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1Â Â The purpose of TCRP Synthesis 164 is to document specific current practices of U.S. and Canadian transportation agencies in using bus rapid transit (BRT) to improve bus service reliability, travel time, efficiency, customer satisfaction, and ridership. The focus of the study is on the following topics: â¢ Understanding the interplay between BRT and other transit services, which can manifest in (a) the degree to which BRT infrastructure (e.g., a bus lane) is open to other transit services as well as other transportation modes and (b) impacts on other transit services â¢ Documenting the extent to which selected BRT investments have been effective in achieving reliability, travel time, efficiency, customer satisfaction, and ridership goals â¢ Documenting trade-offs that transportation agencies consider in making decisions about how to operate and maintain BRT services Overview of Study Approach The objectives of the TCRP Synthesis 164 study are as follows: â¢ Gather relevant information from U.S. and Canadian transit agencies that have imple- mented BRT service or features of BRT service to improve bus service travel time, speed, reliability, ridership, productivity, operating costs, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. The relevant information includes descriptive information about BRT services/facilities, discussion of how BRT is integrated with other transit modes, BRT operating and maintenance strategies, information about the impacts of BRT, and lessons learned that are pertinent to operating and maintaining successful BRT services and facilities. â¢ Explore the previously described topics with selected agencies in more detail, learn about the agenciesâ decision-making processes relevant to BRT operations and maintenance, and learn about how they evolved their BRT services and facilities over time. Conduct of the synthesis study included a focused literature review, a survey of trans- portation agencies that operate/own mature BRT services or facilities, case examples of selected agencies that operate/own BRT services or facilities, and development of the synthesis report. Conclusions The survey development process indicates that there is currently a high level of interest in BRT and prioritized bus services in the United States and Canada. The study team identified 68 transportation agencies with mature BRT services and facilities as potential participants S U M M A R Y Bus Rapid Transit: Current State of Practice
2 Bus Rapid Transit: Current State of Practice in the survey; those represent most U.S. states and Canadian provinces as well as a range of operating scales and contexts. Many are expanding their BRT systems in accordance with a systemwide transit vision. There are also several transportation agencies in the United States and Canada that are currently planning or developing or have recently implemented their first BRT services or facilities. The survey results indicate the following: â¢ Agencies that operate/own BRT services and facilities in the United States and Canada typically use a mix of running way types and transit priority treatments to support BRT or other prioritized bus operations. Mixed-traffic operation and use of transit signal priority (TSP) and exclusive or semi-exclusive bus lanes are common features. â¢ Collectively, U.S. and Canadian agencies that operate/own BRT services and facilities use a wide variety of barriers, separators, and pavement treatments to distinguish and manage BRT running ways. â¢ At least half of the BRT routes and facilities described by the surveyed agencies share BRT stations or stops with other transit operators or other transit services. â¢ More than half of the BRT routes and facilities described by the surveyed agencies use larger-capacity buses with multidoor boarding. â¢ The survey results suggest that agencies that operate BRT services have differing views on the importance of using a dedicated fleet to provide BRT service as opposed to using a fleet that is interchangeable with other transit services in the system. â¢ At least half of the BRT routes and facilities described by the surveyed agencies were implemented in conjunction with transit network changes. â¢ At least half of the BRT routes and facilities represented in the surveys replaced an existing transit service. â¢ The survey results indicate that a relatively small number of the surveyed agencies employ operating strategies such as part-time operation, contraflow operation, bidirectional operation, variable stop patterns, and variable routing in providing BRT service. â¢ Nearly all of the surveyed agencies rely on local police or transit police for enforcement of restrictions on usage of BRT running ways by non-transit modes. â¢ Strategies used by the responding agencies to maintain BRT routes and facilities include robust advance testing of materials, use of cooperative agreements, prioritization processes, inspections, and periodic refreshing of pavement treatments. Regarding the impacts of BRT services and facilities, the survey results indicate the following: â¢ The impacts of BRT implementation on corridor travel times, speeds, reliability, ridership, productivity, operating costs, and transit customer satisfaction can be highly variable. The surveyed agencies used varying definitions of travel time, speed, reliability, ridership, productivity, operating costs, and customer satisfaction, which might contribute to the variability in the survey results. â¢ The variability shown in the survey results with respect to the impacts of BRT on corridor ridership suggests that existing methodologies for estimating BRT ridership should be used carefully. â¢ Although the magnitudes of the reported impacts on travel times and speeds were variable, the surveyed agencies that provided travel time and speed data all indicated that BRT implementation improved transit travel times and speeds in the corridor. â¢ Although the magnitudes of the reported impacts on reliability were variable, the surveyed agencies that provided reliability data all indicated that BRT implementation improved transit reliability in the corridor.
