Project: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Bay Area

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What it does: 

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is revolutionizing transit service by emulating the best factors of rail – with dedicated bus lanes, signal priority, level boarding, proof of payment, and state of the art buses – at the fraction of the cost. In the San Francisco Bay Area, agencies are actively planning 6 BRT projects: Santa Clara-Alum Rock, El Camino, Stevens Creek in Santa Clara County, Van Ness and Geary in San Francisco, and International Boulevard in Oakland and San Leandro.

Goals: 

BRT projects aim to offer similar benefits of heavy rail often at one tenth the cost per mile. Benefits include reducing overall travel time, operation costs, carbon emissions, and greenhouse gas emissions along with providing a better transportation choice for everyone, and maximizing person throughput on streets and roads to increase transit ridership as an efficient service. 

Cost & Financing: 

Bay Area has 6 BRT corridors in various stages. Costs are mostly $15-$20 million/mile for the 7-18 mile corridors in the Santa Clara County and East Bay. The Van Ness BRT project is significantly more expensive at $63 million/mile for two miles because it is being introduced into an extremely congested urban corridor, requiring significant changes to the street.

Outcomes: 

All of the Bay Area BRT projects are yet to be completed, and some are still in the planning stages, but the positive impacts on health and environment are projected to be significant.

  • Less pollution: VTA’s El Camino BRT is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4,555 metric tons annually; East bay BRT by 4,100 metric tons annually.
  • Healthier Transportation: El Camino Real BRT is expected to increase bicycling four to five fold.
  • Increase ridership: El Camino Real BRT expects tripling in transit ridership, East Bay BRT expects an increase from 25,000 patrons to 36,000 patrons.
  • Community Development: VTA anticipates the El Camino Real BRT will generate 4,780 jobs.
  • Reducing overall cost of service: The Van Ness BRT is expected to reduce Muni operating costs by 30%.
  • Reduce overall travel time: East Bay BRT is projected to travel 28 percent faster than the existing service.

Key Contacts: 

Name BRT Project Organization Phone Number E-mail
Joel Ramos East Bay and San Francisco TransForm (510) 740-3150 x318 joel@transformca.org
Chris Lepe Santa Clara County TransForm (408) 406-8074 clepe@transformca.org
Jim Cunradi East Bay AC Transit (510) 891-4841 jcunradi@actransit.org
Manolo Gonzalez-Estay Santa Clara County VTA (408) 321-7575 manolo.gonzalez-estay@vta.org
Michael Schwartz San Francisco SFCTA (415) 522-4823 michael.schwartz@sfcta.org

Joel Ramos advocates for robust BRT projects in the East Bay and San Francisco, and he helps facilitate conversations among community residents, businesses leaders, and transit agencies. Chris Lepe aids in organizing the collaborative planning process with a wide range of decision makers, city staff, communities, and special interest groups as the Santa Clara BRT projects travel through not one, but six economically, ethnically, and socially diverse cities. Jim Cunradi, Manolo Gonzalez-Estay, and Michael Schwartz are staff members from transit agencies involved in building their respective BRT projects.