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Report Review: BRT Decision-Making

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The Federal Transit Administration recently released an updated edition of “Characteristics of BRT for Decision Makers” (PDF). This 400-page report is a very complete compendium of the bus rapid transit (BRT) experience in the United States, but it does not stop there — it also includes data and profiles of BRT systems in the rest of the world. This is an extraordinary resource for agencies and planners considering transit options and shows the versatility of the BRT concept.

From the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute:

The purpose of the CBRT report is to provide a useful reference for transit and transportation planning officials involved in both sketch planning and detailed alternatives analyses. The report provides a detailed overview of BRT’s seven basic elements and the costs and benefits of combining them in different ways. It provides useful information to planners and decision-makers on each element and how the elements might be packaged into an integrated system to produce the maximum benefits.

The 2008 edition of the CBRT report incorporates a number of revisions and additions since the original 2004 edition. The structure of the report essentially remains the same with the same five chapters framing the discussion. Throughout the document, more information from BRT systems is presented to reflect the growing experience with BRT systems and their improved performance and the benefits they generate for transit systems and their communities:

– Updated and more detailed data and information on BRT systems that were presented in the 2004 edition, including evaluations of systems in Boston, Honolulu, Oakland, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

– Information from systems that have begun operations in the United States

– Information from international BRT systems, including the results of data collection efforts in Australia, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. While not comprehensive, this data collection effort extends the exchange of information of BRT systems across the globe, creating a fuller picture of the relationships explored in the report

The document includes other changes, including a re-organized and updated discussion of BRT elements, plus additional discussions of “Reasons to Implement” and “Considerations/Requirements.” There is also updated information on performance attributes and benefits, accessibility, and many other interesting additions to the previous version.

One interesting addition for future versions of the document would be to provide technology comparisons between BRT and equivalent rail systems, at least in the U.S. This could shed some light early in the alternatives analysis process, before communities and decision makers get bounded to any option.