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A review of technological improvements in bus rapid transit (BRT) and buses with high level of service (BHLS)


Bus rapid transit BRT, and its European counterpart buses with high level of service BHLS, have been adopted by more than 160 cities around the world as a low cost, rapid implementation option for improved transit services. This paper summarizes some past advances of BRT and BHLS and presents some trends in vehicle guidance, propulsion technologies and information systems which are shaping the future of bus systems. We use the cities of Curitiba, Paris, Bogotá, Santiago, Istanbul, and Guangzhou to present relevant breakthroughs in bus system evolution. Thanks to the advances pioneered in these cities, BRT and BHLS became feasible alternatives to or complement metro and trams, and an integral part of integrated transit solutions, even in megacities like Mexico, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, and New York. Evolution is ongoing; cities and providers are advancing technological components to enhance passenger experience and improve the technical, economic and environmental performance of BRT and BHLS.

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    Adapted from the general definition of technology provided by, Visited 14 May 2013.

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    Diaz and Hinnebaugh (2009) and Levinson et al. (2003b) indicate that BRT applications can go from very simple (BRT Light) to very complex (Full BRT). BRT Light involves some priority measures and service enhancements, while Full BRT involves busways, stations, overtaking lanes, vehicles, control and information technology, complex service plan with multiple routes inclusive of express services, and distinctive image. It is important to note that each application should be tailored to the demand needs and corridor constraints and not all applications need to be full BRT.


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This research was supported by the Bus Rapid Transit Centre of Excellence ( funded by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF). The authors also gratefully acknowledge the research support provided by CEDEUS, CONICYT/FONDAP 15110020. An abridged version of this paper was published by VREF (2011). The draft paper was presented in CASPT 12. Names of some manufacturers and system providers are mentioned in the paper with the purpose of illustration; this does not constitute endorsement of their products or services. We thank Dr. Robin King for revising the manuscript and we appreciate the comments from anonymous reviewers. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of their institutions or the funders.

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Correspondence to Darío Hidalgo.

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Hidalgo, D., Muñoz, J.C. A review of technological improvements in bus rapid transit (BRT) and buses with high level of service (BHLS). Public Transp 6, 185–213 (2014).

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  • BRT
  • BHLS
  • Running way guidance
  • Vehicle propulsion technologies
  • ITS
  • Curitiba
  • Paris
  • Bogota
  • Santiago
  • Istanbul
  • Guangzhou