Bus Rapid Transit: A Sustainable Approach to Mass Transit
Transportation accounts for about 25% of fossil fuel consumption. One way to decrease the negative environmental effects of burning fossil fuels (e.g. smog and global warming) is to improve mass transit. An efficient mass transit system speeds travel time, cuts travel costs, and makes service more reliable. Consequently, it discourages the use of private vehicles, reducing fossil fuel consumption and emissions. A type of mass transit that has proven to be environmentally and socially successful in many cities across the world is Bus Rapid Transit. BRT uses a variety of a variety of innovative system designs and technologies to achieve to the aforementioned qualities of an efficient mass transit system. The innovative system designs and technologies include: lane priority, signal priority, vehicle design, stop location, fare collection, rider appeal, and land use policy.
Lane priority gives buses exclusive use of lanes to increase travel time. There are three types of priority lanes: curbside, median, and contraflow. Curbside bus lanes are usually effective during peak hours in peak directions; otherwise the lane is reserved for parking and deliveries. Since bus stops are in this lane, buses do not waste time remerging with traffic. Double curbside bus lanes allow them to pass one another, such as Madison Avenue in New York City. Median lanes are those located in the middle two lanes of traffic, usually separated from all other traffic by a raised curb. Median lanes are only appropriate for wide boulevards because space is needed to build the passenger platforms. Even though median lanes are less likely to be congested than curbside lanes, some disadvantages include making dangerous left turns and jaywalking of passengers across traffic to reach the sidewalk or platform. The last type
of priority lane is a contraflow lane. These lanes allow buses to run in the opposite direction in what would otherwise be a one-way lane. Buses can use contraflow lanes during rush hours to avoid traffic congestion, thus these lanes would be temporary, effective only for a certain amount of hours during the day. These lanes in a well designed infrastructure help to optimize travel time of buses, thus increasing the efficiency of the system.
Signal priority gives buses the right of way at signalized intersections. There are two types of signal priority: passive and active. Passive priority involves timing signal lights based on the average speed of buses rather than other vehicles. Active priority uses sensors on both buses and signal to calculate the bus’ speed and time of approach. Based on this data, the signal will either hold a green light that is already being displayed until the bus passes through or give an early green light. Another form of intersection priority is a queue jumper, which is a short stretch of bus lane combined with traffic signal...