High Quality Public Transport: Gaining Acceptance of Bus Rapid Transit Systems

The selection of appropriate public transport investments that will maximise the likelihood of delivering the levels of service required to provide a serious alternative to the automobile is high on the agendas of many metropolitan governments. Mindful of budget constraints, it is crucial to ensure that such investments offer the greatest value for money. This chapter promotes the view that integrated multi-modal systems that provide frequency and connectivity in a network-based framework offer the best way forward. A mix of public transport investments with buses as feeder services and bus rapid transit (BRT) as trunk services can offer a greater coverage and frequency than traditional forms of rail, even at capacity levels often claimed the domain of rail. Design features are important in order to promote good performance, and evidence is presented as to the importance of the various design elements to driving patronage. Decision-makers need to recognize implementation issues can be complex if a successful outcome of a BRT system contributing to the public transport network is to be achieved.

Do preferences for BRT and LRT vary across geographical jurisdictions? A comparative assessment of six Australian capital cities

Developing and updating public transport infrastructure is one of the most complex and far-reaching investment decisions for government. Better public transport and transport infrastructure generates benefits for users and helps manage urban congestion and climate change. This paper presents the results of a survey of residents of six capital cities in Australia to investigate potential jurisdictional differences and similarities in the support for BRT in the presence of LRT options, a common context in many metropolitan areas. We develop two best–worst preference experiments, one associated with design characteristics and the other with service descriptions, in which a number of statements about bus, BRT and LRT, are presented in sets of four, and respondents are asked to indicate which one they perceive as the best circumstance and which one they perceive as the worst. The sets of statements are varied across preference sets to elicit the role of each statement as an identified barrier against or in support of BRT and/or LRT. The main focus of the experiments is to assist in the development of a strategy to promote BRT and to break through the barriers that have created the modal misperceptions so common in many geographical jurisdictions. A survey of residents of six capital cities in Australia provides the empirical context. Ongoing research is extending the study to other locations throughout the world.

Full article in the journal website.

A first glimpse on policy packaging for implementation of BRT projects

Policy packaging (i.e. the combination of individual policies and measures in order to achieve a certain goal) is a common practice in urban mobility management used to create synergies between single policies or to mitigate negative effects of a given policy.
However this practice is filled with difficulties of different kinds, from conflicting measures in the same package to simply bad packaging design, disregarding synergetic effects that can be achieved with the simultaneous or synchronized adoption of more than one policy measure. This problem has long been identified and is especially intense in urban areas. However it has not yet been solved.
It is worth mentioning that there is a common perception by several authors that these difficulties are much related with the institutional design and legal framework which constitute an outset condition of the decision process. This perception will be only a departure hypothesis in our analysis, since the empirical work entailed in this research will be supported by a structured analysis of a large number of BRT implementation cases.
This work is part of a broader project about the complexity of policy design in urban mobility systems with the purpose of enhancing the adoption and implementation of BRT systems.

BRT and BHLS around the world: Explosive growth, large positive impacts and many issues outstanding

A survey of Bus Rapid Transit BRT and Bus of High Level of Service BHLS around the world indicates that there are about 120 cities with bus corridors, with 99 of the cities entering into the list in the last 12 years. The existing bus corridors comprise about 280 corridors, 4300 km, 6700 stations and use 30,000 buses, serving about 28 million passengers per day. In 2010–2011, 19 cities completed new systems − 16 in the developing world – and seven cities expanded their current systems. By late 2011, about 49 new cities were building systems, 16 cities were expanding their corridors, and 31 cities were in initial planning. This impressive growth may be attributed in part to the successes of Curitiba, Bogotá, México City, Istanbul, Ahmedabad and Guangzhou. These cities show low cost, rapid implementation and high performance BRTs, with significant positive externalities. Interesting trends are emerging, such as the implementation of citywide integrated bus systems, improved processes for private participation in operations, increased funding from national governments, and growth of bus manufacturers and technology providers. Despite the growth, there are some outstanding issues: BRT and BHLS do not have a single meaning and image and are often regarded as a “second best” as compared to rail alternatives. In addition several systems in the developing world suffer problems resulting from poor planning, implementation and operation, due to financial, institutional and regulatory constraints. The BRT and BHLS Industry are in their “infancy” and there is need for consolidation and concerted effort.

Methodology for calculating passenger capacity in bus rapid transit systems: Application to the TransMilenio system in Bogotá, Colombia

Transit textbooks and engineering manuals indicate that the capacity of Bus Rapid Transit –BRT – systems does not exceed 20,000 passengers per hour per direction. The implementation of the TransMilenio BRT System, in Bogotá, Colombia, showed that the systematic combination of multiple platforms at stations, overtaking lanes, level boarding, prepayment, large buses with multiple doors, express and local services, and traffic engineering measures at intersections, allow for very large passenger throughput. Measurements indicate actual throughput of 43,000 passengers per hour per direction with average bus occupancy of 150 passengers per articulated bus, and a commercial speed of 22–24 km/h. According to special formulas developed for the analysis of high capacity BRT corridors, the critical section of TransMilenio has a practical capacity of 48,000 passengers per hour per direction with its existing infrastructure and 150 passengers per bus – 35,000 passengers per hour per direction with 110 passengers per bus. Changes in existing infrastructure, such as additional platforms, higher capacity vehicles, non-grade facilities at critical intersections, among other improvements, may increase the capacity, speed, reliability and quality of service of the system.

Workshop 2: Bus rapid transit as part of enhanced service provision

Workshop 2 focused on the role of BRT as part of enhanced public transport service provision. Discussion topics included case studies around the world; improved performance and operations; and better contracts, institutional settings and enhanced policies. BRT was identified as a vital component of modern public transport systems due to its ability to provide high performance and rapid implementation at a lower cost than comparable rail transit. The participants concluded that on top of improving trunk transit corridors, it is important to look to the first and last kilometers and the connections among transport modes. In addition, it is important to consider all dimensions, not just the technical issues. The workshop identified the desirable ingredients for BRT success, created a table of bus based options for different applications and a list of research topics.

The costs of inclusion: Incorporating existing bus operators into Mexico City’s emerging bus rapid transit system

Implementing bus rapid transit (BRT) in systems characterized by a strong presence of weakly regulated private bus operators can be categorized along a “force-foster” continuum, representing the range in effort to replace incumbents. We examine the fostering end of the spectrum in terms of the consequences of incorporating, rather than replacing, existing operators. While the immediate effect enhances the political feasibility of implementation, what are the longer-term consequences on project sustainability? We hypothesize that the short-term political gain from involving existing bus operators may a) negatively affect performance, b) reduce leverage to regulate the emerging system, c) increase operating costs, and/or d) constrain the ability to expand or integrate the system in the future. We test our hypothesis by examining four BRT corridors implemented in Mexico City between 2005 and 2012. Our findings confirm BRT’s potential to transition away from weakly regulated, privatized and atomized systems and empower the state as planner and regulator. We also find longer-term challenges, particularly in the form of non-explicit subsidies to the system and related expectations for subsequent negotiations. The cases suggest that, when managed without a healthy dose of conflict, compromises can be costly. Cities pursuing a “fostering” approach to public transport industry transition should take note.

Drivers of Bus Rapid Transit Systems – Influences on Ridership and Service Frequency

This document reports the findings of a comparative analysis of bus rapid transit (BRT) performance using information on 121 BRT systems throughout the world, in which random effects regression is employed as the modelling framework. A number of sources of systematic variation are identified which have a statistically significant impact on BRT patronage in terms of daily passenger numbers such as fare, frequency, connectivity, pre-board fare collection, and location of with-flow bus lanes and doorways of a bus. In addition to the patronage model, a bus frequency model is estimated to identify the context within which higher levels of service frequency are delivered, notably where there exists higher population density, more trunk lines, the corridor provides bus priority facilities such as priority lanes for many bus routes, and where there is the presence of overtaking lanes at more than half of all stations along the heaviest section of the corridor. The findings offer important insights into features of BRT systems that are positive contributors to growing patronage which should be taken into account in designing and planning BRT systems.
Download full report.

Walk the line: station context, corridor type and bus rapid transit walk access in Jinan, China

This paper examines BRT station walk access patterns in rapidly urbanizing China and the relationship between bus rapid transit (BRT) station context and corridor type and the distance people will walk to access the system (i.e., catchment area). We hypothesize that certain contextual built environment features and station and right-of-way configurations will increase the walk-access catchment area; that is, that urban design influences users’ willingness to walk to BRT. We base our analysis on 1233 user surveys, conducted at 19 BRT stations along three existing (as of summer 2009) BRT corridors in the city of Jinan. Ordinary least squares regression is applied to estimate the relationship between walk access distances and aggregate station- and corridor-area characteristics, controlling for individual- and trip-specific attributes. The results suggest that people walk farther to BRT stations when the walking environment has certain features (median transit-way station location, shaded corridors, busy and interesting). Trip and trip maker characteristics play a relatively minor role in defining BRT walk access distance. Implications include the need for flexible transit station catchment area definitions in identifying transit-oriented development opportunities and estimating system demand.

The value of a promise: housing price impacts of plans to build mass transit in Ecatepec, Mexico

This research explores whether announcement of plans to build mass transit infrastructure had an effect on housing prices in Ecatepec, a fully urbanized municipality in the northeastern fringe of the Mexico City metropolitan area. The analysis compares prices of properties located within one kilometer of the future bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor with those of properties sold within the same distance of a similar corridor where no mass transit was slated to run. Differences are estimated before and after the announcement. The results contradict the hypothesis that transit project plans trigger an immediate windfall for property owners who capitalize on the expected benefits of enhanced accessibility before the start of operations. Instead, the mass transit plan appears to have had no impact on prices of lower-quality properties and in fact reduce rather than increase the prices of higher-quality properties.

Download full article.

Passenger capacity in BRT systems: formula development and application to the TransMilenio System in Bogota, Colombia

Transit textbooks and engineering manuals indicate that the capacity of Bus Rapid Transit –BRT – systems does not exceed 20,000 passengers per hour per direction. The implementation of the TransMilenio BRT System, in Bogotá, Colombia, showed that the systematic combination of multiple platforms at stations, overtaking lanes, level boarding, prepayment, large buses with multiple doors, express and local services, and traffic engineering measures at intersections, allow for very large passenger throughput. Measurements indicate actual throughput of 43,000 passengers per hour per direction with an average bus occupancy of 150 passengers per articulated bus, and a commercial speed of 22-24 km/hour. According to special formulae developed for the analysis of high capacity BRT corridors, the critical section of TransMilenio has a practical capacity of 48,000 passengers per hour per direction with its existing infrastructure and 150 passengers per bus – 35,000 passengers per hour per direction with 110 passengers per bus. Changes in existing infrastructure, such as additional platforms, higher capacity vehicles, non-grade facilities at critical intersections, among other improvements, may increase the capacity, speed, reliability and quality of service of the system.

Designing an express service for a bus corridor in Santiago, Chile

In transit systems with high demand levels, the use of express bus services that serve only a subset of stops along certain routes would seem to be a promising alternative given the benefits they offer to both users and operators. For users, express buses mean improved service levels in the form of lower travel times due to fewer stops and higher between-stop speeds, while for system operators they enable demand to be met with fewer vehicles thanks to shorter bus cycles.
In this article we present a work aimed at designing an express service to operate over a given corridor in Santiago, Chile in conjunction to another one that would serve every bus stop on the corridor (i.e. an all stop service). To do so, we had access to origin destination trip matrices between bus stops during the morning peak, and the off peak periods. These matrices were used to construct diverse demand scenarios for the corridor based on our expectations of the change that the new express service would cause.
Based on the studied scenarios we propose two different express services, one for the peak hour and one for the rest of the day. Results suggest that implementing these services would reduce social costs when compared to a solution where the corridor is served by a single all stop line. Users that make long trips would be the most favoured from this decision. We also conclude that the longer the trips and the larger the demand, the higher the benefits obtained from operating an express service.

Impact of design elements on the capacity and speed of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): the case of a single lane per direction

Despite its booming growth, the BRT industry is still far from reaching maturity. As trial-and-error and empiric techniques were largely used as insights for innovations in design, some BRT systems achieved great successes in terms of performance and became world-class flagships whereas others would be most properly classified as busway systems requiring major improvements. In this paper we explore the performance of a single lane per direction no-overtaking BRT corridor, in terms of capacity and operating speed, by conducting a design of experiments that comprised the simulation of 324 alternative scenarios. In the simulation runs we varied demand levels, boarding and alighting rates, spacing of stations, vehicle loadings, quantity of berths per station, and traffic signal positioning in relation to stations. The qualitative analysis reveals that such a BRT system can achieve a capacity around 15,000 pass/h/dir along its critical section with an operating speed of 20 km/h. Preliminary statistical analysis enabled the estimation of a regression model representing the impact of BRT design elements on the operating speed. Our findings provide useful insights for designers of high-performance BRT corridors.

Assessing net effect on emissions of implementation of Bus Rapid Transit system in São Paulo, Brazil: case study and some hypothetical scenarios

The paper investigates the relative influence of factors affecting vehicular emissions in high-flow BRT – Bus Rapid Transit corridors. Emissions were estimated using the IVE – International Vehicle Emission model, which bases estimates on the vehicle driving cycle, and the results of emissions measurements conducted by IPT – Institute of Technological Research of the State of São Paulo for different bus technologies and driving cycles. The developers of IVE have collected data about the technological characteristics of the fleet and driving cycles for different types of vehicles in São Paulo, Brazil. Data about operations in bus corridors in São Paulo was obtained from local transport agencies. Two types of analyses were conducted. First, a before and after analysis of a selected BRT corridor in São Paulo looked at the impacts on overall emissions. The results show that the comparison should not be restricted to the bus system only or to traffic in the specific road affected. When the contribution of autos taking alternative routes after the implementation of the BRT system is included in the estimates of total emissions, important changes in results can occur. A second analysis considered a number of hypothetical scenarios, simulating the impact of different variables related to system planning, design and operation, choice of technology and other general policies. The results indicate that vehicular emissions are influenced by a number of factors that, when combined, can bring favorable results, but that policies aimed at the automobile and consequences of BRT implementation on car users and car traffic are paramount.

The dimensionality of performance frameworks and performance measurement for bus rapid transit systems

Fundamental to all good business practices in the delivery of public transport is knowledge of how well the enterprise is performing, especially relative to other enterprises undertaking similar activities, as well as self performance over time. A commitment to performance management and benchmarking should transcend all institutional settings, be they subject to competitive tendering or negotiated contracting, and in the presence or absence of specific incentives and sanctions. This paper focuses on the development of a framework within which performance metrics can be defined and introduced in the context of meeting strategic, tactical and operational objectives in the public transport sector. We discuss the important matters of definition of performance, data requirements, standards, the hierarchy of integrated partial and global measures of performance and frameworks to compare enterprises, and to explain why there are differences, and what actions might contribute to closing the gap between relatively poor and better overall performance. The relationship between inputs, outputs and outcomes is central to the performance rubric, as well as an understanding of the processes that underlie the mappings between these three dimensions. An important aim of the paper is to ensure that the data collection activity planned for a global study of the performance of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems is guided by an integrated and comprehensive framework for performance management, measurement, feedback, and improvement.

