8 Million Plays of Livable Streets Videos!
Browse Terms of Use

MBA: Bus Rapid Transit

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) provides faster and more efficient service than an ordinary bus. "These systems operate like a surface subway, say BRT advocates, but cost far less than building an actual metro." Watch this chapter of Moving Beyond the Automobile to learn about the key features of bus rapid transit systems around the world and how BRT helps shift people out of cars and taxis and into buses.

Streetfilms would like to thank The Fund for the Environment & Urban Life for making this series possible.


[music] 

Mark Gorton:  [00:14] Bus Rapid Transit is a great technology because it both removes road space from automobiles and transforms that same space into a more efficient, environmentally friendly use.

 

Enrique Penalosa:  [00:24] In order to restrict car use you should have transit going everywhere, and it’s much more effective to reach all points in a city with BRT systems.

 

Veronica Vanterpool:  [00:37] Bus Rapid Transit can help reduce traffic by making it a faster and more reliable service, meaning more people would consider taking the bus. 

 

Walter Hook:  [00:44] A Bus Rapid Transit system is essentially a way of creating a subway or a metro quality of service and speed using buses and special stations. 

 

[music] 

Walter Hook:  [01:01] Bus Rapid Transit tends to have three critical components.  It has exclusive lanes on the street.  The bus lane is physically separated from the rest of the traffic so that it can bypass the traffic congestion.  The second really critical element of the Bus Rapid Transit system is the station.  The station is generally up on a platform that’s at the same level as the floor of the bus.  You pay when you enter the station, you can get on all the doors of the bus at the same time.  The next really critical piece is try to give the buses some priority at the intersection.  Usually that means you restrict the turning movements across the bus way, maybe, or changing the signal phasing.

 

[music] 

Veronica Vanterpool:  [01:43] It’s very expensive to build new infrastructure so we need to find innovative and inexpensive ways of adding the transit capacity.  Bus Rapid Transit is one way of doing that. 

 

Walter Hook:  [01:51] Bus Rapid Transit will lead to about a 10 to 20% shift of passengers out of private cars and taxis. 

 

[music] 

Veronica Vanterpool:  [02:04] Right now we’re standing next to the 34th Street exclusive bus lane, but it’s not physically separated from traffic, so cars often do park in the bus lane.  One of the ways to make it more successful is to prevent that from happening with some sort of barrier.

 

Walter Hook:  [02:18] The best Bus Rapid Transit systems in the world are still the Latin American systems.  Curitiba built the first true Bus Rapid Transit system in the 1970’s, it’s one of the best in the world.  Bogotá, Colombia, built the state of the art Bus Rapid Transit system, it has the highest speed and the highest capacity.  TransMilenio is moving about 40,000 passengers per direction at the peak hour, and it’s moving them at about 22 miles an hour, which is very fast.  Your average bus in New York is moving about six miles an hour. 

 

Enrique Penalosa:  [02:51] TransMilenio grew mobility and so much so that more than 20% of TransMilenio users are car owners.  In many developing countries [unintelligible] the only people who use public transport are those who do not have cars.

 

[music] 

Mark Gorton:  [03:05] By replacing automobiles with buses you can increase the capacity of the system.  You can reduce the average person’s trip time, you can reduce pollution.  It is win, win, win, win.   

[music] 

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Elizabeth Press is a Filmmaker for Streetfilms. She joined Streetfilms in 2007 to focus her video work on advocating for better biking, walking and mass transit.

34 Comments
Embed Code

Embed This on Your Site

HD File

Request a high-definition version of this video

  1. (required)
  2. (valid email required)
  3. Captcha
 

cforms contact form by delicious:days

  • http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/ M1EK

    Sad to see you guys falling for this con-job; 90% of the time supposed BRT systems end up as merely "better bus", meaning express buses with differently colored plumage and/or fancier stops. It's a trojan horse so highway interests can make sure no more investment in rail happens - because rail is a threat to them in a way bus never is or can be.

  • http://brokenoffcarantenna.com roymeo

    So BRT is bad because of what it stands for or why it is proposed/implemented, not what it does?

    I wonder how BRT vs. Rail works in the case of a disaster (earthquake, flood, road construction).

  • BRTDefend

    Dear M1EK, It seems as though you have never ridden or really researched good BRT systems. Granted, there are BRT systems around the world that are not fully equipped, and yes, their service is lacking and not as effective as they should be. However, those that receive the amount of financing that allow the systems to be designed well (at a fraction of the cost of rail or metro by the way), are efficient, improve the mobility and transit times within the city and provide much needed transit to those that have no options.  For example, the Guangzhou BRT has not only reduced congestion along the main corridor & the CBD in the city, but has also provided increased access and affordability to the less affluent areas in the city. What your comment really calls for is increased infrastructure funding so that these projects can be fully realized in the cities that need better, more sustainable transit options.  

  • cabanes

    I like the idea of BRT but I have to ask, why is it that the famous BRT systems are in places in developing countries (especially latin america)? Would someone care to explain meaning of this?

  • Andrew

    There are good BRT systems in Ottawa, Canada and Brisbane, Australia. Both are hardly developing countries.

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/05/ottawa-moving-on-from-the-busway.html

    http://www.humantransit.org/2009/05/brisbane-a-short-tour-of-the-south-east-busway.html

  • Manhattanite

    Looks like these busways need 8, 10 and more lanes. (I've also seen them that wide in Istanbul as part of road-building projects.)

    So for 34th Street where I live and where a busway's proposed, just tear down all the buildings on either side!

    Better that than having people live right next to the buses' roar that rumbles up building walls and into apartments! (As my neighbors and I know, because the current bus lanes make our windows rattle and walls throb, which they didn't before the bus lanes were installed.)

  • http://brisurbane.wordpress.com BrisUrbane

    Brisbane has many busways. That is correct. And it works well. The BrisUrbane Blog has used them.

    The comparison with rail systems are sometimes a bit unfair I believe. A transport mode really should stand on its own two feet than need to attack other modes. Remember, car has the best service characteristics of all modes- no waiting, direct point-to-point trip, probably no need for new infrastructure...

    There has hardly been any focus on network integration and the benefits that can bring- it is almost like a fundamental attribution error- this belief that if you just build it they will come.

    You have to have supporting policies on cars (car parking, congestion tolling perhaps, restraining freeway construction), an integrated transport system that makes it easy to connect, a ticketing system that doesn't penalise transfers, an agency that organises this all and collects all fare revenue. This is essential.

    All these things seem to be overlooked because they are not as obvious as a sexy new LRT vehicle, or City Bicycle hire schemes (which Brisbane also has and hasn't seemed to work very well so far), brand new infrastructure or bright red BRT Vehicles.

  • al

    Manhattanite,
    The Empire State Building, Macy's, a NYC public school, and a CUNY/NYPL facility are all along 34th St.

  • Huh?

    Not sure if I understand M1EK correctly...if BRT is done the way suggested in the video it is highly successful. Just because some U.S. cities have struggled to do it right doesn't mean the idea should be jettisoned. It just means we need to do it so it works correctly...

    If you have experienced it in any of those cities, you'd see it is great.

  • alen

    i bet more people would take the bus and the subway if the city changed the parking regulations. between daily street cleaning on some streets and parking meters in residential areas in NYC a lot of people have to take the car or get ticketed

  • Scott Mercer

    The Orange Line is Los Angeles is STILL not full BRT.

    It does have separated lanes, but it does not have grade separation. It still has to stop at some traffic lights. It is still poky.

    The bus route it was supposed to be an alternative to is still running. The 750 Rapid Bus takes about 90 minutes from terminus to terminus. The Orange Line takes about 50 minutes. Still poky, but with grade separation the bus could have gone a lot faster, traveling the route in perhaps as little as 30 minutes.

    The point is, if you don't invest in true BRT, including grade separation, it really is a waste of money. So, you're spending less than building a train line, but what are you getting?

    I've said it before: quality doesn't cost, it pays.

  • Alek F

    This all sound good in theory, but the reality is - buses will never ever be as good and as reliable as rail systems.

    For several main reasons: speed, capacity, quality of ride, quality, and operating expenses. All of those factors make Rail much more cost-effective and attractive solution. A bus is only a bus. Even on dedicated right-of-ways. The reason it's so highly advocated is because it requires a significantly less investment (initially) than into Rail transit; the governments don't want to invest a lot of money, that's why they make it sound like BRT is a golden idea. Yeah, right!

    The bottom line is, no matter how strongly the transit agencies and governments will propagate it, BRT will always be a mediocre system, not comparable to the efficiency of Rail transit.

  • v

    Traveling between the Amsterdam airport and Haarlem, I generally take the (articulated, super clean, fast, comfortable) bus, which is as close to a full BRT as any bus I've been on. It runs along a dedicated route, and it's considered a precursor to future rail projects. I don't know the numbers, but it seems like a good way to plan for future growth without going whole-hog in the beginning. Many commuters to the corporate campuses around the airport also use the same route.

  • http://bikesfortherestofus.com Joseph E

    Re: Los Angeles Orange line.

    The issue is not grade separation, but the lack of gates at crossings.

    If this had been built as light rail, crossing gates could have been put at most intersections, allowing trains to travel 60 mph (100 kph) along most of the route between stations.

    The BRT system was built with just stop lights at intersections, so speed at crossings is limited.

    Nonetheless, the BRT is pretty fast, averaging 20 mph (almost 30 kph), as fast as some older subway systems where the stations are close together. It takes 38 minutes to go 12.5 miles between Warner Center and North Hollywood.

    By comparison, the Blue Line light rail system takes 27 minutes to go 15 miles between Washington and Willow stations (which is the fastest, completely separate right-of-way), but there are fewer stations in between. At best, light rail with gates or grade-separated rail on the Orange Line right-of-way, with the same stations, could have gone 30 mph. That's 50% faster, but still in the same realm.

  • miguel2299

    BRT will never ever ever attract the kinds of ridership that rail does.  Rail is much smoother, more comfortable, and a lot less dangerous than brt when considering the fact that a human being is behind the wheel.  the lives of ALL human beings on this bus are in the hands of this driver which unlike a guided railway is prone to human error like lets say having a heart attack and smashing into the oncoming bus.  busses are loud, uncomfortable and annoying.  here's something I wrote on a BRT line that I live near.  and for the record I have given BRT a chance on more than one occasion and now avoid it and use my car instead.:

    I dont think its fair that a lot of LA county is in the process of being connected by rail while most of the San Fernando Valley is still largely un served by real rapid transit. I commute from simi valley. My dad and I have owned a small business in Chatsworth for 20 years. I’ve taken the Orange line as an alternative to get into downtown via the subway but have recently been completely bypassing the orange line and driving directly to North Hollywood to catch the subway because the Orange Line is WAY to slow. BTW I do this on weekends as well so metrolink service is non existent. To take the orange line from one side to the other feels like an eternity and compared to other options it kind of is. The ride is really bumpy & jerky and it doesnt help that the buses are always completely packed so i’m often stuck standing instead of actually getting the seat i payed for which is sometimes, and even half the time OK, but come on most of the time! Really?! Also, the solution to full buses on the orange line makes no economic sense to me. Why pay 2 union bus workers to drive together when you can have a train with 3 cars that can hold hundreds of more paying passengers comfortably with only one conductor. Also, since there’s no way of the orange line converting to rail & the buses are pretty much set on a fixed guideway, why werent they made electric trolley buses? Just a thought. I know that’s not important right now so I’ll just leave that as is.Anyway, another issue is the fact that the time displays at the stations which show when the next bus is coming are almost always off. This can be really frustrating when in a hurry & really discourages wanting to ride.. the orange line is great to travel a few blocks over for locals close to colleges, malls or even NoHo, but to be honest its not a real “rapid” alternative. During rush hour the buses are stopped more often at lights making it even longer to get across the valley. The only time the orange line is fast is at night when all the lights turn green and travel time from end to end can be as short as 25 minutes. Please! Build something that gets a bit closer to the 118 or at least somewhat try to give the 101 a decent, comfortable, respectable alternative not only for the “poor” people of the valley, but maybe also for those south of Ventura Blvd. and over the the 3 near by hills (Simi Valley, Santa Clarita & everything west of woodland hills which is still part of LA county). For the amount of people in the valley and the tax income we generate for LA county we deserve much more than we have. I just hope this time NIMBY’s will learn from their mistake on the orange line to appose light-rail and actually push Rail and say heck no to BRT.Thing is this wont happen unless someone points out the real benefits a rail corridor will bring, publically like our mayor did with the Westside subway extention otherwise people will never know planning is going on in the SFV on a transit project kind of like me & the orange line.one last thing, my preference for a ligh-rail corridor is either heavy rail under ventura/101 or lightrail down Sherman Way as was originally there back in the 1920?s and early 30?s. Sherman Way has so much potential. Its sad that it is what it is. Light rail can completely turn that around  

