Bus Rapid Transit: Keeping a Fast-Expanding Mode Safe

Increasingly, U.S. transit agencies are considering BRT as an option that allows for higher volume than bus routes on common corridors, but requires less infrastructure investment than rail transit. U.S. planners have also looked to successful BRT operations in Mexico, Central America, and South America, where BRT lines have provided a dedicated yet somewhat flexible way to meet the demands of heavily-trafficked corridors.

Here in the U.S., TRA has worked with both mature and new BRT lines to maximize operational safety and security. As part of Pennsylvania’s transit safety oversight program, TRA oversees the safety, security, operations, and maintenance of some of the oldest BRT lines in the United States, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. (East) Busway, the South Busway, and the West Busway, all operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh. These busways run on private rights-of-way, often in historic railroad corridors. TRA also recently completed a project providing oversight of safety certification, emergency preparedness, operations planning, and operations development (and of rulebook and procedure development) at the CTFasTrak BRT line in Connecticut.

TRA is also closely monitoring a Port Authority project to develop a new busway through the Oakland area in Pittsburgh, largely using existing city street right-of-way. This new bus line may be included under the Commonwealth’s oversight program if it meets program fixed guideway thresholds. The corridor currently includes several busy bus lines, and utilizes contra-flow traffic control, varying lanes by time of day.

Bus rapid transit shares characteristics of other fixed guideway transit modes (such as light rail) and of more flexible, fixed-route bus. Still, BRT is a unique mode, and each BRT operation in the United States varies from the next, making it critical to assess operations, maintenance, safety, and security needs on a case-by-case basis. TRA personnel have experience in BRT, as well as traditional bus and rail modes, and can help projects to assess operations, maintenance, safety, and security needs, and ensure successful project planning and implementation.

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