While many U.S. cities have taken their inspiration for bus rapid transit (BRT) from abroad, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive is studying American BRT ideas.
Since the late 1980s, the Executive (the British version of a regional transit authority) has studied a variety of proposed service improvements on an 11-mile route between central Manchester and the suburb of Leigh.
Light rail was initially favored but eventually was ruled out as too expensive. Planners then began looking at a variety of bus improvements. Their goal was and remains to reduce travel times along the corridor by half. One solution, guided busways, became increasingly attractive in the following decade as Leeds’ guided busway project achieved famous success less than 100 miles away.
Manchester’s plan currently calls for a BRT route incorporating a combination of guided busway, signal priority, exclusive bus lanes and bus-preferred lanes. The first 5.4 miles of the plan would comprise the guided busway section, which would use the trackbed of an abandoned railway. The remaining 5.6 miles would involve extensive bus-priority measures, including traffic-signal priority and converting one lane of a local highway system into a 24-hour reserved bus lane.
According to Roy McDonald, bus development manager for the Executive, their vision of BRT would include an upgraded vehicle that would offer quality, comfort, style and accessibility to passengers beyond existing buses offered in the country. “Consequently, we would expect the design and profile of the BRT vehicles to look markedly different from the current standard bus,” he said.
Executive plans to submit its application for funding to the British government this summer for a fleet of approximately 15 such vehicles. They would then be leased to private-sector operators for BRT service. Construction of the busway section, signal-priority system and upgraded stations and shelters would begin in early 2005.