New projects, such as Chicago’s Jeffery Jump and VIA’s Primo in San Antonio, opened in 2012, signify a growing wave of enthusiasm for transit in mid-sized and large cities. What makes BRT projects stand out as a popular transit choice right now in the U.S., Art Guzzetti, VP, policy, American Public Transportation Association says, is its versatility.
BRT is flexible enough to be used to varying degrees to improve many different transit services.
“You have maybe 20 characteristics that could define BRT,” he explains. “Some prospects will include a good number of those and some just a few, but no matter how many you include, you’re still making the service in that corridor better.”
BRT provides a series of strategies that can help make buses move through a corridor faster so it serves passengers better, Guzzetti adds.
Planners can choose from a menu of service characteristics that meet the community best. One benefit of this is a continuum of project costs.
“You don’t necessarily have to do all of it to accomplish the goal of making the service better to attract additional riders,” Guzzetti says. “You can settle into a place that is affordable yet still a significant service improvement.”
On the downside, BRT planners will constantly be questioned, Guzzetti warns.
“When I worked in Pittsburgh and we built BRT, people were saying, ‘Why aren’t you building light rail?’ When we built light rail, people were saying, ‘Why aren’t you building BRT?’” he recalls. “You will have people with different perspectives, but there’s no wrong or right. You just make your best choice. In Pittsburgh, we had light rail in certain corridors, BRT in others. We made the right decisions for [each] corridor. You’re not choosing one over the other; you’re choosing a family of services that all connect into [one] system.”
Guzzetti stresses the need to conduct a planning study and get the community involved.
“When people go into a community and say, ‘We should build BRT here,’ that’s a conclusion. You don’t start with that; you end with that. The transit project is more than just mobility,” he says. “You’re talking about flexibility, the development impacts of those decisions and how it connects with other parts of the system, and if you build BRT, how to tie it into other services.”