Consider Both Cost and Productivity When Evaluating the Financial Viability of Bus Rapid Transit Systems.

A Peer Exchange Event Shared Recommendations and Best Practices for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Systems in Four States.

Date Posted

City of Fresno Peer Exchange on Bus Rapid Transit - A TPCB Peer Exchange

Summary Information

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a technology that combines the efficiency of light rail systems with the flexibility and affordability of bus systems, thereby offering an alternative to traditional, urban public transportation. 

This study presented key recommendations and best practices identified at the peer exchange event on BRT, held on May 21 and May 22, 2013, in Fresno, California. This event was sponsored by the Transportation Planning Capacity Building (TPCB) Peer Program, jointly funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and developed with support from the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute (NBRTI). Peers included representatives from four public transportation agencies from Washington, Ohio, Oregon and California, engaging discussions on a variety of topics such as BRT system design and operation, regulatory and funding environment, population and area characteristics of BRT service area(s), travel behavior within BRT service area(s), economics of BRT service area(s), and community characteristics of BRT service area(s).

Recommendations and best practices for BRT planning and project delivery:

  • Regularly update and assess a comprehensive risk register to ensure project stability. It was suggested in this study to have a risk register, categorizing potential risks from various departments and considering their worst-case scenario impacts and probabilities. By scheduling monthly risk assessment meetings and having a clear process for change orders, agencies can navigate unforeseen challenges while preventing costly delays.
  • Consider both cost and productivity when evaluating the financial viability of BRT systems to avoid any misleading conclusions. As evident from this study, it is crucial to consider not only the cost of operation but also the productivity (e.g., passengers attracted) associated with the BRT service to avoid any misleading conclusions regarding the sustainability of cost-effective operations of the system. As summarized in Table 1, two of the peer agencies reported cost comparisons of BRT and conventional bus services.
    • Lane County, Oregon found that even though the BRT service cost more to operate than traditional bus service, it attracted twice the number of riders, with a savings of 5 cents-per-passenger mile to operate over a traditional bus.
    • The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Agency's BRT system reduced the number of buses in the corridor from 23 to 16 due to increased service efficiency. As a result, overall operating expenses decreased, even though BRT vehicles have a higher per-mile operating cost.


Table 1. Comparison of BRT and Conventional Bus Performance

Lane Transit District, Oregon (LTD)




Cost per vehicle mile




Cost per passenger mile




Cost per unlinked passenger trip




Cost per revenue hour




Passengers per revenue hour




Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Agency, Ohio (GCRTA)




Cost per vehicle mile




Cost per passenger mile




Cost per unlinked passenger trip




Cost per revenue hour




Passengers per revenue hour




Keywords Taxonomy: