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Bus Rapid Transit Overview

Our new Bus Rapid Transit Guide: A Guide to Evaluate the Feasibility of Bus Rapid Transit, is now available. 

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a transit option that is flexible in implementation and can be designed to fit a variety of local conditions along routes with relatively high levels of activity, density and demand for trips throughout the day.  By investing in roadway, right-of-way, intersection and signal improvements, BRT service can provide improved travel speeds, reliability and a higher quality of transit service than traditional bus.  It is important to note that BRT is not always the "best" solution.  

Sometimes, implementing or expanding commuter bus service, express bus, new local bus routes and improvements to existing bus service could be more appropriate options to explore.  Improvements to these existing services can still borrow elements of BRT in order to improve the quality of service. 

BRT is typically a locally owned and operated facility, and, while it should be assessed in coordination with the State if it is to be located on a state-owned facility, MDOT encourages local governments and transit agencies to carefully consider whether BRT can be an effective solution to their transportation needs.


Bus Rapid Transit Overview

Evaluating BRT

The local government determines if BRT will be an important part of a local transportation system. Often the process for evaluating the potential for a BRT is different than it would be for a State led transportation project.

First, there is a locally-led, high level corridor assessment, which determines if the corridor is appropriate for a BRT.  This should include outlining local support such as comprehensive plans or other local documents, the transportation network connections throughout the system, a transit-supportive land use, including an activity density (the sum of jobs and people per acre) of at least 25 and multiple activity areas capable of generating intermediate trips throughout the day, and existing transit ridership in the corridor.  

A more detailed Corridor Study would follow this work, determining the feasibility of the BRT corridor, including outlining the BRT description and its characteristics, determining its capital, operating and maintenance costs, developing the ridership, and outlining a financing strategy.  

While this more detailed feasibility study examines alternatives and conceptual right-of-way needs, it does not provide a detailed analysis of right of way impacts. Last, while the State is supportive and happy to help fuide these locally-led efforts, each county must determine and guide the appropriate level of community involvement, including meetings, reviews, and project schedule.

MDOT is developing a new brochure as a guide for local jurisdictions to evaluate the feasibility of BRT. This brochure will be released in early 2018.

 Elements of a BRT

BRT elements can be packaged in a variety of ways as every BRT system is unique and branded in its own way.

BRT amenities could include, where feasible:

  • off-board fare collection;
  • attractive stations;
  • dedicated facilities;
  • ​real-time passenger information; and
  • ​intelligent transportation system

BRT buses typically have the following features: level floors; multiple wide doors for easy boarding and departures; and comfortable interiors that include space for wheelchairs and bicycle storage.
In addition to other preferred operating conditions, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) indicates that a successful BRT must have at least a 14-hour span of service on weekdays and a 10-hour span of service on the weekends, with a minimum of 10-minute headways in the peak, 15-minute headways in the off-peak and 30-minute headway on the weekend.