Management & Operations

CUTA show underlines Canadian, overseas BRT successes

Posted on January 1, 2006

The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) held its fall conference in Vancouver last November, showcasing a number of business and educational seminars and the annual Trans-Expo. The talk of the conference, however, revolved around an information-packed series of bus rapid transit (BRT) workshops. The BRT North American Forum reviewed a variety of experiences from operations in North America to systems in France and Australia. Image has become a crucial aspect of BRT, according to workshop moderators, as reinventing the bus or improving the bus image was underlined. An attractive bus exterior and interior, accessibility and comfort were regarded as the keys to image improvement. Environmentally friendly service is also a key BRT requirement. Other considerations made during the workshop were for an emphasis on station and bus signage and the use of real-time information systems on BRT vehicles. It was also noted at the session that some BRT systems have sizable stations, which in addition to route information have retail businesses, including snack shops and restaurants. Further, prepayment of fares, either at kiosks, at stations or by monthly or other passes, helps speed service by decreasing dwell times. Some BRT systems use articulated buses with four doors for easy exit and entrance. Curb-level stops, whether the buses are automatically guided or not, also help to minimize dwell time. The majority of the more than 20 presenters discussed the services that make existing BRT systems successful. Others gave details about systems being developed or planned. Allan Hoffman, principal of The Mission Group in San Diego, gave an in-depth presentation about the impressive busway network in Brisbane, Australia. Two major busways are in operation, and two more are to be opened soon. Dedicated roadways — some elevated and some in tunnels — are favored. Brisbane, Hoffman said, is focusing on bringing transit to the people with the flexibility of the busways. Currently, ridership is at 15,000 passengers an hour and above expectations. Significant land development and increased real estate values, once thought only possible in areas with light or heavy rail lines, are definitely taking place along Brisbane’s busways. Another busway project, currently in the process of being built, was described by Salah Barj of the Societe de transport de l’Outaouais in Canada. This extensive bus system in Ottawa will include 18 kilometers (11 miles) of dedicated roadway built from a rail right-of-way and using reserved highway and street lanes. BRT vehicles will speed passengers from the large Gatineau urban area to Ottawa, where much of the targeted ridership is employed. The York Region Transit system, just north of Toronto, also has an ambitious busway program called VIVA in four designated corridors with six routes. Peter Chackeris, engineering manager for York Region, gave an outline of the program. The French contribution to the discussion of BRT came from Raymond Hue, president of TCAR in Rouen, France. The TCAR system has several BRT routes and more are planned, all integrated with the regular fixed-route TCAR system. Buses on the Rouen BRT routes use optical guiding at each of the stations. Attendees were also treated to various tours showing Vancouver area transit facilities and services. One of these tours featured a demonstration ride on the prototype New Flyer low-floor trolley bus, the first of a large trolley bus order in Vancouver. CUTA, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, also held its annual Trans-Expo trade show, which featured many suppliers and more than a dozen buses and coaches on display. — BILL LUKE

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