Buses Take Off, but Not Everybody Is On Board

This article describes how one of the hottest trends in urban mass transit is the bus. Not the old-fashioned bus lines, cities all over the world are switching to bus rapid transit (BRT), which is a modern transit system that combines the flexibility of buses with the speed, comfort and reliability of rail. With BRT, buses run frequently in exclusive lanes, offering local and express services. Small, technologically advanced stations replace of the traditional bus stop, vending machines sell fares, slightly elevated platforms make boarding easier, and monitors wired into a Global Positioning System (GPS) network tell waiting commuters exactly when the next bus will arrive. Sixteen systems were completed world-wide last year, and 49 more are under construction. Cities in the United States (U.S.) and Australia have built BRT systems, but so far there is generally less demand in developed countries. The trend appears to be most popular in the developing world, especially Asia and Latin America. BRT will be an important option for transit systems in the future, especially in cities where transit demand is high and budgets are tight. The city considered to have the most successful, and first, BRT system is Curitiba, Brazil, with 2.26 million passengers a day and 45 miles of lanes. From three bus corridors in the late 1970s, the system has grown to six lanes, all added in combination with zoning and land-use policies that promoted industrial and residential development. The adoption of BRT has been slow in the U.S., in part because cars are so prevalent, and because commuters who use public transit have shown a preference for rail. But difficulties in funding new rail projects may make BRT more attractive in the future.The director of the National BRT Institute at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, in Tampa says there will be less dollars available from the federal government for rail, so there will be an increase in BRT because you can build up to 10 BRT lines for the cost of one light-rail line. To date, five U.S. cities use BRT for parts of their public-transit systems. Los Angeles has a BRT system that comprises about 14 miles; Cleveland, seven miles; and Eugene, Ore., four miles. Eight to 10 other systems are under consideration, including routes in San Francisco and Chicago, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. But BRT critics say that just because the systems are successful in Latin America and Asia doesn't mean they're the best option in the U.S. because rail has a proven record of being able to take people out of their cars and buses do not.

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  • Accession Number: 01342439
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 6 2011 11:55AM