Posts Tagged ‘Bus Rapid Transit’

“Misguided” Busway Part 2

September 1, 2010

More news about Cambridge’s “Misguided” bus or BRT. Instead of being simple and cheap alternative to a ‘rail’ solution, the Cambridge BRT is ending up costing  more than reinstating the rail line for DMU/EMU or tram service.

The real question needed to be answered will be: “For all the cost and delay, will the Cambridge guided (BRT) bus attract its projected customers or will it merely be regarded as a local transit curiosity and not attract the all important motorist from the car?”

The yet to be used Cambridge Guided Busway

Guided Busway to Open Next Spring

Chris Elliott

The guided busway may finally be up and running by next spring, the News can reveal.

Sources close to the project have disclosed that at the current rate of progress, it could take about seven or eight months to finish the concrete track completely and get it ready for the first buses to roll.

That will mean an opening date either in March or April 2011 – making the busway more than TWO YEARS late.

As the News reported a few days ago, Cambridgeshire county councillors are due to examine a progress report on the troubled scheme at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, September 7.

The report says that contractor BAM Nuttall has still not fixed six defects in the northern section of the busway, which runs between St Ives and Cambridge.

However, the company is making “good progress” on completing the southern section at Trumpington, and is expected to be finished there by mid-December.

If BAM Nuttall does complete the southern section by mid-December, the council will give the contractor a month to rectify the faults on the northern section – and if that does not happen, the council will step in to do the job itself.

Together with subsequent checks and bus trials, the News understands that this could stretch out the work until March or April – although if con¬struction of the southern section is completed more quickly, the timetable might be brought forward.

The defects identified by the council include raising the level of parts of the maintenance track alongside the busway, which has been flooded, and remedial work on the viaduct at St Ives, where rainwater has leaked through an unsealed joint.

A county council spokesman said the council could not confirm that the busway would open by the spring.
He said: “Whilst the contractor has said they will complete the route by mid-December, we are in their hands until the work has been completed.
“We are very clear that the defects must be rectified and once the route is handed over we will know exactly what work the council will need to carry out and a more precise idea of how long that will take.
“It is frustrating that BAM Nuttall have not finished the job as yet and although damages of over £7 million have already been deducted from the contractor all we really want is the work to be completed so we can get the route open and passengers can start using it.”
Mike Mason, South Cambridgeshire district councillor for Histon and Impington, criticised the delays.

He said: “It’s a political disaster, and it’s never going to make money. The council have completely failed and there is no credibility in any of their statements because they’ve made so many predictions that haven’t happened.

“Any of the political parties on the council could have stopped this a long time ago, and all three political parties share equal blame, but the Cambridge taxpayer is going to pay the price.”


£76m Leigh Guided Busway on hold over cost fears – From the Manchester Evening News

August 31, 2010

Postings in other blogs have been painting an all too rosy a picture of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and this post should level the playing field somewhat. Just as a note, the Cambridge “Misguided Busway” is built on a former railway formation which greatly reduced initial cost estimates and as the guided bus project now stands, it would have been cheaper to reinstate the railway instead! Imagine, a modern LRT line with lawned rights-of-ways, rather than this start concrete guide way needed for the BRT.

The yet to be used Cambridge Guided Busway

£76m Leigh Guided Busway on hold over cost fears

Alan Salter – August 31, 2010Manchester Evening News

A controversial £76m busway plan in Greater Manchester has been put on hold.

A review has been ordered into the Leigh Guided Busway project – which has been on the drawing board since 1996 – even though contracts for vital preparatory work worth £1.3m have already been awarded.

The move comes after Richard Knowles – an Oldham councillor and Salford University professor of transport geography – was sent to Cambridge to see a similar scheme.

The Cambridge busway is infamous in the transport world for spiralling costs and delays. The bill for the 25-mile busway, between Huntingdon and Cambridge, has risen from £54m to £116m and could even reach £160m by the time it opens.

Now, the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition which controls the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority has voted to review the Leigh busway – despite Labour opposition.

The project – linking Wigan, Leigh, Salford and Manchester – would see a special lane built for buses on the East Lancs Road. Four miles of the route – between Leigh and Ellenbrook – would see specially-adapted buses using ‘guided’ concrete tracks along the path of an old railway line.

Keith Whitmore, vice-chairman of the authority, said: “We are talking about a review which will take weeks rather than months. It would look at the costings and the way it operates in the light of what has happened in Cambridge.

“I visited Utrecht where they rejected the building of a second busway and decided to build a tram line instead. There is also the question of how the Leigh busway would operate – who exactly will use it has never really been tackled.

“If the review shows that everything is fine, then it can go ahead. But there has never been unanimous support for it.”

Dubbed the ‘misguided busway’ by opponents, the project has been seen in some quarters as a sop to Wigan and Leigh – which are not included in plans to expand the Metrolink.

For more on Cambridge’s ‘Misguided‘ busway:


From Bus to Light Rail

August 24, 2010



Light Rail.

The following Master’s Degree Project – Ottawa’s Transit Busway to Light Rail by David James, is well worth a read.

From the Light Rail Now Folks: Busting “BRT” Mythology – LA’s “Orange Line” Busway – “Just Like Rail, But Cheaper?”

September 3, 2009


It seems the media and local politicians keep referring to Bus Rapid Transit or BRT as a transportation solution for METRO Vancouver’s ‘lesser taxpayers’ in the Fraser Valley, yet very few politicians and media types clearly understand what BRT is, or even how successful it has been in past applications. BRT despite the hype and hoopla, has not had a successful career and its more expensive cousin ‘guided-bus’, has not provided the modal break-through that was anticipated. Yet this is not reported in the media!

Ask the BRT lobby in the Metro area these two questions:

  1. “If BRT is so successful, why has Ottawa, after spending hundred’s of millions of dollars on busways for BRT, instead has now invested in Diesel LRT (TramTrain) and now wanting to build with LRT instead?”
  2. Why, in Adelaide Australia, after building with expensive O-Bahn guided-bus, no more BRT being planned for and transit officials instead building more O-bahn, refurbished an 80 year old tramway and brought it up to light rail standards?

Busting “BRT” Mythology

Light Rail Now Project Team – October 2006

With this commentary, Light Rail Now continues a series we’re calling Busting “BRT” Mythology – a discussion intended to examine claims of so-called “Bus Rapid Transit” by its proponents and to evaluate and contrast these claims with actual experience. This article is the third installment in this series.

Promoters of so-called “Bus Rapid Transit” (“BRT”) have been promulgating a wide range of claims about this mode of bus deployment – mostly on the theme that it’s “rapid transit on rubber tires” and “just like rail transit, but cheaper”. Typically, “BRT” is promoted as a supposedly superior alternative to light rail transit (LRT).

The hype surrounding a proposed “BRT” system in San Bernardino is typical. A spokeswoman for San Bernardino County’s transit agency, Omnitrans, told the Press-Enterprise (30 January 2006) that “The idea is to use rubber-tired vehicles, but operate them much like a light-rail service.” Thus, “You can become more time competitive with the automobile without the additional cost of light rail.”

Los Angeles’s new “Orange Line” busway is perhaps the premier recent example of “BRT” – an approximately 14-mile route, almost entirely on an exclusive former railway alignment except for approximately a half-mile loop in mixed traffic on the western end (serving Warner Center). The line, installed at a cost of $330 million, currently serves 13 stations, linking the western part of the San Fernando Valley with the North Hollywood Red Line rail rapid transit (metro) station. (See map below.) in many respects, the route and infrastructure do resemble those of LRT, with well-defined stations with platforms (except in the mixed-traffic segment), ticket vending machines (TVMs), shelters, and other appurtenances and amenities. Thus, the “Orange Line” represents an excellent case study of how well the claims for “BRT” – especially that it’s “just like rail” – match the reality.
[Map: Transit Rider website]


So, how does the “Orange Line” actually measure up in comparison to LRT and other rail systems? in our article Rail Transit vs. “Bus Rapid Transit”: Comparative Success and Potential in Attracting Ridership, several aspects of the “Orange Line” busway are contrasted with those of LA’s new Gold Line LRT system serving the Pasadena area east of central LA. As the article notes,

because of electric propulsion, better level crossing protection, and other factors, the Gold Line LRT provides an 18% faster schedule speed than the Orange Line “BRT”.