Summary 3Â Â â¢ The surveyed agencies collectively reported both increases and decreases in transit productivity (e.g., ridership per revenue hour) and operating costs as a result of BRT implementation. â¢ Some surveyed agencies noted that BRT components may have had positive impacts on the ridership of other transit services, as those other services might have benefited from BRTâs transit priority treatments. â¢ Many of the surveyed agencies use measures of service accessibility (e.g., householdsâ opportunity to access BRT) to evaluate BRT impacts. â¢ The most common types of measures used by the surveyed agencies for regular monitor- ing of BRT service are travel time and speed, productivity and ridership, and reliability measures. â¢ Most of the surveyed agencies do not have data that allow the impacts of BRT implemen- tation to be linked to investments in specific BRT features. The surveyed agencies identified several factors that either support or hinder successful BRT operations and maintenance. In general, the surveyed agencies stated that careful evaluation and decision making during planning and design are important in developing BRT services and facilities that are maximally effective. With respect to BRT infrastructure, surveyed agencies recommended obtaining as high a level of running way exclusivity and transit priority treatments as possible. They recom- mended obtaining sufficient right-of-way (ROW) to support transit priority treatments and adequately sized stations. Some recommended continual upgrades and enhancements to BRT services and facilities to maintain high-quality service and infrastructure and to keep the BRT service or facility âfresh.â With respect to BRT operations, surveyed agencies recommended building BRT services that are flexible enough to respond to changes in ridership patterns and flexible enough to grow. They recommended training bus operators and other operations staff at a high level and continuing to train over time. Some recommended dedicating a team to managing BRT operations. With respect to BRT maintenance, surveyed agencies recommended considering long- term maintenance costs when making decisions about vehicles and materials, dedicating staff to managing BRT maintenance, and using cooperative agreements with partners to establish maintenance responsibilities. Surveyed agencies emphasized the importance of partnerships in implementing successful BRT services and facilities. Surveyed agencies recommended having clear partner agree- ments covering topics such as data sharing, traffic signal timing, and BRT running way enforcement. The case example agencies found the following practices to be useful in successfully operating and maintaining BRT services and facilities: â¢ Get what is needed to make BRT service effective. Decisions made to save costs during design and implementation might reduce service effectiveness after implementation and/or lead to a more expensive project later. Agencies can consider the life cycle of BRT components when making such decisions. Agencies can obtain exclusive running way wherever possible. â¢ Figure out the details early on. Agencies can figure out early in the development process how the BRT service will be operated and maintained, both under normal conditions and in circumstances where adverse weather or unavailable vehicles impact service delivery. This might influence staffing and technology investments.
4 Bus Rapid Transit: Current State of Practice â¢ Make decisions effectively and clearly. Although agencies can figure out BRT service and infrastructure details in advance, at some point, an agency might need to consider avail- able time, staffing, and funding and make a decision and move forward. Implementing a âperfectâ BRT service might not be possible. â¢ Learn from experience. When developing the first BRT service or facility in the service area, an agency can work with highly experienced project managers. When developing subsequent BRT services or facilities, an agency can learn from the BRT services and facilities that are already in place. â¢ Recognize that introducing BRT or prioritized bus infrastructure may require educating the local community. Although identifying and understanding community needs is a factor in planning and designing a successful BRT project, educating the community about BRT can continue after project implementation. One case example agency noted that it took time for drivers to learn how to use its business access and transit (BAT) lanes. Another described steps taken to help riders learn how to use off-board fare payment systems. â¢ Choose carefully which corridor will be the first BRT corridor in the service area. It might be easier to implement BRT in corridors where existing ridership is high, the existing road- way geometry or ROW can accommodate BRT, and local jurisdictions strongly support the BRT project. A successful first BRT project can be used to show the community how BRT works, demonstrate its benefits, and build support for future BRT investments. â¢ Consider whether to implement a BRT service in phases or all at once. Two case example agencies noted that showing positive impacts quickly can positively affect perceptions of the BRT investment and build support for further BRT investments. â¢ Balance the advantages and disadvantages of having a dedicated BRT fleet. The case example agencies uniformly acknowledged the branding advantage of having a dedicated BRT fleet, but some observed that using a dedicated BRT fleet can create operations and maintenance challenges. One case example agency noted that the challenges of oper- ating and maintaining a new fleet of specialized vehicles for a future BRT corridor will be offset by the positive travel time and safety impacts made possible by the specialized vehicles. â¢ Establish and maintain healthy relationships with partners. Such agreements and relation- ships can facilitate running way acquisition, maintenance, and a continued high level of operations (e.g., by managing future signal timing changes). Interlocal agreements can be helpful. It can also be important to understand the needs of local communities and to look for opportunities to address those needs. Two case example agencies indicated that it is helpful when agency partners have a stake in BRT success and share in the âownershipâ of BRT. It can take several years to build strong relationships with local entities. â¢ Use branding effectively. Agencies can take advantage of opportunities to reinforce branding and not shy away from bold branding initiatives. Agencies can recognize that BRT branding might evolve over time in response to factors such as maintenance needs, operation needs, and evolving technology. â¢ Keep improving the BRT service or facility. Agencies can continue to invest in the service or facility, including making sure that service components are always in good condition and adequately sized to meet demand and that frequent service is sustained. It can also include looking for opportunities to streamline or otherwise improve BRT service and implementing large-scale BRT investments (e.g., adding exclusive bus lanes). Future Research Needs The survey results and the case examples suggest potential topics for future research. Several of the case example agencies reported that their approach to branding BRT has changed over time or they are reconsidering their approach to branding BRT. Future
Summary 5Â Â research could look more closely at the costs and benefits of branding BRT as new BRT- supportive technologies are implemented and features that were once exclusive to BRT become more pervasive. Such research can consider the extent to which sharing of stations/ stops and loading areas affects the branding of BRT; the branding contributions of vehicle and running way features, station/stop amenities, and ticketing systems; and the relation- ship between branding benefits and the level of bus activity in a given corridor or system. Such research might include rider surveys. The survey results indicate that a relatively small number of the surveyed agencies employ operating strategies such as part-time operation, contraflow operation, and bidirectional operation in providing BRT service. A small number make use of variable stop patterns or variable routing. Future research might study why such strategies are not used more broadly, their costs and benefits, best practices for their implementation, and strategies for integrating them into the multimodal transportation system. Some of the surveyed agencies that provided quantitative data reported that BRT pro- ductivity (e.g., ridership per revenue mile) was lower than that of the service(s) it replaced or lower than systemwide productivity. These decreases were attributed to increased route lengths and increased levels of midday service in the corridor. In contrast, other responding agencies reported that BRT productivity was among the highest of all routes and services in the system. Future research might explore these inconsistent outcomes, identify the specific factors that most impact BRT productivity (e.g., specific BRT components), and identify strategies for maximizing BRT productivity. Such research could distinguish the produc- tivity impacts of BRT from the productivity impacts of increased service levels (i.e., service improvements not considered to be part of a BRT project). It is possible that the maturity of a given BRT service affects its productivity, and BRT benefits might be greater in corridors where BRT is more challenging to implement. The surveyed agencies that provided quantitative data about the operating cost impacts of BRT reported highly variable impacts. Future research might explore these inconsistent outcomes by documenting how transit agencies are defining and tracking BRT operating costs, the specific factors that most impact BRT operating costs, and strategies for managing BRT operating costs. Such research could cover efficiency impacts (e.g., cost per revenue hour) as well. Most of the surveyed agencies were not able to provide data that link impacts of BRT to specific BRT components or investments. Future research might (a) develop a compre- hensive data set that combines the impact data in this synthesis with impact data from an expanded literature review, (b) identify gaps in the impact data, (c) conduct new research to fill the gaps, and (d) analyze the resulting data set to identify patterns and relationships that can be used to inform transportation agenciesâ future decision making about BRT service and facility options. Such research could take the form of an update to TCRP Report 90: Bus Rapid Transit Volume 1: Case Studies in Bus Rapid Transit (Levinson etÂ al. 2003) or TCRP Report 118: Bus Rapid Transit Practitionerâs Guide (Kittelson and Associates, Inc., etÂ al. 2007), or it could take the form of an open-ended study that supports the conduct of before-and-after studies for yet-to-be-implemented BRT routes. Having an improved factual understanding of how BRT components impact transit travel time, speed, reliability, and other factors can improve future BRT planning. Additional potential topics for future research are development of the following: â¢ Guidance for determining if exclusive or semi-exclusive BRT running way is appropriate for and likely to be effective in a given corridor
6 Bus Rapid Transit: Current State of Practice â¢ Strategies for managing general traffic turning movements in BRT corridors â¢ Guidance for operating multiple transit modes in BRT corridors â¢ Guidance for sizing BRT stops and stations (e.g., platform lengths) given the land use context and the other transit modes operating in the corridor â¢ Guidance for BRT stop and station spacing â¢ Guidance for implementing BRT in shared or semi-exclusive running ways