Regional Rapid-Transit System Shows Promise


A new report by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy sheds important new light on the growing worldwide trend away from light-rail-transit and toward new bus-rapid-transit (or BRT) systems.  BRT generally offers lower levels of capital investment and more flexibility in its operations than most fixed rail systems. 

What’s been missing so far, however, is any way to clearly evaluate what is and isn’t “true BRT” and the design attributes that are most important in identifying it.  There is a world of difference, both in perception and reality, between running a bunch more smelly old busses on the same old routes and calling it “BRT” (which it is not), and investing in a true BRT system with the attributes cited in the report, which together provide an entirely new type of efficient and attractive mass transit experience.    While the metrics in the report may not be perfect, they are a good place to start.

Cities around the world are figuring this out, and the U.S. is pretty far behind.  This is another of the report’s key findings.  However, both the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Montgomery County are taking a hard look at “BRT” at the regional and local levels (and yes, we have to come up with a better name for it – BRT doesn’t really cut it) .      

It is too early to tell exactly what impact BRT can have in meeting our transportation needs in the Washington area, but the early indications seem promising.