The following are commonly asked questions about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). If you don't see an answer to your question below, email Metro Transit.
Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a high-frequency limited-stop transit system that offers faster more direct service using larger vehicles to increase capacity.
BRT’s feature include frequent all-day service, direct routing using fewer stops, transit signal priority, dedicated bus lanes, off-board fare payments, and the use of articulated buses.
There are several transit studies underway that consider the possibility of adding BRT into the Metro Transit system to help alleviate overcrowding, improve travel times through the city, and prepare for the expected increase in mass transit demands in the future.
Metro Transit’s ridership has increased 30% between 2005 and 2011, while annual service hours have increased only 5%. Metro’s biggest complaint from passengers right now is that buses are overcrowded and people are being passed up. A secondary concern is that travel times across the city are too long. It is expected that a BRT in Madison could reduce travel time by almost 40%.
Metro’s bus storage and maintenance facility on East Washington Ave. has reached its capacity. More than 209 fixed route buses and 20 paratransit vans are stored in a facility designed for only 160. Expanding Metro’s bus fleet to provide additional service is not possible without expanding Metro’s maintenance facility.
In addition, studies have shown that BRT’s, using larger vehicles, can increase capacity from 75 to 300%. Articulated buses used in BRT’s can seat 60-65 comfortably, with a standing capacity of 90-100 people. This is compared to a standard 40-ft bus with a seating capacity of only 34-38 and a standing capacity of 53-58 people. BRT offers significantly more capacity using just one driver.
A recent Madison Area Bus Rapid Transit study has estimated that this system would cost between $138 million and $192 million to implement and another $9.8 million annually to run it.
Compared to what other options are available, such as light rail, streetcars, and adding extra standard buses, staff feel that costs per trip via a BRT will be the least expensive and most efficient in terms of reducing travel times.
Funding is a major challenge, given the lack of a dedicated funding source for transit, reduced state operating assistance, reduced federal capital funding, and tight local budgets. However, many local transit studies have all noted that a new funding source, such as provided by a regional transit authority (RTA) is what is needed to maintain, improve and expand transit in the Madison region. An RTA would provide this funding via an expected $.25 cent sales tax in the area.
The pursuit of an RTA was strongly encouraged in a Transit Development Plan recently accepted the Madison Common Council and has also been mentioned as a priority in a recent study released by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
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A Madison BRT would be eligible to receive 50% of its start up funding, including the construction of a new bus garage through a federal grant. This 50% start up funding for vehicles and a facility would not be available if Metro chose to address the problem by simply adding additional buses to its fleet.