Features of bus rapid transit include:
- Operations optimized for fast, frequent and relatively permanent (as they utilize dedicated busways) bus operation
- Dedicated (bus-only) lanes sited in the center of roadways (so that there is no interaction between the system's buses and vehicles parking, turning and standing curbside)
- Fully featured bus stations, similar to those found in light rail and subway systems, versus bus stops
- Pre-boarding fare collection and transfer, so that there is no queueing to pay at the bus door or onboard
- Traffic control steps taken at intersections to not allow other vehicles to turn across the BRT bus lanes
- Station platforms at the same level as the buses, to promote accessibility and aid the onboarding of mobility devices, shopping carts and strollers
A major advantage of bus rapid transit systems, beyond the functionality and service they provide to residents, is their cost. Implementing BRT systems cost a fraction of what is required to put subways or even light rail systems in place. They are also an easier and less disruptive construction prospect, as they do not require digging deep tunnels or laying rail.
Downsides to bus rapid transit include:
- BRTs are relatively low capacity systems. Subways, for example, are much higher capacity people carriers.
- The need to have enough space available in roadways for the dedicated bus lanes. BRT may not be an option, for example, in an older, dense city center, with narrow streets.
- BRTs do require an infrastructure investment as they include many permanent and/or engineered features
- Since BRTs can be seen as a modification of the standard bus service, it can be easy for municipalities to only embrace the concept piecemeal. When implemented only partially as opposed to as a complete solution throughout an area, BRT is far less effective and efficient than it otherwise might be. This is a very real risk where cost-cutting is a factor.
Some cities with existing or planned bus rapid transit systems:
- Vancouver, BC
- Durham Region, Ontario
- London, Ontario
- Mississauga, Ontario
- York Region (VIVA system), Ontario
- East Bay
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco,
- Santa Clara County
- Boston (Silver Line)
- Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York City Metro area)
- Eugene (Emerald Express)
- Portland (Division Transit Project)
- Austin (Capital MetroRapid)
- Fort Worth
- San Antonio
Washington State, USA
What is BRT?, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
What is Bus Rapid Transit and Why Doesn't Every City Want One?, CityMetric by Jon Elledge