Furthermore, based on the fact that the “Orange Line” operates in a more mature corridor with far greater density, and serves “at least 40% more major activity centers than does the Gold Line”, our analysis concludes that “the Orange Line busway’s ridership is approximately 24% lower than one would expect from a comparable LRT service in the same corridor.”

However, performance statistics and calculations can reveal only so much – and certainly, there are even more deficiencies in “BRT” operations than our previous analysis can address. As usual, “a photo is worth a thousand words” … so selected photos – most of them taken by Light Rail Now Project representatives during a recent visit to LA – may help to illustrate the “Orange Line” facility and pertinent issues associated with it.

The Light Rail Now Project team emphasize that our criticisms are directed at questioning the contention that “BRT” is “just like rail, but cheaper…” – a claim which we regard as unsupportable and misleading. On the whole, LA’s “Orange Line” is an excellent higher-quality transit facility, and a vast improvement over the usual types of bus operations that must continuously contend with private motor vehicle traffic. As we indicate in our article cited above,

Certainly, there is no question that the Orange Line “BRT” is a major transit improvement in the corridor it serves (and, given applicable legal restrictions constraining LACMTA, a busway was effectively the agency’s only option for implementing a high-quality, rapid public transport service in the available former railway alignment).

Brisbane Reality Check: The high cost of “cheap” busways – From the Light Rail Now Folks

June 8, 2009

The following is from the Light Rail now folks in the U.S.A. It certainly blows the lid off the BRT crowd, when it comes to the claim that BRT is cheaper than light-rail.

When one hears Kevin Falcon or other Valley Liberal MLA’s claim that BRT must come first because it is cheaper than LRT, remind them of this posting and the cost for BRT in Brisbane Australia!

The ultimate in bus rapid transit (BRT) guided bus or O-Bahn
The ultimate in bus rapid transit (BRT) guided bus or O-Bahn

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
5 June 2009

Brisbane Reality Check: The high cost of “cheap” busways

In the ongoing battle between backers of light rail transit (LRT) and the rather blurry concept dubbed “bus rapid transit” (“BRT” ), Brisbane (capital of Queensland, and Australia’s third-largest ciry, on the country’s eastern coast) is definitely one of the hottest flashpoints, with Queenslland Premier Anna Bligh touting “BRT” busways as costing about half as much to build as LRT, and Transport Minister John Mickel advancing the merits of a “tramway-style” LRT system.

First, some background on Brisbane’s public transport system…

The city’s pervasive and efficient light rail electric tramway (streetcar) network was scrapped in the 1960s during the worldwide Transit Devastation era (when most city officials and planners were doing all they could to “motorize” their local travel and promote public dependency on personal motor vehicles running on public roadways).

In this process, as the electric tramways were ripped out, they were replaced by motor buses running on petroleum fuel (believed to be forever cheap and abundant). Fortunately, Brisbane’s legacy regional passenger rail (RPR) transit system relained, to evolve into today’s efficient Citytrain system, reaching some 382 km (237 miles) of route throughout the metro area.

In recent years, the need for a more rapid, medium-capacity surface transit system has sparked a debate between advocates of light rail transit (LRT) – basically, a re-introduction of tramways and “BRT”, operating on both dedicated busways and streets. In 2000, “BRT” won the initial round, with the opening of the first of the region’s busways. Now 19.3 km (12 miles) of busway serve the Brisbane metro area, carrying some 100,000 weekday rider-trips. Promoters are claiming supposedly lower costs and greater “flexibility” as reasons to favor more “BRT” development rather than a light rail transit (LRT) system, proposed as an alternative by rail advocates.
One reason for the high cost of busways is the need for passing lanes at stations to enable capacity approaching that of rail but high ridership results in serious queuing of buses. Imagine your waiting time if you’re trying to catch your bus home after work, but it’s somewhere in that “conga line” of “BRT” buses trying to access the station!

In Brisbane as elsewhere, proponents of “BRT” typically mix-and-match design criteria and lowball investment estimates in their campaign to assert that “BRT” is “just like light rail, but cheaper”

The claim that busways are “cheaper” than light rail merits examining with considerable skepticism as Light Rail Now has done repeatedly, in numerous articles on this website.

