Opinion Pieces: What’s in a name?

Opinion Pieces: since 2007, Prof. David Hensher has written an opinion column in the Australasian Bus and Coach magazine, where he monthly discusses a lot of different transport-related hot topics. In this section we are revisiting these columns.

June 2012

It is difficult to sell the idea of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in some cities in Australia. The mere mention of the word ‘bus’ immediately leads to comments like: “Anyone who lives in Sydney’s fast growing north west knows what a short-sighted idea it is to suggest buses should replace the rail link,” “The idea of putting more buses onto an already crowded road system just beggars belief.” Barry O’Farrell (Premier of NSW) says.

Those promoting a bus-based approach have actually talked about dedicated lanes and corridors just as in Brisbane busway. Yet despite all the efforts to explain that Bus Rapid Transit involves buses on dedicated roads, and not mixing with cars and trucks, the message has failed in many jurisdictions where the word ‘bus’ is immediately interpreted as buses in mixed traffic competing with cars and trucks.

It is time for a radical move – a name change for BRT. I have been thinking about this for many years and I now believe that we should no longer be talking about BRT but about Dedicated Corridor Transit (DCT). This places the matter fairly and squarely where it belongs – the corridor delivering transit services, with transit defined as all candidate public transport modes, or as defined online as “public transportation system for moving passengers”. That is the big sell, and not whether it is steel track or bitumen.

The next task is to heavily market this new language and I appeal to all supporters of value for money investment in public transport to start talking the new language. The sooner we start the earlier it will be that politicians and their advisers start to see the merits of at least evaluating DCT options that involve more than heavy or light rail.

Food for thought