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65Â Â Conclusions and Future Research Needs This chapter summarizes the findings of the synthesis study. It also discusses knowledge gaps and future research needs. Findings from the Survey 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 in the survey; these 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 their first BRT services or facilities or have recently implemented their first BRT services or facilities. Based on analysis of the survey resultsâwhich represent 33 U.S. and Canadian transportation agenciesâagencies that operate/own BRT services and facilities 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 TSP and exclusive or semi-exclusive bus lanes are common features of U.S. and Canadian BRT services and facilities. 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. Most of the surveyed agencies do not have data that allow the impacts of BRT implementation to be linked to invest- ments in specific BRT features. 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. This does not mean that specific loading areas at stations/stops are necessarily shared. Rather, the BRT stations/stops are commonly co-located with stations/stops used by other transit operators or services. More than half of the BRT routes and facilities described by the surveyed agencies use larger- capacity buses with multidoor boarding. 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. At least half of the BRT routes and facilities described by the surveyed agencies were imple- mented in conjunction with transit network changes. In many of these cases, other transit services in the corridor were redesigned to complement BRT or reduce service duplication. At least half of the BRT routes and facilities represented in the surveys replaced an existing transit service. C H A P T E R 6
66 Bus Rapid Transit: Current State of Practice 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 opera- tion in providing BRT service. A small number make use of variable stop patterns or variable routing to reduce dwell times and manage capacity. 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. Other enforcement methods identified by survey respondents are station cameras, parking division staff, and road supervisors. Strategies used by the responding agencies to maintain BRT routes/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. Of note: â The surveyed agencies reported ridership impacts ranging from a 47% decrease to a 600% increase after implementation of BRT. The agency that reported the 47% ridership decrease noted that the decrease occurred because BRT service was implemented in con- junction with implementation of a premium fare for BRT, changes in transfer policies, and changes to local routes in or connecting to the corridor. The agency that reported the 600% increase in ridership linked it to the implementation of BOS operation in a high- volume freeway corridor. Most of the surveyed agencies that quantified the corridor rider- ship impacts of BRT reported increases of 10% to 50%. Overall, the survey results show that the ridership impacts of BRT can vary widely, so existing methodologies for estimating BRT ridership should be used carefully. â The surveyed agencies that provided quantitative data about the operating cost impacts of BRT collectively reported a 0% to 30% increase in operating cost per hour, a 54% to 136% decrease in operating cost per mile, and a âslightâ to 103% increase in total operat- ing costs. â The surveyed agencies that reported customer satisfaction impacts reported impacts ranging from âinitial dissatisfactionâ to an 87% increase in customer satisfaction. Initial dissatisfaction was linked to higher fares, introduction of transfers, a reduction in levels of local bus service, increased walking distances, and the reduced chance of getting a seat on the vehicle. Satisfaction was linked to faster and more reliable service. â The surveyed agencies used varying definitions of travel time, speed, reliability, ridership, productivity, operating costs, and customer satisfaction. This might contribute to the variability in the survey results. â¢ Although the magnitudes of the reported impacts on travel times and speeds were vari- able, 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. 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 of the surveyed agencies that provided quantitative data showing BRT having an adverse impact on corridor productivity attributed the decrease in corridor productivity to increased route lengths and increased levels of midday service associated with BRT. â Many of the surveyed agencies indicated that their BRT routes have the same per-hour operating cost as other routes in the system, but total operating costs are higher for BRT because higher levels of BRT service are provided.
Conclusions and Future Research Needs 67Â Â â Some surveyed agencies reported incurring additional costs for BRT maintenance, enforcement of BRT running way restrictions, and modifications to other transit services to support BRT. â Some surveyed agencies noted that, even though operating costs increased as a result of BRT implementation, they felt that they received more value from each hour operated as a result of increased bus speeds. 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 in regular monitoring of BRT service are travel times and speed, productivity and ridership, and reliability. 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/ facilities that are maximally effective. Careful evaluation and decision making might include the following: â¢ Involving a range of agency staff and partners in early stages â¢ Taking time to test materials and service options â¢ Looking at investments from a long-term value perspective â¢ Avoiding rushing decision making in an effort to shorten the implementation timeline â¢ Recognizing that BRT is unique in every city and what works in one city might not work in another city â¢ Allocating sufficient budget for evaluation and decision making â¢ Allocating sufficient budget to implement the service features that are needed and main- tain them 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 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 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. One agency recommended using station and fare inspectors as an additional conduit for identifying maintenance needs. Surveyed agencies emphasize the importance of partnerships in implementing successful BRT services and facilities. Partners include funding partners, the local community, local law enforcement agencies, local and regional transportation agencies, and elected officials. They also recommend having clear partner agreements covering topics such as data sharing, traffic signal timing, and BRT running way enforcement.
68 Bus Rapid Transit: Current State of Practice Findings from the Case Examples 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. It can be hard to evaluate long-term cost-effectiveness, but deferring investments might lead to a more expensive project later. Agencies can consider the life cycle of BRT components when making such decisions, and they 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. They can consider how BRT service will be operated and maintained under normal conditions and in circumstances where adverse weather or unavailable vehicles impact service delivery. This might require dedicating staff to BRT operations and maintenance and changing how service delivery is managed. It might influence decision making about technology investments. â¢ Make decisions effectively and clearly. Although it can be important to figure out BRT service and infrastructure details in advance, some case example agencies also indicated that, at some point, an agency developing a BRT service might need to consider available time, staffing, and funding and make a decision and move forward. Implementing a âperfectâ BRT service might not be possible. When a decision is made, agencies can make sure that the community and partners understand how and why the decision was made. â¢ Learn from experience. When developing the first BRT service or facility in the service area, one case example agency recommended working with highly experienced project managers. When developing subsequent BRT services or facilities, agencies can learn from the 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 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. Some case example agencies reported that it can be easier to implement BRT in corridors where existing ridership is high, the existing roadway 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, to demonstrate its benefits, and to build support for future BRT investments (particularly those that depend on having a high degree of running way exclusivity). 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 the publicâs and elected officialsâ perception 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 operating and maintaining a new fleet of specialized vehicles for a particular 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 relationships can facilitate running way acquisition (e.g., by coordinating transportation projects), main- tenance of BRT infrastructure, and a continued high level of operations (e.g., by managing
Conclusions and Future Research Needs 69Â Â future signal timing changes). Interlocal agreements can be helpful; one case example agency noted that it can take a lot of time and effort to develop such agreements. It can also be impor- tant to understand the needs of local communities and 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; partners can be advocates for BRT investments. One case example agency observed that it can take several years to build strong relationships with local entities, so it is important to proactively engage with local entities and stay up to date with their needs, initiatives, and projects. The same agency noted that partners may be able to implement bus priority treatments where the transit agency cannot, and these âproof-of-conceptâ implementations might build support for their use elsewhere in the region. 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, operations needs, and evolving technology. Branding can be impacted by service decisions (e.g., interoperating BRT and local bus service or using BRT infrastructure to improve service on local bus routes) as well as infrastructure decisions. Customer surveys might be useful in figuring out the most effective way to brand a BRT service or facility. â¢ Keep improving the BRT service or facility. Agencies can continue to invest in the BRT service or facility. This could include making sure that service components are always in good con- dition and adequately sized to meet demand and that frequent service is sustained. It could include looking for opportunities to streamline or otherwise improve BRT service as well as 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 considering changing their approach to branding BRT. For example, King County Metro stated that innovative features are typically implemented on their BRT routes first and then distributed to the rest of the transit system. NYCDOT and MTA observed that implementing the OMNY fare payment system has resulted in off-board fare collection becoming a universal system feature rather than a feature that distinguishes SBS from other transit services in the region. LTD is interested in using BRT infrastructure to improve local bus routes but is concerned about diluting the EmX brand. Capital Metro is interested in the operational advantages of moving away from a dedicated MetroRapid fleet but is concerned about the impact of such a move on the identity of MetroRapid. Future 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 relationship between branding benefits and the level of bus activity in a given corridor or system. Such research might also include particular study of how BRT services (such as those in Los Angeles) have evolved over time and 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 opera- tion 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.
70 Bus Rapid Transit: Current State of Practice Some of the surveyed agencies that provided quantitative data reported that BRT productivity (e.g., ridership per revenue mile) was lower than that of the service(s) it replaced or lower than systemwide productivity. These decreases ranged from 10% to 82% and 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 and/or higher than that of the service(s) it replaced. 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 maxi- mizing BRT productivity. Such research should distinguish the productivity impacts of BRT from the productivity impacts of increased service levels (i.e., service improvements not con- sidered 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 (i.e., a 0% to 30% increase in operating cost per hour, a 54% to 136% decrease in operating cost per mile, and a slight to 103% increase in total oper- ating costs). Future research might explore these inconsistent outcomes by documenting how transit agencies are defining and tracking BRT operating costs (e.g., what costs the agen- cies are including), 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 (e.g., travel time impacts) to specific BRT components or investments. This remains a data gap. Future research might (a) develop a comprehensive 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 or TCRP Report 118, 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 include 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 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¢ BRT stop and station spacing guidance â¢ Guidance for implementing BRT in shared or semi-exclusive running ways