Report on Rapid Transit Systems

Report on Rapid Transit Systems

A new report, “Best Practices in Rapid Transit Design,” released jointly yesterday by Communities for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, draws lessons from successful bus rapid transit systems throughout the US and Canada. “As of 2015, there are more than 30 bus rapid transit systems in operation across the US and Canada and more than 25 others in planning. Many have been running since the early 2000s, and have greatly exceeded expectations for ridership and service,” said Pete Tomao, the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Montgomery County Advocacy Manager. “In Eugene, OR, for example, the Emerald Line has doubled transit ridership in the corridor it serves.”
The report identifies and describes over a dozen features of successful bus rapid transit, including:
Dedicated lanes
  • Dedicated lanes should be utilized along as much of the corridor as possible. Dual median lanes are considered preferable to a single median lane or curb lanes, though all improve transit service significantly.
  •  To keep dedicated lanes free from traffic, rapid transit systems can physically separate them with flexposts, low curbs, or colored paint (often red) to distinguish the lanes from general traffic.
  • An enforcement plan is essential to maintain traffic-free dedicated lanes.
Frequent, reliable service
  • At peak hours, vehicles should arrive every 5-10 minutes. At other times, there should be a maximum of 10-12 minutes between vehicles.
  • Service spanning 18-20 hours/day best serves a diversity of riders and trips.
  • Implementing Transit Signal Priority (TSP) at major intersections has proven essential to reducing delay for rapid transit systems around the country.
  • The schedules, transfers, payment, and routes should be well thought out and integrated with other routes and transit modes to enable seamless transfers. Stations
  • Stop spacing can vary between 0.2 miles in the most dense locations to over one mile, but to speed service, should generally be further apart than local bus stops.
  • Stations should be no less than 10’ wide (12’ preferable) and 60’ long to accommodate one articulated bus, and 140’ to accommodate two.
  • Stations can best speed and ease boarding for passengers with disabilities, strollers, and bicycles by having level boarding.
  • Stations should have machines for passengers to purchase fares before they board to speed boarding.
  •  People walking and biking to the station should have a continuous network of safe, accessible pathways on both sides of the street to enable safe, direct access to stations.
  • Improve passengers’ experience by including real-time arrival information, adequate lighting, safe access for people walking and biking to the station, clear route maps, seating, bike parking, and weather protection for colder climates.
  • Vehicles should ideally be articulated, 60’ long, have three or more doors, and have doors on both sides to be able to access curb or median stations.
  • Vehicles should have interior bicycle racks and Wi-Fi for passenger convenience.  Accommodations for people walking and biking 


Amy Ginsburg


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