Comparing Performance Of Bus Rapid Transit Vs. Light Rail
A study looking at performance of bus rapid transit vs. light rail in Los Angeles and another comparing the American experience with BRT with successful international examples have been added to Best Practices.
Los Angeles’ Metro operates all modes of fixed-route urban bus and rail transit. Studying Los Angeles allows, for the first time, to compare how these modes perform without the differences in labor costs, operating practices and other externalities that can easily confuse modal comparisons, according to Richard Stanger's report to the 11th Joint Light Rail Conference in Los Angeles on April 20, 2009.
Los Angeles’ Metro rail and busway system has greatly increased the speed, capacity, and productivity of transit services within critical travel corridors, Stanger notes. Although accounting for a small fraction of Metro’s overall transit mileage, these few rail lines and bus routes carry over half its passenger-miles of travel.
Stanger's analysis confirms that Rapid Bus routes are faster and more cost-efficient than local bus routes and that busways are better yet. L.A.’s rail lines are at least 36 percent faster than any bus mode and have already shown they can carry well over twice the probable capacity of the busways.
One conclusion from this analysis is that bus transit provides a range of service options if high speeds and capacities are not needed, but only rail provides truly high speeds and capacities. Busways are not equivalent to light rail. A good transit system uses the strengths of all modes working together.
This study on behalf of the Federal Transit Administration was carried out by Alasdair Cain, senior research associate with the National BRT Institute Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida and by Alan Hoffman, principal, The Mission Group of San Diego.
The study looks at Bus Rapid Transit model as an analogue to light rail, referred to as “Light Rail Lite,” and compares it to international best practices, which favor development of grade-separated bus infrastructure, dubbed the Quickway model. This report focuses on what it was international cities did that make their experience of BRT not merely different from that of most American cities, but one which is arguably superior to anything yet attempted in this country.
Three international case studies—Ottawa, Bogotá, and Brisbane—are reviewed for their particular application of this model and of the results they have obtained. Four domestic cities are compared to these international examples: Eugene, Oregon, and Los Angeles are profiled for their adoption of the Light Rail Lite model, and two other cities, Pittsburgh and Miami, are profiled for their BRT implementations which share elements in common with the Quickway model.
Lessons are drawn from this comparison, including a review of those conditions which may favor the adoption of either model or light rail in any given urban context. Recommendations are offered at the level of the Federal Government, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and planning and engineering firms, for the proper planning and evaluation of Quickway-based alternatives. An appendix introduces a fifth domestic case study, a Quickway-based planning effort sponsored by a nonprofit organization for the San Diego region, and the preliminary results of this effort are reviewed.
This report introduces the Quickway, which is defined as a primarily grade-separated, fully segregated busway capable of supporting express and all-stops operations.