BENEFITS OF BRT
Bus Rapid Transit weaves together elements of bus and rail to create a unique mode of transportation with high levels of speed, capacity, and comfort. Cities are also using BRT corridors in inspiring ways, building iconic stations that anchor development in neighborhoods, and designing “complete streets” that integrate transit, bike paths, and walkways to bring vibrancy and balance to cityscapes.
A More Integrated, Modern Transit System: BRT can offer people getting around Greater Boston increased access to the best the city has to offer, and a more comfortable and modern transit experience while getting there, by improving connections between communities and other transit modes, including cycling and walking.
Faster, More Open Conduits Throughout the City: BRT stands to reduce traffic congestion for drivers and provide faster travel times for transit riders. Dedicated corridors remove buses from mixed traffic and provide an attractive alternative to driving through some of the most congested parts of the metropolitan area.
Transit-Oriented, Sustainable Development: As Greater Boston prepares for continued growth in coming decades, BRT can help direct sustainable development and build vibrant, desirable neighborhoods. Communities are using BRT as a powerful tool for economic development.
Reduced Emissions: By increasing capacity in transit corridors and providing faster and more attractive transportation options, BRT can reduce the number of cars on the road and idling in traffic. Combined with more efficient operations, BRT can improve air quality in cities and help reach CO2 emissions reduction goals.
Bus Rapid Transit often finds itself cast as an inferior option to light rail. But when implemented at a high level, BRT has shown that it can rival light rail in speed and capacity at a much lower cost to build and maintain.
Based on recent BRT and light rail corridor development costs in the United States, on average, BRT can be 7 times more affordable than light rail, per mile. That’s 25 miles of BRT infrastructure for the same cost of less than 4 miles of light rail.
(25 miles is the total amount of the five proposed Boston corridors combined)
While far from the only reason to pursue BRT, cost-effectiveness is undeniable. Based on recent BRT and light rail corridor development costs in the United States, BRT can on average be up to seven times more affordable than light rail, per mile. That could equate to 25 miles of BRT corridor for the same approximate cost of less than four miles of light rail.
It’s important to note that, while we expect this to be the case for the corridors in this report, how much more affordable BRT would be here, and the overall investment costs, would require more detailed cost engineering assessments beyond the scope of this initial project.
Regarding operating costs, these are harder to measure than capital costs, because cities measure this in different ways. But when the cost of depreciation and maintenance are included, ITDP analysis has found that BRT is generally less expensive to operate than light rail.
The BRT Study Group and ITDP also analyzed what kind of time savings Bostonians would experience if BRT were implemented here. This analysis began by looking at how long it takes riders to get from one end of the route to the other with the current bus system, then estimated how much time Gold Standard BRT would save riders, due to shorter wait times, transfers, boarding time, and time in traffic. Savings are significant, with corridors seeing up to 45% improvement.
Note: Estimated time savings are based on one-way trips. Time saved is doubled on round-trips.