Report from BRT World Conference 2010

By Dennis Hinebaugh

When David Hubbard invited me and my colleagues at the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute (NBRTI) to blog for, my first thought was, “Blogging? Me? Isn’t that for young hipsters or overly opinionated people with too much time on their hands?”

Fortunately, the younger members of my staff prevailed on me that blogs are an important part of the new media and the way information is shared nowadays. They’re right of course. I’ve always enjoyed reading transit related blogs like Streetsblog and Human Transit, and not just for the blogger’s commentary. Sometimes the comments left by the readers are the best part of the piece.

Everyone’s got an opinion as the saying goes. So I’m flattered that BUSRide has asked us to contribute ours. We plan to post bi-weekly and give you our opinions on the latest developments in the world of bus rapid transit (BRT). Whether you think our opinion is spot on, out to lunch, or somewhere in between, we hope you find our blog stimulating. And we want to hear what you think about BRT too.

A national program

The National Bus Rapid Transit Institute is housed at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. We were founded in 2001 with funding from the Federal Transit Administration. Our charge is to create a national program for training, technical assistance, research, innovation and evaluation of existing and proposed BRT projects.

We just recently attended the Bus Rapid Transit World 2010 Conference in Boston. From the presentations we saw, there’s no denying that the developing world is still far ahead of the U.S. when it comes to high-end BRT. We still have a lot to learn here, but we also have much to share. These are exciting times for BRT. Even CNN has taken notice in a recent video of the Las Vegas ACE.

Bus Rapid Transit World 2010 covered a broad range of areas. One that was particularly interesting was about incorporating technologies like transit signal prioritization (TSP). How many of you have tried to suggest this for your area but hit a wall when trying to convince your city or county traffic engineer?

New York and Boston presses forward

One great sound bite I heard was: “Confirm whether it is a real barrier before you stop at that wall.” It was refreshing to hear how New York City and Boston pressed forward with their TSP projects despite initial skepticism from the traffic engineers. The bottom line is TSP has helped speed their buses along and the world didn’t come to an end.

One evening after the conference, we had a chance to take a tour of the Boston Silver Line BRT. The tunnel portion of the route from South Station to Boston’s World Trade Center is quite impressive with very frequent service (three-minute headways during rush hour), a smooth and quiet ride, stations that looked and felt like rail stations, off-board fare collection and a healthy number of riders. We also had the chance to ride the Silver Line above ground on the Washington Street corridor. Again, the service was frequent and the stations had a nice rail-like feel; although, above-ground fare collection occurs on board the vehicles.

While riding the Silver Line along the Washington Street corridor, we noticed significant evidence of economic development with multi-family residences, parks, retail establishments, restaurants and offices. Seeing this reminded me of another memorable nugget from the conference: “Quality public development, such as BRT, will bring quality private development.”

Just how much it will bring is something we at the NBRTI are researching right now. I’m sure it will be one of the topics we report to you later on. Overall, we had a great learning experience in Boston.

Look for our comments on BRT and visit us at We’ll watch for your comments.

Dennis Hinebaugh is director of the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute, Tampa, FL.