Bus Rapid Transit versus Light Rail Transit, and St. Paul’s East side


Forbes Online yesterday reported on a preview of an upcoming report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Preliminary findings had Forbes titling their article, “Bus Rapid Transit Spurs Development Better Than Light Rail Or Streetcars: Study” After scouring the Internet for two years and listening to many transit experts, I’ve not heard this kind of definitive statement which purports to have strong data behind it. If anything, transit wonks have been lamenting the lack of data on BRT versus LRT across all kinds of measures, and development potential tops the list.

Even this article, though, was quick to point out that planners are using the term “BRT” more and more loosely, describing everything from rapid bus on up to the premium BRT that promises an LRT experience on wheels, featuring high-amenity stations, street beautification, and infrastructure improvements. This blog on Streetsblog Network highlights an example of this challenge of keeping high standards for BRT as planners face the political process.

What does this mean for the East Side? We can expect that the Gateway Commission will stress this report when it comes out on September 24, giving it a leg up on efficient decision-making on its mode, as well as making the lower price tag look like a smart investment to locals and the FTA.

I’d expect to see a lot fewer rails go in the ground as the Met Council brings its regional transportation plan to bear. It’s likely that transit advocates, including believers in Transit-Oriented Development, will attempt to tip the scales toward LRT, settling for only the highest-amenity BRT plans they can get.