Home » Featured »Public Transit »Transportation » Currently Reading:

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Research Trip To Cleveland

July 7, 2015 Featured, Public Transit, Transportation 11 Comments

Regular readers know I’ve long been a supporter of modern streetcars, such as those in Portland & Seattle, but I’d like to know more about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). I’ve experienced Kansas City’s MAX line a few of times — but it is best described as “enhanced bus service”  — not true BRT.

Starting with Metro’s BRT studies last year, I’ve been reading up on BRT, the results are both positive and negative. First, the negative:

Delhi’s six-year-old BRT project has run into numerous snags, including the incursion of cars and other vehicles into the BRT lanes — a development that can defeat the purpose of a system designed to be faster than general traffic. City officials once hoped to create 14 additional BRT corridors, but the system has not expanded beyond its inaugural 3.6-mile stretch. (In New Delhi, A Rough Road For Bus Rapid Transit Systems)

Closer to home, Los Angeles:

The Orange Line BRT runs on its own busway: basically a bus-only street built on former railroad right-of-way. The busway runs generally east-west and, at signalized intersections, crosses numerous north-south streets. In its first few months of operation, the Orange Line ran faster than it does today. There were a handful of car-bus collisions on the route, reportedly due to drivers failing to obey traffic signals. The excuse that has been repeated is that the drivers were not used to seeing any traffic on that long-abandoned right-of-way.

After these collisions, Orange Line bus speeds were reduced. Today Orange Line buses slow to 10 mph when crossing intersections. (Orange Line BRT Speed Improvements Caught In Inter-Agency Delays)

Depart these failures, positive examples exist:

“Both BRT and LRT can leverage many times more development investment than they cost. Now we can say that for sure,” according to the institute’s director for the U.S. and Africa, Annie Weinstock, who previewed the findings at a Metropolitan Planning Council Roundtable in Chicago last week.

“Per dollar of transit investment, and under similar conditions, BRT can leverage more (development) investment than LRT or streetcars.”

For example, Cleveland’s Healthline, a BRT project completed on Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue in 2008, has generated $5.8 billion in development —$114 for each transit dollar invested. Portland’s Blue Line, a light rail project completed in 1986, generated $3.74 per dollar invested. (Bus Rapid Transit Spurs Development Better Than Light Rail Or Streetcars: Study)

Despite successful examples, BRT isn’t always embraced. Take Chicago’s planned Ashland BRT:

Some candidates for local office and others in Chicago have raised reasonable concerns about a proposed rapid-transit bus line on Ashland Avenue. They wonder how limiting left-hand turns would affect car traffic and whether paying for the new line would divert money from the many other CTA improvements needed.

But let’s not lose sight of why Chicago needs its first rapid-transit line — bus or L — that doesn’t go downtown, one that connects west side communities and CTA’s Orange, Blue, Brown and Green lines: it’s because not everyone works downtown or is going downtown, which is the outdated premise behind the CTA’s hub-and-spoke system. (Why Chicago needs bus rapid transit on Ashland)

As with so many things, there’a no substitute for personal experience. There are numerous BRT lines in North America, but one of the highest rated is Cleveland’s HealthLine — which operates 24 hours a day!  Over the years I’ve driven through Ohio a few times, I think I went through Cleveland on a 2006 Greyhound trip to Toronto. I want to visit Cleveland to experience their transit system: light rail, bus, BRT, and trolley.

Click the image above to open GoFundMe.com/UrbanReviewSTL in a new tab/window
Click the image above to open GoFundMe.com/UrbanReviewSTL in a new tab/window. Image via Wikipedia

Here are just some of the questions I hope to answer:

  1. Why do they have four different modes?
  2. How did they decide to use one mode at a location rather than another?
  3. With respect to public transit, what are the similarities & differences between St. Louis & Cleveland?
  4. Would their BRT better serve the public had they done the things to earn a higher ranking?
  5. How does Cleveland’s State Line BRT compare to their HealthLine BRT? How much development has it generated?
  6. How much of the new development is because of the HealthLine, how much is because it operates 24/7?
  7. Why didn’t they build either BRT line as light rail? In retrospect, would BRT have been a better choice?

In October my husband and I will be vacationing in Chicago for a week, so I’d like to take a few days of that time to go to Cleveland for two nights to use & observe their transit system. Over the weekend we purchased the roundtrip tickets on Megabus, fares are lowest the more lead time you have.  We’ll leave Chicago on a Thursday morning, arriving in Cleveland 7+ hours later at 3:35pm.  Our return bus leaves at  5:45pm on Saturday, getting back to Chicago just past midnight. I’m asking for readers to help with the costs, so this research trip is possible.

