Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Buses are run along central line in the Bus Rapid Transit system in Seoul on Jan. 25, 2010 (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images/Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)
Buses are run along central line in the Bus Rapid Transit system in Seoul on Jan. 25, 2010 (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images/Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

Express bus corridors increasingly popular transit option Add to ...

The TTC already operates a handful of "Rocket routes," some of which travel on highways for portions of their trips. But the buses on all of these routes operate in mixed traffic from start to finish.

Ottawa and Vancouver are two Canadian cities with longer histories of express bus service. Their experiences were successful, but population growth and congestion prompted them to increasingly turn to light-rail transit.

Ottawa, in fact, has long operated one of North America's most successful BRT networks, moving 230,000 people on an average weekday. But the system is experiencing congestion problems in the downtown area and it's expected to reach peak capacity by 2017. In response, the city plans to replace some portions of its BRT with an underground light-rail line to serve the downtown core.

So, could Toronto meet more of its transit needs with BRT? There is no simple answer.

Adrienne Batra, press secretary for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, said the mayor's preference is for "enhanced bus service" on Finch Avenue West and that he hopes the process moves forward in a timely manner.

Express bus service design features include widely spaced stops that function more like streetcar or LRT platforms. Most operate some kind of prepaid, proof-of-payment ticketing to expedite loading and unloading.

Light-rail supporters, however, observe that trains have longer operating lives, lower overall maintenance costs and lower costs per operator because they carry more passengers than buses. Roads also tend to require more frequent repairs than rail.

Indeed, BRT hasn't always won the day in Mississauga. Last year, Mississauga City Council endorsed LRT instead of rapid bus service for its master plan of Hurontario Street and Main Street. A major reason for the decision was that developers said they prefer the sense of permanence attached to light-rail transit.

LRT advocates often argue that light rail has better interaction with the streetscape and is a better way of achieving dense, transit-oriented development than BRT.

With a report from Renata d'Aliesio

......................................................................................................................................................................................................................

AROUND THE WORLD - IN AN EXPRESS BUS LANE

From Curitiba, Brazil, to Guangzhou, China, many cities have had success with this transit option

While Bus Rapid Transit is a novel technology in most of North America, other cities around the world have experimented with it for decades. As populations grow and gas prices rise, more cities are catching on to BRT:

Curitiba, Brazil has the oldest and still the largest BRT system in the world. It carries two million people a day and is regularly used by as many as a third of the city's inhabitants. The Curitiba example has inspired other Latin American cities such as Bogota and Mexico City to adopt large-scale BRT systems.

The new BRT service in Guangzhou, China's third largest city, moves 800,000 people a day across a network that stretches 275 kilometres and was built at one-tenth of the cost of a subway extension. Although the buses are often congested - up to one every 10 seconds in the peak hour - they still move on average 30 per cent faster than before, when they operated in mixed traffic.

New York launched its first service in the Bronx in 2008. When it achieved 20-per-cent faster travel times and boosted ridership by over 5,000 passengers a day, the city moved quickly to create a city-spanning enhanced bus service network. The newest line travels from 126th Street in the East Bronx to the South Ferry at the tip of Manhattan. Transit experts generally consider this an example of "BRT light" since it consists mainly of painted laneways rather than physically separated lanes.

Los Angeles' Orange Line BRT opened in 2005. It runs 22.5 kilometres and carries nearly 27,000 people every day. There are concerns that the line is so popular that it has become a victim of its own success, nearing its peak capacity within a short time of its opening, far sooner than was expected.

In Vancouver, in 2006, a decision was made to replace the highly successful, five-year-old bus corridor in Richmond with LRT, in order to have greater capacity. The experience has not discouraged British Columbia from pursuing BRT. To the contrary, the province will invest $1.2-billion on nine new BRT routes through the high-growth urban centres of Kelowna, Victoria and Metro Vancouver over the coming decade.

Ottawa has long operated one of North America's purest and most successful BRT networks, moving 230,000 people on an average weekday. But the system is now experiencing congestion problems in the downtown area where buses meet mixed traffic, and it is expected to reach its peak capacity by 2017. In response, the city is planning to replace some portions of its BRT with an underground light-rail line that will serve the downtown core.

Jonathan Yazer

Single page
 

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular