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Jul 27, 2012

Online urban BRT planning tool developed

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A new online urban bus rapid transit (BRT) tool helps decision-makers understand the full array of features and skills needed to provide BRT vehicles, technology and services, say Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness (CGGC) researchers.

“Cash-strapped cities can provide high-quality public transit relatively quickly and affordably by creating BRT systems,” they say.

The new online tool promotes BRT development, which is viewed as a way to achieve a faster, more reliable bus service by using features commonly associated with light rail or subways. The vehicles may run in their own dedicated lane, for example, or passengers may pay fares before getting on board, the researchers note.

“One hallmark of BRT is having distinctive stations, similar to the best light rail or subway systems, where passengers can check up-to-the-minute bus arrival times. The best-designed stations also provide bus-level boarding, allowing people to get on and off the bus in seconds.”

The CGGC database includes detailed information on 390 firms across the US. Using the report’s online interactive database, community groups and city planners can learn about ten BRT features by clicking on a feature to reveal which firms provide the associated equipment or services.

“We hope our report and interactive tool will make these complex data easy for practitioners to use. The focus on high-quality features highlights what can be achieved and who has the expertise to achieve it,” says CGGC senior research analyst and lead author of the report Marcy Lowe.

One aspect that distinguishes the BRT system from other public transport is the role of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). It is a set of technologies that tracks vehicles, counts passengers, collects fares, lets BRT vehicles pre-empt traffic lights, as well as enhance safety and security.

Further, ITS firms are improving passenger communication with real-time bus information and new mobile apps and website tools. The CGGC database provides detailed information on this BRT feature and identifies the leading firms that provide it.

However, despite its success in Latin America, China and Europe, BRT still faces a public awareness gap in the US, the report states.

“BRT is not simply an express bus service – it is a whole different animal. Our visualisation tool helps to show what high-quality BRT can look like in your community,” says research report co-author Monica La.

“True, gold-standard BRT can really be a game changer in many cities in the US. It can provide more transportation options for more citizens,” says Rockefeller Foundation associate director Benjamin de la Peña.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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