A study conducted by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) indicates that bus rapid transit systems can stimulate development, and can perhaps do so more cost-effectively than light rail transit or streetcars.

In the article, “Bus Rapid Transit Spurs Development Better Than Light Rail Or Streetcars: Study” published on Forbes' website,  Jeff McMahon reports that  according to ITDP’s director for the U.S. and Africa, Annie Weinstock, who discussed the findings of the study at a Metropolitan Planning Council Roundtable in Chicago, “The first conclusion we’re able to draw here is that actually BRT is able to leverage development. This is the first time we have an analysis to say that definitively.”

ITDP’s study evaluated 21 transit corridors including bus rapid transit (BRT), light rail transit (LRT), and streetcar corridors in 13 cities across the US and Canada and it found that “both BRT and LRT can leverage many times more transit-oriented development (TOD) investment than they cost.” “Of the 21 corridors studied, 14 leveraged greater than $1 of TOD investment per $1 of transit investment. Five of them were BRT, four of them were LRT, two were streetcars, and three were improved bus (non-BRT) corridors.”

The report also found that “per dollar of transit investment, and under similar conditions, BRT leverages more TOD investment than LRT or streetcars.” The example that supports this finding is the comparison between TOD investment leveraged by Cleveland’s HealthLine BRT and Portland’s MAX Blue Line LRT investment, which accounted for stimulating the two largest TOD investments of all the corridors studied, leveraging $5.8 billion and $6.6 billion, respectively.

The HealthLine BRT in Cleveland, Ohio was substantially cheaper to build than the MAX Blue Line LRT in Portland, Oregon. The HealthLine BRT leveraged a TOD investment of $114.54 for each dollar invested in the BRT system, while the Blue Line LRT leveraged a TOD investment of $3.74 per dollar of transit investment – indicating that Cleveland’s HealthLine BRT leveraged approximately 31 times more TOD investment per dollar of transit investment than Portland’s MAX Blue Line LRT.

The report notes that “this new (TOD) development was by no means the result of the transit investment alone.” For instance, in the case of Cleveland’s BRT, “the City made concerted efforts to channel new development to the BRT corridor”. The report further notes that the level of TOD investment being stimulated by investment in transit depends on the level of government support, development potential of the land around the transit corridor, and the quality of the transit investment.

In the Forbes’ article, McMahon reports that when asked “what share of the development documented in the report can be said to have occurred because of BRT or LRT”, Weinstock said “I don’t think we are attributing the development 100 percent to the transit investment.” “It’s part of the package of all of the importance given to the corridor. It’s possible that in a really strong corridor with a lot of government support and no transit you might get a lot of development. Probably if you add in transit you would do even better. But importantly in those situations you still need transit in order to create that kind of dense urban environment,” she added.


Article: “Bus Rapid Transit Spurs Development Better Than Light Rail Or Streetcars: Study”, by Jeff McMahon, published on September 15, 2013, on Forbes' website

Article: “BRT Delivers More Bang for Your Development Buck”, by Jonathan Nettler, published on September 17, 2013, on Planetizen’s website

ITDP report: “More Development For Your Transit Dollar: An Analysis of 21 North American Transit Corridors”


Related links:

Article: “Does BRT have Economic Development Effects?”, by David Levinson, published on September 11, 2013, on Streets.MN’s website