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Bus Rapid Transit: Early Actions to Position for Implementation - Mass Transit

Developing strategies that eliminate common project hurdles, such as managing unexpected costs at the end of the project and delivering funding to cover the entire project scope, can help successfully implement a BRT system.

Introduced nearly 20 years ago in the United States, bus rapid transit (BRT) is the fastest growing mode of public transportation in North America, with more than 100 systems operating in cities of all sizes. These systems are successful because they are scalable, improve the passenger experience, promote equity and facilitate economic development. Interest in implementing BRT systems is rapidly growing throughout North America as transit agencies work to provide their passengers with high quality transit that incorporates such components as off-vehicle fare payment, level boarding and unique vehicles and stations. Soon, future vehicles will be electric with cutting-edge automated technology, proving BRT’s staying power is strong.

With the unique components and cost considerations involved, it’s not surprising that the most common question asked by transit agencies is how they can set up and implement a successful BRT project.

Over the course of our careers at AECOM, we have led BRT system development and implementation around the nation, and we have heard this question many times. While we don’t have all the answers, we have worked with agencies to develop strategies that eliminate common project hurdles: managing unexpected costs at the end of the project and delivering funding to cover the entire project scope.

Managing Costs Throughout

A thorough, comprehensive design process that results in accurate cost estimates is the foundation for successful BRT system implementation. Understanding the full impact of the project early in the planning and design phases can set projects up for success by preventing unanticipated costs later in the implementation process that could impact project constructability.

The Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) Ogden BRT line experienced the struggle of discovering additional impacts later in the implementation process. Several traffic impacts were identified during final design that required more right-of-way than had been anticipated in earlier project phases. The result was an expanded footprint that, in turn, increased the project’s estimated cost. Creative solutions, including working with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to secure exemptions on certain design standards, helped lower the anticipated overage.

The Rapid’s Laker Line BRT in Grand Rapids, Mich., on the other hand, demonstrated the benefit of understanding the project’s vision during its planning phase. Early in the planning process for the Laker Line, The Rapid worked with its project partners to develop a comprehensive vision for the corridor from which they calculated a bottom-up estimate. This estimate included station designs and other details, such as snow melt within the concrete. As design advanced and new ideas were brought forward, The Rapid only advanced the ideas that supported the project vision. As a result, the cost estimate remained consistent throughout the design process with minimal cost increases which helped to build trust with stakeholders and secure funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

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