Rapid Bus Transit for Metro Detroit ? – Think About It.

I have a friend who has studied this and been promoting the idea of a great bus system over rail for Metro Detroit. I love Chicago, San Francisco and New York’s transit systems, but I don’t want a Boston big dig. Let’s forget about tearing up Woodward and get the street lights back on. We have a long ways to go to make it work, but buses can do it, the idea is getting people from here to many places, not just on one main road. Connect it all with GPS triggered traffic signals, digital signage and smart phone apps, so people have real time information of wait times. City bus routes were just cut back in the last few days. Not Good ! ! The Young, the Elderly and the poor get stranded. A City and Suburban system using existing roads can connect our communities. Come on Livonia TAKE DOWN THE WALL join us in upgrading our region. – Richard Dalton

Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a term applied to a variety of public transportation systems using buses to provide faster, more efficient service than an ordinary bus line. Often this is achieved by making improvements to existing infrastructure, vehicles and scheduling. The goal of these systems is to approach the service quality of rail transit while still enjoying the cost savings and flexibility of bus transit.[1] The expression BRT is mainly used in North America; in Europe and Australia, it is often called a busway, while elsewhere, it may be called a quality bus.

Main features

Separated lane for TransJakarta buses in Jakarta, Indonesia

BRT systems come in a variety of forms, such as dedicated busways with their own rights-of-way (such as Ottawa‘s Transitway or Pittsburgh‘s Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway), bus services using HOV lanes, dedicated freeway lanes (such as Honolulu‘s CityExpress) and limited stop buses on pre-existing routes.

An ideal bus rapid transit service would be expected to include most of the following features:

  • Bus only, grade-separated (or at-grade exclusive) right-of-way: A dedicated bus laneallows the bus to operate separately, without interference from other modes of traffic. Although buses have a long turning radius, dedicated busways can be engineered to tighter standards than an open roadway, reducing construction costs while still assuring safe operation.
    • A bus-only right-of-way may be elevated, depressed, or routed through a tunnel. An abandoned rail right-of-way is sometimes used.
    • A transit mall or bus street can be created in city centers by dedicating all lanes of a city street to the exclusive use of buses.
    • Low-cost infrastructure elements that can increase the speed and reliability of bus service include bus turnouts, boarding islands, and curb realignments.
  • Comprehensive coverage: BRT systems can either share existing roadways with other traffic, or use bus lanes that restrict other traffic from a portion of the roadway. Service along public roadways can be improved by taking advantage of bus priority methods.
  • Serves a diverse market with high-frequency all day service: A BRT network with comprehensive coverage can serve a diverse market (all income ranges) by moving large numbers of people between locations quickly and reliably throughout the day, while maintaining a comfortable riding experience.[1] These characteristics are essential to satisfying the demands of a diverse market or offering high-frequency service without heavy subsidy.

The Quito trolleybus system has lines running on exclusive BRT lanes with underpass crossings.

  • Bus priority: Preferential treatment of buses at intersections can involve the extension of green time or actuation of the green light at signalized intersections upon detection of an approaching bus. Intersection priority can be particularly helpful when implemented in conjunction with bus lanes or bus streets, because general-purpose traffic does not intervene between buses and traffic signals.
  • A specific image with a brand name: (e.g. Viva, Max, TransMilenio, Metropolitano, ) marking stops and stations as well as the buses.[5] The system’s brand identity contributes to its attractiveness as an alternative to driving cars.[6]
  • Off-bus fare collection: Conventional on-board fare collection slows the boarding process, particularly when different fares are collected for different destinations and/or classes of passengers. Some BRT systems collect fares upon entering an enclosed bus station or shelter area prior to bus arrivals (similar to fare collection at a kiosk prior to entering a subway system). This allows passengers to board quickly through all doors of a stopped bus.
  • Level boarding: Many BRT systems also use low-floor buses (or high-level platforms with high-floor buses) to speed passenger boardings and enhance accessibility.
  • Stations: High-quality BRT systems 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. This style of station is seen throughout Colombia, in (Bogotá‘s TransMilenio, Cali‘s MIO, Bucaramanga’s Metrolinea, Pereira’s Megabús) and in most other Latin American BRT systems developed in the last decade.[when?] This design is also used in Johannesburg‘s Rea Vaya. 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), to simple signposts.

All of the above characteristics were noted as features of Bogotá’s TransMilenio, described as a “model BRT system” in the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute’s May 2006 report. TransMilenio serves Bogotá with high-capacity articulated buses, which passengers can board through three doors. Bi-articulated buses are also now used on the busiest routes. A smart card system is used for off-board fare collection. Nevertheless, despite moving 45,000 ppdph, Transmilenio faces huge problems (especially during peak hours), in terms of not being quite organized, nor having the necessary capacity for handling the high passenger volume, a situation not being limited to peak hours only, but at most times along the day.[7]

In some cities and large towns, such as Amsterdam, Essen (Germany), Pittsburgh, and Seattle, it is common for a right of way exclusive to public transport to be shared by both light rail and buses, and in some cases taxis.

Comparison with other forms of mass transit

TransMilenio BRT system in Bogotá, Colombia, transports a record 40,000 passengers per hour.

