THE GOLD STANDARD
Because the quality of BRT can vary in execution, and most cities have not experienced it at a high level, it can be difficult to clearly define. To address this, a committee of international experts developed the BRT Standard, a set of scored criteria to rate BRT corridors and celebrate the best as Bronze, Silver, or Gold.
Under the BRT Standard, there are five key criteria necessary for a corridor to achieve a high rating.
The 5 Essential Elements of BRT
1. Dedicated Right of Way: The core of Bus Rapid Transit is lanes fully dedicated to rapid transit vehicles, off-limits to other traffic to allow BRT to travel unimpeded much like rail lines.
2. Busway Alignment: The goal is to have busways that avoid conflict with other traffic and curb activity, minimizing delays. High-scoring configurations include median-aligned busways that sit in the center of a two-way road.
3. Off-board Fare Collection: Paying fares in advance using turnstiles slashes boarding time and eliminates the aggravation and anxiety of grappling with payment methods.
4. Intersection Treatments: Wait times at intersections are the other main source of delay in conventional bus travel. There are several ways to reduce this, including prohibiting turns across the BRT lane.
5. Platform-level Boarding: Increasing comfort and ease, BRT vehicle doors glide open, flush with elevated platforms so all riders, including those with strollers, wheelchairs, or limited mobility can board quickly.
BRT AT ITS BEST
Gold Standard is the highest level this mode of transit can achieve, delivering transformative results in speed, capacity, and passenger experience. There are several traits that collectively elevate BRT to the Gold Standard (see the full list of criteria at the BRT Standard). A few of the crucial qualities high-ranking corridors offer are:
BETTER SERVICE, FEWER TRANSFERS
With smart, Gold Standard-level planning, BRT is much faster than conventional bus and more versatile than rail. Multiple routes can be pulled together to run on a single BRT corridor. Vehicles can then leave that corridor to reach different destinations, reducing the need for transfers. A central control station orchestrates vehicles to keep them on schedule and avoid irritating bunch-ups.
ENCLOSED, SECURE STATIONS
What if bus stations no longer felt uncomfortable and vulnerable? One of the most important aspects of Gold Standard BRT is well-designed, enclosed stations. Cities around the world have built beautiful, modern BRT stations that act as landmarks and provide comfort, security, and protection from the elements.
BETTER ACCESS FOR ALL
Gold Standard BRT uses design approaches that ease use for people with needs of all kind, including people with disabilities, but also across age, demographic, and group or family size. Reaching Gold Standard also means seamless integration with other ways to get around, including bikeshare systems, safe bicycle and pedestrian paths, and existing bus and rail.
To see more ways Gold Standard BRT can transcend typical rapid transit, visit A Modern Experience.
WHY GOLD STANDARD?
There are several systems globally that have been rated as Bronze or Silver BRT that have made major strides for their cities. In fact, the Gold Standard has only been achieved in a relatively small list of cities, and does not yet exist in the United States.
But as Boston’s communities pursue Bus Rapid Transit, the BRT Study Group believes it should aim for the Gold Standard.
For one, the benefits are superior, including faster travel times, a higher quality of service, and higher ridership. Gold Standard BRT also demands courageous, imaginative decisions about how to create a better transit experience. The cost-effectiveness and performance of BRT present an opportunity to provide a level of experience that is undeniably competitive with other modes, reinvigorating the public transit system serving Greater Boston.
Pursuing the Gold Standard provides clear goals and criteria for doing so, guarding against backsliding on expectations, and delivering on the promise of better rapid transit.