRT corridors may achieve a basic BRT, bronze, silver, or gold designation. Funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, The BRT Standard is the centerpiece of a global effort by leaders in BRT design to establish a common definition for bus rapid transit and to ensure that BRT systems more uniformly deliver world-class passenger experiences, significant economic benefits, and positive environmental impacts.
In 1996, the Eugene-Springfield community began updating the regional transportation plan. As part of this update, new ideas were explored to help decrease congestion and create a more efficient transit system. Many ideas were looked at carefully. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) emerged as the preferred transit strategy since it offers a way to significantly enhance transit service and achieve many of the benefits of light rail without the high cost. As a result, BRT was initially approved in 2001 as a key element of the new transportation plan by Eugene, Springfield, Lane County, and LTD.
After eight years of planning, in 2004 LTD held a groundbreaking for its first EmX line along Franklin Blvd, connecting downtown Eugene with downtown Springfield and the University of Oregon. EmX service began in 2007. In 2008, a year after the introduction of service, ridership along the corridor had nearly doubled as EmX carried 1.5 million riders. In 2011, the Gateway EmX Extension added 7.5 miles to the route.
EmX has now served Eugene-Springfield with high capacity, high frequency bus rapid transit service for six years and its popularity continues to grow. With an emphasis on maintaining reliable operating times and increasing ridership, EmX has met or exceeded goals every step of the way. In 2012 several key ridership milestones were surpassed as EmX carried 11,258 boardings on April 10, 2012; averaged more than 10,000 weekday boardings the same month; and carried its 10 millionth customer in May 2012. As of April 1, 2013 nearly 12.3 million customers have boarded EmX vehicles.
The West Eugene EmX Extension is currently in the design phase and is expected to begin operations as early 2016. The addition of the West Eugene corridor will add another 4.4 miles of route coverage and will create a single regional route connecting 52,000 residents with over 81,000 jobs.
The event was covered by the local news affiliates of all the networks: NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox.