As transit talk continues across the metro, time and again BRT — bus rapid transit — comes up as a possible option for service around the city. It isn't just MARTA that's talking BRT; Cobb County's toying with the idea as well. And with public opinion swinging in favor of transit in places like Gwinnett County, maybe it's time to examine what BRT is all about. Danielle Elkins over at Advanced Atlanta took the time to explain what it'd take to make a functioning BRT system in Atlanta. Her reference point: successful systems around the world.
At the moment, Atlanta has no true BRT lines. Rather, the city's various transit systems from CCT to GRTA operate express buses to and from the region's core. Express buses, while often faster than a local bus, can still get bogged down in traffic. BRT, on the other hand, operates in a dedicated right-of-way not unlike a train line. In fact, while it's much less expensive to implement than rail, BRT operates under many of the same principles, including having stations at far less frequent intervals than normal buses, off-board fare collection and high-capacity vehicles.
Elkins goes through a comprehensive explanation of what a true BRT system could bring to Atlanta. And while her vision of buses "like giant Big Birds" might be a bit farfetched, it's a good start to explaining what's up with BRT.