Success factors in BRT systems

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high capacity, low cost public transit solution that can significantly improve urban mobility.  This system uses specialized buses on dedicated lanes to transport passengers quickly and efficiently, while offering the flexibility to meet transit demand. BRT systems can easily be customized to community needs and incorporate state-of-the-art, low-cost technologies that result in more passengers and less congestion.

BRT systems can provide a clean, affordable and reliable means of transport by means of an enhanced bus system that operates on dedicated bus lanes at faster speed, providing greater service reliability and increased customer convenience.  Successful BRTs use a combination of advanced technologies, infrastructure and operational investments that provide significantly better service than traditional bus service.

BRTs have been implemented both in modern cities of developed countries (Phoenix, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Boston, etc. in the US, Sidney, Adelaide and Brisbane in Australia, etc.)  and in large, unstructured cities of less developed countries such as Quito (Ecuador), Bogotá (Colombia) Guangzhou (China) or Istanbul (Turkey). In all cases, it is of utmost importance to recognize and understand the local user needs and provide solutions that cater for these.

BRT systems combine dedicated infrastructure with modern ITS systems

The key elements of a BRT system are:

  • Running ways (dedicated bus lanes)
  • Vehicles (standard, articulated, elevated floor)
  • Enhanced stations (elevated platform, level boarding, ticket vending machines, closed circuit television, etc.)
  • Off-board Fare Collection
  • Intelligent Transport Systems (signal priority, automatic vehicle location, real time passenger information systems, control centre for monitoring, etc.)
  • Service and operating Plans (high frequency, extended hours of service, high reliability)
  • Branding

The successful development and planning of a BRT system requires the consideration of several factors:

  • Actual traffic situation
  • Existing public transport service
  • Need for integrated planning: BRT corridor in the context of the public transport network planning and the wider city
  • Bus stop/station concepts: transfer stations, bus depots, etc.
  • Technologies to be implemented

The initial goal of any BRT has to be to develop a system that provides an effective service (high occupation, high safety, low emissions), offering competitive travel times (high frequency, high speed) a high-quality service with competitive fares, and an attractive image.

Additionally, the BRT system must ensure that there is an adequate institutional and regulatory framework in place, that the new scheme will generate significant socioeconomic benefits (as properly measured in a project appraisal) and that all necessary measures for the mitigation of environmental and social impacts of the system are considered from the outset.

Success Factors

BRTs require integrated planning of the system, an institutional and regulatory framework that favours the management and oversight of the system and the need to engage the public, but most importantly to understand the needs and preferences of customers to be satisfied.

  1. Integrated approach to planning and development: Re-design the bus network to provide efficient services feeding the BRT corridor

This may imply reorganizing the bus industry, to avoid (wasteful) competition on the new BRT corridor, whilst developing feeder line services. It is essential to give opportunities to existing operators, ensuring that the new system generates local employment. Engaging existing local bus operators to become part of the system will require training the personnel to drive, maintain, enforce and manage the system.

  1. Institutional structure and regulatory framework to support the system

A strategic public transport authority with appropriate expertise and capability to plan, regulate and form relationships to ensure delivery of public transport services is fundamental to the successful development and implementation of a BRT.

In this respect, there will be need for cooperation of multiple agencies, and in some cases, transfer of control of the running ways (highways, streets, traffic management and enforcement, including priority at traffic lights, etc.) over which the BRT system operates.

  1. Engage the public and promote the BRT system

Successful BRT systems take advantage of established BRT practice, whilst making use of detailed knowledge of local user needs. To this end, it is critical to understand and acknowledge the BRT choice factors:

  • Affordable travel cost: transit fares (plus any related costs like parking)
  • Door-to-door travel time
  • Frequency of services
  • Hours of service
  • Convenience of service
  • Reliability of service
  • Comfort (on board vehicles and at stations)
  • Improved safety or security (on board vehicles and at stations)
  • Customer service

ALG has extensive experience in the planning, development and structuring of BRT systems worldwide, with examples developed in Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Bangladesh, Morocco and Senegal.

About the authors
César Valero Mendoza is a Civil Engineer, holds an MBA, and is a Director at at ALG
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