Pennsylvania BRT workshop defines concept, talks testing, funding

Posted on July 3, 2002

Transit industry members participating in the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)/Vehicle Testing Workshop, held in State College, Pa., in June, spent a majority of their time defining the concept of BRT, its funding and whether BRT vehicles should be Altoona tested. A majority of attendees agreed that a number of characteristics describe a BRT-type vehicle. Those characteristics include rubber-tired vehicles, low-floor vehicles, high-capacity, rail-like, operates on a dedicated guideway, automated guidance, uses signal priority, rapid load and unload and low environmental impact. Commenting on the possible use of dedicated roadways for BRT, Ted Picket of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, said that roadways would be constructed and maintained by the city, leading to similar disrepair as other downtown roads. Another intended parameter of BRT includes a desire to start services with cleaner propulsion systems, such as electric or hybrid power sources. It was concluded that since the vehicles used as BRT vehicles (e.g. Civis, Phileas and the STREAM concept) all use rubber tires and therefore fit under the FTA definition of a bus, there is no need to define a BRT-type vehicle further. While there was much discussion about whether or not Altoona bus testing applies to a BRT-type vehicle, it was apparent to most, if not all, participants that as BRT-type vehicles are in fact buses, they are therefore subject to the regulatory requirements established for bus testing. In addition, it was suggested that modified test protocols may be necessary. Other much-discussed topics during the two-day workshop were waivers and funding. It was generally agreed that the FTA should continue allowing waivers from testing for up to 10 vehicles total. Any one of the first 11 vehicles of a new model contract for quantities of 11 or more vehicles will go to Altoona for the standard 12-year test. FTA occifials said they would also try to identify ways for the test bus purchased by the transit agency to be eligi-ble for 100% FTA funding. The current status of BRT, which has been implemented in France, The Netherlands, Japan, China and South America, was also under discussion. The FTA identified 17 cities in the U.S. to be BRT development and demonstration sites, with 10 being implemented within the next two years. Forty cities are currently examining the BRT concept, for which Congress allocated $80 million. Bert Arrillaga, of the FTA, said FTA funds are available to cities that will be participating as BRT demonstration sites, which will include service route testing of guidance systems and information transfer. In attendance were 36 members of the transit industry, including transit officials, manufacturers and members of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute.

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