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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. 

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) produced this guide to provide local jurisdictions, transit agencies, and other stakeholders an outline of how to make careful and informed decisions about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This guide also is intended as a resource to help local jurisdictions and transit agencies better understand how to assess BRT as a locally-owned and -operated facility and how to best work with the State.

MDOT encourages local jurisdictions and transit operators to carefully consider whether BRT can be an effective solution to their transportation needs. This guide was written to provide a greater understanding of the factors involved when evaluating the feasibility of BRT in local jurisdictions as well as the additional considerations if a need for State or federal funding or other resources is expected to successfully implement the service. This guide will provide information on:

  • Land use and transit service characteristics supportive of BRT
  • BRT’s scalability and the influence different BRT elements have on system performance
  • Opportunities for phasing BRT elements into service
  • Roles and responsibilities of project partners
  • Methods for examining BRT feasibility at the corridor and project level.


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 guide these locally-led efforts, each county must determine and guide the appropriate level of community involvement, including meetings, reviews, and project schedule.

In January of 2018, MDOT developed a new brochure as a guide for local jurisdictions to evaluate the feasibility of BRT.

D.Fare Collection
E.Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
F.Service Plans

BRT Elements and Performance

BRT uses a variety of elements to improve travel speed, reliability, and quality of transit services by investing in roadway, right-of-way, intersection, and traffic signal improvements to speed-up service. Although individual BRT projects can select different infrastructure and service elements, the desired outcome is the same—improved customer satisfaction, while increasing the number of people that can be carried within a corridor.

Each BRT element influences different aspects of the system’s performance. 

Influence of BRT Elements on Transit System Performance

BRT Elements

Travel Time Savings



Running Way

Running Way Location

Level of Transit Priority

Running Way Guidance


Station Location & Type

Platform Layout

Passing Capacity


Vehicle Configuration

Passenger Circulation Enhancement

Fare Collection

Fare Collection Process

Fare Media/Payment Options

Intelligent Transportation Systems

Vehicle Prioritization

Intelligent Vehicle Systems

Passenger Information Systems

Service Plans

Span of Service

Frequency of Service

Station Spacing

 BRT Options

Depending on the combination of system elements selected, the BRT service will fall along a spectrum of system configurations. At one end of the spectrum is BRT “lite,” which uses combinations of system elements whose cost is in the lower end of the spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum is full BRT, which incorporates most or all of the system elements.

BRT "Lite" Full BRT1
Running Ways2
  • Shared lanes in mixed traffic
  • Some preferential treatments, e.g., "queue jumps" at intersections
  • Dedicated running ways, exclusive bus lanes
  • Distinctive pavement treatment
  • HOV drop ramps
  • Improved shelter
  • Special signage
  • Transfer centers
  • Level boarding and alighting
  • "Branded" and consistent with appearance of BRT vehicles
  • High-quality, attractive, functional amenities
  • Exterior and interior aesthetics
  • Enhanced ride and comfort
  • Low-floor
  • Low-emissions
  • Sleek styling
  • Easy-to-board (level with platform)
  • Multiple-door boarding and alighting
  • "Branded" exteriors that are distinctive and consistent with appearance of stations
  • High capacity
  • Pleasant interior conveniences
  • Low or zero emissions
Fare Collection2
  • Increase prepaid fare sales
  • Off-vehicle fare collection
  • Emphasis on prepaid fares
  • Automated vehicle location (AVL)
  • Bus priority at traffic signals
  • Real-time passenger information at stations
  • Real-time "next bus" arrival information signs at stations
  • "Next stop" signs on board buses
  • Smart fare payment media and technology
  • Traffic signal prioritization
  • Traffic management and automated guidance features for precision operations and docking
Service Plans2
  • Improved frequency
  • Integrated regional coordination
  • Extended station/stop spacing
  • Simple route structures
  • Frequent all-day service
  • Short headways (10 minutes or better)
  • Wide station stop spacing
  • Simple route layout
  • Convenient transfers
  • Station locations coordinated with land-use plans
  • Service to major activity centers
  1. The characteristics of full BRT in the United States may differ from those of international BRT systems. Refer to Bus Rapid Transit Planning Guide (2007) for international examples of full BRT, as described by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy.
  2. Caltrans, Bus Rapid Transit:
    A Handbook for Partners (2007)

Evaluating BRT Feasibility

MDOT encourages local project sponsors (the local jurisdictions’ transportation, public works, planning, and/or transit agencies advocating for BRT projects) to carefully and critically assess whether BRT is an appropriate solution to their transportation needs.

The three-step process illustrated below is recommended to screen a potential BRT project’s feasibility to determine whether it should be advanced for more detailed study and to assess whether MDOT should participate in the project