• Bus rapid transit systems—like the award-winning HealthLine in Cleveland, Ohio, USA—offer transit agencies an effective, lower-cost mobility solution.

file under: Government, North America, Transportation, United States

Rapid Responses for Reliable Transit

Bus Rapid Transit Solutions

Mobility—in every form—can be a challenge in urban areas where the needs of residents and businesses converge. Vital elements from roads to rails and sidewalks to storefronts can either cause congestion or work together to safely and reliably move people and goods.

As part the ongoing focus to create “complete streets,” city transit agencies are looking for ways to connect passengers, lessen traffic, reduce costs and improve quality of life. Bus rapid transit (BRT) is an adaptable solution being used to help improve service along busy corridors. CDM Smith is partnering with transit agencies across the United States to plan, design and implement BRT solutions in cities like Cleveland, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois.

Wheels as a Rail Alternative
“BRT is a transit mode used heavily around the world that continues to gain traction in the United States,” explains Steve Goodreau, CDM Smith principal. “It is an excellent alternative that allows transit agencies to provide higher-speed service using a bus to avoid the cost and difficulty of building a rail system.”

Space, time and cost restrictions can often help point transit projects to BRT. “Many cities need to add capacity and enhance service of their existing systems, but can’t afford the time and money it takes to build rail infrastructure, let alone the room to build it,” shares Tim Sorenson, CDM Smith associate. “With BRT, we leverage available infrastructure and create new opportunities to reduce travel times and increase reliability through techniques like dedicated bus lanes, signal priority and traffic queue jumpers.”

Tour Buses in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital
 BRT Euclid Corridor Before and AfterThe Euclid Corridor project included the complete reconstruction of 5.5 miles of downtown Cleveland.Serving as a template for other transit agencies, the award-winning Euclid Corridor transportation project is an example of successful BRT implementation. CDM Smith partnered with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to design this $200 million, 10-mile BRT system in a dense urban corridor of downtown Cleveland. RTA’s BRT system—dubbed the “HealthLine”—mimics light rail by occupying the street median in a dedicated bus lane with unique stations.

Urban BRT design helped incorporate many needs in a confined space, explains Goodreau. “One of the bigger design and planning challenges was the complete reconstruction of more than 5.5 miles of Euclid Avenue from building face to building face. In a very small and busy area, we had to account for everything—buses, traffic, bikes, pedestrians, landscaping, sidewalks and retail space.” Other passenger and traffic advantages along the system include street and pedestrian lighting, green landscaping, new traffic signals and traffic control systems to better manage bus operations and adjacent traffic.

The Euclid Corridor is a great example of a complete street project, explains Goodreau. “Through innovative planning and design, we were able to help RTA decrease transit times by 25 percent, attract more ridership, reduce congestion, and create green, livable spaces for residents and visitors.” Joseph Calabrese, RTA CEO and president, agrees, “We continue to receive visitors from around the world who are fascinated by the engineering and design of the HealthLine and we’re proud that our vision has become a successful reality.”

Watch CDM Smith's Steve Goodreau and RTA's Joseph Calabrese explain how the HealthLine BRT transformed Cleveland.

BRT Chicago Transit Authority Western Corridor Study AreaWinds of Change in the Windy City
Building on lasting relationships and BRT expertise, CDM Smith partnered with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to conduct an alternatives analysis and environmental review study to implement BRT in the city’s Western and Ashland Avenue corridors. “As our customers are seeking more efficient transit, BRT is an important part of Chicago’s future,” shared Joe Iacobucci, CTA manager of strategic planning and policy. “We were excited to explore how BRT can help enhance connectivity, ridership, livability and economic opportunities for our customers and communities.”  

“This project was a continuation of CDM Smith’s long history with CTA to provide project management, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) services and preliminary engineering on sustainability and environmental projects,” shared Chris Martel, CDM Smith associate. “We have been doing environmental engineering for CTA for two decades—including our current NEPA work on programs to update and expand several rail lines—and were excited to help implement BRT to support and enhance their service.”

The planning and review process was a collaborative effort, describes Sorenson. “We looked at the existing opportunities in the corridor—analyzing where people work, live and travel—planning for the best ways to connect everything. Through a public process, we helped CTA share data and plans with regulators and the community to discuss solutions and meet local, environmental and financial demands.”

Iacobucci explained BRT’s importance, “We are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to help connect our riders to the region. Adding BRT in the Western Corridor will improve service and better connect riders to rail lines, job centers and other resources outside the city center.”

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