Chapter 4: Applications of Bus Rapid Transit in the United States

4.1 Planning for Bus Rapid Transit

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) encourages U.S. cities to consider, analyze, and evaluate the benefits of implementing Bus Rapid Transit. Implementation of Bus Rapid Transit in the United States begins with the metropolitan planning process, which provides a forum for the development and evaluation of strategies to meet mobility needs at the regional level. Bus operations planning is generally the responsibility of the local transit operator, in cooperation with regional transportation planning agencies such as metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). Consequently, several low-cost operational strategies -- including many improvements associated with Bus Rapid Transit -- may be evaluated and implemented by transit operators to improve the efficiency of their existing bus service. Where the multimodal transportation planning process determines that some type of major transportation capital investment (such as a fixed transit guideway/busway and/or passenger boarding facilities) may be required to meet the mobility needs in a given corridor, an analysis and evaluation of potential alternatives to meet these needs is typically undertaken.

Corridor planning for Bus Rapid Transit should incorporate community participation. Bus Rapid Transit should be analyzed and evaluated in relation to locally-defined goals and objectives for the transportation system, mobility needs, and the relative advantages, disadvantages and costs of alternative approaches to meeting those needs. Curitiba-style Bus Rapid Transit may be introduced as a capital investment option. A variety of enhanced bus elements also may be considered, depending on local concensus. Determination of the effectiveness of specific applications of Bus Rapid Transit will require consideration of multiple criteria:

Following the selection of Bus Rapid Transit as the preferred solution in a multimodal analysis, proposed capital improvements need to be incorporated into the financially-constrained regional long-range transportation plan, developed by the MPO in cooperation with local transportation agencies and communities. More detailed engineering and completion of required environmental documentation would be necessary before Federal funding could be made available and construction could begin. FTA rates projects competing for its discretionary capital resources and recommends to Congress those projects which best justify continued Federal investment. Consequently, low-cost, high-performance Bus Rapid Transit projects that emerge from a locally-managed, multimodal analysis of alternatives may rate favorably in both local and Federal evaluations of potential transportation investments.

4.2 Implementation: Bus Rapid Transit Features

Many of the features of the Curitiba experience may be directly transferable to the U.S.; others may be applicable in concept only. For example, signal priority for buses moving along city streets could be implemented by many U.S. cities, but cashless fare collection methods during passenger boarding, rather than pre-boarding fare collection as in Curitiba, may be more feasible in some U.S. cities for reducing dwell time at bus stops. Features that are likely to be applicable to U.S. implementations of Bus Rapid Transit include the following:

Bus door is open with raised platform for boarding.

A raised platform and level doors provides a seamless interface between bus stop and vehicle (Curitiba).

4.3 New Technology in Bus Rapid Transit

New Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) or Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS) applications could contribute to improved bus service and increased bus operating speeds. Some ITS and APTS applications that a Bus Rapid Transit system might employ are described below, but this list is by no means exhaustive:

4.4 Effects of Bus Rapid Transit

Successful Bus Rapid Transit systems can be expected to produce improvements in bus service, operations, and ridership, and to affect traffic congestion and air quality: