Bus rapid transit

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TransJakarta in Jakarta, Indonesia. With a length of 251.2 km (2019), it has the longest BRT system in the world. Harmoni Central Busway Transjakarta 1.JPG
TransJakarta in Jakarta, Indonesia. With a length of 251.2 km (2019), it has the longest BRT system in the world.
Transfer station in Curitiba's Linha Verde, Brazil Linha Verde Curitiba BRT 02 2013 Est Marechal Floriano 5978.JPG
Transfer station in Curitiba's Linha Verde, Brazil
30 meter long Transmetro in Guatemala City Transmetro en Ciudad de Guatemala.jpg
30 meter long Transmetro in Guatemala City

Bus rapid transit (BRT), also called a busway or transitway, is a bus-based public transport system designed to improve capacity and reliability relative to a conventional bus system. [2] Typically, a BRT system includes roadways that are dedicated to buses, and gives priority to buses at intersections where buses may interact with other traffic; alongside design features to reduce delays caused by passengers boarding or leaving buses, or purchasing fares. BRT aims to combine the capacity and speed of a metro with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system.

Public transport bus service road transport using buses

Public transport bus services are generally based on regular operation of transit buses along a route calling at agreed bus stops according to a published public transport timetable.

Route capacity is the maximum number of vehicles, people, or amount of freight than can travel a given route in a given amount of time, usually an hour. It may be limited by the worst bottleneck in the system, such as a stretch of road with fewer lanes. Air traffic route capacity is affected by weather. For a metro or a light rail system, route capacity is generally the capacity of each vehicle, times the number of vehicles per train, times the number of trains per hour (tph). In this way, route capacity is highly dependent on headway. Beyond this mathematical theory, capacity may be influenced by other factors such as slow zones, single-tracked areas, and infrastructure limitations, e.g. to useful train lengths.

In public transportation, schedule adherence or on-time performance refers to the level of success of the service remaining on the published schedule. On time performance, sometimes referred to as on time running, is normally expressed as a percentage, with a higher percentage meaning more vehicles are on time. The level of on time performance for many transport systems is a very important measure of the effectiveness of the system.


The first BRT system was the Rede Integrada de Transporte ('Integrated Transportation Network') in Curitiba, Brazil, which entered service in 1974.

Rede Integrada de Transporte bus rapid transit network in Curitiba

Rede Integrada de Transporte is a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Curitiba, Brazil, implemented in 1974. It is notable as being the first of many such systems around the world and a component of one of the first and most successful examples of transit-oriented development.

Curitiba Municipality in South, Brazil

Curitiba is the capital and largest city in the Brazilian state of Paraná. The city's population was 1,879,355 as of 2015, making it the eighth most populous city in Brazil and the largest in Brazil's South Region. The Curitiba Metropolitan area comprises 26 municipalities with a total population of over 3.2 million, making it the seventh most populous metropolitan area in the country.

As of March 2018, a total of 166 cities in six continents have implemented BRT systems, accounting for 4,906 km (3,048 mi) of BRT lanes [3] and about 32.2 million passengers every day, of which about 19.6 million passengers ride daily in Latin America, which has the most cities with BRT systems, with 54, led by Brazil with 21 cities. [3] The Latin American countries with the most daily ridership are Brazil (10.7M), Colombia (3.06M), and Mexico (2.5M). In the other regions, China (4.3M) and Iran (2.1M) also stand out. [3] Currently, TransJakarta is considered as the largest BRT network in the world with approximately 251.2 kilometres (156.1 mi) of corridors connecting the Indonesian capital city. [1] bus

Latin America Region of the Americas where Romance languages are primarily spoken

Latin America is a group of countries and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French are predominantly spoken; it is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America. The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference with the title "Initiative of the Americas. Idea for a Federal Congress of the Republics", by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. The term was used also by Napoleon III's French government in the 1860s as Amérique latine to consider French-speaking territories in the Americas, along with the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed, including the Spanish-speaking portions of the United States Today, areas of Canada and the United States where Spanish, Portuguese and French are predominant are typically not included in definitions of Latin America.

TransJakarta Bus Rapid Transit service in Jakarta

TransJakarta is a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Jakarta, Indonesia. The first BRT system in Asia, it commenced operations on 15 January 2004 to provide a fast public transport system to help reduce rush hour traffic. The system is considered as the first revolutionary public transit mode in the capital city of Indonesia. The buses run in dedicated lanes, and ticket prices are subsidised by the regional government. As of June 2019, TransJakarta has the world's longest BRT system, and serves on average 800,000 passengers daily.

Jakarta Special Capital Region in Indonesia

Jakarta, officially the Special Capital Region of Jakarta, is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Situated on the northwest coast of the world's most populous island of Java, it is the centre of economy, culture and politics of Indonesia with a population of more than ten million as of 2014.Jakarta metropolitan area which has an area of 6,392 square kilometres, is the world's second most populous urban area after Tokyo with a population of about 30 million, as of 2010. Jakarta's business opportunities, as well as its potential to offer a higher standard of living, have attracted migrants from across the Indonesian archipelago, making it a melting pot of numerous cultures. Jakarta is nicknamed the "Big Durian", the thorny strongly-odored fruit native to the region, as the city is seen as the Indonesian equivalent of New York.


Bus rapid transit takes its name from rail rapid transit, which describes a high-capacity urban public-transit system with its own right of way, multiple-car vehicles at short headways, and longer stop spacing than traditional streetcars and buses. BRT uses buses on a wide variety of rights-of-way, including mixed traffic, dedicated lanes on surface streets, and busways separated from traffic.

Rapid transit passenger rail system in an urban area

Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn or underground, is a type of high-capacity public transport generally found in urban areas. Unlike buses or trams, rapid transit systems are electric railways that operate on an exclusive right-of-way, which cannot be accessed by pedestrians or other vehicles of any sort, and which is often grade separated in tunnels or on elevated railways.

Right-of-way (transportation) right to make a "way" (as in a type of easement) over a piece of land

A right-of-way (ROW) is a right to make a way over a piece of land, usually to and from another piece of land. A right of way is a type of easement granted or reserved over the land for transportation purposes, such as a highway, public footpath, rail transport, canal, as well as electrical transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines. A right-of-way can be used to build a bike trail. A right-of-way is reserved for the purposes of maintenance or expansion of existing services with the right-of-way. In the case of an easement, it may revert to its original owners if the facility is abandoned.

Headway is a measurement of the distance or time between vehicles in a transit system. The minimum headway is the shortest such distance or time achievable by a system without a reduction in the speed of vehicles. The precise definition varies depending on the application, but it is most commonly measured as the distance from the tip of one vehicle to the tip of the next one behind it. It can be expressed as the distance between vehicles, or as time it will take for the trailing vehicle to cover that distance. A "shorter" headway signifies closer spacing between the vehicles. Airplanes operate with headways measured in hours or days, freight trains and commuter rail systems might have headways measured in parts of an hour, metro and light rail systems operate with headways on the order of 1 to 5 minutes, and vehicles on a freeway can have as little as 2 seconds headway between them.

The expression "BRT" is mainly used in the Americas and China; in India, it is called "BRTS" (BRT System); in Europe and Indonesia, it is often called a "busway"; while in the British Isles, it may be called a "quality bus". the term transitway was originated in 1981 with the opening of the OC Transpo transitway in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

British Isles Group of islands in northwest Europe

The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe that consist of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides and over six thousand smaller isles. They have a total area of about 315,159 km2 and a combined population of almost 72 million, and include two sovereign states, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The islands of Alderney, Jersey, Guernsey, and Sark, and their neighbouring smaller islands, are sometimes also taken to be part of the British Isles, even though, as islands off the coast of France, they do not form part of the archipelago.

OC Transpo public transit service in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

OC Transpo is the public transit agency of the City of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada that carries approximately 97.1 million annual riders. It operates an integrated hub-and-spoke system that includes light metro, bus rapid transit, and conventional bus routes.

Ottawa Federal capital city in Ontario, Canada

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. It stands on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of southern Ontario. Ottawa borders Gatineau, Quebec; the two form the core of the Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) and the National Capital Region (NCR). As of 2016, Ottawa had a city population of 934,243 and a metropolitan population of 1,323,783 making it the fourth-largest city and the fifth-largest CMA in Canada. In June 2019, the City of Ottawa estimated it had surpassed a population of 1 million.

Critics have charged that the term "bus rapid transit" has sometimes been misapplied to systems that lack most or all the essential features which differentiate it from conventional bus services. The term "bus rapid transit creep" has been used to describe severely degraded levels of bus service which fall far short of the BRT Standard promoted by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and other organizations.

BRT creep comprises several types of gradual erosions in service that sometimes affect a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, resulting in a service that is not up to the standards promised by BRT advocates. In its ideal form, BRT aims to combine the capacity and speed of a light rail system with the flexibility, cost and simplicity of a bus system. BRT creep occurs when a system that promises these features instead acts more like a standard, non-rapid bus system.

BRT Standard

The BRT Standard is an evaluation tool for Bus Rapid Transit corridors around the world, based on international best practices. The Standard establishes a common definition for BRT and identifies BRT best practices, as well as functioning as a scoring system to allow BRT corridors to be evaluated and recognized for their superior design and management aspects.

Institute for Transportation and Development Policy organization

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) is a non-governmental non-profit organization that focuses on developing bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, promoting biking, walking, and non-motorized transport, and improving private bus operators margins. Other programs include parking reform, traffic demand management, and global climate and transport policy. According to its mission statement, ITDP is committed to "promoting sustainable and equitable transportation worldwide."


