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2-1 CHAPTER 2 PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS This chapter sets forth the planning considerations that underlie BRT development. It gives guidelines for a basic planning process, indicates when (and where) BRT should be considered, identifies some planning principles and objec- tives, and illustrates the two basic types of systems. 2-1. SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT PROCESS Planning for BRT should essentially be the same as planning for any rapid-transit investment. BRT system development should be an outgrowth of a planning and project development process that stresses problem solving and addresses demon- strated needs and issues, rather than solution advocacy. The implementation of federally funded BRT within the United States begins with a multi-modal planning process that focuses on alternative ways to meet mobility needs. When studies indi- cate that some type of major transit capital investment may be required in a given corridor (e.g., a busway), an analysis of potential alternatives to meet these needs is usually under- taken. However, where low-cost, short-term operational strate- gies are involved (e.g., curb bus lanes and skip-stop operation), these may be implemented by the transit operator in conjunc- tion with highway and street traffic agencies with little detailed alternatives analysis (Issues in Bus Rapid Transit, 1998). 2-1.1. Issues in the BRT Planning Process A key issue, unique to BRT planning, is dealing with modal biases in the system planning process and the perceived greater desirability of rail transit. Other issues are similar to planning for any rapid-transit mode and include finding suit- able corridors for BRT, obtaining street space for buses and sidewalk space for stations, achieving effective enforcement, and overcoming fragmentation of responsibilities and conser- vative agency attitudes. All should be addressed in the plan- ning process. Brief discussions of these issues in the system planning process follow: 1. No prejudgment of modal options. Alternatives analyses and other transit planning studies may be engaged with a predisposition toward a mode and technology, even if these analyses are not supported by ridership or other factors. As a result, these analyses may not satisfactorily address the full range of system types and technologies available, including BRT. 2. No biases in cost estimates and ridership forecasts. There has been a tendency in some alternatives analy- ses to overestimate ridership and underestimate the cap- ital, operating, and maintenance costs of major transit investments. This tendency may result in more capital- intensive projects than can actually be justified. 3. Not prejudging the perceived desirability of rail tran- sit. There is frequently the perception that rail transit is more attractive than bus transit and that âworld-class citiesâ need rail transit. These attitudes often derive from the following: â¢ Bus service is generally perceived as having lower quality and less ridership potential than rail. â¢ Buses are perceived as less environmentally friendly than rail systems. â¢ BRT is perceived as not having the same degree of permanence associated with steel rails and other fixed guideways. This can result in less impact on land devel- opment decisions and, potentially, lead to political and community pressure to convert underutilized BRT services to normal road use. For example, one concern that has been expressed by some environmental groups is that busways are merely a way of expanding the road network without making long-term investments in transit infrastructure. 4. Finding suitable corridors for BRT lines and match- ing markets with rights-of-way. Often, rights-of-wayâ especially for dedicated busways or bus lanesâare not practical in areas of high development densities and ridership demands. In addition, rights-of-way that are available (e.g., on abandoned rail lines or within free- way medians) may not be able to capture a key segment of the potential market. Further, they may not allow convenient and safe pedestrian access. Often, the wide streets necessary for busways that are located in the center of roadways are not available in dense areas. 5. Balancing the use of street space. BRT, like LRT, will preempt street space. Buses will compete with general traffic flow, curb parking and access, and sometimes pedestrians for a limited amount of street space. This
2-2 may require demonstrating that sufficient capacity exists in the corridor to accommodate one or more lanes for BRT vehicles, without decreasing capacity for peak- hour vehicular traffic. Providing effective downtown distribution for buses also may pose problems. Bus- only lanes may be difficult to justify and implement when there are few buses. 6. Achieving effective enforcement. Enforcement of park- ing and loading restrictions along many bus routes and bus lanes is ineffective. Merchant willingness to remove curb parking is often difficult to achieve. 7. Addressing institutional fragmentation of responsibil- ities. Developing BRT can be inhibited by the many agencies that may be involved: city, county, and state transportation departments (often with a focus on road- ways); the transit agency; the parking authority; and metropolitan and local planning organizations. Per- spectives and priorities may vary, and responsibilities may differ or overlap. State DOTs, for example, may favor HOV lanes or may be unwilling to adopt roadway designs that better accommodate public transport with pedestrian access/egress. 8. Conservative agency attitudes. Transit agencies may be primarily concerned with balancing operating costs and revenues. They may perceive BRT as a simple exten- sion of their bus system that does not require special attention to vehicle design, fare collection, or other key rapid-transit features. Transit agencies in areas that have rail transit lines may be accustomed to placing a high priority on rail facilities for high-capacity passenger movements, but they may not be used to applying a similar âqualityâ philosophy to their bus service. Traffic engineers may also be hesitant to allocate street space for buses away from general purpose traffic or to evalu- ate options in terms of person travel rather than vehicle movements. Changing these perceptions and addressing these precon- ceptions requires clearly identifying the many benefits of BRT and ensuring the provision of high-quality BRT service. The challenge is to show that BRT can be not only cost-effective but also environmentally friendly, efficient in influencing urban land use, and quickly developed. Many BRT systems have achieved significant ridership, high capacities and per- formance, reasonable operating and maintenance costs, sig- nificant travel time savings, and substantial transit-oriented development. 2-1.2. Community and Agency Support and Coordination Early and continuous community and decision-maker involvement and support are essential through an open plan- ning process. Public dialogue should be maintained at each major step in the planning process. Community and advo- cacy concerns should be recognized and responded to at each major milestone. Because successful BRT implementation generally requires participation of transit operators and highway agencies, all prospective actors should be a formal part of the planning effort. Participants also may include representatives of pri- vate sector transit operators as well as the police department officials that may be responsible for exclusive transit facility enforcement, safety, and security. State, regional, and local cooperation is important in plan- ning, developing, and implementing BRT. Transit planners, traffic engineers, and urban planners must work together. In the United States, metropolitan planning agencies and state DOTs should be major participants. 2-1.3. Modal Considerations Planning should be approached from the perspectives of the communities (and agencies) involved, and it should be presented in their terms. There should be a clear justification of any BRT proposal in terms of costs and benefits. The plan- ning of BRT systems, like other rapid-transit systems, should strike a balance between usage, travel time savings, and devel- opment benefits. BRT alternatives should be assessed in terms of overall transportation system mobility needs, environmen- tal effects, and land development benefits. Decision makers and the general community must clearly understand the nature of BRT and its potential benefits during planning in order to avoid any biases and misconceptions. BRTâs potential performance, customer and developer attrac- tiveness, operating flexibility, capacities, and costs should be clearly identified through an alternatives analysis that objec- tively considers various modal options. The principal advantages of BRT relative to rail systems include the following: â¢ The ability to alter design standards as volumes increase over various segments of a route in accordance with capacity needs (i.e., much greater âstagingâ or incre- mental development capability); â¢ Relatively low capital costs for infrastructure (i.e., no need for track, electrification, and other fixed plant); â¢ The potential for higher and more flexible types and fre- quencies of service over different route segments (i.e., capacity need not be constant over the entire route); â¢ The flexibility to combine feeder (i.e., collector and dis- tribution on local streets) and line-haul services without the need for a physical transfer between vehicles; â¢ Opportunities to extend service into low-density areas without the need for additional dedicated running ways; â¢ The capability of being used by a variety of vehicle sizes and types; â¢ The ability to accommodate a diversity of operating orga- nizations (e.g., public operators, school buses, and private carriers);
â¢ Simpler procurement practices for both construction and vehicles; â¢ Shorter implementation periods; â¢ The ability to start construction on key sections first, such as segments that provide congestion relief or are the easiest to build, and still provide integrated service for an entire corridor; â¢ No requirements for additional organizational structures such as those usually associated with building and oper- ating rail systems; â¢ Greater flexibility for off-line stations that can increase capacity; â¢ The ability to use existing roads and streets when an inci- dent occurs that would otherwise cause major disruption in service; â¢ A variety of competitive vehicle suppliers and less need for conformity in vehicle procurement; and â¢ Less expensive vehicles, even when accounting for capacity and service life differences. The main technical advantage of rail transit is its ability to run high-capacity trains in high-volume corridors. This results in the following: â¢ Potentially less labor-intensive operation, depending on passenger volumes; â¢ Greater potential capacity; â¢ Better levels of service at higher volumes; â¢ A more positive image on the part of developers and customers; and â¢ Less expensive vehicles, even accounting for capacity and service life differences 2-1.4. Steps in the Planning Process for BRT BRT planning in the United States should be consistent with the New Starts procedures set forth by the FTA, which are discussed in more detail in Chapter 9. Environmental impact assessments and statements may be required when major construction is required. Planning BRT calls for a realistic assessment of the demands, costs, benefits, and impacts of a full range of options. The objective is to develop a coordinated set of actions that achieve attractive and reliable BRT services, serve demon- strated demands, provide reserve capacity for the future, attract automobile drivers, relate to long-range land use and devel- opment plans, and have reasonable costs. Key factors include (1) the intensity and growth prospects and patterns of the urbanized area; (2) the existing and poten- tial future demand for public transportation; (3) expansion of the urbanized area; (4) street width continuity, capacity, and congestion; (5) opportunities for off-street running ways; (6) bus operating speeds and reliability; (7) locations of major employment centers and residential developments in rela- tion to potential BRT routes; (8) community attitudes; and 2-3 (9) community resources. Community willingness to support public transportation, foster transit-oriented development, and enforce bus lanes is essential (Fuhs, 1990). 2-1.4.1. Identify Needs and Establish Conceptual Viability The conceptual viability of various options, in terms of needs, usage, practicality, benefits, land uses served, and ability for the system to be built, should be established. This involves addressing several key questions: â¢ What are the existing numbers of buses and bus passen- gers using the corridor during daily and peak periods? What are the projected future transit needs? Are the numbers sufficient to warrant BRT and to establish bus lanes and/or build busways? â¢ What are the general traffic flows in the corridor? â¢ What are bus and automobile travel speeds, and where are the major points of congestion? â¢ What time savings are likely from bus service opera- tions and running way improvements? To what extent would person delay be reduced? â¢ What are the design and operating features of roadways in the study corridor? Opportunities for developing BRT should be explored, as should potential constraints on development. This calls for identifying (1) roads and rights-of-way that could be used for the BRT system, (2) ways to accommodate buses through the city center, (3) needed changes in the use of road space and traf- fic controls, (4) bus service operating strategies, (5) whether the initial concepts are viable, and (6) any potentially fatal flaws. 2-1.4.2. Develop and Analyze Alternatives Various combinations of facility, service, and amenity improvements should be analyzed in terms of operating fea- tures, travel time savings, environmental and land develop- ment impacts, and costs. The effectiveness of specific options requires consideration of multiple criteria (Fuhs, 1990). These criteria are the following: â¢ Mobilityâaccess to employment, services, and facilities; bus travel time savings; impacts on traffic operation; increases in bus ridership; and operational workability. â¢ Environmental Impactsâreduced use of private vehi- cles and attendant air pollution and impacts on water resources and wetlands, parks and open spaces, and his- torical and cultural resources. â¢ Land Useâcompatibility with local land use policies and goals and contribution to transit-oriented land use and economic development.
â¢ Costsâtotal project cost (capital and operating), mea- sures of cost-effectiveness (e.g., operating and capital cost per passenger trip or passenger mile for each alter- native), and funding availability. â¢ Ridershipâridership estimates and service plans should be developed for (1) the opening year, (2) when rider- ship has matured (e.g., 5-year period), and (3) a 20-year horizon. Some travel demand model development and validation may be required in developing long-range ridership forecasts. Forecasts should be checked for rea- sonability. TCRP Web Document 12: Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes, Interim Handbook provides guidance on estimating changes in ridership resulting from BRT improvements (Pratt et al., 2000). Each option should also be assessed in terms of (1) how it reflects regional planning objectives such as CBD and cen- tral area mode shares, (2) how it relates to and can help shape future growth and contribute to redevelopment, (3) how con- venient and easy it is to use, (4) how well it provides a strong sense of permanence and identity and (5) what levels of enforcement are required. If BRT is adopted as the preferred solution, proposed cap- ital improvements should be incorporated into the financially constrained regional transportation plan and developed by the metropolitan planning organization in cooperation with local transportation agencies. More detailed engineering and completion of required environmental documentation is needed before federal funding becomes available and con- struction can begin. 2-1.4.3. Prepare Recommended Plans The recommended plans should clearly describe and detail running way, station, vehicle, fare collection, and service elements. Project plans should address the following: â¢ Vehicle requirements; â¢ Horizontal and vertical alignments; â¢ Geometric design features of running ways such as cross sections, points of ingress/egress, and CBD distribution; â¢ Station locations and typical designs that show platforms, shelters and structures, passenger amenities, pedestrian access, bus transfer arrangements, and parking; â¢ Fare collection approach, equipment, and facilities; â¢ Traffic controls and ITS applications; â¢ Bus operating plans including routing, service span, types, and frequencies; â¢ Provisions for maintenance and enforcement; â¢ A staging plan; â¢ Refined cost estimates; and â¢ Opportunities for transit-oriented development at stations. The resulting BRT plan should be developed as an inte- grated system that adapts the various attributes of rail transit, 2-4 focuses on major markets, emphasizes speed and reliability, takes advantage of incremental development and established complementary transit-first policies, and is designed to influ- ence transit-oriented development. The BRT plan should improve speed, reliability, and identity. The elimination or reduction of critical system elements to cut costs should be avoided. 2-2. DESIRABLE CONDITIONS FOR BRT Rapid transit in general and BRT in particular work best in urban areas characterized by (1) high employment and population density, (2) an intensively developed downtown area with limited street capacity and high all-day parking costs, (3) a long-term reliance on public transport, (4) high- way capacity limitations on approaches to the city center, and (5) major physical barriers that limit road access to the CBD and channel bus flows. It is suggested that the following three conditions should be in place when BRT is being considered: (1) the proposed location is a large city with a strong CBD, an urbanized area, or an activity center with dense patterns that facilitate transit use; (2) there are current total passenger flows that might support high service frequencies that are characteristic of rapid transit, and (3) there is a sufficient âpresenceâ of buses where bus lanes or busways are being considered. 2-2.1. City Size and Downtown Intensity The size of urban areas, the concentration of population and activities in key corridors, and the strength of the CBD have important bearing on the transit market in general and BRT in particular. The case studies show that most BRT sys- tems are found in urbanized areas of more than 750,000 peo- ple and (in the United States and Canada) areas with down- town employment that exceeds 75,000. These values are remarkably consistent with the âpre-conditionsâ for rail and bus transit developed for North American cities in previous studies (see Table 2-1). There may, of course, be special situations in smaller urban- ized areas that make BRT desirable. Factors include major physical and topographic restraints; large employment and activity concentrations such as universities, hospitals, and edge city centers; ready availability of relatively inexpensive rights-of-way; new town or major sub-area developments; and rapid urban growth. However, in general, BRT is essen- tially a large-city system in the United States and Canada. 2-2.2. Frequent All-Day Service High service frequencies are essential to make BRT attract riders. The minimum desired service frequencies for a BRT line are 8 to 10 minutes during peak periods and 12 to 15 min- utes during off-peak periods, with a span of services through-
out the day (at least 16 hours). These service frequencies translate into a daily ridership of at least 5,000. When BRT operates on the same street as local service, the combined daily ridership should be 10,000 or more. When routes con- verge, overlap service should operate every 2 to 4 minutes during the peak period and every 5 to 6 minutes at midday. 2-2.3. Bus Presence Buses should denote a clear presence when bus lanes or busways are provided. Ideally, there should be at least one bus per traffic signal cycle using curb bus lanes to minimize violations; this translates into 40 to 60 buses per hour depend- ing on the cycle length. Similarly, bus-only roads should serve an adequate number of buses to demonstrate utilization of the facilities (e.g., a bus is always visible at all points along the facility). 2-3. OBJECTIVES AND PRINCIPLES The following general principles should guide BRT plan- ning and development. 1. BRT should be developed as a permanently integrated system of facilities, services, and amenities. It should improve bus speed, reliability, and identity. 2. The BRT system should adopt the key attributes of rail transit to the maximum extent possible. These attributes include segregated or priority running ways; attractive stations (with off-vehicle fare collection wherever practical); quiet, easily accessible, environmentally friendly, low-floor, multidoor vehicles; ITS technolo- gies; and fast, frequent service. 2-5 3. BRT should be complemented by appropriate âTran- sit Firstâ policies. These include transit-oriented land development, complementary downtown parking poli- cies and adequate park-and-ride facilities at outlying stations, and reservation (or acquisition) of rights-of- way in developing or redeveloping areas. Similarly, BRT should be used to stimulate transit-oriented land use patterns. 4. BRT lines should focus on major travel markets in which ridership and benefits can be maximized. Radial lines should link the city center with outlying popula- tion concentrations and provide extensive coverage of downtown employment. Cross-town lines sometimes may be appropriate when they serve âedge cities,â large university campuses, major medical centers, or other large attractors. 5. BRT should be rapid. Service should operate on sep- arate rights-of-way wherever possible and use wide, free-flowing streets where dedicated rights-of-way are unfeasible or inaccessible to key transit markets. Street running should be expedited by means of bus priority treatment and transit-sensitive traffic controls, and station stops should be limited (e.g., from 1â4 mile in CBDs to no less than 1â2 mile in suburban areas). 6. BRT systems should be capable of early action and amenable to stage (incremental) development. Staging may involve extending routes and running ways, pro- viding BRT in additional corridors, replacing street run- ning with exclusive running ways (such as a downtown bus tunnel), and/or even ultimately converting busways to rail transit if warranted by ridership demands. 7. BRT systems should be reasonable in terms of bene- fits, costs, and impacts. The system should maximize TABLE 2-1 General conditions conducive to urban rapid transit developmentâ design year PRIMARY DETERMINANTS RAIL RAIL OR BUS BUS (MINIMUM) Urban area population 2,000,000 1,000,000 750,000 Central city population1 700,000 500,000 400,000 Central city population1 density, in people per square mile 14,000 10,000 5,000 High-density corridor development Extensive and clearly defined Limited but defined Limited but defined CBD Function Regional Regional or sub- regional Regional or sub- regional CBD floor space, in square feet 50,000,000 25,000,000 20,000,000 CBD employment 100,000 70,000 50,000 Daily CBD destinations, per square mile 300,000 150,000 100,000 Daily CBD destinations per corridor 70,000 40,000 30,000 Peak-hour cordon person movements leaving the CBD (four quadrants) 75,000â100,000 50,000â70,000 35,000 1 âEffective Central Cityââcentral city and contiguously developed areas of comparable population density. SOURCE: Center City Transportation Project: Urban Transportation Concepts, 1970.