  • Steve K.

    I don't agree with everything miguel2299 has said. But I do wish there was a rail solution that went from Agoura to Pasadena straight along the 101/134/210. I've tried taking the Red Line from Universal to Union Station then Gold Line to Pasadena. It's amazing how long that takes!!! Fairly reliable. But not always. Strangely enough miguel2299, rail seems to have quite a few delays too! But the amount of time to have to go all the way downtown then all the way up to Pasadena is crazy. I'd like to see a long term solution the would create a rail line that could run the length of the East/West 101/134 and 210. I would imagine that would have an enormous ridership of people and bring in quite a bit of revenue. Light rail would make the most sense.

  • Miguel2299

    Yea i've thought of that too, I've looked at a map of LA and tried to see where the best location for a line would be and the only thing I could come up with is continue the orange line on that right of way through burbank, glendale and connect with the gold line... thats a tough one. I just there that for now there are areas of higher priorety (areas of higher congestion) i.e. the 405 all areas of LA are so dense that finding a ROW is difficult in any case. one of the reasons the orange line doesnt work is because at every intersection (because designed for a rail ROW with guard gates, there is development all the way to the street where the busway intersects the street. this means that someone that is asleep or confused by the lights in the bus xing may just run that light... so busses are limited to 35mph on most of the line. really slow when you think about how much it has to stop. BRT has its place,. I really dont think its here in LA.. It better serves lesser dense areas than the SFV.

  • EdFromCanada

    Why does the BRT lobby keep on promoting the idea that BRT, done Curitiba or Bogota style, can be transposed to North American cities successfully? I say B(u)S!

    First of all, car ownership is far, far less common there. Most people have little choice but to use buses, camionetas, jeepneys, etc. or other public transit. It is easy to get ridership figures like what TransMilenio have with all those captive bus users.

    The BRT lobby keeps saying “look at Bogota, look at Curitiba, look what they can do with buses” but the reality is, in any North American city, corners end up being cut and you end up with little more than glorified express bus service. Las Vegas has a textbook half-a**ed example of what passes for Bus “Rapid Transit” in North America. Everything there is all backwards because they chose to go on the cheap. A separate busway where it is least effective or needed in the low traffic area around the government buildings and World Market Center, bus lanes in the old downtown/Fremont area and express-bus service with regular on-street running in the busiest area, the Strip. "Metro quality service", are you kidding me?

    You want to get regular, middle class North Americans out of their cars and onto public transit, build trains. This is not Colombia or Brazil, so why should we think a Colombian or Brazilian solution would apply here? Every single city in North America that has gone with rail has seen ridership spike, while Ottawa, the poster child for North American BRT has seen ridership drop in the last 20 years. This article tries to make the rail lobby look like villains; well the bus lobby is little different. They also have, guess what… bus manufacturers bankrolling them! I am sure they treat city or transit officials to dinner or a round of golf, just like any lobbyist would, in order to peddle their influence. The main difference between the BRT and LRT lobbies is that the BRT lobby seems to not want transit to succeed. Sure, you can speed up the ride for a few minutes for existing users, but they seem either clueless regarding or simply do not care for gaining a greater share of commuters. Nothing but a shiny toy to boast about. “Just like rails, but on rubber wheels”… sure, and OJ is innocent.

    This site outlines very well the deficiencies and common threads we see with North American BRT: http://beyonddc.com/log/?p=2546
    Nothing but a big bait and switch. And yes, I have been ridden on the TransMilenio. There is not and will never be a BRT system of that quality built in North America, despite what its boosters say.

  • http://brisurbane.wordpress.com BrisUrbane

    BRT is a legitimate transport mode and can also be operated out of train stations, like in Perth, Australia (Rockingham City Centre Transit System) and Toronto, Canada (Viva bus) as part of an integrated transport network.

    The benefits of BRT is that you don't need expensive rail infrastructures installed first and it can be very quick and cheap to set up.

    You can't put a subway down every street. Fact. Even trying to do that with light rail is going to be problematic. BRT is a NOW solution.

    The problem with "my mode is better than your mode" is that it completely ignores CONTEXT. Context matters and cannot be ignored. Horses for courses.

    NETWORK INTEGRATION is the elephant in the room. It would be good to see a streetfilm on competent network design, interview Paul Mees or go to Perth or Toronto.

    The best light rail, subway, BRT or whatever mode will be completely useless if it is not connected as part of a functioning, integrated whole.

  • Rob

    While I'll acknowledge that true BRT has it's place in America, particularly in connecting dispersed major suburban employment centers, it is far from "win, win, win" for all places. It is particularly ill-suited to heavily congested urban corridors that are better served by rail - especially those corridors *already* served by rail. It makes little sense, for example, to construct an add-a-lane HOV/HOT lane with fake BRT (express bus running in mixed-traffic on the new lanes) when the proposed "BRT" would run litterally a few feet away from existing rail service.

    BRT success is developing nations is not readily transferable to the United States. Systems in Bogota and Curitiba replaced chaotic private van/chitney service - an organized and systematic bus service is a quantum leap in performance beyond chaos. Curitiba, for instance, has a system that has not been completed after years of service and is already looking to Metro (rail). Another leading international example of BRT success (Ottawa, Canada) is also transitioning routes to rail. BRT is a bridge system to rail in heavily traveled corridors.

    In many locations, cities in the United States already have traffic volumes to support rail, especially if coupled with pricing strategies on existing highway lanes to induce additional ridership. Using our scarce transportation dollars to build devgeloping nation transportation systems - bridges to where we are already at - is a tremendous waste. The United States should be building brideges to our future, not our present, or even our past, for that matter.

    Finally, proposed express bus projects masquerading under the banner of "BRT" threaten to undermine the credibility of true BRT for even those locations in the United States where it may well be the best investment, as noted above. HOV/HOT with express bus running in mixed traffic is the worst possible form of "BRT" and it is being used for no other purpose than to add justification to imprudebnt add-a-lane projects.

  • BuiltOutInJersey

    Naysayers need to step aside and trade in their negativity and sketisism for a sack pulled over their heads. There will never by a perfect system given the fact that life is meant to be lived with 2 feet on the ground and locally, but given the costs and inflexibility of rail, weighed against a BRT with Stations (not bus stops); linear greenway where applicable; alternate fuel vehicles; off board ticketing, etc, etc... it offers credible and flexible solutions to mobility issues - particulary in those areas where new starts rail arent practicle or possible.

    I agree, using "BRT" when a line is proposed as merely an express bus hurts the cause, and thumbing our noses at buses is shortsighted.

  • http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/ M1EK

    BuiltOutInJersey, it's really easy to be a naysayer about BRT when it's being deployed as a trojan horse in the US in almost every instance (being pushed on credulous transit agencies by politicians who really just don't want rail to compete for future transportation dollars).

    Nowhere in this country has it worked even half as well at attracting choice commuters as the lower tier of light rail lines have done. Period.

  • Ibrake4snakes

    Andrew: What is happening with Ottawa's? BRT is a bridge to something better, but is an appropriate bridge nonetheless. The problem arises when state DOTs see "BRT" as the way to feign support for transit in their highway expansion projects. Throwing an extra-long express bus onto a new HOV/HOT lane does not magically trasnform a highway expansion project into a transit investment. As was attributed to Abe Lincoln in response to the question "How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."

