The adverse effects of COVID-19 on transit ridership have been felt across the country. Yet, as recovery is underway, BRT ridership is rebounding, and in many instances, rebounding faster than other modes. One reason for that resiliency is that BRT is poised to help cities deliver a more efficient transit experience and improve mobility across various communities. Cities that implement BRT successfully are incorporating inclusiveness throughout their planning and implementation process. This has led to greater community support and in many areas expansion of their BRT systems.
Technology, planning, and design unite to create a more comfortable and efficient passenger experience. For example, BRT vehicles often have a sleek design with doors that open on both sides. Other comfort-driven amenities are increasingly used in BRT vehicles, including on-board Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, USB charging ports, comfortable seating, and better environmental controls, including more widespread adoption of all-electric vehicles.
Aesthetic and operational improvements extend to BRT stations, too, to make the ever-briefer wait for a bus more pleasant. Features include high-efficiency LED or solar lighting, digital kiosks with real-time arrival information, Wi-Fi connections, and off-board ticketing made possible by ticket vending machines. Sustainable materials and design make the stations environmentally friendly.
Significant technological advancements continue to enhance the overall operational and customer experiences with BRT. Enhanced vehicle technologies continue to emerge and promise to usher in an exciting era of new vehicle advances. Additionally, sophisticated, dedicated lanes are among the new approaches to ensure passengers reach their destinations on time.
Considerations with BRT
BRT is meant to add to an existing transit system, not replace it. The first step to implementing BRT is to examine the current transit system(s) and identify needs with these questions in mind:
- What can the system do better?
- What passenger pain points will it solve?
- How can BRT be used to encourage more people to use public transit?
- Is this solving a mobility issue?
- Will BRT help to provide more equitable transportation options for more people?
Answering these questions in the planning process while solving how to implement BRT includes these factors:
Keeping pace with technology: If a transit agency orders a bus today with a lifespan of 12 years, then a plan for upgrades and updates is needed within that lifespan. Upgrades may be technological, aesthetic improvements, or both.
Involve the public: BRT is an investment in mobility. The mobility solution BRT is providing needs to be apparent and the investment must be supported. The key to success is to find the right moment to incorporate technology where it makes sense. It’s also important to maintain a continual dialogue with the public to understand their perspectives and answer questions.
Planning for a dedicated right-of-way: This is one of the most significant determinants of BRT success. If a BRT vehicle is caught in traffic, it becomes another slow bus in congestion. Dedicated BRT lanes, on the other hand, promise — and deliver — efficiency and reliability. The more robust the dedicated lanes, the more reliable the service is.
Transportation equity: BRT is a way to improve transportation equity and access for communities that may currently be underserved. Not only does it improve mobility for people to get to work or where they live, but it also brings communities together and enhances potential business investments in the area. Federal grants may also be used to make BRT a reality.
Transportation is focused on the safe experience provided to its customers. To thrive, transportation needs to incorporate technology that enhances the customer experience and brings transit closer to the user. For example, mobile ticketing makes fare payment seamless and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) options can close first- and last-mile barriers.
An effective way to maintain transit ridership is to offer an improved experience that caters to what passengers want and need. That increasingly includes BRT, which is viewed now not just as a transit system’s value-add, but instead as a key player in preserving the vital role of bus service in our communities.