Basic BRT The Case for a Practical, Implementation Oriented Approach to BRT

In the early to mid 1990’s it was becoming clear to many in the transit industry that only a small proportion of all rail projects could be funded through existing sources. There were just too many. At the same time, the desirability of rail transit as a key element of a modern regional transportation system was becoming evident across the country. Looking at this conundrum, transit planners began to experiment with new ways of putting together the mode puzzle that would lower construction costs but still provide the high quality service that potential riders demand. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was one of the products of that effort. American cities have experimented with BRT before, in places like Washington, DC (Shirley Busway), Los Angeles (El Monte Busway), and New York (Holland Tunnel bus lanes). In these cases BRT is very focused; expressway-based, high-speed transportation to a large CBD with few stops along the way. This is very different from the way LRT is implemented. LRT includes regular stops, feeder and cross-town connections that bind the rail line to the connecting bus network and a clear focus on the quality of urban design and development surrounding stations. LRT trunklines complimented by local bus feeder routes have been a successful model in many American cities because this combination serves a wide variety of trip purposes and origin-destination pairs at a reasonable cost by funneling ridership to the rapid transit trunklines. By taking advantage of the economies of scale associated with the operation of LRT, overall operating cost is lowered while improving service quality and attracting more passengers. The “rapid” in LRT comes not just from increasing line haul speed above that of parallel local bus service, but by reducing access times by bringing stations and development together, reducing wait times by running trains frequently all day long and on easily remembered even schedules, by reducing transfer time by coordinating schedules and by reducing unexpected travel time by segregating trains from congestion. Early BRT efforts did not use this service model. In Curitiba, Brazil, American planners found an example of what they were looking for, a bus system that functions like rail, as the trunklines of a coordinated system, each with a special function in the network. Using Curitiba as a base, a new service model was created of BRT as a hybrid mode falling between local bus and LRT, possessing many of the service attributes of LRT, yet less expensive and faster to implement. After a promising start, this new concept of BRT has in many ways diverged from the idea of simplicity and ease and efficiency of implementation. The urge to make BRT “just like rail” has focused more on technology and less on service and planning, to the point where what might be called “Advanced” BRT has overwhelmed the practical and implementation-oriented aspects of “Basic” BRT (BBRT). It is now common to hear statements that various expensive and sometimes unnecessary features such as precision docking, highly-specialized vehicles or corridor-length dedicated rights-of-way are “required” for a project to be considered “real” BRT. Nothing could be further from the truth. The original purpose of BRT, delivering high quality at low cost, has to be reinvigorated. This doesn’t mean there is not an important role for Advanced BRT, but only that a mode as universally applicable as Basic BRT needs to be given priority in many cases as projects are being developed.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 5p
  • Monograph Title: 2005 Bus & Paratransit Conference

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01001935
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 1931594163
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 11 2005 10:46AM