    "Fifth leg BRT" systems - highway expansions gussied-up to look like transit investments - threaten the credibility of all BRT in America and BRT advocates would be wise to oppose such projects. True BRT, i.e., barrier-separated and exclusive runway, is probably a great idea for intersuburban employment center commutes. On the other hand, even "true BRT" is a terrible soultion for heavily congested urban highway corridors that should be served by rail; implementing "fake" BRT in such corridors is not only a patently bad idea, but it will also permanently tarnish BRT's reputation.

  • Rob

    Unfortunately, BRT vehilces are terrible investments from an ROI perspective. They are very costly, their fuel costs are extreme, the driver to passenger capacity is low, etc. That written, they still are a step above suburban driving alone, though a huge step down from rail. The question sin't one of mode, but rather one of locale-specific needs. Rail for the heaviest traveled urban corridors, true BRT to connect disbursed suburban employment centers, and no overlapping of service - transfer hubs, only.

    Running fancy busses in mixed-traffic and calling them BRT is just plain dumb. America isn't about to fall for that . . . might have been born at night, but it wasn't last night. BRT is not great, but it's good in some circumstances - just not everywhere the highway industry wants to put it in order to justify add-a-lane projects.

  • Rob

    . . . and added variable rate congestion pricing to all existing freeway lanes. Pricing plus high capacity, affordable, reliable transit is a winning combination, but pricing can't be done without the transit option - people must be given the choice (and ability) to avoid paying the cost of driving on the highway. No option, then there should be no fee. The fee should support transit operating and capital expenses in the corridor of travel so everyone - highway users included - benefits.

  • Rob

    " . . . and it's considered a precursor to future rail projects." Precisely. That is where BRT shines, not as a substitute for travel where rail is already appropriate. We need to build bridges to our future, not our past.

  • Ibrake4snakes

    "The issue is not grade separation, but . . ." But, decision-makers all too often substitute inferior bus systems in place of *true* BRT. If we're going to do BRT, do it right or don't do it at all. What a ridculous waste of scarce transportation dollars. If it isn't BRT, let's not call it BRT. If consultants want to attached perceived BRT benefits to a project, then the project should actually be BRT - barrier-separated, exclusive runway, pre-boarding paying, high-end stations, etc. Otherwise we're being sold a pig-in-a-poke.

  • John Svoboda

    This could bring a great idea to use in Western Sydney providing a chnage in public transport

  • Anon

     It's not being implemented properly in US I'm afraid. With BRT you have to get the all the elements right otherwise the system falls down. From what i have seen so far the US BRT systems cherry pick which parts they are comfortable with and don't fully invest in the whole package. Your cities are also very auto-centric in their planning, making it even more difficult to bring all the required elements in. In Adelaide the guided Busway takes more passengers than any other form of transit in the city, including the Heavy and Light Rail lines. This is one of countless examples around the world.

  • David

    To suggest that BRT is a 'developing nation transportation system' is simply incorrect. The British, Germans, Dutch, French, Italians, Spanish, Swedish, Australians, and pretty much all of developed Asia are all building and have built succesful BRT systems. I agree that BRT can be an excellent bridge to rail for corridors that see massive rider demand, but it's important to note that evidence shows us that said increase came about over time because of the BRT system and it's influence on land and property values along the corridor in question.

  • Blue River Bob

    Check out Eugene Oregon's transit system LTD as they waste over $60 million dollars in Federal Transportation dollars, not to mention about $30 million in Oregon state lottery funds to build a BRT bus to nowhere named the EmX. Because THEY are getting "free money".

  • truthbetold

    actually not true at all. working fantastically well in Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Eugene, and being planned in many other communities.

  • Ed Kyle

    The narrator gleefully reports that BRT is good because it will take road lanes away from automobiles.  Does he really believe that the public will support taking highway lanes away?  BRT is a fine idea for some circumstances, but it should not be presented as a way to take away automobile freedom.  Add lanes for BRT, don't take lanes away from autos. 

  • http://twitter.com/AlexWithAK Alex Knight

    That kills the affordability of BRT. Much cheaper and more sensible to take away car lanes. Plus, it discourages car usage and encourages bus usage.