Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) uses different combinations of techniques to improve service, such as bus-only lanes and roads, pre-boarding fare collection, transit priority at traffic signals, stylish vehicles with extra doors, bus stops that are more like light rail stations, and high frequency service. This study examines five approaches to BRT systems as implemented by public transit agencies in California, Oregon, and Ontario. The case studies as a group show that BRT can be thought of as a discretionary combination of elements that can be assembled in many different combinations over time. Every element incrementally adds to the quality or attractiveness of the service. This latitude provides transit agencies with many benefits, including the ability to match infrastructure with operating requirements. For example, a BRT service can combine operations serving free flowing arterial roads in the fringes of the downtown with dedicated lanes in areas closer to city center where congestion is greatest. Buses can operate both on and off the guide way, extending the corridors in which passengers are offered a one-seat ride with no transfer required. Transit agencies also can select specific BRT components and strategies, such as traffic signal priority and increased stop spacing, and apply them to existing local bus operations as a way to increase bus speeds and reduce operating costs. The specific elements selected for a BRT route can be implemented all at once, or in incremental stages either or both geographical extensions or additions of features. All of the case studies showed ridership improvements, but the Los Angeles Metro Rapid bus system illustrates the wide geographic coverage, improved ridership, and moderate cost per new rider that is possible with an approach that includes fewer BRT features spread over more miles of route. Quantitative results from the case studies suggest that incremental improvements, applied widely to regional bus networks, may be able to achieve significant benefits at a lower cost than substantial infrastructure investments focused upon just one or a few corridors.

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Publication Type



Transit Issues

MTI Project



Bus rapid transit; Case studies; Cost effectiveness; Public transit; System design