Recommendations for Practice
BRT is a relatively new mode in the United States. It has come to mean many different things to different people, ranging from an enhanced express bus service to a cheaper alternative to light rail; for some, all it means is a fancier bus. However, as understanding grows of the different modes of BRT, the more transit planners and funding agencies will be able to take advantage of the benefits Quickways can deliver.
Quickway planning in the United States can be abetted by a number of concrete steps. Corridor-level planning, taken alone, tends to favor the Light Rail Lite model, but encouragement and support for network-level planning and projects — including the consideration of network-level effects and operating cost benefits in project ranking — could identify major Quickway opportunities. Even as policy and funding mechanisms catch up with the emerging understanding of new BRT modes, growing metro areas looking to achieve ambitious mode share targets might wish to begin undertaking initial network feasibility studies.
For transit funding agencies, interest in the Quickway model should be driven by that model’s demonstrated ability to cost-effectively attract and carry massive ridership. The development of appropriate physical and service standards would help produce those results.
Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and transit agencies interested in exploring the Quickway model should pay special attention to Brisbane’s example. Brisbane developed ridership targets based on its land use goals, then configured infrastructure and services to meet these goals. High-level and ongoing market research can help zero-in on those aspects of service most likely to attract and retain new transit riders.
Planning and engineering firms — who perform the bulk of the alternatives development and analytical work in this country — can and should become more familiar with the Quickway model as a means of helping regions meet their long-range goals.
Quickways are not merely a graduated step-up in BRT-supportive infrastructure; they imply their own logic on system design and operations and make possible services that otherwise would not be cost-justifiable. They mesh well with other modes and create far more useful transit networks, extending systemwide benefits beyond individual corridors. They can create economies of scale for transit operations, virtuous circles that can support wider-reaching mobility goals, economic development, and sustainable urban form. They should be treated as a distinct mode, particularly for network and corridor-level planning, and one with great potential for helping American cities achieve phase shifts in the role that transit plays in their daily lives and long-range growth.
Alasdair Cain is a senior research associate at the National BRT Institute, housed at the Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida, in Tampa.
Alan Hoffman is the founding principal of The Mission Group, a transportation and land use planning firm that specializes in working with agencies to develop effective and far-reaching long-range market-focused network strategies and plans.