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Research Projects (2001-02)

Identifying Number


Project Title

Bus Rapid Transit: An Examination of Political Feasibility Using Case Studies


North Dakota State University

Project Investigator

Jill Hough
Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute
North Dakota State University

External Project Contact


Project Objective

The objective of this study is to develop a framework (identify factors, issues, challenges, etc.) that can be used by communities that are considering implementing a BRT system.

Project Abstract

Many cities in the United States would like to implement light rail service. However, the high implementation cost impedes many cities and forces them to look for alternative transportation options. As a result, several cities are considering Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). A BRT system is a progressive transit system that makes use of buses. The buses usually operate in a designated bus lane, but may also operate segments with mixed traffic. Furthermore, the BRT system makes use of technologies to further increase efficiencies of serving the clients, e.g., signal priority, precision docking, etc. The system is much like a light rail system, except it can be implemented and maintained at a fraction of the cost. Curitiba, Brazil implemented the first recognizable BRT System. Many cities have followed, particularly international cities in France, Germany, and Canada. Curitiba's system has been an asset to the city as a result of the city planning efforts over a period of 30 years. Bus Rapid Transit gained greater national attention in the United States with the enactment of TEA-21. The transportation legislation provides funding for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to select and oversee BRT demonstration sites in the United States. There are 10 demonstration BRT systems in the planning or implementation stages at this time. In addition there are approximately seven other cities within the U.S. that are implementing BRT, but are not receiving federal demonstration funds. Each of these BRT sites belong to the BRT Consortium, which is sponsored by the FTA.

Four cities will be selected as case studies to investigate the key political factors involved in BRT. The cities will be selected based on specific criteria such as population size, technologies implemented, and whether the system is a "true" BRT or a hybrid BRT with only select BRT features adopted, e.g., guided system or mixed traffic system, low floor doors or regular doors, etc. In-depth interviews and surveys will be conducted for each of the case study cities. Interviews of Transit managers and key city officials will be conducted primarily to identify key political factors that may impede or support BRT. In addition, surveys of transit employees and other local officials along with city residents will be conducted to identify their perceptions of the factors involved in the selection of BRT for the city. Economic factors will be evaluated primarily through budgets and revenue forecasts.

One of the proposed tangible results of this research project will be a "decision tree" which will be developed as part of the research framework. The decision tree would provide a framework for communities that are considering implementing BRT to use to aid in their decision process. The decision tree will help them determine if BRT is an appropriate option for their community.

Task Descriptions

  • Task 1 – Conduct a literature review (August 2001)
    • 1.1. Bus Rapid Transit
    • 1.2. Political Feasibility
    • 1.3. Theory of Public Choice
    • 1.4. Land-use policies
    • 1.5. Case study selection
    • 1.6. Other relevant topics
  • Task 2 – Select Case Study Cities (September 2001)
    • 2.1. Identify potential case study cities (BRT Consortium members)
    • 2.2. Develop criteria for case study selection
    • 2.3. Select four case study cities
  • Task 3 – Develop the study sample frame (September 2001)
    • 3.1. Transit Agencies
    • 3.2. Local Officials
    • 3.3. Residents
  • Task 4 – Design a survey instrument for each of the three sample groups. The surveys will be of similar nature so that comparisons can be made among the groups (October 2001).
    • 4.1. Surveys will identify political factors and institutional issues that would be of importance to each of the groups.
    • 4.2. Other questions will be developed and tailored to each of the specific groups.
  • Task 5 – Conduct the initial survey and collect the necessary data (February 2002).
    • 5.1. Mail surveys to sample population
    • 5.2. Input survey data
    • 5.3. Analyze the data collected in the initial survey
  • Task 6 – Develop a method to classify the factors identified such as "maybe important", "will not work", "less important" (April 2002).
  • Task 7 – Identify/Develop thresholds for select factors for community planners to measure before determining if they want to actively pursue BRT (May 2002).
  • Task 8 – Develop a framework (factors, issues, challenges, experiences from areas which implemented BRT) that can be used by communities that are considering implementing BRT (June 2002).
  • Task 9 – Develop a written report (June 2002).
    • 9.1. Develop an executive summary to the research findings.
    • 9.2. Deliver the written report and executive summary to MPC and FTA.

Milestones, Dates

  • Starting Date: July 1, 2001
  • Project Milestones: See above tasks.
  • Ending Date: June 30, 2002

Yearly and Total Budget


Student Involvement


Relationship to Other Research Projects

Continuation from Year 13 project entitled "Attitudinal Analysis of Bus Rapid Transit."

Technology Transfer Activities

Provide information to the FTA and cities considering BRT.

Potential Benefits of the Project

This study will be useful to cities considering implementing a BRT system.

TRB Keywords

Bus Rapid Transit, busways, political feasibility

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050