Here is the budget:

  • Megabus: $36.50
  • Hotel (2 nights): $300+
  • Local transit fares: $25
  • Misc: $13.50
  • TOTAL $375+

Most of the budget is hotel, I want to stay right on the HealthLine to facilitate riding the 24-hour BRT at various times. I’m still researching hotels, but none are cheap. Rates do very though, I just need to see which ones have rooms available with a “roll-in shower” on the two nights we’d be there.

If you can donate it would be greatly appreciated.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Greg says:

    “I want to visit Cleveland to experience their transit system: light rail, bus, BRT, and trolley.”

    One mistake here, Cleveland does not have a trolley. The four modes of transit are heavy rail (similar to the Chicago L or NYC Subway), light rail, bus and BRT.

    • You’re correct, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority lists four modes but their trolley is bus-based like our Downtown & Forest Park Trollies. See http://www.riderta.com/routes/trolley

    • OhioNative says:


      The Cleveland Transit System was formed in 1942 when the city took over streetcar operations from the failing Cleverland Railway Company. Following World War II operations were modernized by converting the existing streetcar lines to rubber tired vehicles. By 1945 Cleveland’s streetcars were gone

      • OhioNative says:

        one of the best aspects of the Rapid rail lines is the direct into the terminal station at CLE airport and the direct into the Tower City Central hub in the center of downtown …hope you get to enjoy your visit here

  2. JZ71 says:

    If I were you, I’d look to Los Angeles to see BRT implemented in a way that could actually happen here, in St. Louis. Their Metro Rapid service, their 700-series routes (http://www.metro.net/riding/maps/700-799/ , http://www.metro.net/projects/rapid/ . & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_Rapid .), is definitely on the low-tech end of th BRT spectrum, but they’ve proven to be very effective in delivering better service across their metroploitan area within budget constraints similar to those faced by Metro, here.

    At the other end of the BRT spectrum, you could always set your sights on Curitiba, Brazil, the “gold standard” in BRT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rede_Integrada_de_Transporte , http://reimaginerpe.org/node/344 . & http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/26/curitiba-brazil-brt-transport-revolution-history-cities-50-buildings

    That said, while you’re there, I’d strongly encourage you to look beyond their Health Line and to check out their Blue/Green lines – it’ll be interesting to see how you find them comparing and how a street-running legacy system continues to work well. (The last time I was in Cleveland was about 15 years ago, and I remember that the Red Line was very different from the Blue and Green Lines, mostly because the former was “newer” [relatively], while the latter evolved from early interurban lines: http://www.riderta.com/history .)

  3. John R says:

    You’re going to see a ton of completed projects and construction along Euclid from downtown to Uptown/University City. (Not sure if you can snag a deal at the newly opened Metropolitan at E. 9th & Euclid but it is worth a try.) Although it is hard to say how much of that success can be attributed to the Health Line, it certainly has helped.

    For several decades, Cleveland looked at an underground subway down Euclid, called the Dual Hub Corridor plan, before moving ahead with the street-running BRT line out of cost considerations. I find the BRT line very similar to the proposed Saint Louis Streetcar plan as it connects their respective Downtown/Midtown/Cultural/Eds & Meds corridors (although the Health Line continues further than the Saint Louis proposal would) while also having generally less convenient light rail stations serve the corridor,

    I think the success of the Health Line in helping spur development while boosting ridership and travel times over the previous bus service makes me inclined to support a similar BRT line, or two or three, instead of a more expensive track-based system. It’s time to move Saint Louis forward and get to building something.

  4. Murphy Lee says:

    I gotta say, I can’t help but take it as a pretty harsh indictment of public transit in America that the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has a director for “the US and Africa”…

  5. OhioNative says:

    Greg – since you are an explorer …suggest check out the unique personalized experience you can get via airbnb – you might save some cash as well

  6. John R says:

    Steve, thought you might be interested in this article on the increased ridership along the old 55 line since RTA upgraded it to the new Cleveland State Line:

    I haven’t been back to the “Mistake-on-the-Lake” since this opened, but my understanding is that it isn’t quite as fancy as the Cleveland Health Line but it looks like it is doing the job. I really think we need to start looking at these types of lines because we can’t wait another generation to get Metrolink expansion.


Comment on this Article: