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Bus Rapid Transit: A Sustainable Approach to Mass Transit. Bhavik Shah 11/25/02. Goals. What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)? Elements of BRT Curitiba, Brazil: The Success Story Applicability to the United States Conclusions. What is BRT?.

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Bus Rapid Transit: A Sustainable Approach to Mass Transit

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Bus rapid transit a sustainable approach to mass transit l.jpg

Bus Rapid Transit: A Sustainable Approach to Mass Transit

Bhavik Shah


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  • What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?

  • Elements of BRT

  • Curitiba, Brazil: The Success Story

  • Applicability to the United States

  • Conclusions

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What is BRT?

  • Bus Rapid Transit uses a variety of innovative system designs and technologies to speed travel time, cut costs and make service more reliable.

  • “Think rail, use buses.”

  • These objectives are reached by:

    • Lane priority

    • Signal priority

    • Vehicle design

    • Stop spacing and design

    • Fare collection

    • Rider appeal

    • Land use policy

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Lane Priority

  • Giving buses priority to lanes (HOV) speeds travel time.

  • Three types of priority lanes: curbside, median, and contraflow.

  • Curbside bus lanes are usually effective during peak hours in peak directions; otherwise the lane is reserved for parking and deliveries. Since bus stops are in this lane, buses do not waste time remerging with traffic. Double curbside bus lanes allow them to pass one another (e.g. Madison Ave in NYC).

This San Francisco bus lane is the lane adjacent to the curb lane and is in effect weekdays 7 am to 6 pm. Curbside deliveries and parking are still possible, except at stops.

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Median Lanes

  • Bus lanes are located in the middle two lanes of traffic, usu. separated from general traffic lanes by a raised curb.

  • Only appropriate for wide boulevards.

  • Passenger platforms on right. There can be one central platform, but buses then must have doors on both sides.

  • Less likely to be congested than curbside bus lanes.

  • Disadvantages are: 1) making left turns, and 2) passengers must cross lanes of traffic to reach platforms creating a safety concern, esp. passengers anxious to catch an approaching bus.

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Contraflow Lanes

  • A contraflow lane is a bus lane that runs in the opposite direction in what would otherwise be a one-way street.

  • These contraflow lanes can be used during peak times of the day to avoid traffic congestion or can be permanent.

  • They have a physical divide to only allow authorized vehicles through.

BRT system in Orlando, FL.

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Traffic Signal Priority

  • Special treatment to transit vehicles at signalized intersections.

  • Passive priority: timing signal lights with respect to avg. bus speed rather than avg. vehicle speed.

  • Active priority: uses chips on the bus and light to calculate the speed of bus and time of approach, and depending on traffic situation at the time, to either give an early green signal or hold one that is being displayed.

  • Queue jumpers: short stretch of bus lane combined with traffic signal priority to cut queues of traffic and receive a green signal.

Active Priority Light in Orlando, FL.

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Vehicle Design

  • Low level boarding: faster boarding time for all passengers, namely those in wheelchairs, which means shorter dwelling time at the bus stop.

  • Adding additional and wider doorways facilitates the rapid entry and exit of passengers (32 in. allows for easy access for those in mobility aids).

  • Additional and wider doorways must be integrated with the structural support systems to maintain crash worthiness.

  • Buses can be bi-/articulated with two or three sections capable of transporting 170-270 passengers. (Think of the long A, H, and EE buses).

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Vehicle Design

  • Propulsion:

    • cleaner diesel fuel due to stricter EPA standards

    • compressed natural gas (CNG) hybrid electric-diesel buses have emerged as viable alternatively fueled vehicles

  • Low noise and emission pollution—to make the buses “sexy.”

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Stop Spacing and Location

  • Stop spacing affects demand for transit service.

  • Tradeoff between: (a) closely spaced, frequent stops and shorter walking distance, but more time on the vehicle and (b) stops spaced further apart and longer walking distance, but less time on the vehicle.

  • Stop locating can be near side, far side, or mid-block.

  • BRT systems with active signal priority and queue jumpers should place stops at the far side, allowing for effective use of these measures. It also clears the bus through the intersection with minimal delay.

  • If the stop was on the near side, queue jumpers would be not be used, and the bus would have to merge with queue traffic on the curbside lane for the stop. Consequently, the bus would be delayed by at least one signal cycle.

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Stop Location

  • If bus stops are bays (think of bus stop across from ARC), there is a delay to remerge with traffic.

  • Bays are not efficient for BRT systems.

  • If necessary, located on far side of intersections with tapered deceleration and acceleration lanes.

  • Priority Merge Rule: all vehicles to yield the right of way, when safe to do so, to buses signaling to reenter the traffic stream a stop.

  • Rule is common in Europe, Australia, Japan, Oregon, Washington, and Florida.

  • PMR is BRT-friendly as it reduces waiting times at subsequent stops and decreases travel times for passengers.

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Fare Collection

  • On-board collection increases dwelling time thus decreasing the efficiency of a BRT system.

  • Monthly passes, smart cards, pre-paid tickets. Incentives for pre-payment is a sharp discounts for multi-trip cards/tickets.

  • Pay as you board worst during peak hours.

    • Pay on exit: speeds up boarding at central sites during peak hours, and decreases dwell time as smaller groups exit the bus at the stops.

  • Free fare zone, loading platforms (staffed), “paid area” terminals (barrier free for transfers), and proof of payment

Loading platform in Curitiba, Brazil.

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Rider Appeal

  • Providing proper information to the customer is crucial for high quality transit information. (aka being user friendly)

  • Therefore, to increase the appeal of a BRT system, and consequently, ridership, each stop should have:

    • A stop name.

    • Route names and destinations for all routes serving the stop.

    • Span of service and frequency of service.

    • Service schedule for low-frequency routes.

    • A system map

Orlando BRT Service Map

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Rider Appeal

  • Onboard schematic maps and automated announcements can assist passengers when/where to board and exit.

  • Use of real time information of arrival times to be displayed at bus stops, kiosks, etc.

  • Technology is Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) and is powered by GPS.

  • Reduces anxiety of waiting.

  • Market BRT system as being an preferable mode of transportation: color schemes and logos to identify the BRT system (and distinguish it from the regular bus system), stops and stations need appealing architectural and aesthetic designs to attract riders, market faster travel times, new technologies (signals and AVL), and offer coupons.

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Land Use Policy

  • Modifying land use policies to permit growth that is concentrated around transit nodes and corridors will help to maintain and increase transit's base of riders in the future.

  • Location of stations already near developed sites, e.g. shopping malls, is ideal for optimizing land use with mass transit.

Orlando's Lynx system has created Superstops at major shopping malls. Buses stop at loading areas close to the mall entrance. Amenities include shelters, system information, bike racks, and a guide to mall stores.

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BRT in Use

  • Several cities across the world are using a BRT system.

  • These include: Bogotá, Quito, Rouen, London, Sydney, Istanbul, and Taipei.

  • By far, however, the greatest success story in BRT comes from Curitiba, Brazil.

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Curitiba, Brazil

  • During 1950s and 60s, cities across Brazil experienced rapid population growth due to agricultural mechanization. Curitiba had one of the highest population growths, 6% a yr.

  • demanded effective city planning in areas ranging from social services, housing and sanitation, to the environment and transportation

  • By the 1960s, officials were working on a Master Plan (1966) to meet these demands, which included a consolidated bus transit system

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Transportation and Development

  • restructured the city’s radial configuration into a linear model of urban expansion

  • transportation land use and road systems can be used as integrative tools of development; backbone for development and growth of the city

  • direct linear growth by attracting residential and commercial density along a mass transportation lane

  • The Research and Urban Planning Institute of Curitiba (IPPUC) was created to monitor the implementation and operations of the BRT.

  • The BRT, with its 2,000 buses, serves eight neighboring cities, 2 million passengers, and an approval rating of 90%.

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New Infrastructure

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Transportation System

  • Road hierarchy (spider web network)

  • 5 main arterial roads, structural growth corridors that dictate the growth pattern of the city, had two median express bus lanes

  • By 1982, all 5 arteries, inter-district, and feeder lines were complete.

  • Types of routes: feeder, interdistrict, and express

  • Express buses travel as fast as subway cars, but at one eighth the construction costs

  • As buildings moved away from corridor avenues, the density of the building capacity decreased. (urban apt. buildings to residential homes)

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A Fare System

  • Paper transfers: forgery

  • Two-fare system for feeder and express: failed because it favored the rich living near the middle

  • One fare policy: can take you from anywhere within the system (40+ miles worth of travel)

  • Shorter rides subsidize longer ones.

