The Quickway model emerged from the specific need of different cities to meet ambitious ridership or mode share targets which were imposed on the transit system. It was initially developed in Ottawa, but two subsequent examples — the TransMilenio system in Bogota, Colombia, and the new Busway network in Brisbane, Australia — have pushed the model to demonstrate its power for achieving significant results and benefits for urban areas and transit operators.
At the heart of the Quickway model is the physical infrastructure of a Quickway. A Quickway, by definition, is a specialized bus guideway incorporating a number of essential elements.
It is fully segregated from automobile and pedestrian traffic; neither cars nor people cross its path nor do private automobiles operate along the right-of-way.
The geometries support high-speed operations between stations.
Stations are equipped with passing lanes, so that express vehicles can continue through without needing to stop.
The full segregation of a Quickway from conflicting auto or pedestrian flows is essential to achieving not just the highest reliability — crucial for retaining transit riders — but to changing, in fundamental ways, the costs of moving a passenger. The Quickway model is not a distinct mode of BRT merely because it relies on a more expensive or optimized guideway; rather, the guideway itself dictates a particular cost and service logic which favors express and branching routes and which lowers the incremental cost of adding services.
How do Quickways enable such fundamental shifts in the economics of transit operations? By their impacts on the five major factors influencing operating costs.
Travel time. Time is money for transit operators, who must pay drivers to operate vehicles. While it is common to hear of “Light Rail Lite” BRT projects cutting travel times by up to 25 percent, the elimination of grade crossings, pedestrian conflicts and even intermediate station stops allows some Quickway routes to radically cut travel times by as much as two-thirds or more, significantly reducing time-related operating costs.
Mileage. Fuel consumption, maintenance and even vehicle life are all functions of the miles a bus traverses. Quickways by themselves may shorten some routes or lengthen others, but they generally change the conditions over which most buses operate. Just as with cars, “highway miles” are cheaper than “city miles,” saving wear-and-tear on brakes, tires, transmissions and other mechanical systems, and burning less fuel per mile traveled.
Peak buses. As Quickways enable more trips to be produced for a given sized bus fleet, the productivity of that fleet is heightened, and the number of peak buses required per given service level decreases relative to other options.
Revenues. Faster services, on the whole, attract more riders. Cities with new Quickway infrastructure have all seen impressive ridership gains, and the higher the ridership, the more fare revenue generated and the greater the opportunities for leveraging that ridership (e.g., for advertising revenue or rider-related business services).
Routing. Brisbane operates an extensive network of “CityXpress” services, routes which use one of its Quickways (often in express mode) for some distance before leaving the guideway and operating along an arterial in either local or express bus mode. What Brisbane has learned is that it can double effective service not by merely doubling frequencies on these routes, but by short-lining. In doing so, the original route may stop taking on passengers at a certain point as it proceeds along the arterial to the Quickway, creating a more express ride for passengers (attracting even more riders and reducing total round-trip times). Meanwhile, the new, shorter route ensures that people living closer to the Quickway can still find seats (attracting even more riders); in effect, service is doubled, but at significantly less cost than that of just doubling service on the original route.
The double-play of lower costs and higher revenues can be used to drive a “virtuous circle” and lead to a phase-shift in the role of transit in a given area. Taken together, these changes favor the development of extensive express networks and branching services. The result? More riders have a one-seat ride for their trips (or make fewer transfers), and most riders bypass most en-route stops.
The Quickway model differs from Light Rail Lite in a number of other key factors.