The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has come up with an in-depth study on how bus rapid transit (BRT) projects that have been federally funded with grants have promoted economic development in addition to improving riders’ experience.
All 15 of the BRT project sponsors who provided data said that ridership and service had improved as compared to the previous transit system with reduced average travel times of 10 to 35 percent.
Capital costs for BRT projects were generally lower than for rail transit projects. BRT projects accounted for over 50 percent of projects with grant agreements since fiscal year 2005, even though the funding accounted for a small percent of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) “New, Small, and Very Small Starts” grants.
As per the report, local officials believe that BRT projects are contributing to localized economic development. The economic development part in the report begins on page 37 in the “Overview of Case Study Findings” section.
The GAO visited five case study locations that have implemented a BRT project, including Healthline Cleveland, OH; Franklin EmX, Eugene, OR; Troost MAX, Kansas City, MO; Metro Rapid System, Los Angeles, CA; and RapidRide A Line, Seattle, WA.
In Cleveland, Ohio, officials claim Healthline has contributed to rail-like economic development benefits, with an estimated $4-$5 billion worth of investment in the corridor since the Healthline began operations.
City officials in Eugene, Oregon informed GAO that $100 million worth of construction projects are under way downtown near the Franklin EmX line, including a boutique hotel, office space renovations, and expansions to a community college. The University of Oregon is looking to lease space downtown and there has been developer interest in new student housing.
Kansas City, Missouri has won a $25-million federal grant for urban reinvestment, which is being used for a variety of streetscape improvements within a 150 square block area that includes three Troost MAX stations. According to transit agency staff, the area was chosen for federal investment in part due to its proximity to the BRT.
In Los Angeles, California, metro staff attributed a few development projects to the presence of Metro Rapid lines, but noted that other factors have likely influenced most of the development.
In Seattle, Washington, local officials said that developers are interested in the corridor, in part because of complimentary planned light rail service. In addition, they noted that other BRT corridors in the region are attracting transit-oriented development and that BRT will eventually connect most of the region’s significant growth centers.
The GAO report further delves into what particular aspects of a BRT project can fuel economic development. They came up with three major points, as listed below:-
- physical BRT features that convey a sense of permanence to developers;
- major institutional, employment, and activity centers along or near the BRT corridor that can sponsor development projects; and
- transit-supportive local policies and development incentives.
Read the full GAO study on BRT projects and economic development – Download (pdf)