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What is 'Bus Rapid Transit'?

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Jan. 24, 2014

Capital Metro calls the new MetroRapid service a bus rapid transit system (BRT), but that term is about more than just fast buses. In fact, there's no international or even national consensus on exactly what is and isn't BRT, nor are all BRT systems created equal: The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy grades systems according to its BRT standard from "Gold" to "Bronze." Here's how the Federal Transit Authority defines BRT, and how MetroRapid measures up:

Improved Vehicle Design: MetroRapid vehicles are more spacious than traditional buses, while the 330-horsepower engines are surprisingly quiet. They're also wi-fi equipped.

Reduced Fare Collection Time: MetroRapid accommodates mobile ticketing, and allows card swipe and mobile passes to be used at all three doors.

Improved and Distinctive Stops and Shelters: MetroRapid features new stations, many standing clear of the sidewalk, reducing any holdups for other road users and pedestrians. Also, some will have raised platforms for easier loading and unloading.

Dedicated Bus Lanes, Busways or Expressways: Initially there will be express bus-only lanes on the Guadalupe/Lavaca corridor, but these may be extended, and future routes could use the high occupancy vehicle lanes on MoPac.

Signal Priority: MetroRapid vehicles communicate with traffic lights, keeping them green slightly longer without overly impacting other traffic.

Automatic Vehicle Location: MetroRapid vehicles use cell-phone systems to send real-time arrival information to station displays.

Land Use: The FTA proposes that BRT be sited to both serve high-demand populations, such as apartment complexes and big employers (which MetroRapid backers argue it does), and to encourage desirable transit-oriented development over time.

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