What the heck is BRT?

“BRT” stands for Bus Rapid Transit. But here’s the weird thing … it’s not a bus.

BRT combines the best of traditional busses and light rail systems, so transportation experts consider it a distinct form of transit. It’s characterized by features including fast and frequent service, boarding at platform level (like a rail car), dedicated travel lanes, and ticket kiosks at BRT stops (like a rail system). This setup provides the efficiency and convenience of light rail at a much lower cost. 

So, it’s not a new “bus line” or even an “express bus” – BRT is an entirely new type of public transit system

Ok, forget the transit-nerd details for a minute, and focus on this. Cities that implement BRT enjoy all kinds of benefits:

Increased transit ridership 

People love to ride BRT because it’s convenient and efficient. Cleveland’s BRT line (similar to the one coming to RVA) saw a 58% jump in ridership over the comparable bus line. Eugene, Oregon, saw a 50% increase in ridership in just one month. More people on public transit means reduced traffic congestion, fewer dangerous accidents and a healthier environment.

Economic growth

Since a BRT line requires infrastructural development (like dedicated lanes, new stations, and median improvements), businesses and developers know it’s there to stay. So what do they do? They build! In Cleveland, that translated into $5.8 billion in development driven by the BRT line. In Richmond, BRT is expected to increase property values by $1.1 billion and to generate $4 million per year in extra property tax revenue in the long run – enough to cover the operating costs of the BRT line. 

Other awesome stuff

Because of they way it’s built, BRT is more accessible for people with strollers, walkers and bikes. The Richmond BRT line is projected to save current bus riders 36 hours per year in transit time and to save current car drivers $816 per year in transit costs. It’s also projected to reduce crash rates by up to 31%, in addition to a long list of other benefits. 

Deep dive

For far more info, check out resources below: 

RVA News - Bus Rapid Transit FAQ

Bus Rapid Transit: An Overview” Herbert Levinson, Samuel Zimmerman, Jennifer Clinger, Scott Rutherford Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2002


"Making Things Happen with Bus Rapid Transit - Part I" (7 min) 

"Ticket to Ride: Bus Rapid Transit" (Transportation leaders from across the country explore issues of livability and connectivity through bus rapid transit projects, and discuss their potential in Chicago)