Evaluation of the Delhi bus corridor: lessons learnt and recommendations for improvement

Bus rapid transit (BRT) has extensive applications in South and North America, Europe and the Far East, but it is a novel concept for South Asia. One of the initial projects in India, the Delhi Bus Corridor, has been controversial: media outlets highlighted problems for the general traffic and safety, while user surveys showed improved perception by bus users, bicyclists and pedestrians. The discussion of the benefits and problems of the corridor has been mostly based in perceptions and prejudices. The authors conducted an independent evaluation to contribute with technical arguments to this discussion and to provide suggestions for the corridor improvement. The results were also intended to contribute to the understanding of the BRT concept in the Indian context. The authors conclude that the Delhi bus corridor has improved people mobility along the initial stretch, but requires significant performance, safety and overall quality enhancements. The project only comprised major changes in infrastructure but lacked of integrated implementation of service plans, technologies and operations. User and community education was also insufficient. In addition to ongoing improvements, the authors identified the need to: i) establish a quality improvement program measuring the system performance, ii) focus on improving reliability and comfort; and iii) reevaluate the bus service plans to provide a better match of the supply and demand. The authors also recommend using median bus lanes with strong segregation as the preferred option for bus priority in Delhi. The bus corridor in Delhi provides invaluable experience for the enhancement of transit facilities and services in India and beyond.

The macrobus system of Guadalajara, Mexico: an evolved concept in BRT planning and implementation for medium capacity corridors

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is rapidly growing as an effective alternative for medium and high capacity corridors in developing countries. The Guadalajara BRT system represents an important reference for transit professionals considering low cost, rapid implementation, high impact transit alternatives. The initial 16 km line in Calzada Independencia, started operations on March 2009 and has received high ratings by the users. It includes 27 stations, 41 articulated buses and 103 feeder buses. The system operates at a high frequency with a relatively high commercial speed of 21 km/hr. It carries 127,000 passengers/day and 5,000 passengers per hour in the peak load section. Total capital investment was USD 61 million (USD 3.8 million/km). The BRT corridor positively compares with rail alternatives. The authors evaluated both the characteristics and the performance of the system as compared with high-end BRT paradigms. The corridor meets most of the high-end BRT components. Nevertheless, it did not start with all the elements in place. The corridor has also achieved important advances in performance. There is a need to continuously report performance indicators, mainly user perception, reliability, and comfort, so management actions for continuous improvement can be taken. The project was possible due to the strong political leadership; the support of a knowledgeable technical advisory team with international practical experience; adequate level of funding for planning and implementation; and a systematic approach that combines infrastructure, vehicles, operations and technology.

The effect of OD trip dispersion versus concentration in express service design

In public transit systems with high demand levels, the use of express bus services that serve only a subset of stops along certain routes would seem to be a promising alternative given the benefits they offer to both users and operators. In actual practice, express services in systems such as Transmilenio (Bogota, Colombia), Transantiago (Santiago, Chile), and Metro Rapid (Los Angeles, CA) have proven to be highly appealing. This raises the question about when express services are a reasonable option. Previous work has focused on how some characteristics of the demand structure of a corridor affects the benefits that express services can yield, showing that the load profile shape and the average trip length are crucial. This work presents some evidence that also the dispersion of the demand among different OD pairs (keeping the load profile and the total number of trips constant) affects the potential benefits of express services. As expected the more concentrated the demand into few OD pairs, the more cost savings that can be obtained. To answer this question we developed a methodology to generate OD matrices that share all relevant attributes but differ in variability among OD flows. Thirteen matrices were generated and their optimal sets of bus services with their respective frequencies were obtained. Using the coefficient of variation as a measure of matrix variability, we confirmed that more demand variability (i.e. more flow concentration) gives room to more express services and lower social costs.

Design of limited-stop services for an urban bus corridor with capacity constraints

In high-demand bus networks, limited-stop services promise benefits for both users and operators, and have proven their attractiveness in systems such as Transmilenio (Bogota, Colombia) and Transantiago (Santiago, Chile). The design of these services involves defining their itinerary, frequency and vehicle size, yet despite the importance of these factors for the network’s efficiency, no published works appear to provide the tools for designing high-frequency unscheduled services on an urban bus corridor, minimizing social costs.

This paper presents an optimization approach that minimizes these costs in terms of wait time, in-vehicle travel time and operator cost. Various optimization models are formulated that can accommodate the operating characteristics of a bus corridor, given an origin–destination trip matrix and a set of services that are a priori attractive. The models then determine which of these services should be offered at what frequencies and with which type of vehicles. A case study in which the model is applied to a real-world case of a bus corridor in the city of Santiago, Chile, is presented and the results are analyzed. Finally, the model is used on two different demand scenarios establishing which type of services tend to be good candidates on each case and providing preliminary insights on the impact of some key parameters.

