Bogota, Curitiba, and Guayaquil are very different South American cities that share something in common: they have the most successful and longest-running BRT systems in the world. BRT stands for Bus Rapid Transit, which is an innovative, low-cost model for making buses run more like express subways. It combines the speed and reliability of fixed-rail transit systems with the flexibility of buses to create a sustainable and efficient mass transit option. To ensure its effectiveness, BRT usually features dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal priority, and a pre-boarding payment system.
Over the past several years, urban planners and engineers in New York City have begun implementing BRT corridors in four of the five boroughs – a system called Select Bus Service (SBS). Each corridor was established along the city’s highest volume bus routes.
- June 2008: The first corridor in the program was established between the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan and Co-op City in the Bronx. It appeared to be a success: by October 2008, ridership along the route was up 7% and travel times had been reduced by 20%;
- October 2010: The city inaugurated SBS service on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan, stretching from Harlem to Manhattan’s southern tip. After a year of service, the route’s ridership was up 9% and speeds have improved by 15-18%;
- November 2011: The newest SBS corridor runs from the East River to the Hudson River on 34th Street in Manhattan. While no data exists yet for the route, the City hopes that BRT will improve pedestrian and traffic congestion in this bustling area;
- Coming 2013: SBS for the borough of Brooklyn will stretch 9.3 miles from Williamsburg to Sheepshead Bay along Nostrand Avenue;
- Coming 2013: The last installment of NYC SBS will service the borough of Staten Island, primarily along Hylan Boulevard. Its design and implementation are still being developed.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) offers an appealing contemporary solution to New York City’s overcrowded subways and gridlocked streets. Will this transit option with humble beginnings in South America see lasting success in the Big Apple?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.