Best of Class BRT

Here’s a Streetfilm about the BRT system in Guangzhou, China.

The system has a number of attributes worth emulating:

  • Pre-boarding payment – ala Curitiba
  • Direct routing – buses enter and leave the BRT corridor
  • Bicycle facilities constructed in coordination with the transit corridor
  • A bike share system integrated with the transit system
  • An integrated payment card

Definitely worth watching.

20 responses to “Best of Class BRT”

  1. Interesting, but with the direct routing it looks more like an updated version of our bus mall, just on a much larger scale. Is it the pre-boarding payment system that makes it BRT?

  2. I don’t think any single factor makes BRT (dedicated right-of-way is a pretty common feature). But very rapid boarding/de-boarding is an element of many systems.

  3. How expensive would it be to do this on the transit mall? would pre-payment be needed everywhere or just downtown? Clearly we should be looking into speeding things up downtown. They’re good but they could be better.

  4. Perhaps, but only for the mall itself. A real BRT would have dedicated right-of-way for the major of the bus line.

    Would you count shared high occupancy/toll lanes as such? Because if so San Diego’s MTS has BRT running on their 810 route to Escondido’s transit center, where it connects to the a weird WES/MAX hybrid called the Sprinter (a DMU commuter train that runs on shared freight tracks, connecting to the west to the successful Coaster commuter rail line.)

    Their LRT system is surprisingly similar to ours. It connects very close to an area that expansion to is incredibly difficult (Mexico instead of Washington State), both serve as a downtown circulator (to different degrees), both connect major hotel and entertainment complexes to downtown (PGE Park & Rose Garden here, Qualcomm Stadium and PetCo Park in SD), both serve the regional convention center, both stretch into lower-income areas that make some perceive them as “bringing crime in” while also serving far-flung freeway-centric suburbs, and both have similar amounts of track.

    I’m sure I’m missing some things, but after San Diego’s next expansion to the Trolley (their LRT), it seems all their plans are for buses. They have the Super Loop that will serve a streetcar-like circulator function, BRT planned for I-15, CA-94, CA-125, and other corridors. They’re also experimenting on using freeway shoulders on I-805 to jump buses ahead of traffic. All their freeway expansion is pretty much going to be HOT lanes, at least for the next 20 years, and almost all of those will have some form of BRT running on them.

    They have a lot more pavement than us, but I think it’s a good idea for Portland to keep an eye on what San Diego learns about BRT. The extra pavement helps the buses move quite a bit easier than we might be able to, but it’s still a start. They’ve been inspired by Portland (when I lived down there it was a constant complaint about SANDAG’s planners visiting Portland at taxpayer expense), everything from light rail to smart growth and a bus-based version of the Streetcar, but they’re definitely doing things with buses we haven’t even started to consider here.

    The use of tolled carpool lanes to keep BRT moving on I-15 seems like something the Portland region should definitely keep an eye on. If we’re going to fund freeway improvements maybe we can get ideas on the most efficient way to do so based on what San Diego learns.

    I-15 project page from SANDAG. (They’re the San Diego version of Metro, but they seem to have a bit more influence and a fairly different selection process.)

    The Super Loop, somewhere between a bus, a streetcar, and BRT. It serves a high density area of high rise offices, condos, hotels, etc surrounding a mall between three freeways and also serving UCSD, a large college campus. When I lived in San Diego it was being sold as a cheap version of Portland’s Streetcar.

    If we want to see how BRT works in the US these might be some projects to keep tabs on. So far the Super Loop has been mostly considered a success.

  5. Interesting point about San Diego LRT connecting close to Mexico but not entering. I read somewhere a few years back that Tijuana was considering an LRT system of its own that would almost, but not quite, connect with San Diego’s. (People would have to get off the first system, walk through Customs, and board the second.)

  6. I am staying posted about Community Transit’s inauguration of the DD express buses from Everett WA to downtown Seattle. Supposed to start this spring (don’t know exact date) with 23 vehicles placed in service.

  7. So someone do the numbers comparing the cost of adding an HOV lane to I-5 to Tigard for BRT vs. a MAX line even with a tunnel under OHSU. Remember to add something about all the great station locations on I-5…Burlingame, SW 24th, West Portland, etc.
    Or make the argument for taking two lanes off Barbur for BRT, but none of this “BRT Light” stuff that is being proposed for Lake Oswego.
    Be sure to add the cost of supporting an entirely new vehicle type…training, maintenance, parts.
    Metro looked at everything but MAX to Milwaukie after the defeat of South/North in ’98. That’s worth a look too as well as the story of how they got back to MAX in that alignment.

  8. It went back to MAX after the residents voted out the anti-MAX members of Milwaukie’s City Council. They felt that anything short of MAX would have made them second-class citizens.

    Regarding HCT options to Tigard… I’ve always felt that tunneling beneath OHSU and Hillsdale would be less expensive than widening Barbur between downtown and Burlingame. Barbur is clinging to the side of a major slope for most of its length and is essentially a viaduct once it passes Hamilton. It would be massively expensive to widen, whether for MAX or BRT. Also, I’ll bet OHSU would be able to pay for their own subway station, which would be one of the biggest chunks of the subway’s cost. They spent almost $50 million on the Tram… a MAX station would move thousands more people in and out of Pill Hill. And Trimet could eliminate the 100+ buses that go up and down the hill all day long.

