Rio de Janeiro’s Transoeste is a gold-standard bus rapid transit corridor.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) today released the first comprehensive BRT Standard, a defining and scoring designation for bus rapid transit (BRT) systems around the world. Similar to the LEED designation for green buildings, BRT corridors may achieve a basic BRT, bronze, silver or gold designation. As a joint effort by the world’s foremost experts in bus rapid transit design, The BRT Standard scored 64 corridors in 41 cities. Of these, 24 classified as bronze, 26 as silver and 12 as gold.

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Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit system from Momentum for Change on Vimeo

Funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, The BRT Standard is the centerpiece of a global effort by leaders in BRT design to establish a common definition for bus rapid transit and to ensure that BRT systems more uniformly deliver world-class passenger experiences, significant economic benefits, and positive environmental impacts.

“Despite the increasing prevalence, prominence and success of BRT systems, many people remain unaware of the characteristics of the best BRT systems and their potential to provide levels of service typically associated with metro and subway systems,” said ITDP CEO Walter Hook. “From Mexico City to Guangzhou, and from Cleveland to Las Vegas, BRT has helped revitalize city centers, speed commutes and improve air quality. The BRT Standard 2013 will clearly define what a BRT is once and for all and our hope is that it encourages cities to adopt this cutting-edge form of mass transit.”

The BRT Standard is important for two reasons. First, it provides cities that are considering BRT with a very straightforward ‘how-to’ guide to ensure a high-quality system, using a blueprint that can be understood by anyone, from engineers to elected officials to local residents,” said Benjamin de la Peña, Associate Director at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Second, the BRT Standard demonstrates how BRT, when built to a high standard, can do much more than moving people from A to B quickly and comfortably. Best-in-class BRT can improve people’s quality of life, produce economic development and jobs, and ultimately help to make entire cities more livable.”

The BRT Standard functions as both a scoring system and a planning tool. By laying out the essential elements of BRT, it provides a framework for system designers, decision makers, and the transport community to identify and implement top-quality BRT systems. The BRT Standard celebrates cities that are leading the way on BRT excellence, and offers best practice-based guidance to those in the process of planning a BRT system. The BRT Standard scores more than 30 elements of BRT corridor design, with points awarded for elements that most significantly improve operational performance. They include:

BRT Basics, e.g. median-aligned busways, dedicated right of way, platform-level boarding, off-board fare collection, and intersection treatments that allow buses to travel more freely through intersections in order to improve speed of transit.

Service Planning, e.g. multiple routes running on the corridor and longer hours of operation to expand access to BRT as a popular mode of transit. 

Infrastructure, e.g. passing lanes at stations, high-quality pavement, and minimized bus emissions to reduce environmental impacts.

Station Design & Station-bus Interface, e.g. wide, weather-protected stations that are more attractive and comfortable to commuters, and multiple doors on buses for faster boarding.

Quality of Service and Passenger Information, e.g. cohesive branding and real-time passenger information to enhance BRT system recognition and ease of use.

Integration and Access, e.g. disability access, integration with other public transport, and bicycle-sharing integration to increase overall usability.

For complete scorecards and a breakdown of categories, please visit brtstandard.org.

Two committees govern The BRT StandardThe Technical Committee and the Institutional Endorsers. ITDP convenes both committees. The Technical Committee comprises globally renowned experts on BRT. This committee serves as a consistent source of sound technical advice with respect to BRT, and is the basis for establishing the credibility of The BRT Standard and related international best practices.