Bus Rapid Transit Gaining in Popularity

As cities look to rebuild their transit systems, bus rapid transit provides a cheap and effective way to expand access and boost speed.

2 minute read

August 2, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


More cities are starting to look to bus rapid transit, known as BRT, to improve their transit options and make routes more efficient, reports Ian Duncan. "The lines take the humblest form of public transit, the city bus, and supercharge it using a combination of technology, road redesigns and route planning tweaks." BRT projects "are particularly appealing in smaller urban areas and the less dense communities that dominate the American landscape where subways and light rails are hard to justify."

Some experts, however, caution that "many lines that are dubbed BRTs involve only limited upgrades to bus service. They say those kinds of lines are not likely to tame urban sprawl or lure suburban drivers out of their cars." While "[t]he most elaborate systems involve dedicated busways with stops that mimic a light-rail station and facilities to buy tickets on the street, as well as speeds that can rival rail. But many such bus lines in the United States are more basic, largely involving stops that are further apart and technology that changes stop lights to green as buses approach."

Meanwhile, "[s]ome warn that betting on a form of transit well suited to America’s road-dominated cities and suburbs could be counterproductive: an unhappy middle way that offers modestly better service and does not promote the kind of denser communities that allow transit to thrive." But "[t]here are indications that BRT lines can promote some of the density long associated with rail routes," and, in the meantime, can more effectively connect people to jobs and amenities for a fraction of the cost of rail.

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