Bus Rapid Transit and Development: Policies and Practices that Affect Development Around Transit
The development of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems is relatively recent in the United States, but several systems are in operation and more are advancing. There is a need for a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between land use and BRT system development, particularly in comparison to other fixed-guideway modes such as heavy and light rail. While recognizing that existing land uses have an important and complex influence on the development costs and benefits of fixed-guideway projects, this research focuses primarily on the impact such projects have had on existing and future land uses and economic development, as well as the policies and practices that have been used by local governments that have the potential to affect development. Finally, additional note has been taken as to whether the benefits and incentives offered along transit corridors between Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) are equitable in cities where both modes operate.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is growing in popularity and gaining more attention as more cities look to develop new means of rapid transit. There is a need, however, for a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between land use and BRT system development, particularly in comparison to other fixed-guideway modes such as light rail (LRT). This research will discuss current or potential development impacts along BRT corridors in North America, and the policies and practices that have been implemented within each respective city that has the ability to affect development patterns around transit. To allow for further consideration in regard to equitable implementation and allocation of policies and incentives for development between BRT and LRT, the cities that were selected for discussion are those in which both modes operate.
Summary of Findings and Recommendations
Development along BRT corridors has often been encouraged through different land use policies or practices that have been established and adopted by local governing agencies or by other contributing organizations. It is therefore understood that a particular city’s approach to the transit culture has the ability to shape and determine whether or not development occurs and if it will be successful. These policies and the local climate may be more of an important factor than the issue of permanence of a transit system.
Significant development has occurred along the Boston Silver Line and, although some may question whether or not the development has occurred because of the BRT or because the areas were slated for redevelopment, this may not be the most important issue; what has been shown is that the city has included BRT in their policies and plans and labeled it as a rapid transit mode that is significant and capable of supporting both development and the resulting increased demand for transit ridership in those particular locations. The cities of Boston, Ottawa, and New York have each implemented parking mitigation measures in an effort to increase transit ridership and decrease congestion. Although these policies may not have been directly implemented in an effort to encourage transit oriented development, they have the potential to result in an increased demand in transit and greater density development around transit stations.
When evaluating policies that encourage economic development and whether or not they are equally applied to both BRT and LRT, the research has found the following:
- In Baltimore, the establishment of Maryland Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) zones supports rail development. Bus Rapid Transit has not been included in any incentive programs or policies. BRT begins operation.
- Along the Orange Line in Los Angeles, transit oriented development has not been significant, yet a great deal of development has occurred at the North Hollywood station, where both rail and BRT stations are located. There are many incentives available to developers but public demand and developer appeal will determine which areas are developed in the future.
- In New York City, there are no specific incentives for BRT or LRT; future plans and development seem to favor mass transit in general. Environmental impacts may become a deciding factor of which system utilizes the possible benefits.
- There are no specific incentive programs or incentives for corridor based development in Pittsburgh, but the passage of the Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Act laid the foundation for TODs to be implemented. The legislation has no specific qualifier that would exclude BRT or LRT.
Future amendments, resolutions, and policies could improve incentive based BRT development and truly differentiate it from LRT. As it stands today, there are no noticeable differences between the incentives offered by the studied cities for BRTs and LRTs. The development around mass transit corridors seems to be dependent upon public support and developer interest with various factors determining the interest in the corridor development.