New study looks at the system-level factors that impact BRT ridership

By Brian Lutenegger

A new study by researchers at Hanyang University in Korea and the Georgia Institute of Technology examines the factors that affect bus rapid transit (BRT) ridership at the system level. The researchers’ analysis examined 111 BRT systems around the world. Service supply levels—including fleet size and the number of BRT corridors within a city or region that could be utilized to complete a trip—are important determinants of ridership. Systems with multiple connected lines could increase ridership by 41 percent. Further, adding both integrated fare collection and real-time information systems can together boost ridership by 47 percent.

The study also pointed to the need to improve travel-time reliability and speed to improve ridership. Infrastructure such as passing lanes and median bus lanes can improve this metric.

The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) has also attempted to identify the best practices in BRT design. Their BRT Standard was initially released in 2012 and later updated in 2014 and 2016. It reviews selected metrics for BRT corridors around the world using a scorecard, ranking the best corridors as Bronze, Silver, or Gold.

ITDP’s BRT Standard takes into account some of the lessons of this newer study.  In scoring BRT systems, it offers points for BRT systems that have multiple routes on the same corridor and multiple intersecting corridors that create a network. Further, BRT systems with off-board fare collection are ranked higher, with barrier controls and proof of payment worth more points than an onboard fare verification system.  Finally, the ITDP deducts points from systems that do not meet a minimum average commercial speed of 12 mph.

The study by researchers in Korea and the U.S. points once again to critical aspects of BRT that planners and transit operators need to consider in order for their systems to be successful. Attracting riders—particularly new ones who might otherwise drive by themselves in their own vehicle—is an important goal of BRT and other transit modes, and the factors cited in each of these documents will improve the chances of attracting these key customers.

Brian Lutenegger is a Program Associate at Smart Growth America.