Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the United States

Last week’s blog was on the topic of the potential new bus lanes in India, specifically Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). These types of bus lanes are scattered throughout the United States including in New York City, Boston and Phoenix. Most recently, the US Federal Government gave the green light for BRT funding in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Approved Funding for the BRT

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff announced on October 18 that Grand Rapids will receive almost $32 million from the federal government for the bus rapid transit Silver Line on Division Avenue.  This will be coupled with $7.9 million which will come from the state. A recent increase in millage will fund the operational costs such as driver salaries and gas. The entire BRT project will cost a total of about $39.8 million and is expected to be completed by 2015.


Why Grand Rapids?

The Division Avenue corridor has been neglected over the years and is lined with crumbling, boarded up buildings. It went into decline after the freeways were built and became more heavily utilized. According to Peter Varga, the CEO of The Rapid, “[Division Avenue has] a lot of opportunity in that corridor for growth, development, for new jobs, for residences for people to live.”

This will be the first BRT system in Michigan, but as of recently, there might be a similar initiative in Detroit. Peter Rogoff stated that Grand Rapids, Michigan has the potential to have an effective transit system. He estimates that there are about 30,000 jobs within a quarter-mile of the Silver Line corridor. The BRT will drive in designated lanes and have signal priority during peak travel times.

Benefits to Residents

Residents will benefit greatly from the new BRT within Grand Rapids. With construction starting in 2013, the BRT will travel a 9.6 mile stretch with about 36 stops and will be able to transport passengers between terminals within 27 minutes.

This will significantly reduce travel time, up to about 40% in reduced commuting time. BRT will be a more efficient method in transporting individuals around metro Grand Rapids.


Criticisms against BRT in Grand Rapids

Although there are benefits to having an efficient BRT line, some residents have spoken out about the costs and taxes that are associated with it. Nearly $700,000 will be generated from the recent increase in millage to pay for operational costs; however, the system’s administrators estimate annual costs to be around $2 million.

It is stated that the BRT will benefit Grand Rapids and the 5 surrounding cities and therefore, all six will help fund the line. A group of Walker city residents have stated that only three of the six cities will actually benefit – Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming. As a result, they are seeking to remove Walker from the BRT.


Benefits from Infrastructure or Mobility Projects

When executing on projects that are geared towards improving traffic flow, congestion or mobility in a city, it’s crucial to measure before and after any changes. This will provide a benchmark of the current status and show the success of the project.

For the purposes of this blog article only, if Grand Rapids wanted to show the benefits of the BRT, they could complete two different traffic studies. First, the city could complete a study on traffic volumes with an average daily traffic count. This would show the decrease in congestion pre- and post- BRT. Second, completing travel time studies would show the improved efficiency of the bus routes within the city.

Both of these studies (as well as several others) can be completed easily with Miovision. Check out our traffic studies page for more information.