new york: instant bus rapid transit

If you ever wondered how fast you could really create a Bus Rapid Transit line, well, New York City has done it just in the last couple of days:


Could use embellishment, but everything you need for speed and reliability looks like it's there.

This happens to be a replacement service for an out-of-service subway line.  For more, see here.

15 Responses to new york: instant bus rapid transit

  1. Mikko November 6, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    Looks like a pretty good demonstration of the capacity of a BRT operated with vehicles of that size, too. The lines of people waiting to board look pretty much like what one might expect when trying to put a subway train load of people on a bus. Not to say that this isn’t a great and timely response to the disaster from the authorities.

  2. John November 6, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Sometimes I wonder why agencies bother going through the lengthy process to get federal funding when they could just reduce the number of stops and give buses priority at congested points. You don’t get everything associated with BRT, but you can get pretty good bang for the buck.

  3. Tom West November 6, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    Many BRT lines could be (mostly) built with paint on the road and some signage. It gets expensive when people insist you can’t reduce road capacity for other vehicles, and so brand new (=expensive) extra lanes are required.
    (It also shows said people think road capacity is measured in vehicles/hour, when it should be in people/hour).

  4. Miles Bader November 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    Of course if you use cones/lines, it’s still not full-fat BRT, as the buses must stop at intersections…
    Better than nothing to be sure, but still a pretty poor replacement for grade-separated high-capacity transit.

  5. John November 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    There’s not a lot of grade-separated BRT lines in the US anyway.

  6. Al Dimond November 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    @John: Some agencies do just reduce the number of stops, give buses priority at congested points, and go for Federal funding based on that, since it basically means new buses courtesy of the Feds. This is pretty much Seattle’s RapidRide.
    And, at that, they didn’t even give buses priority at the most congested points, they gave buses priority at random points that didn’t disrupt SOV traffic and parking (?!?!?) and left some really awful bottlenecks and traffic signals exactly as they were, so speed and reliability are still bad.
    I guess they implemented off-board payment and arrival information in theory, but it’s been pretty spotty (and totally missing in some of the most important parts of the system).

  7. Henry November 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    @John and Miles: That’s the basic premise of the New York SBS system – the MTA is basically slapping new decals on limited-stops services, implementing off-board fare payment and giving buses signal priority (sometimes) and/or exclusive lanes during peak hours (sometimes).
    It does make bus travel faster, and it doesn’t seem particularly expensive, but a big roadblock is “community” opposition to losing parking or traffic lanes.

  8. the Kyle Leon November 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    A rapid transit, underground, subway, elevated railway, metro or metropolitan railway system is a passenger transport system in an urban area with a high capacity and frequency, and grade separation from other traffic..

  9. Eric November 7, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    The extreme expense of building new grade separation is only justified in areas that are so dense that rail is needed to meet the demand. (Or in third world countries where labor is not the main operating expense, so a fleet of buses is as cheap as a one-driver train. Not the case here.)
    Grade-separated BRT only makes sense when your grade separation already exists (for example the Pittsburgh MLK busway). Everywhere else, separate lanes and prepayment and signal priority gets you most of the benefits for a tiny fraction of the cost.

  10. Morgan Wick November 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Most of the cost of BRT is just getting the political will to get it against entrenched pro-car forces.

  11. John November 7, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Mostly I agree, but Brisbane would seem to be a counter-example.

  12. Nathanael November 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    “Many BRT lines could be (mostly) built with paint on the road and some signage. It gets expensive when people insist you can’t reduce road capacity for other vehicles, and so brand new (=expensive) extra lanes are required.”
    Bingo. If BRT meant using paint to replace “general purpose” lanes with bus lanes, I’d be all for it.
    That’s never what it means. When localities want to do that, they just talk about “turning one lane of road X into a bus lane”. BRT is branding for stupid capital projects.

  13. Chris November 11, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Give it a couple of years and I bet the roads will be gridlocked again.

  14. buses chinatown November 15, 2012 at 3:52 am #

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  15. Simon V October 15, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Okay, I’m way too late. but it needs to be said… that’s not a BRT, that’s a dedicated lane with a high number of express buses on it. And the article mentions that the capacity of the dedicated lane was nowhere near the capacity of the subway line it was meant to replace, with lineups 8 people wide 2 blocks long, at off peak time.
    A BRT needs to offer some degree of service, not just link up point A and point B. In Montréal, we have a dedicated bus lane on a bridge to the south shore, yes, it’s good capacity (as many people use it as the one subway line on the South Shore) but it offers no service, it’s essentially a highway for buses. If these buses had to stop at many different points along the way, both speed and capacity would collapse.
    I fear that calling this a BRT is really abusing the term. This is a shuttle service, not rapid transit.

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