2-6 benefits to the community, the urban travelers (espe- cially the transit rider), and the transit agency. Invest- ments should be balanced with present and likely future ridership. The system should be designed to increase transport capacities in heavily traveled corridors, reduce travel times for riders, and minimize total per- son delay in the corridors served. A basic goal should be to maximize person flow with the minimum net total person delay over the long run. Implicit in achiev- ing this objective is the efficient allocation of corridor road space. 8. Streets and corridors with existing long, heavily trav- eled bus routes are likely candidates for BRT. If at least one existing local bus route does not have at least 6,000 to 8,000 daily trips on it, BRT may not be justified in the short term. Often, BRT development will involve restructuring existing bus routes to provide sufficient service frequency along at least one BRT route. 9. System design and operations should enhance the pres- ence, permanence, and identity of the facilities and ser- vices. It must be more than merely operating express service along a bus lane or busway. 10. Each urban area has its own specific needs, opportu- nities, and constraints that must be recognized. Thus, BRT systems must be carefully customized in apply- ing the various concepts and in obtaining public sup- port and translating plans into operating systems. 11. BRT should have a consistent, appealing image. BRT vehicles, stations, and marketing materials should con- vey the image of BRT as a rapid, easy-to-use service. 2-4. SYSTEM CONCEPTS BRT system configurations should reflect the travel needs, opportunities, and geography of each urban area. System configurations may range from a single route to an integrated system of routes. They may provide both line-haul and local collection-distribution services. System configurations can link the city center with outlying areas or serve as extensions to rail transit lines. In each case, the BRT service should be carefully coordinated with the available running ways and the nature of transit markets. Illustrative examples of these system types are shown in Figures 2-1 and 2-2. The BRT routes operate limited stop (or express) over most of the routeâon busways, bus lanes, or in mixed traffic with signal priorities. Buses then make all stops along the outer portions of the route, where generally they would operate in mixed traffic on arterial and/or collec- tor streets. Diagram 1 of Figure 2-1 shows the simplest system con- cept, a single radial route that links the city center with out- lying areas along a single arterial with simple, all-stop ser- vice. As shown in diagram 2 of Figure 2-1, BRT service can serve as an extension of a rail rapid-transit line. (Examples of this kind of service include the South Miami-Dade Busway and the Ventura Metro Rapid line in Los Angeles.) Diagram 3 of Figure 2-1 and Figure 2-2 show that the BRT line can provide direct service to various off-guideway areas (generally located along the outer perimeters of the line) as long as the respective routes can meet minimum service cri- teria. As shown in diagram 4 of Figure 2-1, a system of BRT routes can operate over a series of busways or bus lanes, thereby providing extensive coverage of the urban area. Finally, Diagram 5 of Figure 2-1 shows that a âcommuter expressâ BRT service can be provided using bus-only (or high-occupancy) lanes along freeways. The service would operate nonstop from park-and-ride lots over the express lanes to the city center. Downtown distribution would be by bus lanes on city streets (as in Houston) or by terminals (as in New York City), with all-day, all-stop service also pro- vided. 2-5. CHAPTER 2 REFERENCES Fuhs, C. A. High-Occupancy Vehicle Facilities: A Planning, Design, and Operation Manual. Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., New York, NY (1990). Issues in Bus Rapid Transit. Federal Transit Administration, Wash- ington DC (1998). Pratt, R. H., Texas Transportation Institute, Cambridge Systematics, Inc., Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., S. G. Associ- ates, Inc., and McCollum Management Consulting, Inc. TCRP Web Document 12: Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes, Interim Handbook. Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, DC (March 2000).
5. Commuter (HOV) Route P P P P Non Stop All Stops 4. System of Routes Limited Stops All Stops 3. Integrated Line-Haul and Collection Distribution Limited Stops All Stops A B B A 2. Rail Extension Limited Stops All Stops 1. Single Route Limited Stops All Stops Central Business District Busway or Bus Lane Freeway HOV lane Mixed Traffic Rail Line Figure 2-1. BRT routes. 2-7
2-8 Neighborhood Streets BRT Lanes Commercial Downtown Regional Shopping MallEvery stop BRT stops only Figure 2-2. Typical BRT route.