See: “Bus Rapid Transit” Analyses and Articles

In terms of capital investment cost, our research of Brisbane’s busway projects hardly justify the claim of “low cost” compared with LRT.

Obtaining the costs of Brisbane’s busway projects is not particularly easy the public agencies involved don’t publicize them to facilitate access. However, thefollowing two documents (recently available) have proven to be an extremely helpful source of basic information needed:

Public Transport Mode Selection: A Review of International Practice

State of Queensland (Queensland Transport) 2009 Busways

Splicing together data from these two sources, we’ve been able to ascertain the actual cost, converted to current (2009) US dollars, of several of Brisbane’s major busway projects, as follows:

South East Busway (completed 2001):
15,6 km (9.7 mi), US$421 million
$27 million/km
$43 million/mile

 Inner Northern Busway (completed 2008):
4.7 km (2.9 mi), US$408 million
$87 million/km
$141 million/mile

Northern Busway Project (currently under way):
1.2 km (0.7 mile), US$158 million
$132 million/km
$214 million/mile

These unit capital costs seem staggering, and it leaves little wonder why they are not more readily publicized by the authorities and “BRT” promoters.

These costs are particularly striking in comparison with the costs of LRT lines on exclusive rights-of-way (comparable to busways). There is no project in Ausralia in such an alignment (the Adelaide LRT was an upgrade of an existing railway alignment), but two projects in US urban areas could be considered comparable:

 Charlotte Lynx LRT, South corridor (completed 2007):
9.6 mi (15.5 km), US$496 million
$32 million/km
$52 million/mile

Sacramento Folsom LRT extension (completed 2004):
7.4 mi (11.9 km)
$25 million/km
$41 million/mile

(Again, all costs above expressed in 2009 US dollars.)

These comparative costs would certainly seem to call into strong question the claim of “BRT” promoters in Brisbane and elsewhere that busways are significantly “lower-cost” investments than LRT lines.

Bus Rapid Transit or BRT – Does it deliver?

January 4, 2009

The bus lobby are quick to jump on the Bus Rapid Transit or BRT bandwagon, yet fail to point to any one BRT  that has attracted the all important motorist from the car. While new LRT/tram operations have seen major jumps in ridership, ridership figures for new BRT systems have been disappointing. Ottawa is on record though as experiencing between 1981 and 1996 a ridership decline of 18% which probably played a major part in that city’s decision to stop building busways and to concentrate in future on diesel light rail and LRT expansion.

The following is a “Discussion Document” from the Light Rail Transit Association and contains, not so much useful information, rather how comparisons between LRT and BRT can be skewed to favour buses.



This discussion document will deal principally with an attitude change by the US General Accounting Office (GAO), which has sparked widespread controversy and criticism for what many professionals have described as an amalgam of misinformation, factual errors, serious anomalies and, in many instances, questionable data. The GAO report was written at the behest of several congressional representatives, some of whom played front- line roles in boosting highway expansion and opposing major transit projects.

“It should be noted that much of the data included in the GAO report has been proven to be faulty and must be regarded as highly controversial and not accepted as reliable by a consensus within the transportation planning profession” (2).


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has begun to support the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) concept as an alternative to building light rail systems, and promotes this policy with the slogan “Think Rail, Use Buses”. A figure used to suggest that buses can provide equivalent attributes to rail, but at lower cost, is deceptive. An average (BRT) construction cost figure often includes in the performance characteristics the simple marking of street lanes for 12 mph service, in no way rapid transit. The equivalent average given for LRT included subway or tunnel (included in a few systems) but was omitted from the BRT average cost. The costly BRT subway in Seattle for instance was inadvertently omitted from the study.

That relatively few BRT projects were ready for funding was claimed to be because of the newness of the concept, among other reasons. BRT is hardly new, being first known in Newark in 1938. A second known BRT was on the Ardmore route of the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co, converted from LRT in 1967. Its effect turned out to be an increase in operational costs and a 15% loss of patronage. This result was consistent with transit officials noting the poor public image of buses. A comparatively recent example of this followed in Northern Virginia when their BRT opened in 1970 and then continued to lose passengers ever since the 1980 energy crisis. Patronage is now down to about 67%.