    And finally, the SuperLoop in San Diego is not BRT, it’s a frequent bus (10-15 minute intervals) with nicely appointed bus stops… nothing more.

  9. I must admit, I tend to dislike the term “BRT”, simply because it refers to so many different types of service–ranging from mixed-traffic, limited-stop bus lines with slight preferential treatment at stoplights (like LA’s Metro Rapid), to things like EmX, all the way up to fully grade-separated busways like found in places like Brisbane, Curitiba, or Ottawa. In any discussion of BRT, it’s important to clarify what kind of BRT.

  10. Lenny,

    I don’t know if Portland would be allowed to remove lanes from Barbur for transit. Aside from the massive traffic nightmare it would create, and the even more massive backlash, isn’t it a state highway at some point?

    I second the call for a MAX tunnel. You could have a stop near Duniway park, and then enter a tunnel, with a single station for OHSU and the VA. Elevator shafts and the north and south ends would take you to each facility. It could re-surface somewhere near Barbur and Terwilliger. At that point, they could run elevated on Barbur or next to I-5, depending on the section. If they do this line correctly, and make it truly express, I could see them keeping the #12 bus in a reduced capacity, serving as a local bus that connects to downtown.

  11. I don’t see why it is necessary to compare apples to apples, i.e.Tigard MAX vs. Tigard BRT. Although I do appreciate the necessity to cost-out alternatives. If the proposed Tigard MAX goes all the way to Sherwood, how would that compare with an express bus that goes to Sherwood via I-5 and Tualatin? The main point is to pick up passengers and move them in a short time frame. Couldn’t there just be an HOV lane on I-5 as with the north Portland section of I-5?

    The, a bus service to Tigard could be a mix of local stops, and express buses. There isn’t much between Sherwood and King City at this time that needs to be picked up.

    In my train travels I have seen milk run trains mixed in with express services. I don’t know how they work out the details but it seems to work.

  12. Its unlikely that ODOT would agree to converting an existing GP lane to HOV on I-5 in the SW corridor. I am sure they would love to widen I-5 there and might then consider HOV, just as they did in the McLoughlin Blvd study thur SE Portland.
    To run true BRT you need an HOV lane and at least a few stops/stations. All this would cost as much, if not more than MAX in that corridor.
    Express buses don’t serve anyone between the two service end points, making them very costly to operate. My guess is MAX will get to Tigard and not much farther; I think it should swing down to BridgePort and Kruse Woods, both major SW destinations.
    We know how to make the MAX/bus connection work. The C-Tran 65 from Fishers Landing runs every 15 minutes to meet the MAX Red Line at Parkrose TC which also runs every 15 minutes. A & D are staggered so that riders have 5-10 minutes to get from bus to MAX and MAX to bus. Its pretty slick.
    The shame is that C-Tran doesn’t run the same service down the I-5 corridor from Salmon Creek to the Yellow Line at Delta Park/Vanport.

  13. Lenny said: “To run true BRT you need an HOV lane and at least a few stops/stations. All this would cost as much, if not more than MAX in that corridor.”

    That was kinda my point. Real BRT, with exclusive ROW the entire length, would be almost as expensive as MAX, but with higher operating costs. Especially when you consider the long-term life cycle costs. Rail is a much better long term investment.

    Lenny said: “My guess is MAX will get to Tigard and not much farther; I think it should swing down to BridgePort and Kruse Woods, both major SW destinations.”

    MAX will likely go to at least King City, a major trip generator, then possibly terminate at a large P&R before going through the wetland area to Sherwood. There’s a big 2-3 mile gap between King City and Sherwood which is mostly outside the UGB and not developable. But I like the idea of also branching of at DT Tigard to serve Kruse Way, Bridgeport and Tualatin.

  14. Lenny said: “To run true BRT you need an HOV lane and at least a few stops/stations. All this would cost as much, if not more than MAX in that corridor.”

    I suppose they could use the I-5 up to the Barbur BV transit station and then Barbur into downtown.

    Community Transit’s US assembled DD buses cost $830,000 each—most of it paid through federal grant money and some by the state. I don’t know if they use an HOV lane. It would be interesting to get a report from them after a few months of opertion.

    How much will a Tigard MAX really cost? Projections are one thing; actual costs for completion another, especially if you are contemplating extensions to Kruse Woods, etc.

  15. Being able to serve places like Kruse Woods (though that might be handled by a future Clackamas-Beaverton Line), Bridgeport Village, Washington Square, and other important destinations not directly on the existing P&W tracks, is Yet Another Reason for some WES buyers’ remorse.

  16. Ron Swaren Says: “I suppose they could use the I-5 up to the Barbur BV transit station and then Barbur into downtown.”

    No, not unless you’re adding a lane in each direction to both I-5 and Barbur. That’s the problem, taking existing capacity off of either of these for a BRT is a non-starter. With either MAX or BRT, the biggest cost is building a new exclusive ROW for them to run in. Laying the rail makes MAX more expensive up front, but operationally it’s less expensive in the long term.

  17. One advantage of HOT lanes is that they can get some revenue from the toll paying users. The HOT income is part of San Diego’s long term financing plans for BRT expansion.

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