The BRT Standard is the centerpiece of a global effort by leaders in bus transportation design to establish a common definition of bus rapid transit (BRT) and ensure that BRT systems more uniformly deliver world-class passenger experiences, significant economic benefits, and positive environmental impacts. The BRT Standard scoring system was created as a way of protecting the BRT brand and offering recognition to high quality BRT systems around the world. Certifying a BRT corridor as gold, silver, bronze, or basic sets an internationally recognized standard for the current best practice for BRT.
Despite the increasing prevalence, prominence and success of BRT, many people remain unaware of the characteristics of the best BRT corridors and their ability to provide levels of service more typically associated with metro and subway systems. This lack of awareness frequently results in desire for rail when BRT is a comparable, more cost-effective and equally elegant solution. The lack of awareness stems partly from the lack of a common definition for BRT. Without a definition, oftentimes, modest improvements to standard bus service are inaccurately labeled as BRT.
The BRT Standard was developed to create a common definition of bus rapid transit and recognize high-quality BRT systems around the world. It also functions as a technical tool to guide and encourage municipalities to consider the key features of the best BRT systems as they move through the design process.
Historically, there has been no common understanding of precisely what constitutes BRT. The lack of a common definition has caused confusion about the concept. The absence of an agreement among planners and engineers has meant that for every new BRT corridor that is world class, dozens of bus corridors opened that were incorrectly labeled BRT. The absence of any sort of quality control has made it possible for modest bus system improvements to be branded as BRT, leading to some backlash about BRT. Modest incremental improvements, while beneficial to bus passengers, are often not the most cost-effective solution, and they certainly do not add up to the fundamental change needed to shift the travel paradigm from a disbursed pattern of private automobile travel to bus-based mass transit.
BRT also plays an important role in the global effort to reduce transport sector emissions. As emissions from private motor vehicle use grow, shifting these trips onto public transit by improving the quality and reach of BRT becomes critical. Establishing a quality standard for BRT not only ensures that better projects are built, but that transport sector emissions are reduced. Certifying a BRT corridor as gold, silver, bronze, or basic sets an internationally-recognized standard for what is BRT and what is best practice in BRT. The elements that receive points in The BRT Standard have been evaluated in a wide variety of contexts. When present, they result in consistently improved system performance and have a positive impact on ridership.
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