In recent years the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (Transportation Authority) has been busily planning new bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors for San Francisco. Three important transit corridors are currently in some stage of planning and development. Today, these corridors alone serve more than 100,000 daily transit boardings, so BRT could greatly improve daily travel experiences for many people.

Numerous methods are available for estimating the operational impacts of the various BRT alternatives under consideration. These range from sketch planning methods to advanced computer simulations. At one extreme, sketch planning methods may be quick and affordable, but often lack detailed nuance relevant to actual operations. At the other extreme, advanced simulation models can be expensive, time consuming, and difficult to calibrate effectively. Despite complexity and cost they may not be able to directly assess all of the features under consideration. Furthermore, there is a tradeoff between analysis necessary for environmental clearance and analysis that helps a transit agency select the best project. Within all this complexity it is often unclear what approaches are most appropriate for evaluating a particular project.

In order to better understand the tradeoffs between different analysis methods the Transportation Authority is conducting interviews of operators and agencies that have experience studying and implementing BRT projects. The goal of these interviews is to gain first hand experiences about the effectiveness, accuracy, utility, and challenges of various analysis methods. While conducting these interviews the SFCTA strives to understand the underlying legal and political environments of each jurisdiction and how these external factors may influence decisions about how to conduct BRT planning and analysis. Where BRT projects have been implemented the Transportation Authority will compare forecasts impacts with experienced results.

This presentation will share findings from the Transportation Authority’s BRT interviews and research. The presentation will present information about the tools and methods available for operational analysis in bus rapid transit planning. Participants will learn about the techniques employed by agencies that have studied or implemented bus rapid transit projects. The presentation will also provide an assessment of the trade-offs of using different tools for various applications.