Study finds bus rapid transit can deliver cost-effective benefits
“Three pilot projects in the Boston area that integrate BRT functionality onto existing bus routes reinforce that this is a promising approach that should be expanded.” – Ian Ollis, co-author
February 08, 2022
Successful local pilot programs show BRT deserves thoughtful expansion
According to a new study released by the Pioneer Institute, bus rapid transit (BRT) service incorporates unique features such as dedicated lanes to provide reliable and cost-effective service while reducing congestion and its harmful effects on the environment.
The BRT includes many features normally associated with metros, such as boarding platforms at the same level as the vehicle, automated fare collection, bus stations with turnstiles or fare barriers, faster boarding and priority in traffic. In Brazil, the cost of assembling a BRT system was 50 times lower than building a new metro system.
“Three pilot projects in the Boston area that integrate BRT functionality onto existing bus routes reinforce that this is a promising approach that should be scaled up,” said Ian Ollis, co-author of “Bus Rapid Transit: Costs and Benefits of a Transit Alternative.”
After queue jumping, a practice where buses are given advanced green lights from the boarding lane to traffic lights between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekdays, a dedicated lane has been added to the route along of Massachusetts Avenue between Arlington and Porter Square in Cambridge. As a result, there was 64% less deviation from the schedule and trips were shortened by 10% on average. Fifty-eight percent of residents supported extending the route and 70 percent supported making the changes permanent.
Along the 71 and 73 bus routes in Cambridge and Watertown, only 3% of the vehicles on the route are operated by the public, yet six out of ten commuters on the route use these vehicles. When bus lanes and signal timing were added, schedule deviation dropped by 69% and the percentage of residents who approved of Mt. Auburn Street traffic patterns increased by 38 dots.
The most ambitious pilot is in Everett, which added a 1.1-mile bus lane along Broadway, as well as first-level boarding platforms that eliminate a step to board buses. Sixty percent of residents are happy with the lane and 77% want it to continue to Sullivan Square.
The three communities have made the changes permanent, and Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria has set a goal of having a full BRT in Everett by 2023.
In its 2019 final report, the Lower Mystic Regional Task Force, which was convened by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to support new transportation interventions for redevelopment, called for more BRT, finding that associated changes to BRT are faster to implement than other options, reduce vehicle traffic and promote transit equity.
In Cleveland, the 6.9-mile HealthLine was declared to have the best return on investment of any transit project by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which created a set of BRT standards. A study found that two-thirds of the jobs created in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, are located within a block of a HealthLine station.
Ollis and co-author Collin Quigley noted that compromises are often necessary to balance competing interests and gain community support. They note that the bus lanes along Broadway in Everett are only used during peak hours, with the space being used for parking at other times.
about the authors
Collin M. Quigley is a 2020 graduate of Boston College, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with highest honors in political science. His dissertation “For Themselves and Their Children: The Political Challenges, Shades, and Triumphs of Eastern Kentucky Schools” earned him the College Scholar Award and the Donald R. Carlisle Award for Outstanding College Graduate. political science department.
Ian Ollis took office as a trustee of the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (FAMPO) in November 2020 and also directs rural transportation for the George Washington Regional Commission (GWRC). Mr. Ollis was born and educated in South Africa. Previous careers include a substantial political career in local and national government in South Africa, ownership of a property company and director of an IT company. He is an MIT graduate with a master’s degree in urban planning, specializing in transportation, and has worked at both the Pioneer Institute and Transit Matters.
Pioneer’s mission is to develop and communicate dynamic ideas that advance prosperity and vibrant civic life in Massachusetts and beyond. Pioneer’s vision of success is a state and nation where our people can prosper and our society can prosper because we enjoy world-class options in education, health care, transportation and economic opportunity, and where our government is limited, accountable and transparent. Pioneer values an America where our citizens are well-educated and willing to test our beliefs based on facts and the free exchange of ideas, and committed to freedom, personal responsibility and free enterprise.
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