Pittsburgh’s first BRT was opened in 1977 with an estimated patronage of 32 000 each weekday. The service now averages 14 500. The current West BRT in Pittsburgh was estimated to attract 50 000 weekday passengers but so far has attracted about 6 000 (4). This compares with an independent estimate for rail operation which forecast 20 000 weekday passengers.


GAO reported the hourly cost on selected bus systems as USD84.72, as against USD161.48 on LRT in the same cities. The capacity figures used were 50 on buses and 110 on LRT. A simple calculation puts a bus passenger cost at USD1.69 per hour as against USD1.47 for an LRT passenger. On a mileage basis, an actual cost for an express bus in Dallas, the only place where the data was segregated out, was given as 46 cents per passenger mile. It is of interest to look a little deeper, at either San Diego or Saint Louis for instance, where the LRT passenger mile cost in 1998 was 18.5 cents. Were these well-performing systems deliberately left out ?

GAO’s fig.7 is replete with errors (5) and is very much at odds with the FTA’s 1998 figures. The cost in Los Angeles per bus hour is not USD56 but USD93.72 and per LRT hour is not USD434 but USD253.94. This goes some way towards invalidating the GAO findings.


One of GAO’s findings was that the top capacities of BRT and LRT were quite similar. This though is not borne out by fact with busways averaging about 15 000 per weekday as against 29 000 on LRT. The Blue line to the CBD in Los Angeles carries well over 63 000 and is the reason why “transit officials” told GAO that passengers prefer rail.


GAO’s 56 mph BRT speed must be without any stops for passengers. The LRT figure is not unrealistic at 16 mph for slower lines making stops and with the turnaround time at each terminus included, but 20 mph would be better. GAO’s speed for LRT in Denver as 11 mph was distorted because this is for the downtown section of the route. Full route speed is 23 mph. The 35 mph bus speed only applies to an isolated freeway section. The entire Green line LRT in Los Angeles averages 35 mph, which includes stops and a daily load of 33 000. LRVs, although with have good acceleration and, are also good on grades. Bus drivers sometimes have to turn off the air conditioning to climb grades at reasonable speeds, not a problem with electric LRVs.


Passengers don’t respond well to bus flexibility; – GAO assumes that the BRT title adds incentive to bus use; – the change from express bus to a stopping bus in Denver more than doubled patronage; – poor ridership on Detroit’s people mover shows that passengers prefer a park + ride served by LRT; – for a given mileage buses have an 80% increase in reported injuries; – the air quality is improved in CBDs when transportation is with LRVs.


Surprise and concern has been expressed after the Maryland Transportation Secretary’s announcement that the proposed Purple Line light rail route is under serious consideration to be a future rapid bus system instead. Described as a Super Street Train, it would be a cheaper and more mobile alternative to rail and, although there is a history of consumers preferring light rail to traditional buses, “we would like people to keep an open mind”.


A discussion document on a topical transit mode would fail in its purpose if it only looked at quality as a function of economy and became totally obsessed with low price, and consequently failed to address the many disadvantages of an economy- based decision. A transit system with low passenger appeal contributes little towards solving a mobility and traffic congestion problem. This has recently been dramatically demonstrated in Leeds where, despite two new guided bus corridors, the city is about to install a Supertram system.


  1. “LIGHT RAIL NOW” has produced a report – GAO’s “BRT” REPORT ERRORS, ANOMALIES, MISINFORMATION – with a sub-heading “LIGHT RAIL PROGRESS – DECEMBER 2002” ( The GAO report ( was dated September 2001.
  2. LIGHT RAIL PROGRESS – page 2. (see above for details)
  3. Presented to a meeting of the RESEARCH BOARD COMMITTEE A1E12, Light Rail, in January 2002 by Edson L Tennyson PE, Transportation Consultant and former Deputy Secretary of Transportation for the State of Pennsylvania.
  4. LIGHT RAIL PROGRESS – page 4. (see reference 1 for details)
  5. LIGHT RAIL PROGRESS – page 5. (see reference 1 for details)
  6. Michael H Cottman – Washington Post Staff Writer – Washington Post page B02 – Friday 7th March 2003.

Produced by F A Andrews – for the LRTA Development Group – March 2003