Breaking New Gound on BRT

Last week, we dove into the plight of the “uncool bus”. Today, we want to talk about some solutions and what we see as an important and viable option for reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road: Bus Rapid Transit.

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, is cheaper, more effective and easier to implement than a train, light rail or subway system. Yes, it’s still a bus, but without the hassle generally associated with the bus.

Like light rail, BRT buses travel mostly in their own lane, and in some cases a dedicated “fixed guideway”, separate from regular traffic, making BRT service a faster option. BRT is also especially designed to reduce the delays associated with typical traffic.

BRT buses may be located in the center of the road vs. on the curb-side and have fewer stops and more predictable schedules. The buses also typically collect fares on the platform vs. on the bus itself and have entry at platform height, level with the bus, much like heavy or lite rail cars. So the experience is more the kind you’d expect on a rail system.

Who is Bus Rapid Transit ideal for?

Bus Rapid Transit can be a great option, especially for mid-sized cities (think: El Paso, Texas or Grand Rapids, Mich.).  These cities are growing, middle-tier cities with emerging congestion and sprawl problems, many of which need better alternatives than the single occupancy car and the conventional bus.

For these types of communities, BRTs come with a lot of incentives for the cities that invest in them and the commuters who ride them. Cities that have already developed BRT have seen local air pollutant emissions reduction, travel time savings, traffic safety improvements, increased physical activity, the attraction of private investment in the area, and the creation of jobs.

BRT is also a good alternative in more urban, built-up corridors where there is no right of way for rail, and where acquiring properties for fixed guideways is prohibitive. Thus BRT becomes a way to utilize existing street capacity to carry more people faster and easier.

This week, RNL is part of the ground breaking on a big BRT and TOD project in the City of El Paso, Texas. The City of El Paso and Sun Metro are building a new Rapid Transit system (RTS) and Transfer Center with parking, retail, and a public plaza. This is El Paso’s first venture into a high-profile bus system that is designed to attract increased ridership and generate greater community investment.

Check back in later this week for more on this project and how it could change how cities look at BRT.