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Bus rapid transit

Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a relatively new form of transportation that combines the rapidity of a subway or of light rail transit with the flexibility of buses.

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 BRT: A Definition
3 Problems
4 BRTs in North America
5 BRTs Worldwide


The BRT system is based on light-rail transit principles, but instead of the required capital investment in trains and track, it utilizes buses in service that is integrated with key components of the existing automobile transportation infrastructure, such as roads and rights-of-way, intersections, and traffic signals. Therefore, BRT is more affordable, flexible, and appropriate in scale than light rail for medium-sized areas, or areas that have a moderate degree of density. In addition, it allows for incremental construction and implementation and can be easily tailored to meet the specific transportation needs and opportunities within individual neighborhoods and transportation corridors. BRT offers many advantages to regular bus service, including service frequency, increased capacity, and speed.

The bus rapid transit initiative has received a great deal of support from the Federal Transit Administration in the United States, which is cash-strapped and can no longer fund expensive light rail and subway systems. Many cities across the United States are begging the government for solutions to transportation problems and congestion, and the FTA believes that bus rapid transit may be a possible solution--or, at least, a viable alternative to light rail or subways, which require huge investments in time and money.

BRT: A Definition

BRT is a broad term given to a variety of different transportation solutions that operate through the usage of buses. It can come in a variety of different forms, from dedicated busways that have their own rights-of-way (e.g., Ottawa's Transitway) to bus services that utilize HOV lanes and dedicated freeway lanes (e.g., Honolulu's CityExpress). In addition, bus rapid transit is often linked with intelligent transportation systems (ITS), and can involve special buses that control traffic signals, smart card systems, AVL bus tracking, dynamic message signs, and automatically guided buses.

An ideal bus rapid transit service would be expected to include some or all of the following features:


Some of the problems associated with bus services include the fact that buses mostly operate on local arterial streets in mixed traffic and lack the amenities of rail transit or the personal service quality of paratransit. This results in low speeds, long circulatory trips, high operating costs, and more frequent problems with safety and security incidents.

Opponents of the bus rapid transit initiative argue that BRT is not an effective replacement for light rail or subway services. In order for BRTs to run effectively, they must have their own right-of-way; in many cases, BRTs do not, and must share the road with cars and other local buses. As a result, they suffer from the same congestion problems, delays, and stop-and-go and swaying rides as do ordinary city buses. Also, buses suffer from a serious image problem: buses are not as attractive to riders as light rail or subway systems are and, as a result, they suffer from low ridership. While many BRT systems utilize state-of-the-art buses that differ substantially from traditional buses, BRT opponents insist that "a bus is still a bus."

BRTs in North America

BRTs Worldwide