June 16, 2015

Boston Report Promotes Benefits of Gold Standard BRT

MA State House credit Flickr User Patrick Rasenberg

The Greater Boston BRT Study Group, made up of transportation experts, planners, and community leaders, released a comprehensive report detailing the possibility of implementing high-standard Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Greater Boston region and the benefits it would bring to residents, commuters, and the economy.

The report, titled Better Rapid Transit for Greater Boston: The Potential for Gold Standard Bus Rapid Transit Across the Metropolitan Area, offers the first citywide, technical analysis of BRT and proposes that integrating high-standard BRT into the current MBTA system be considered as part of a suite of solutions to improve transportation and mobility in Boston and the metropolitan area.The report also serves as a primer on the concept of BRT, including where it has been successfully implemented in other major cities, and how it has been considered in transportation planning focused on the Greater Boston area.

As an adviser to the Study Group, ITDP supplied significant technical recommendations for the report. Of these, the most important was ITDP’s identification of five routes where gold standard BRT is technically feasible. Using data on bus routes, ridership and delays, ITDP identified the road segments with the highest bus loads, yet the lowest travel speeds. A high volume of existing passengers will help to ensure a successful and well-ridden corridor from day one. In addition, a time savings analysis found that real time savings would be achieved on each corridor (see below).

Timesavings

The Greater Boston BRT Study Group was convened two years ago to investigate and study the possibilities of implementing BRT—in particular, Gold Standard BRT—throughout the Greater Boston area. The Study Group partnered with ITDP to analyze a number of potential corridors in which BRT could reduce congestion on the T, serve underserved communities or groups, provide more direct connections between neighborhoods, and serve planned future development. Through a comprehensive technical analysis, ITDP and the Study Group prioritized five corridors in which BRT shows particular promise.

Boston potential BRT corridors
The report identifies five corridors best suited for high quality BRT, shown above with Boston’s existing subway network.

“Through its commitment to improving the climate through better public transportation, the Barr Foundation convened the Greater Boston Study Group to take a hard look at whether or not Gold Standard BRT was possible in Boston and would it produce benefits for residents, commuters, and the economy. The answer is yes,” said Mary Skelton Roberts Senior Program Office on Climate issues at the Barr Foundation. “Given the challenges we are seeing with our current public transit system in the form of funding, age, and increasing extreme weather, we need to take a serious look at solutions that are cost-effective, sustainable, and resilient. BRT is a proven mode that meets so many of our current needs.”

BRT as a mode has quadrupled worldwide in the past 10 years, and is beginning to be adopted in major US cities like Cleveland, Chicago, and Albuquerque. At Gold Standard level, BRT combines enclosed stations, exclusive, median-aligned lanes physically separated from traffic, pre-paid fare collection, real-time arrival information, and thoughtful design to rival the speed, capacity, and comfort of the best rail lines. Because BRT does not include complex track infrastructure, it requires less upfront capital to construct, and can be implemented more quickly than light rail systems.

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