Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, is a bus-based transit system that offers many of the same benefits of light rail transit, but is much more cost-effective and easier to adapt to changing travel patterns by adding or modifying routes. A properly designed BRT system is much faster and more reliable than local bus service.

Some design features of Bus Rapid Transit that contribute to faster travel times and greater reliability are:

-Bus only lanes

-Traffic signal priority (TSP)

-Limited stops (1/2 mile apart or more)

-Stations have raised platforms for level boarding

-Off-board ticketing or prepayment

This page offers many resources on Bus Rapid Transit, including factsheets of BRT in other U.S. cities, a benefits section, and a video of what BRT may look like.

Benefits of Bus Rapid Transit

Public transit is often a catalyst for investment and Bus Rapid Transit is no different. All across North America, BRT has contributed to billions of dollars worth of development. The table below provides data on development generated by Bus Rapid Transit in six different cities.

BRT LineDevelopment Around BRT CorridorsReturn on Investment (Value of Development per Dollar Spent on BRT)
Cleveland Healthline$5.8 Billion$114.54
Kansas City MAX$5.2 Billion$101.96
Las Vegas SDX$2 Billion$42.28
Eugene EmX$100 Million$3.96
Pittsburgh MLK Jr East Busway$903 Million$3.59
Ottawa Transitway$1 Billion$1.71

Bus Rapid Transit brings many benefits to the communities surrounding the corridors. Community benefits include:

-New travel options for the community that go beyond existing bus service.

-Reduced traffic congestion leads to less time spent driving and lower costs of driving.

-Less air pollution due to fewer vehicles on the road.

-Boost in community image. Increases in economic development occur around BRT corridors as discussed in the Development Benefits of Bus Rapid Transit tab.

-Neighborhoods surrounding BRT corridors attract new residents who utilize public transit. This leads to increases in property values.

-BRT corridors become vibrant, walkable communities due to strategically concentrated, mixed-use development.

Bus Rapid Transit is an alternative to driving and allows households to save money by utilizing public transit. Reliable public transit can allow households to hold off on buying a second car, drive less and reduce maintenance, or give up a car. The points below discuss the high costs of car ownership.

-The average cost to own and operate a typical sedan in the U.S. in 2016 was $8,558 (including insurance).

-The average car insurance premium in the State of Michigan in 2016 was $2,738, which is $1,413 higher than the national average.

Bus Rapid Transit offers many benefits to current transit users. User benefits include:

-High frequency of busses minimizes passenger wait time.

-Dedicated lanes, ADA certified level boarding and traffic signal priority increase reliability.

-Travel time is decreased due to limited stops, dedicated lanes, and traffic signal priority. The table below displays decreases in travel time in similar cities.

BRT Line

Travel Time Decrease

Cleveland Healthline

 27%

Kansas City MAX

 33%

Las Vegas SDX

 26%

Eugene EmX

 8%

Pittsburgh MLK Jr East Busway

75%

The RTA’s Locally Preferred Alternative Reports for the BRT corridors project 20-40% travel time savings where dedicated lanes are used.

The implementation of Bus Rapid Transit has led to increases in ridership and decreases in travel time in similar metropolitan regions.

BRT LineRidership IncreaseTravel Time Decrease
Cleveland Healthline31%27%
Kansas City MAX71%33%
Las Vegas SDX28%26%
Eugene EmX74%8%
Pittsburgh MLK Jr East Busway135%75%

Decreases in the travel time of a BRT system can influence ridership. The ridership of systems often increases as travel time decreases, as shown in the table above.

Additional Questions

The approximate costs associated with Bus Rapid Transit can be broken down into capital costs and operations and maintenance costs.

-Capital Cost – Approximately $5-10 million per mile.

-Operations and Maintenance Cost – The Gratiot, Michigan, Washtenaw, and Woodward BRT lines are projected to cost $70-80 million to operate and maintain per year.

Bus Rapid Transit is different from light rail in a few ways:

-BRT costs 4 to 20 times less than light rail.

-BRT offers more flexibility and adaptability than LRT.

-Due to the flexibility, BRT routes can be extended or modified easily to reach more job, residential, and/or retail sectors.

-Many LRT features are extra safety, mechanical, and electrical systems required for rail operation. BRT and LRT share essential features that enhance user experience and increase travel speeds:

-What you get with BRT and LRT: Dedicated transit travel way separate from traffic jams, high-quality stations, modern vehicles, traffic signal priority.

-What you don’t get are costly rail-specific systems: More intensive guideway construction, rail tracks, power systems, railway safety and control systems.

 System AspectsBus Rapid TransitLight Rail Transit
Dedicated LanesXX
Traffic Signal PriorityXX
Limited StopsXX
Raised PlatformsXX
PrepaymentXX
Rails X
Electrification X
Switches/Signals X
Cables/Wires X
Communication and Control System X

Funding options for Bus Rapid Transit are numerous and can include:

-Local Sales Tax

-Local Property Tax

-State Funding

-Michigan’s Comprehensive Transportation Fund (CTF)

-Surface Transportation Program (STP)

-Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ)

-Federal Formula Program Grants

-Federal Discretionary Program Grants

-Federal Section 5309 Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants

-Small Starts

-New Starts

-Core Capacity

-Programs of Interrelated Projects

-Fare Revenue

-Vehicle Registration Fee

Has Bus Rapid Transit been done before?

Yes, it has been done before! Bus Rapid Transit is utilized in 29 U.S. cities and in 206 cities across the world. Check out these factsheets below on some U.S. BRT systems.

The BRT Experience