BRT attempts to combine the advantages of a rail system (notably a partially or completely dedicated right-of-way, which greatly improves punctuality and reliability) with the advantages of a bus system (low construction and way maintenance costs, low vehicle costs, right-of-way not required for entire length, and the ability of feeder bus services to join a trunk busway). In Latin America and cities in Asia, the BRT service is usually compared to metro-quality rail, and normally results in consistently similar enclosed stations featuring smartcard turnstiles and level-platform boarding. In North America, the BRT is usually compared to LRT-quality rail, and typically results in open-air shelters with ticket-dispenser machines, or even just curbside signposts difficult to distinguish from other roadside visual clutter.

Comparison with conventional bus routes

When available, the dedicated right-of-way lanes of BRT systems allow them an increased average vehicle speed bypassing traffic congestion, to provide more passenger miles with the same number of vehicles and personnel than conventional bus services. A smoother ride can also be expected, because the BRT is not immersed in stop-and-go traffic. BRT services usually feature higher frequency service than conventional routes; Latin American systems rely heavily on short headways to achieve their ridership capacity.

But when compared to normal bus service in mixed traffic, addition of BRT dedicated lanes requires wider roads or reduction of mixed traffic lanes.

Comparison with light rail

Primary considerations in choosing between light rail and bus rapid transit systems are the differences in construction costs, operating costs, capacity, adaptability and image.

Proponents of light rail point out 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 a BRT system.[8] In contrast to BRT, light rail and tram systems require the placement of rails for the entire line. The tram usually avoids the high additional costs for engineering structures, such as tunnels, that need to be built for metro rail systems. Properly maintained rail tends to provide a smoother ride, making it more attractive to riders than road-based systems. As of 2011, there is no widely-acknowledged research that has successfully and unequivocally proven that passengers prefer rail, once other factors such as frequency and reliability are allowed for.

With similar dwell times in stations, the capacity of rail systems would scale with the length of the train. For instance, a light rail system running on two-minute headways with 200-passenger cars operating as single units could carry 6,000 passengers per hour (pph). Theoretically, this same system should carry 12,000 pph with two-car trains, and 24,000 pph with four-car trains. In practice, real-world delays and headway disruptions cause a practical limitation of around 12,000 to 19,000 pph for light rail systems.[9]

A survey by the UK Transport Research Laboratory reported the following peak passenger flows (passengers per hour) for BRT transitways. These were based on actual verifiable counts in real world conditions:[10]

Many BRT systems, such as Ottawa’s OC Transpo and Brisbane’s South-East Busway, are based on multiple bus routes sharing a common dedicated busway to bypass congestion, especially to/from a central business district. In this form, the BRT system’s passenger capacity is limited by vehicle capacity multiplied by vehicle headway of the busway. As buses can operate at headways as low as 10 seconds between vehicles (compared to at least one minute headways for rail vehicles), actual busway capacity can reach passenger rail capacities. In the NBRTI’s May 2006 report, average headways of 13 seconds at busy intersections were observed in the TransMilenio BRT system.[7]

At the high end of capacity, the Lincoln Tunnel XBL bus lane between New Jersey and New York City carries 62,000 pph in the 4-hour morning peak, more than any light rail line. However, this lane serves no intermediate stops, and normally runs without any interruption in flow. Furthermore, a very large multi-story terminal station (Port Authority Bus Terminal) is required to accept and dispatch passengers in hundreds of buses. Intermediate stops increase the headway, and limit a BRT lane to about 10,000 pph, even with passing lanes in the stations. This is still five times the number carried in the automobiles of a congested freeway lane. At its busiest point, Brisbane’s South-East Busway currently has the capacity for in excess of 15,000 pph per direction.[12]

Many agencies make a clear distinction between a pure BRT, which operates in exclusive lanes, and a more compromised form in mixed traffic. For example, the Los Angeles Orange Line runs entirely in an exclusive lane and therefore achieves speed and reliability comparable to rail. Because it is functionally equivalent to rail, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority presents this line as an integral part of its rail transit system, distinct from its “Rapid” lines, which run in mixed traffic.


The capital costs of implementing BRT lines can be lower than up-front costs of constructing LRT lines. A study by the United States Government Accountability Office found that the average capital cost per mile for busways was $13.5 million while light rail average costs were $34.8 million.[13] However, a huge range of capital costs can be seen, as BRT lines can cost anywhere from $200,000—$55 million per mile, while LRT lines can range from $12.4—$118.8 million per mile.[citation needed] The total investment varies considerably due to factors such as cost of the roadway, station structures, park-and-ride facilities, traffic signal systems and vehicles.

Environmental problems

The typical diesel engine on the bus causes noticeable levels of air pollution, noise and vibration. With hybrid vehicles and the new forms of trolleybus, BRT designers hope to increase ride quality and decrease pollution. Since the energy used for acceleration is proportional to the vehicle mass, electric traction allows lighter vehicles, faster acceleration, and ability to feed energy back into batteries or the power grid through regenerative brakes. Regenerative braking has also become standard on many modern rail systems.

A BRT system can use trolleybuses to lower gaseous and noise emissions. The price penalty of installing overhead lines could be offset by the system’s environmental benefits potential for savings from centrally generated electricity, especially in cities where electricity is less expensive than other power sources. In addition, most trolleybus applications can be converted to light rail with the only extra expense being the laying and maintenance of tram tracks in the street.

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