Comparing operator and users costs of light rail, heavy rail and bus rapid transit over a radial public transport network

A model to compare three alternative forms of public transport – light rail, heavy rail and bus rapid transit – is developed for an urban network with radial lines emanating from the borders to the city centre. The theoretical framework assumes an operation aimed at minimising the total cost associated with public transport service provision, which encompasses both operator and users costs. The decision variables are the number of lines (networkdensity) and the frequency per period for each mode. This approach has no prejudices a priori in respect of whether a specified delivery scenario is aligned with existing modal reputation. Rather, we establish the conditions under which a specific transit mode should be preferred to another in terms of the operator (supply) and user (demand) side offerings. The model is applied using data from Australian cities, suggesting that in most of the scenarios analysed a high standard bus service is the most cost-effective mode, because it provides lower operator costs (infrastructure, rolling stock and operating cost), access time costs (due to a larger number of lines) and waiting time cost (due to larger frequencies of operation). A railmode, such as light rail or heavy rail, may have a lower total cost only if it is able to run faster than bus rapid transit, and the difference in speed is enough to outweigh the bus advantage on operator cost and access and waiting times.

Restating modal investment priority with an improved model for public transport analysis

We compare analytically and numerically the optimised performance of different urban public transport modes for three objectives: total cost minimisation, profit maximisation, and welfare maximisation. We find that under optimal operation, buses provide lower waiting time and operator costs, therefore the only possible advantage for rail is providing a lower in-vehicle time cost if trains are faster. Using Australian data, we found that bus rapid transit provides a lower total cost, higher profit and welfare, up to their capacity. Introducing passengers dislike of crowding and train-specific attraction elements might make Heavy Rail the most cost effective mode for high levels of demand.

Sustainable public transport systems: moving towards a value for money and network-based approach and away from blind commitment

Growing public transport patronage in the presence of a strong demand for car ownership and use remains a high agenda challenge for many developed and developing economies. While some countries are losing public transport modal share, other nations are gearing up for a loss, as the wealth profile makes the car a more affordable means of transport as well as conferring elements of status and imagery of “success”. Some countries however have begun successfully to reverse the decline in market share, primarily through infrastructure-based investment in bus systems, commonly referred to as bus rapid transit (BRT). BRT gives affordable public transport greater visibility and independence from other modes of transport, enabling it to deliver levels of service that compete sufficiently well with the car to attract and retain a market segmented clientele. BRT is growing in popularity throughout the world, notably in Asia, Europe and South America, in contrast to other forms of mass transit (such as light and heavy rail). This is in large measure due to its value for money, service capacity, affordability, relative flexibility, and network coverage. This paper takes stock of its performance and success as an attractive system supporting the ideals of sustainable transport

Bus rapid transit systems – comparative assessment

There is renewed interest in many developing and developed countries in finding ways of providing efficient and effective public transport that does not come with a high price tag. An increasing number of nations are asking the question—what type of public transport system can deliver value for money? Although light rail has often been promoted as a popular ‘solution’, there has been progressively emerging an attractive alternative in the form of bus rapid transit (BRT). BRT is a system operating on its own right-of-way either as a full BRT with high quality interchanges, integrated smart card fare payment and efficient throughput of passengers alighting and boarding at bus stations; or as a system with some amount of dedicated right-of-way (light BRT) and lesser integration of service and fares. The notion that buses essentially operate in a constrained service environment under a mixed traffic regime and that trains have privileged dedicated right-of-way, is no longer the only sustainable and valid proposition. This paper evaluates the status of 44 BRT systems in operation throughout the world as a way of identifying the capability of moving substantial numbers of passengers, using infrastructure whose costs overall and per kilometre are extremely attractive. When ongoing lifecycle costs (operations and maintenance) are taken into account, the costs of providing high capacity integrated BRT systems are an attractive option in many contexts.