The first use of a protected busway was the East Side Trolley Tunnel in Providence, Rhode Island. It was converted from trolley to bus use in 1948. However, the first BRT system in the world was the OC Transpo system in Ottawa, Canada. Introduced in 1973, the first element of its BRT system was dedicated bus lanes through the city centre, with platformed stops. The introduction of the first exclusive separate busways (termed 'Transitway') occurred in 1983. By 1996, all of the originally envisioned 31 km Transitway system was in operation; further expansions were opened in 2009, 2011, and 2014. As of 2017, the central part of the Transitway is being converted to a Light Rail Transit, due to the downtown section being operated beyond its designed capacity. [4]

The world's second BRT system, the Rede Integrada de Transporte in Curitiba, Brazil, was opened in 1974. Curitiba 04 2006 06 RIT.jpg
The world's second BRT system, the Rede Integrada de Transporte in Curitiba, Brazil, was opened in 1974.

The second BRT system in the world was the Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT, integrated transportation network), implemented in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1974. [5] :5 [6] Most of the elements that have become associated with BRT were innovations first suggested by Curitiba Mayor architect Jaime Lerner. [7] [8] Initially just dedicated bus lanes in the center of major arterial roads, in 1980 the Curitiba system added a feeder bus network and inter-zone connections, and in 1992 introduced off-board fare collection, enclosed stations, and platform-level boarding. Other systems made further innovations, including platooning (three buses entering and leaving bus stops and traffic signals at once) in Porto Alegre, and passing lanes and express service in São Paulo. [9]

In the United States, BRT began in 1977, with Pittsburgh's South Busway, [10] operating on 4.3 miles (6.9 km) of exclusive lanes. Its success led to the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway in 1983, a fuller BRT deployment including a dedicated busway of 9.1 miles (14.6 km), traffic signal preemption, and peak service headway as low as two minutes. After the opening of the West Busway, 5.1 miles (8.2 km) in length in 1990, Pittsburgh’s Busway system is today over 18.5 miles long.

In 1995, Quito, Ecuador, opened trolleybus BRT.[ citation needed ] The TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia, opening in 2000, was the first BRT system to combine the best elements of Curitiba's BRT with other BRT advances, and achieved the highest capacity and highest speed BRT system in the world. The success of TransMilenio spurred other cities to develop high quality BRT systems.[ citation needed ]

In January 2004 the first BRT in Asia, TransJakarta, opened in Jakarta, Indonesia. As of 2015, at 210 kilometres (130 mi), it is the longest BRT system in the world. [11]

Africa's first BRT system was opened in Lagos, Nigeria, in March 2008 but is considered as a light BRT system by many people. [12] Johannesburg’s BRT, Rea Vaya, was the first true BRT in Africa, in August 2009, carrying 16,000 daily passengers. [13] Rea Vaya and MIO (BRT in Cali, Colombia, opened 2009) were the first two systems to combine full BRT with some services that also operated in mixed traffic, then joined the BRT trunk infrastructure. [14]

Main features

BRT systems normally include most of the following features:

Dedicated lanes and alignment

TransJakarta buses use separate lanes to avoid congested roads. Transjakarta Pemuda Pramuka 2.jpg
TransJakarta buses use separate lanes to avoid congested roads.
Elevated BRT system in Xiamen Xiamen BRT 18m.jpg
Elevated BRT system in Xiamen
Dedicated "bus street" through Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S., used by university and city buses only Flagstaff busway.jpg
Dedicated "bus street" through Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S., used by university and city buses only

Bus-only lanes make for faster travel and ensure that buses are not delayed by mixed traffic congestion. A median alignment bus-only keeps buses away from busy curb-side side conflicts, where cars and trucks are parking, standing and turning. Separate rights of way may be used such as the completely elevated Xiamen BRT. Transit malls or 'bus streets' may also be created in city centers.

Off-board fare collection

Fare prepayment at the station, instead of on board the bus, eliminates the delay caused by passengers paying on board.

Intersection treatment

Prohibiting turns for traffic across the bus lane significantly reduces delays to the buses. Bus priority will often be provided at signalized intersections to reduce delays by extending the green phase or reducing the red phase in the required direction compared to the normal sequence. Prohibiting turns may be the most important measure for moving buses through intersections.

Platform-level boarding

Cultural Centre busway station in Brisbane, Australia South-East Busway, Brisbane.jpg
Cultural Centre busway station in Brisbane, Australia

Station platforms should be level with the bus floor for quick and easy boarding, making it fully accessible for wheelchairs, disabled passengers and baby strollers, with minimal delays.

High-level platforms for high-floored buses makes it difficult to have stops outside dedicated platforms, or to have conventional buses stop at high-level platforms, so these BRT stops are distinct from street-level bus stops. Similar to rail vehicles, there is a risk of a dangerous gap between bus and platform, and is even greater due to the nature of bus operations. Kassel curbs or other methods may be used to ease quick and safe alignment of the BRT vehicle with a platform.

A popular compromise is low-floor buses with a low step at the door, which can allow easy boarding at low-platform stops compatible with other buses. This intermediate design may be used with some low- or medium-capacity BRT systems.

The MIO system in Cali pioneered in 2009 the use of dual buses, with doors on the left side of the bus that are located at the height of high-level platforms, and doors on the right side that are located at curb height. These buses can use the main line with its exclusive lanes and high level platforms, located on the center of the street and thus, boarding and leaving passengers on the left side. These buses can exit the main line and use normal lanes that share with other vehicles and stop at regular stations located on sidewalks, located to the right side of the street. For the system to work, users have the right to receive "credit" on the electronic cards: in this manner, passengers that have no money left on the cards can take the bus on sidewalk stops where there is no possibility to recharge these cards. This means that the balance in the card can be negative, up to two ticket fares, so passengers can take the bus in the street and recharge the card once they reach a main line station. As the card itself costs more than the maximum negative balance, the passenger has no incentive to default on his negative credit. [15] Transmilenio in Bogotá followed suit in 2014 also creating routes that can use main line stations and regular sidewalk stations, [16] but instead of giving credit to passengers to allow boarding the bus on sidewalks, published a map readable in smart phones giving the location of a dense [17] network of 4,000 recharging points, located in internet cafes and other business, that use a swipe-card terminal for recharging. This system has the additional benefit of diminishing queues on main line stations. [18] [ verification needed ]

Additional features

High capacity vehicles

Double decker bus at Mexico City with capacity for 130 passengers. Metrobus at Paseo de la Reforma.jpg
Double decker bus at Mexico City with capacity for 130 passengers.
TransMilenio vehicles carry up to 270 people. Transmilenio vehicle interior.jpg
TransMilenio vehicles carry up to 270 people.

High-capacity vehicles such as articulated or even bi-articulated buses may be used, typically with multiple doors for fast entry and exit. Double-decker buses [ citation needed ] or guided buses may also be used. Advanced powertrain control may be used for a smoother ride.

Quality stations

Ticket barriers at the entrance to a TransMilenio station in Bogota TransMilenio Calle 63.jpg
Ticket barriers at the entrance to a TransMilenio station in Bogotá

BRT systems typically feature significant investment in enclosed stations which may incorporate attractive sliding glass doors, staffed ticket booths, information booths, and other more standard features listed above. They will often include level boarding, using either low-floor buses or higher boarding platforms level, and multiple doors to speed passenger boardings and enhance accessibility to disabled passengers. Fare validation upon entry to the station in a similar manner to that used on entry to a subway system is also common, particularly at busy stations.[ citation needed ] An example of high-quality stations include those used on TransMilenio in Bogotá since December 2000, [19] [ verification needed ] the MIO in Cali since November, 2008, [20] Metrolinea in Bucaramanga since December, 2009, [21] Megabús in Pereira since May, 2009. [22] This design is also used in Johannesburg's Rea Vaya. [23] The term "station" is more flexibly applied in North America and ranges from enclosed waiting areas (Ottawa and Cleveland) to large open-sided shelters (Los Angeles and San Bernardino).

Prominent brand or identity

A unique and distinctive identity can contribute to BRT's attractiveness as an alternative to driving cars, [24] (such as Viva, Max, TransMilenio, Metropolitano, Metronit, Select) marking stops and stations as well as the buses. [25]

Large cities usually have big bus networks. A map showing all bus lines might be incomprehensible, and cause people to wait for low-frequency buses that may not even be running at the time they are needed. By identifying the main bus lines having high-frequency service, with a special brand and separate maps, it is easier to understand the entire network.[ citation needed ]

Public transit apps are more convenient than a static map, featuring services like trip planning, live arrival and departure times, up-to-date line schedules, local station maps, service alerts, and advisories that may affect one's current trip. Transit and Moovit are examples of apps that are available in many cities around the world. Some operators of bus rapid transit systems have developed their own apps, like Transmilenio. [26] These apps even include all the schedules and live arrival times and stations for buses that feed the BRT, like the SITP (Sistema Integrado de Transporte Público or Public Transit Integrated System) in Bogotá[ citation needed ].

In tunnels or subterranean structures

Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel in Seattle, Washington Seattle Metro Bus Tunnel Pioneer Square Station.jpg
Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel in Seattle, Washington

A special issue arises in the use of buses in metro transit structures. Since the areas where the demand for an exclusive bus right-of-way are apt to be in dense downtown areas where an above-ground structure may be unacceptable on historic, logistic, or environmental grounds, use of BRT in tunnels may not be avoidable.

Since buses are usually powered by internal combustion engines, bus metros raise ventilation issues similar to those of motor vehicle tunnels. Powerful fans typically exchange air through ventilation shafts to the surface; these are usually as remote as possible from occupied areas, to minimize the effects of noise and concentrated pollution.

A straightforward way to reduce air quality problems is to use internal combustion engines with lower emissions. The 2008 Euro V European emission standards set a limit on carbon monoxide from heavy-duty diesel engines of 1.5 g/kWh, one third of the 1992 Euro I standard. As a result, less forced ventilation will be required in tunnels to achieve the same air quality.

Another alternative is to use electric propulsion, which Seattle's Metro Bus Tunnel and Boston's Silver Line Phase II implemented. In Seattle, dual-mode (electric/diesel electric) buses manufactured by Breda were used until 2004, with the center axle driven by electric motors obtaining power from trolley wires through trolley poles in the subway, and with the rear axle driven by a conventional diesel powertrain on freeways and streets. Boston is using a similar approach, after initially using trolleybuses pending delivery of the dual-mode vehicles in 2005. [27]

In 2004, Seattle replaced its "Transit Tunnel" fleet with diesel-electric hybrid buses, which operate similarly to hybrid cars outside the tunnel and in a low-noise, low-emissions "hush mode" (in which the diesel engine operates but does not exceed idle speed) when underground. [28] The need to provide electric power in underground environments brings the capital and maintenance costs of such routes closer to those of light rail, and raises the question of building or eventually converting to light rail. In Seattle, the downtown transit tunnel was retrofitted for conversion to a shared hybrid-bus and light-rail facility in preparation for Seattle's Central Link Light Rail line, which opened in July 2009. In March 2019, expansion of the light rail in the tunnel moved busses back to surface streets. [29]


A BRT system can be measured by a number of factors. The BRT Standard was developed by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) to score BRT corridors, producing a list of rated BRT corridors meeting the minimum definition of BRT. The highest rated systems received a "gold" ranking. The latest edition of the standard was published in 2016. [30]

Other metrics used to evaluate BRT performance include:

Based on this data, the minimum headway and maximum current vehicle capacities, the theoretical maximum throughput measured in passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD) for a single traffic lane is some 90,000 passengers per hour (250 passengers per vehicle, one vehicles every 10 seconds). In real world conditions TransMilenio holds the record, with 35,000 – 40,000 PPHPD with most other busy systems operating in the 15,000 to 25,000 range.[ citation needed ]

LocationSystem Peak passengers per hour per direction Passengers per dayLength (km)
Bogotá TransMilenio 35,000 – 40,000 [32] 2,154,961 [33] 113 [34]
Ahmedabad Janmarg (Ahmedabad BRT) 450,000 [35] 125 [35]
Guangzhou Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit 26,900 [36] 1,000,00022
Curitiba, Brazil Rede Integrada de Transporte 13,900 – 24,100508,000 [37] (2,260,000 inc. feeder lines [38] )81
Mexico City, Mexico Mexico City Metrobus 18,500[ citation needed ]1,800,000 [39] 140 [40] [41]
Belo Horizonte, Brazil Sistema MOVE 15,800 – 20,300 [42] 1.100.00024
Istanbul Metrobus (Istanbul) 7,300 – 19,500 [42] 800,00052
New Jersey Lincoln Tunnel XBL 15,500 [43] 62,000 (4 hour morning peak only)
Brisbane South East Busway 15,000 [44] 23

Comparison with light rail

After the first BRT system opened in 1974, cities were slow to adopt BRT because they believed that the capacity of BRT was limited to about 12,000 passengers per hour traveling in a given direction during peak demand. While this is a capacity rarely needed in the US (12,000 is more typical as a total daily ridership), in the developing world this capacity constraint was a significant argument in favor of heavy rail metro investments in some venues.

When TransMilenio opened in 2000, it changed the paradigm by giving buses a passing lane at each station stop and introducing express services within the BRT infrastructure. These innovations increased the maximum achieved capacity of a BRT system to 35,000 passengers per hour. [45] Light rail, by comparison, has reported passenger capacities between 3,500pph (mainly street running) to 19,000pph (fully Grade-separated). "From these findings … there is little evidence to support the view that [light rail] can carry more than busways.". [46] There are conditions that favor light over BRT, but they are fairly narrow. To meet these conditions you would need a corridor with only one available lane in each direction, more than 16,000 passengers per direction per hour but less than 20,000, and a long block length, because the train cannot block intersections. These conditions are rare, but in that specific instance, light rail would have a significant operational advantage. However, "... any perceived advantages of [light rail] over BRT are primarily aesthetic and political rather than technical … due to the perceived capacity constraint of BRT there are currently no cases in the US where [light rail] should be favored over BRT." [47]

Comparison with conventional bus services

Conventional bus services being delayed by traffic congestion on Chang'an Avenue in Beijing Chang'an avenue in Beijing.jpg
Conventional bus services being delayed by traffic congestion on Chang'an Avenue in Beijing

Conventional scheduled bus services use general traffic lanes, which can be slow due to traffic congestion, and the speed of bus services is further reduced by long dwell times. [ citation needed ]

In 2013, the New York City authorities noted that buses on 34th Street, which carried 33,000 bus riders a day on local and express routes, traveled at 4.5 miles per hour (7.2 km/h), only slightly faster than walking pace. Even despite the implementation of Select Bus Service (New York City's version of a bus rapid transit system), dedicated bus lanes, and traffic cameras on the 34th Street corridor, buses on the corridor were still found to travel at an average of 4.5 mph. [48]

In the 1960s, Reuben Smeed predicted that the average speed of traffic in central London would be 9 miles per hour (14 km/h) without other disincentives such as road pricing, based on the theory that this was the minimum speed that people will tolerate. When the London congestion charge was introduced in 2003, the average traffic speed was indeed 14 kilometres per hour (8.7 mph) which was the highest speed since the 1970s. [49] By way of contrast, typical speeds of BRT systems range from 17 to 30 miles per hour (27 to 48 km/h). [50]


Kesennuma Line in Japan damaged in 2011 tsunami. JR proposed the line's conversion into a dedicated bus rapid transit (BRT) route, before the railway's full restoration. Saichi-stn-BRT03.jpg
Kesennuma Line in Japan damaged in 2011 tsunami. JR proposed the line's conversion into a dedicated bus rapid transit (BRT) route, before the railway's full restoration.