  • Installed automatic ticket vendors at stops and terminals to decrease dwell time.

  • The system is entirely financed by these fares and without any subsidies. A 1990 laws dictates that revenues can only be used to pay for the system. This avoids fare inflation.

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Bus and Station Design

  • Buses:

    • Three doors: 2 exiting, 1 boarding

    • Turbo engines

    • Wider doors

    • Lower floors

    • Bi/Articulated for greater passenger capacity (170-270)

  • Boarding tube stations along direct and express lines.

  • Staffed (to deter fare evaders).

  • Three functions: shelter, pre-boarding payment and level boarding

  • Speeds boarding time, especially with the disabled, therefore less idling and less pollution

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Bus Tube

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Some Numbers

  • 340 routes

  • 2,000 buses transport 2 million passengers daily

  • 700 miles of bus routes; 40 miles dedicated to bus use only

  • 25 terminals, 200+ bus tubes

  • 30 routes and buses designed for specific use by the disabled

  • 50-second deadhead (period between buses) at peak times, and 2 to 3 minutes at other times at the central station

  • first city in Brazil to use less polluting fuels; 89.4% diesel, 8% anhydrous alcohol, and 2.6% soybean additive

  • The resulting fuel is less polluting and cuts the emissions of particles to the air by up to 43 per cent.

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More Numbers

  • Cost of implementing the bus system in Curitiba was $2.0 million (U.S.) per mile.

  • 10 percent of yearly income on transport.

  • As a result, despite the second highest per capita car ownership rate in Brazil (one car for every three people), Curitiba's gasoline use per capita is 30 percent below that of eight comparable Brazilian cities.

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BRT and Beyond

  • Curitiba’s public policy has been eco-socio-friendly. Innovative with approach to public life.

  • In addition to BRT, pedestrian walkways, bike paths, parks, recycling programs, etc. all encourage a greener, healthier city and lifestyle.

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BRT in the United States

  • BRT systems are in place in several American cities including:

    • Boston

    • Charlotte

    • Cleveland

    • Dulles, VA

    • Eugene-Springfield, OR

    • Hartford

    • LA

    • Miami

    • Phoenix (planning)

    • San Francisco

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Orlando at a Glance

  • Opened Aug 1997

  • BRT improved an already existing transit system serving Orlando

  • target market is people who drive to downtown Orlando and then use Lymmo to get to other locations, such as the Courthouse, restaurants, shopping, etc

  • Service offers:

    • exclusive lanes for the entire 2.3 mile route

    • signal pre-emption

    • stations with large shelters and route information

    • automatic vehicle location (AVL)

    • next bus arrival information at kiosks

    • new low-floor compressed natural gas (CNG) buses

    • marketing and image development through vehicle graphics, stations, advertisements, and business tie-ins

    • free fare, so no fare collection delay

  • Fierce marketing to attract riders: theme buses, coupon-of-the-day, etc.

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Lymmo System

Lymmo Bus Painted in Leonardo DaVinci Theme

Lymmo Right-of-Way and Station at Turn-Around Area

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Table 1 Route Statistics for Lymmo and Rest of System

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  • $1.2 million to operate, 65% more than the Freebee service of 1997.

  • Because of the even greater increase in ridership, the average cost per boarding decreased from $1.37 for Freebee to $1.14 for Lymmo.

  • total capital cost of the system was $21 million, of which $3 million was for vehicles, $0.4 million for landscaping, and the remainder for street reconstruction, shelters, information kiosks, AVL, traffic signals, banners, and other expenses

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Criticisms to BRT

  • Curitiba, for example, has far lower labor costs, far fewer environmental controls, and much less stringent bureaucratic review of transportation projects.

  • politicians want solutions that fit their election cycles; score big with voters by extending past into future (road projects)

  • America’s car culture

  • Price on gasoline is cheap, discouraging public transportation as is. (oh yes, this is where Prof. Sunil talks about his famous (or infamous) gas tax)

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  • BRT provides a sustainable, efficient method of mass transit.

  • Can be used in conjunction with land use and developmental policies to curtail sprawl and guide growth.

  • Appeal to riders is key for any mass transit system to work—must be attractive and user friendly

  • Gas tax or DIE! lol

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The End

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