Reference Guides

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This guide provides a concise introduction to BRT features. It is designed to assist project planners and the public in becoming familiar with methods that can be used to provide higher-quality transit using rubber-tired vehicles. In each feature description there are links to related projects participating in the BRT demonstration program and also to projects that are not part of the program. Several case studies illustrate BRT concepts and how they are implemented.

BRT Elements

There are several key elements involved in making ordinary bus service into Bus Rapid Transit. Each elements can be realized by taking advantage of one or more BRT features.

Reducing Travel Time

All BRT projects seek to improve service by reducing travel time. The components of travel time include time getting to and from the transit stop, time waiting for the transit vehicle, and time in the vehicle. If a transfer is needed, there is also additional walking and waiting time.

A central concept in BRT planning is to give priority to transit vehicles, since on average they carry many more people than other road vehicles, and the goal should be to maximize person-throughput, not necessarily vehicle-throughput. One form of priority is to run service on exclusive rights-of-way such as busways and exclusive lanes on expressways. These techniques can greatly reduce in-vehicle travel time.

Another form of priority is to designate bus lanes on arterial streets. Providing traffic signal priority to transit vehicles can also speed operation on streets. Reducing the number of stops, providing limited-stop service, or relocating stops to areas where there is less congestion can also speed service, although potentially with the disadvantage of increasing walk time.

All of these techniques not only reduce in-vehicle time but by improving the reliability of service can reducing waiting time also. Since customers particularly do not like to wait for transit, reductions in waiting time can make service much more attractive. Automatic vehicle location systems can be used to manage bus service to regularize the intervals between buses, thereby minimizing passenger waiting time.

Changing fare collection policies to reduce or eliminate on-vehicle fare purchase can speed boarding. Using vehicle designs that feature fewer steps and more or wider doors can also reduce dwell time.

User Friendly Service  

Although faster travel is a key element in improving service and attracting more transit trips, transit will not be attractive to many potential riders unless it is more user-friendly. Better passenger information can make transit service easier to use. Providing real-time bus status information (a by-product of automatic vehicle location) can reduce customer anxiety while waiting. A unified system design, with colors and images coordinated between stops, vehicles, and print materials, can simplify the experience of using public transit.

Using marketing techniques can make the public aware of service improvements, and also help to improve the public image of buses.

Making land use policy more oriented to developing and maintaining pedestrian-friendly areas will improve enhance the attractiveness of transit. In the long-run, land use policy coordinated with transit investments will help to make transit trips convenient by locating attractors conveniently adjacent to transit corridors and stations.

BRT Benefits

Reducing travel time will provide a benefit to all users of transit. In addition, faster service, combined with better information and better marketing to improve transit's image, will increase transit ridership. BRT can also help in the effort to promote transit-oriented land development. Understanding BRT features provides transportation planners the ability to offer a new transit option to the public which combines the ease-of-use of some rail service with the flexibility of bus service.

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