The capital costs of implementing BRT are lower than for light rail. A study by the United States Government Accountability Office from 2000 found that the average capital cost per mile for busways was $13.5 million while light rail average costs were $34.8 million. [51] However, the total investment varies considerably due to factors such as cost of the roadway, amount of grade separation, station structures, traffic signal systems and vehicles.

Operational costs of running a BRT system are generally lower than light rail, though the exact comparison varies, and labor costs depend heavily on the wages which vary between countries. For the same level of ridership and demand, higher labor costs in the developed world relative to developing countries will tend to encourage developed world transit operators to prefer operate services with larger but less frequent vehicles. This will allow the service to achieve the same capacity while minimizing the number of drivers. This may come as a hidden cost to passengers in lower demand routes who experience a significantly lower frequencies and longer waiting times. In the developing world the operating cost advantages of BRT over light rail or streetcar are much greater due to lower wages. [52] In the study done by the GAO, BRT systems usually had lower costs based on "operating cost per vehicle hour", "operating cost per revenue mile", and "operating cost per passenger trip", mainly because of lower vehicle cost and lower infrastructure cost. The initial capital costs of diesel BRT are also much less lower than a trolleybus system. [51]

Proponents of light rail argue that the operating costs of BRT are not necessarily lower than light rail. The typically larger light rail vehicles enjoy reduced labor costs per passenger, and the unit capital cost per passenger can be lower than BRT. [52] Furthermore, light rail vehicles have proven useful lifespans of forty years or more, as opposed to buses that often have to be replaced after less than twenty years.

An ambitious light rail system runs partly underground, which gives free right-of-way and much faster traffic compared to passing the traffic signals needed in a surface level system. Underground BRT is rare and expensive. As most buses run on diesel, air quality can become a significant concern in tunnels, but the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is an example of using hybrid buses, which switch to overhead electric propulsion while they are underground, eliminating diesel emissions and reducing fuel usage. An alternative is an elevated busway, which is also costly. A desire for grade separation indicates that a rail alternative may be better.

Prominent articulated "tram-like" Van Hool vehicles are used in Metz, France. Mettis BRT Metz.jpg
Prominent articulated "tram-like" Van Hool vehicles are used in Metz, France.


BRT systems have been widely promoted by non-governmental organizations such as the Shell-funded EMBARQ program, Rockefeller Foundation [54] and Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), whose consultant pool includes the former mayor of Bogota (Colombia), Enrique Penalosa (former president of ITDP).

Supported by contributions of bus-producing companies such as Volvo, [55] the ITDP not only established a proposed "standard" for BRT system implementation, but developed intensive lobby activities around the world to convince local governments to select BRT systems over rail-based transportation models (subways, light trains, etc.). [56]

Environmental issues

Unlike electric-powered trains commonly used in rapid transit and light rail systems, bus rapid transit often uses diesel- or gasoline-fueled engines. The typical bus diesel engine causes noticeable levels of air pollution, noise and vibration. [57] It is noted however that BRT can still provide significant environmental benefits over private cars. In addition, BRT systems can replace an inefficient conventional bus network for more efficient, faster and less polluting BRT buses. For example, Bogotá previously used 2,700 conventional buses providing transportation to 1.6 million passengers daily, [58] while in 2013 TransMilenio transported 1.9 million passengers using only 630 BRT buses, [59] A fleet less than a quarter in size of the old fleet, that circulates at twice the speed, with a huge reduction in air pollution.

To reduce direct emissions some systems use alternative forms of traction such as electric or hybrid engines. BRT systems can use trolleybuses to lower air pollution and noise emissions such as those in Beijing and Quito. [60] The price penalty of installing overhead lines could be offset by the environmental benefits and potential for savings from centrally generated electricity, especially in cities where electricity is less expensive than other fuel sources. Trolleybus electrical systems can be potentially reused for future light rail conversion. TransJakarta buses, uses cleaner compressed natural gas-fueled engines. While Bogotá started to use hybrid buses in 2012: they use regenerative braking to charge batteries when the bus stops and then use electric motors to propel the bus up to 40 km/h, speed at which the regular diesel engine starts automatically, with considerable savings in fuel consumption and pollutant dispersion. [61] Furthermore, the lifetime of individual buses is generally shorter than their rail-based counterparts, potentially making the BRT system more expensive to operate in the long term.

