October 04, 2019

FAQ- Getting to BRT: An Implementation Guide for U.S. Cities

This section includes answers to frequently asked questions about Getting to BRT: An Implementation Guide for U.S. Cities

  1. What is the definition of a BRT corridor?

This guide uses the definition of bus rapid transit (BRT) detailed in the BRT Standard: a section of road or contiguous roads with a minimum length of 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) that has dedicated bus lanes, and is served by at least one bus route.

  1. What is the difference between a BRT corridor and route?

The BRT corridor is the roadway infrastructure — at least 1.9 miles long with dedicated lanes. A BRT route is a fixed path and schedule for bus service that serves the BRT corridor. In a direct service operations model, the BRT routes operate along the BRT corridor, and then continue off of the corridor in mixed traffic.

  1. What is the role for BRT in U.S. cities?

U.S. cities are grappling with complex challenges like impacts from the climate crisis, crippling congestion, affordability, economic growth, and road fatalities. While cities have shown leadership in tackling some of these challenges, transit ridership is declining in most U.S. cities. Turning around declining transit ridership is crucial for cities to address some of their biggest social, environmental, and equity challenges. When transit service does not meet people’s needs, they look for alternatives, like private cars or shared mobility. Improving transit reliability and frequency significantly improves passenger satisfaction, and satisfied customers choose to ride transit more often. To this end, high-quality BRT corridors that provide faster, more reliable service not only improve conditions for the existing customers on the corridor, but also attract new riders to the route.

  1. What role can BRT play in addressing the climate crisis?

BRT corridors can help a city reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and make progress towards its climate change goals. BRT’s GHG reduction potential depends on several factors, including its associated mode shift and the fuel efficiency and technology of its buses. Fast, reliable, and convenient BRT service can attract passengers from private and shared motor vehicles, reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and GHG emissions. Low- or zero-emission BRT buses can provide additional environmental benefits. Electric buses eliminate tailpipe emissions, and their overall environmental impact compared to other types of buses depends on the source of electricity. The guide discusses some of the challenges of procuring electric BRT buses.  Section 2.5.2 of the BRT Planning Guide includes a more detailed discussion of BRT’s life-cycle environmental impacts.

  1. Which U.S. cities have BRT corridors?

Ten U.S. cities have implemented 12 BRT corridors. The eleventh city, Albuquerque, is expected to launch service on the thirteenth corridor later this year.

  • Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) — in progress. Only the design of ART was evaluated; the corridor will be reassessed once service is operational.
  • Cleveland, HealthLine
  • Eugene-Springfield, EmX, Green Line
  • Fort Collins, MAX
  • Harford, CTfastrak
  • LA Metro, Orange Line
  • Las Vegas, Strip & Downtown Express (SDX)
  • Pittsburgh, MLK Jr. East, South and West Busways
  • Richmond, The Pulse
  • San Bernardino, sbX
  • South Miami-Dade Busway

You can also check out our webinar where we highlight lessons from Albuquerque, Hartford, and Richmond here.

  1. Why were these three case studies — Hartford, Richmond, Albuquerque– selected?

ITDP selected the three case studies from (1) operational BRT corridors rated at least Bronze according to the BRT Standard and (2) corridors currently under construction that provisionally meet the Basic BRT requirements. The three U.S. BRT case studies are high-quality corridors in diverse urban contexts, with relevant characteristics. Hartford’s CTfastrak is a busway constructed along a rail right-of-way, while Richmond’s and Albuquerque’s are median-aligned urban arterials. These three case studies offer lessons to other cities about governance and coordination, capital costs, public engagement, marketing and branding, fleet electrification, and equity.

  1. Where can I find more information on BRT planning?

The BRT Planning Guide offers in-depth technical information about planning and designing a BRT corridor.

  1. How does this guide differ from the BRT Planning Guide?

This guide examines the process of implementing a BRT corridor in the specific and current context of U.S. cities. It draws upon literature, stakeholder interviews, and in-depth case studies to illuminate U.S. cities’ experience implementing high-quality BRT corridors. The BRT Planning Guide, with its deep technical content about planning and designing a BRT corridor, is written for an international, technical audience. While it does not address this specific political, institutional, and operational challenges facing U.S. cities, the BRT Planning Guide can serve as a BRT textbook when there is a specific question about some facet of BRT design, planning, or implementation.

  1. How many passengers per day do U.S. BRT corridors typically carry?

Ridership on U.S. BRT corridors varies from around 3,000 (San Bernardino sbX) to approximately 23,000 (LA Metro Orange Line and Pittsburgh MLK Jr. East Busway) passengers per day. For comparison, Mexico City’s Metrobús Linea 3 corridor carries 155,000 passengers per day, and its downtown loop, Linea 4, carries 65,000 daily passengers.

  1. What is the typical capital cost per mile of BRT in the U.S.?

The capital costs of U.S. BRT corridors vary significantly and reflect the project complexities. The least expensive corridors were implemented for less than $20 million per mile (constant 2019 dollars), including fleet. The most expensive corridors in the U.S. are exclusive busways whose cost range from approximately $40 to 80 million per mile. Comparing the capital cost of BRT and LRT in the U.S. may be useful. While the irregularity and uncertainty in capital cost data makes comparisons across projects, let alone modes, difficult, on the same corridor, all else being equal, it is reasonable to expect light rail to cost several times more than BRT.  Section 2.2 of the BRT Planning Guide presents the capital costs of several international BRT and LRT projects.

  1. How are U.S. BRT projects typically funded?

Cities that have constructed BRT corridors have relied on funding from a variety of federal, state, local, and other sources. A majority of the funding has come from federal sources. Appendix B provides detailed information about the capital funding sources used for each corridor. Appendix C lists a variety of federal funding sources that are potentially applicable to a BRT corridor.

  1. How can BRT fare policies be structured equitably?

Off-board fare collection helps speed up passenger boarding and is one of the basic elements of BRT. Most U.S. BRT systems implement off-board fare collection with proof-of-payment zones and rely on fare inspectors to verify passengers have paid their fares. However, inspecting BRT passengers’ tickets, especially with uniformed police, is problematic from an equity standpoint. The guide describes three aspects of fair BRT fare policy: (1) decriminalization of fare evasion, (2) constitutional fare inspection, and (3) equitable and inclusive fares.

  1. What BRT implementation topics does the guide address?

The guide addresses several steps critical to the successful implementation of a BRT corridor including choosing and designing the corridor; governance; financing BRT; inclusive public engagement; branding and marketing; equity; accessibility; multi-modal integration; fleet procurement and electric buses; transit oriented development; and limiting displacement and gentrification around BRT.

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