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Conventional bus and rail transit already play a vital role in Maryland's transportation network. Transit service reduces congestion, assists with efficient land use, supports economic development, and provides transportation access and mobility for the young, elderly, disabled, and those who do not own an automobile.

Bus Rapid Transit encompasses a variety of approaches designed to improve travel speed, reliability, and quality of transit services. In general terms, a BRT system is an integrated rapid transit system that combines the quality of rail with the flexibility of buses.

Bus Rapid Transit is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a family of approaches that share common features or principles. BRT solutions range from BRT vehicles operating in general-purpose travel lanes with preferential access and “queue jumping” at traffic signals, to full-fledged integrated systems operating in exclusive "running ways." There is a full continuum of BRT approaches between these two extremes.

Bus Rapid Transit systems may incorporate streamlined fare collection techniques, such as pre-pay systems, further supporting quicker boarding and exiting, as well as use of advanced information systems to improve customer convenience, speed, reliability, and safety.

Common BRT components are explained more fully below.

Principles of Bus Rapid Transit

  • Move people as effectively as rail at a potentially lower initial capital cost
  • Fully utilize existing roadways, rights-of-way, and station sites
  • Take advantage of available technology (e.g., automatic vehiclelocation, passenger information, signal priority, and “Smart Card” type fare collection)
  • Apply incremental system development, based on demand and funding
  • Maximize operating flexibility
  • Change the mindset for bus transit – from conventionalbus fleet operations to state-of-the-art transit systems that areconvenient, reliable, attractive, and comfortable

Components of a Bus Rapid Transit System

A BRT system combines flexible service and new technologies to improve customer convenience and reduce delays. While specific BRT applications vary, the components may include:

A:  Running Ways – exclusive guideways or dedicated lanes that allow BRT vehicles to be free of conflicting automobile traffic, parked or stopped vehicles, and other obstructions – maximizing BRT operating speeds. In some situations, BRT vehicles also may operate in general traffic, trading speed and reliability for flexibility. "Queue jumper" is a term that refers to short exclusive lanes at signalized intersections that are used to allow BRT vehicles to jump to the head of the line and bypass stopped automobiles and traffic.

B:  Vehicles – modern, low-floor, high capacity rubber-tired vehicles that accommodate high volumes of riders and fast boarding and exiting. BRT vehicles often use clean fuels or alternative power.

C:  Stations – ranging from protected shelters to large transit centers, BRT stations are located within the communities they serve and provide easy access to the system.

D:  Route Structure and Schedule – established to maximize direct, no-transfer rides to multiple destinations and to create more flexible and continuous service (reducing the need for a schedule) for local and express bus service.

E:  Fare Collection – designed to make it fast and easy to pay, often before boarding the vehicle, BRT fare collection systems include the use of self-service proof-of-payment systems or pre-paid stored-value fare cards, such as a "Smart Card" system.

F:  Advanced Technology – the use of advanced technologies (or Intelligent Transportation Systems) to improve customer convenience, speed, reliability, and safety. Examples include systems that provide traffic signal preference for buses at intersections and cross streets, as well as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to provide passenger information such as real-time bus arrival information.

To view the rendering in full scale, highlighting Components A-F, open the following Rendering.

Source: Adapted from Transportation Research Board – Transit Cooperative Research Program, Bus Rapid Transit – Why More Communities are Choosing Bus Rapid Transit, 2001.

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Last Updated on Tue May 08, 2012