Overcrowding and poor quality service

Traffic jam at TransMilenio's dedicated line TransMilenio-traffic-jam.jpg
Traffic jam at TransMilenio's dedicated line

Many BRT systems suffer from overcrowding in buses and stations as well as long wait times for buses. In Santiago de Chile the average of the system is six passengers per square meter inside vehicles. Users have reported days where the buses take too long to arrive, and are usually too overcrowded to accept new passengers. [62] As of June 2017 the system has 15% of approval from the users and has lost 27% of its passengers, who have turned mostly to cars. [63]

In Bogotá the overcrowding is even worse; the average of TransMilenio is eight passengers per square meter. [64] Only 29% feel satisfied with the system. The data also show that 23% of the citizens agree with building more TransMilenio lines, in contrast of the 42% who consider that a rapid transit system should be built. [65] Several cases of sexual assault have been reported by female users in TransMilenio. According to a 2012 survey made by the secretary of the woman of Bogota, 64% of women said they had been victims of sexual assault in the system. [66] The system has even been ranked as the most dangerous transport for women. [67] The bad quality of the system has occasioned an increment in the number of cars and motorcycles in the city, the citizens prefer these transport means over TransMilenio. According to official data the number of cars increased from approximately 666.000 in 2005 to 1.586.700 in 2016; the number of motorcycles is also growing, 660.000 were sold in Bogota in 2013, twice the number of cars sold. [68]

In Jakarta there have been also reports of overcrowding in buses and stations, low frequency of the routes [69] and many reports of sexual harassment cases [70] as well as problems with buses that burn on their own. The quality of the service is so bad that in 2015 the Jakarta governor apologized for the bad service. [71]

Failures and reversals

Protests in TransMilenio at the Terreros station, 12 February 2016 Pt.jpg
Protests in TransMilenio at the Terreros station, 12 February 2016

A principal criticism of BRT systems is that they may not accomplish their promise of an efficient, rapid flow of passengers along their dedicated bus lanes. The unpopularity of Delhi's BRT [72] and the increasing riots and spontaneous user demonstrations in Bogotá [73] raise doubts about the ability of BRTs to tackle issues such as the traffic jams induced by dedicated lanes. Overcrowded stations and BRT vehicles may fail to keep pace with increased ridership, and may eventually need to be replaced with high-capacity rail systems.

The lack of permanence of BRT has also been criticized, with some arguing that BRT systems can be used as an excuse to build roads that others later try to convert for use by non-BRT vehicles. Examples of this can be found in Delhi, where a BRT system was scrapped, [74] and in Aspen, Colorado, where drivers are lobbying the government to allow mixed-use traffic in former BRT lanes as of 2017. [75] Similarly, the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce has called for bus lanes to be scrapped in certain areas of the city "as an experiment." [76] Bangkok was also making plans to scrap a set of bus-only lanes, as of early 2017. [77] New Orleans ran buses on Canal Street in a dedicated right of way beginning in the 1960s. This style of service was maintained until 2004 when streetcar service was restored on this 4-mile (6.4 km) route segment. [78] This perceived lack of permanence has made BRT lines significantly less attractive to real estate developers than rail lines.

Experts also attribute the failure of BRT to land use structure. [79] [80] Cities that are sprawled and have no mixed use have poor ridership to make BRT economically viable. [81] In Africa, the African Urban Institute criticized the viability of ongoing BRTs across the continent. [82]

Replacing BRT with higher capacity modes

While the Los Angeles Metro Orange Line is sometimes cited as an example of a successful North American BRT line, its very success has led to overcrowding and long term plans to replace it with a rail line. The problem in replacing an existing BRT corridor with a rail line is that service disruptions are unavoidable during construction and this lack of reliability may hurt ridership.


A 2018 study found that the introduction of a BRT network in Mexico City reduced air pollution (emissions of CO, NOX, and PM10). [83]

List of BRT systems

See also

Related Research Articles

Light rail typically an urban form of public transport using steel-tracked fixed guideways

Light rail, light rail transit(LRT), tram or fast tram is a form of tramway or urban rail transit, using rolling stock, that constitutes a form of tram. They operate at a higher capacity than most historical tramways, and often on an exclusive right-of-way.

TransMilenio Transport system in Bogota, Colombia

TransMilenio is a bus transit (BRT) system that serves Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, and Soacha. The system opened to the public in December 2000, covering Caracas Avenue and 80 street. Other lines were added gradually over the next several years, and as of 2019, 8 lines totalling 114.4 km (71 mi) run throughout the city.

Guided bus bus capable of running both on tracks and roads

Guided buses are buses capable of being steered by external means, usually on a dedicated track or roll way that excludes other traffic, permitting the maintenance of schedules even during rush hours. Unlike trolleybuses or rubber-tired trams, for part of their routes guided buses are able to share road space with general traffic along conventional roads, or with conventional buses on standard bus lanes.

Bus lane Road lane restricted to buses

A bus lane or bus-only lane is a lane restricted to buses, often on certain days and times, and generally used to speed up public transport that would be otherwise held up by traffic congestion. Bus lanes are a key component of a high-quality bus rapid transit (BRT) network, improving bus travel speeds and reliability by reducing delay caused by other traffic.

The Urban Ring was a proposed project of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, to develop new public transportation routes that would provide improved circumferential connections among many existing transit lines that project radially from downtown Boston. The Urban Ring Corridor is located roughly one to two miles from downtown Boston, passing through the Massachusetts cities of Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Medford, Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline. The project was expected to convert 41,500 car trips to transit trips daily.

Orange Line (Los Angeles Metro) bus rapid transit line in Los Angeles, run by LACMTA

The Orange Line is a bus rapid transit line in the Metro Busway network in Los Angeles, California. It operates between Chatsworth and the North Hollywood Metro Station in the San Fernando Valley where it connects with the Metro Red Line on the Metro Rail system for Downtown Los Angeles. The other line in the Metro Busway network is the Metro Silver Line. The 18-mile (29 km) Orange Line uses a dedicated, exclusive right-of-way for the entirety of its route with stations located at approximately one-mile intervals; fares are paid via TAP cards at vending machines on station platforms before boarding to improve performance. The Metro Orange Line bicycle path runs alongside part of the route.

Bi-articulated bus Bus formed of three sections

A bi-articulated bus or double-articulated bus is a type of high-capacity articulated bus with an extra axle and a second articulation joint, as well as extended length, bi-articulated buses tend to be employed in high-frequency core routes or bus rapid transit schemes rather than in conventional bus routes.

Metrobus (Istanbul) Public bus service in Istanbul with an exclusive road

Metrobus is a 50 km (31.1 mi) bus rapid transit route in İstanbul, Turkey with 45 stations which follows the city's ring-road via Avcılar, Zincirlikuyu and the Bosphorus Bridge to Söğütlüçeşme using dedicated bus lanes for much of the route.

The Delhi BRTS was a bus rapid transit system in Delhi. The first route opened in 2008 ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games which were held in the city. The project was well used but has been criticised for the difficulty of access to the bus platforms, which are in the middle of the road, for lack of enforcement and for the effect it has had on other motor traffic. A legal challenge was defeated in 2012.

Public transportation in the United States

Public transportation in the United States refers to publicly financed mass transit services across the nation. This includes various forms of bus, rail, ferry, and sometimes, airline services. Most established public transit systems are located in central, urban areas where there is enough density and public demand to require public transportation. In more auto-centric suburban localities, public transit is normally, but not always, less frequent and less common. Most public transit services in the United States are either national, regional/commuter, or local, depending on the type of service. Furthermore, sometimes "public transportation" in the United States is an umbrella term used synonymous with "alternative transportation", meaning any form of mobility that excludes driving alone by automobile. This can sometimes include carpooling, vanpooling, on-demand mobility, infrastructure that is fixated toward bicycles, and paratransit service.

Bus rapid transit in Brazil

The first bus rapid transit in Brazil (BRT) was built in 1974 in the city of Curitiba by the then mayor, architect Jaime Lerner, and became the first BRT in the world. The goal of the system is to provide high quality rail transit service to customers and at a comparable cost to that of a bus transit. Curitiba's success inspired the implementation of similar plans in more than 100 cities around the world, including the Brazilian cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Manaus, Goiânia, Aracaju, Salvador, Recife, and Brasília.

Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit is the bus rapid transit (BRT) system of the city of Guangzhou in the People's Republic of China. Its first line was put into operation on 10 February 2010. It handles approximately 1,000,000 passenger trips daily with a peak passenger flow of 26,900 pphpd. In fact, this rapid transit system contains the world's longest BRT stations - around 260m including bridges - with bus volumes of 1 bus every 10 seconds or 350 per hour in a single direction. The BRT system has two new lines and two extensions planned.

Bus rapid transit in New Jersey

Bus rapid transit in New Jersey comprises limited-stop bus service, exclusive bus lanes (XBL) and bus bypass shoulders (BBS). Under the banner Next Generation Bus New Jersey Transit (NJT), the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), and the metropolitan planning organizations of New Jersey (MPO) which recommend and authorize transportation projects are undertaking the creation of several additional bus rapid transit systems (BRT) in the state. In 2011, NJT announced that it would equip its entire bus fleet with devices for real-time locating, thus creating the basis for "next bus" scheduling information at bus shelters. The introduction and expanded use of bus rapid transit in Garden State is part of worldwide phenomenon to bring mass transit to heavily trafficked corridors in both high and medium density areas as a cost-saving, and sometimes more flexible, alternative to rail transportation, thus reducing automobile dependency and traffic congestion.

Busways in Brisbane

Since the mid-1990s, a 27 kilometre bus rapid transit network has been developed in Brisbane, Australia. It comprises grade-separated bus-only corridors, complementing the Queensland Rail City network. Management of the busway network is the responsibility of TransLink as coordinator of South East Queensland's integrated public transport system.

TransPeshawar or Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit is a bus rapid transit system currently under construction by the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. Divided into two separate phases, the first phase of the TransPeshawar BRT system will encompass an east-west corridor to be served by 30 stations with an initial 220 buses out of which 155 are 12-meter-long buses while 65 are 18-meter-long buses. 88% of funding is being provided by the Asian Development Bank.


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