Bus Rapid Transit

Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a transitway mode that uses bus vehicles while incorporating many of the premium characteristics of light rail or commuter rail.

BRT differs from regular bus service in the following ways:

  • Service Operations: High frequency, all day service, typically 15 minutes or better on the main portions of the route provides a high level of service to customers. In addition, routes typically
    have limited stops except in downtowns and have express service.

  • Running way: These include dedicated busway, bus lanes, HOT lanes, HOV lanes, dynamic shoulder lanes, dynamic parking lanes, bus-only shoulders, or mixed traffic where other options do not exist. Dedicated running ways allow buses to avoid congestion and move more quickly and reliably than in mixed traffic.

  • Technology: Signal priority and driver technology allow buses to move more quickly and reliably. Customer information displays and other technology can improve the customer experience.

  • Identity/Brand: Unique branding of the BRT helps distinguish the line from regular-route services.

  • Stations: Uniquely branded stops with more amenities than a standard local bus stop also differentiates the service from other bus routes and makes it easier for customers to know where the route runs.

  • Vehicles: Vehicles can range from typical 40-foot transit buses to specialized vehicles with a unique look, low floors and additional doors for quicker boarding, automated docking, on-board arrival information, and other specialized features.

  • Fare Collection: Off-board fare collection or fast fare collection where possible to speed boarding times.

BRT facilities are scalable can be added or expanded as needed over time. For example, an express corridor could add a priced lane, and then improve stations and park-and-rides as demand increases. Queue jump lanes or ramp meter bypasses (lanes that allow buses to bypass congestion) can be added as congestion increases. If demand warrants, on-board fare collection can be upgraded to off-board fare collection to speed travel. Because of this, BRT corridors may continuously add new features as population growth and congestion increase demand in a corridor.

Two variations of BRT are proposed for the Twin Cities

BRT on Arterial Streets

Bus Rapid Transit service on arterial streets will use technology and facility improvements to provide a faster, more reliable trip with fewer stops in the region’s most heavily traveled transit corridors and use branding to differentiate the service from regular bus routes.
The Council completed comprehensive study of twelve corridors for this service in 2012. While the study found differing performance and readiness among these corridors, strong existing ridership, planned growth and the cost effective nature of arterial transitway improvements make investments in any of the study corridors by 2030 appropriate.
Current planning assumes six arterial bus rapid transitways will be implemented between 2008 and 2020 and three additional by 2030. The potential arterial bus rapid transitways include:

  • Central Avenue

  • Nicollet Avenue

  • Robert Street

  • Snelling Avenue/Ford Parkway

  • West 7th Street

  • Chicago/Emerson-Fremont Avenue

  • West Broadway Avenue

  • Lake Street

  • East 7th Street

  • Hennepin Avenue

  • American Boulevard

  • Penn Avenue

Metro Transit is currently advancing the region’s first arterial BRT line, Snelling Avenue/Ford Parkway, for a service launch in 2015. Read more about Snelling BRT development.

BRT on Highways

Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) operates primarily on limited access roadways. It can use bus-only shoulders, managed lanes, ramp meter bypasses, priced dynamic shoulder lanes and other running-way advantages to provide reliable, congestion-free travel. Highway BRT provides frequent, all-day station-to-station service, with branded vehicles and improved stations, and can be paired with express service in the same corridor. Some corridors will utilize online stations, allowing boarding of buses in the highway right-of-way.

The Metropolitan Council is currently studying eight highway corridors with relatively high levels of existing peak-hour, commuter transit demand for the feasibility of implementing a Highway BRT model similar to the models envisioned for the I-35W South Transitway (METRO Orange Line) and the Cedar Avenue BRT (METRO Red Line) project.

The eight corridors included in this analysis are:

  • Highway 212

  • Highway 169 in the southwest metro

  • Highway 36

  • Highway 65 in the north metro

  • Interstate 94 in the northwest metro

  • Interstate 35E south of downtown St. Paul

  • Interstate 35E north of downtown St. Paul

  • Interstate 394

At the conclusion of the study in January 2014, the region will have a better understanding of the potential of Highway BRT and can further examine promising corridors in more detail.