The BostonBRT Station Design Competition is an ideas competition for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations in Boston. The competition created an opportunity for designers to showcase creative, innovative and inspiring modern design for a critical part of the BRT System: The Station.
BostonBRT challenged the design community to think beyond the traditional bus stop and bring to life exciting new ideas for BRT stations in Boston. Better bus stops, combined with other elements of “Gold Standard” BRT can help transform the transit experience for Boston commuters. The three winners were selected on the following criteria:
- Reflect the character of Greater Boston and its neighborhoods
- Create a sense of comfort and elegance
- Meet the requirements of the BRT Standard and maximizes benefits to future BRT riders
- Allow for integration with other modes including walking and biking
- Demonstrate an effective and reliable rapid transit system.
Covered stations are a core feature of the BRT experience. While traditional buses have “stops” marked only by a sign and sometimes a bench, BRT vehicles come and go from stations that are sheltered, weatherproof, brightly lit, and architecturally exquisite.
What is BRT?
BRT, which doesn’t yet exist in Massachusetts, is a transformational bus system being adopted by cities around the world to carry millions of people comfortably and reliably each day. Because BRT contains features similar to a light rail or metro system, it is much more reliable, convenient and faster than regular bus services. With the right features, BRT is able to avoid the causes of delay that typically slow regular bus services, like being stuck in traffic and queuing to pay on board.
BRT improves upon the standard bus in several key ways, including:
- A dedicated right-of-way: Bus-only lanes make for faster travel and ensure that buses are never delayed due to mixed traffic congestion
- Busway Alignment: Center of roadway or bus-only corridor keeps buses away from the busy curbside where cars are parking, standing, and turning
- Off-board Fare Collection: Fare payment at the station, instead of on the bus, eliminates the delay caused by passengers waiting to pay on board
- Intersection Treatments: Prohibiting turns for traffic across the bus lane reduces delays caused to buses by turning traffic. Prohibiting such turns is the most important measure for moving buses through intersections – more important even than signal priority.
- Platform-level Boarding: The station should be at level with the bus for quick and easy boarding. This also makes it fully accessible for wheelchairs, disabled passengers, strollers and carts with minimal delays.
First Place Winner
The Billow station’s iconic design provides a distinctive brand for Boston’s BRT network and an elevated experience for transit riders. The unique diagonal column alignment allows for generous platform space toward the front of the bus and the double canopies, facing opposite directions, result in a dynamic overall form.
For curb-aligned stations, the diagonal structure creates space for a kiosk in high-traffic locations. By co-locating a coffee shop or fruit stand with a BRT station, a prosaic bus stop is transformed into a lively public space. Moveable café chairs can serve double-duty as a pleasant place to wait for the bus.
The Billow station is at once sculptural and weightless. While the roof is the natural grey of composite concrete, the underside is adorned with brightly colored decorative patterns or murals customized for each neighborhood. These richly ornamented ceilings are recessive during the day, when the hustle and bustle of the city dominates. At night, up-lighting will convert the stations into welcoming beacons.
The crosswalks leading to the stations are extensions of the art featured on the underside of the canopy. Their design will serve as invitations to the stations and help make transit an organic part of the neighborhood.
Second Place Winner
RootBRT is a station experience designed to adapt to a neighborhood community’s desires while ensuring efficient transportation links between under-connected neighborhoods and regional job hubs. A modular construction method reduces costs and guarantees flexibility, with three foundational components (Comfort, Anticipation, and Transition) that can be configured in countless ways to usher users from existing urban fabric into exciting spaces providing interaction, service, and transport.
The integration of information delivery via interactive display (BusRapidBoards, or “BRBs”); pedestrian amenities such as seating, shade, and locally-owned micro-retail; and gold standard fare collection and buses provides each station location and its users with a range of resources to improve physical and social connectivity. With a constant consideration for sustainability and resiliency, the standardized modular structures kept most construction activity off-site, minimizing disruption to the neighborhood while channeling cost savings into higher quality amenities and resiliency features such as stormwater collection, solar PV collection, and reclaimed local materials.
The end result is a station that local residents and business owners are proud to call their own, one that creates stronger connections between neighbors and neighborhoods.
Third Place Winner
The Urban Arbor proposes a new mobility aesthetic, unique for the City of Boston. Visually rooted in the palette, scale, and texture of the Boston context, the Urban Arbor is not just an infrastructural component, it is a social, ecological, and memorable icon for the future Boston BRT and the city as a whole.
Urban Arbor capitalizes on both the characteristics of mobility and of Boston. Mobility often has associations with high-tech, futuristic, structural expression, sleek-ness. Whereas, Boston is associated with the historic, detail, and warmth. The project attempts to negotiate and challenge these two sets of characteristics; being sympathetic to the historic nature of the Boston neighborhoods, while also representing the technological advancements of the BRT infrastructure.
Urban Arbor is characterized by the integration of deep planter gardens, which serve visual, social and ecological purposes for the station. Visually, the planters soften the edges of the station and provide a barrier between the waiting areas and adjacent traffic flows. Socially, the community can help to determine which plants are used and, through a volunteer program, aid in the maintenance of the garden. Ecologically, the roof of the station acts as a rainwater recovery system, allowing stormwater to drain directly into the planter gardens. Integrated solar panels on the roof allow the LED lighting and wayfinding systems to be fully off the grid.
For more information about the station design competition and to see all the entries, check out bostonbrt.org.
While some world leaders deny that our climate is changing, Mexico City is sinking.
Increased heat and drought, exacerbated by the emissions of millions of vehicles in the world’s most congested city, are worsening water shortages in Mexico’s capital. As drilling goes deeper and deeper for more water, Mexico City’s foundation is eroding and causing the city to actually sink—up to nine inches per year in some areas. Climate change couldn’t be more real to Mexico City residents who, even at 8,000 feet above sea level, are seeing its impacts every day: a crumbling sidewalk here, a split in the earth beneath a bus lane there.
Unfortunately, Mexico City is no anomaly. The effects of warming air, intensified storms, and rising seas are already being felt in cities across the globe, more than 90% of which are coastal. In Chennai, India last year, a heavy typhoon caused devastating flooding with an increased intensity that may be the new norm. Rising waters and floods are particularly worrisome for Jakarta, Indonesia, forty percent of which already lies below sea level.
With the U.S. backpedaling on its climate leadership role despite major international agreements already in place, cities are now taking the lead in curbing one of climate change’s biggest culprits: transport, which is responsible for 22% of all energy-related emissions. All over the world, ITDP is working closely with cities that are finding new and innovative ways to boost sustainable transport and reduce reliance on cars. Here are just a few examples:
BRT in the USA
As urban areas grow across the U.S., cities like Boston are turning to bus rapid transit (BRT) systems to efficiently provide mobility to their residents—meaning less cars on the road and fewer emissions. In Boston, ITDP is working with the government to implement a vision for what could be the country’s first Gold Standard BRT.
Less Parking, Less Driving in Mexico City
In Mexico City, the prevalence of easy parking is encouraging driving and contributing to massive congestion and emissions. With ITDP’s support, Mayor Miguel Mancera is now pursuing a sweeping and precedent-setting overhaul of the city’s parking policy—a move that will shift more residents to public transit, reduce pollution, and deliver a crucial new source of transportation funding.
BostonBRT and ITDP are calling for submissions to a station design competition to encourage creative visions of what a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Boston. Winners will receive cash prizes and a travel package to ITDP’s international MOBILIZE Summit in Santiago, Chile.
Bus rapid transit (BRT) is being considered for the greater Boston area as a means to deliver high quality rapid transit to underserved areas. A critical component of a good BRT system is the station – the most visible part of the system – a symbol of that system. It is the interface between the movement of the system and the status of the neighborhood. At stations, passengers board and alight the vehicle, buy tickets, validate them and enter to wait. Passengers look for information. Buses have to approach and align with the correct place in the station. Stations are where everything comes together in the BRT system and the efficiency of the station design and the technologies built into the stations is of primary importance to success of the system. And while they are important components of the transit system and need to be designed for to ensure buses achieve operational efficiency, they also need to be designed for people and for the community.
A station design competition is being held to encourage creative visions of what a BRT system in Boston could look like. Iconic, aesthetically welcoming and pleasing stations will serve as anchors in their communities and inspire Boston to think big about improving the daily commute.
The BostonBRT Station Design Competition is an ideas competition for BRT stations in Boston, implemented as part of the larger BostonBRT campaign to improve transit in Greater Boston. The contest seeks BRT stations that inspire, create a sense of civic pride, and deliver a world-class transit experience. Proposals will be judged by a community panel and the public around the design objectives of station area, rider experience, and feasibility.
Entrants will be required to submit concept-level designs for center platform BRT stations (See examples in Design Precedents, shown above). The first place winner will receive a cash prize of $4,000 and two travel packages to ITDP’s MOBILIZE conference on June 28-30 in Santiago, Chile. Second place will receive a cash prize of $2,000, and for 3rd place, a cash prize of $1,000.
The goal of the design competition is to develop a station concept that accomplishes the following:
- Reflects the character of Greater Boston and its neighborhoods
- Creates a sense of comfort and elegance
- Meets the requirements of the BRT Standard and maximizes benefits to future BRT riders
- Allows for integration with other modes including walking and biking
- Demonstrates an effective and reliable rapid transit system
Entrants must register by April 5, and submissions are due April 12. The winning design will be announced at an event on May 10th.
The contest will be administered by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) and sponsored by the Barr Foundation. Full list of design specifications, submissions and evaluation process available at http://www.bostonbrt.org/station-design-contest
Questions? Contact email@example.com.
- Letter from the CEO: Inclusive TOD for Sustainable, Equitable Cities
- Santiago, Chile Improves Equity by Putting Pedestrians First
- At MOBILIZE Yichang, Mid-Size City Takes the Lead
- People Near Transit: A New Metric for Accessibility to Rapid Transit
- Mobility as Equity: Low-Income People Near Transit
- Is Your City Made for You?
- 14 Years in the Making, DART Brings Mobility to Dar es Salaam
- Africa Rising in Kigali, Rwanda
- Beyond the Women-Only Train Car: Gender and Sustainable Transport
- The Art of Being a Local in Medan, Indonesia
- Millennials Weigh Their Transport Options in Car-Centric America
- Better Living Through Buses
- Mobility vs. Access: Dr. Elliot Sclar
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).
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.
“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.
Boston finds itself at a crossroads. The metropolitan area is in dire need of bold, modern, resilient, but also cost-efficient transit solutions to improve and complement our existing system. The record-level snowfall in 2015 and other extreme weather events are harsh reminders of this longstanding reality. Metropolitan area planners have included BRT in a number of proposals, and portions of the Silver Line bus in Boston have elements of BRT. But its potential hasn’t been truly realized, and there had previously never been a citywide technical analysis of what this mode of transit can offer.
To better understand whether and where BRT could work in the region, the Barr Foundation convened the Greater Boston BRT Study Group. Made up of diverse stakeholders and transit experts from across the city, the BRT Study Group partnered with the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy to investigate the possibilities for implementing BRT throughout the metropolitan area. In particular, the Study Group focused on the highest performance level of BRT called Gold Standard. This report outlines the Study Group’s conclusions, and the benefits Gold Standard BRT has to offer in Greater Boston.
Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick took a ride on Mexico City’s Metrobús BRT to gain a first-hand sense of what true, high-functioning BRT can be like. In the city on a regional trade mission, Governor Patrick, along with Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary Richard Davey, several other state-level Secretaries, ITDP Mexico staff, and ITDP US Director, Annie Weinstock, toured Metrobús Line 3. Over the last year, ITDP has been working closely with the MassDOT, MBTA, and a study group convened by the Barr Foundation to explore where gold-standard BRT could have the most success in the Boston area. At the conclusion of the BRT ride, the Governor and Secretary of Transportation expressed support for the idea, opening the door for planning to begin as soon as the Study Group makes its recommendation.
Guillermo Calderón, the General Director for Metrobús, and Rufino León Tovar, Mexican National Minister for Transport and Roads accompanied the Governor on the tour, offering insight on the system’s benefits. Calderón shared the Metrobús’s high ridership and design innovations with Governor Patrick, while Secretary Davey looked closely at the silver-standard features of Metrobús, such as fully enclosed stations, platform-level boarding, off-board fare collection, and a centrally-aligned busway. Line 3 of Metrobús stretches from the city’s outskirts through downtown Mexico City, offering the Massachusetts delegation a look at how BRT could translate to streets as narrow as those in downtown Boston, as well as to the wider streets of Roxbury and Mattapan.
ITDP began working in Boston in December 2013 through a grant from the Barr Foundation to identify possible corridors for gold-standard BRT in the Boston area. Using analyses of existing bus demand, bus speeds, and existing street design, ITDP is helping to determine which bus corridors could benefit most from gold-standard BRT, including all of the features of Metrobús and more. In the coming months, potential corridors will be brought to local communities for discussion. Any of the corridors that can get enough support has the potential of being added into the Boston area’s Long Range Transportation Plan as the Boston area’s future BRT network, and the one that emerges with the most support will be prioritized for planning in the coming months. Governor Patrick was hopeful that swift progress was possible, and looked forward to the recommendations of the Study Group.
Though many parts of Boston are well served by public transit, many of the city’s main arterial roads become heavily congested during peak traffic hours. Bus routes through low income neighborhoods are often insufficient, and fail to meet the growing needs of the communities. A gold-standard BRT corridor would address many of these concerns, reducing traffic on the road and increasing access to transit with frequent high-capacity buses through key neighborhoods.
Governor Patrick’s visit to Metrobús demonstrates the State’s commitment to exploring the applicability of high-quality BRT in the Boston area and indeed, statewide. The visit’s success helps build momentum for a true Boston BRT, and ITDP US looks forward to the coming months as planning for Boston’s first true BRT is likely to begin in earnest.