A growing number of stakeholders interested in advancing public transport investments, including city governments, private developers, and higher education campuses, have prompted a need for nontraditional measures of evaluating competing priorities regarding investments in higher quality public transport service. For example, city governments and private developers would like to see greater emphasis placed on economic returns on the capital invested, or on how such investments might shape more sustainable urban growth. Colleges and universities, in addition to wanting public transport to help improve mobility for their students, faculties, and staff, might also want to create a laboratory of advanced technology deployment for a public transport project they are helping to sponsor and fund. 

Moreover, multiple entities with interests regarding several candidate projects in a region need tools that can help prioritize such candidates. Complicating the matter further is that such candidate projects might lack even basic bus service in a corridor but might be supported for the previously mentioned reasons or have stronger political or financial support than the other project candidates.

Such situations have arisen multiple times on bus rapid transit (BRT) projects. To address these challenges, WSP staff developed several new screening tools to help prioritize candidate investments competing for limited funds. 

Los Angeles’ Screening Process and Techniques

Because of the issues and complexity of the changes being faced, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (hereafter referred to as Metro) developed a novel, multi-step process to select priorities for future BRT investments. The county already has the largest bus rapid transit (BRT) network in the world, comprising a 400-mile mix of arterial, fixed-guideway, and freeway-based BRT lines. And although Metro is both the largest public transportation agency in Los Angeles County as well as manager of county revenues dedicated to public transportation, it is only one of four operators of BRT service in the county, albeit the largest as operator of 24 BRT lines. 

Metro conducted the Los Angeles County Bus Rapid Transit and Street Design Improvement Study to examine the potential for a countywide BRT system that includes dedicated peak period bus lanes. Led by WSP, the study was conducted in collaboration with a special project advisory committee consisting of the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (LACDPW), the Bus Riders Union, Metro Operations, select other transit agencies operating in the county—including the three other BRT operators—and a number of other key stakeholders. Its purpose was to identify, analyze, and develop recommendations for an effective countywide BRT system that includes dedicated peak hour bus lanes along with a number of other general bus speed improvements. The study was also to identify and recommend feasible and cost-effective techniques to improve the quality of streetscape at or near the bus stops along the recommended BRT corridors. It also looked at prospects for catalyzing economic development and potential funding options for the study’s recommended corridors.

Using evaluation and implementation criteria established as part of the study, a four-step approach was taken in evaluating and identifying promising BRT corridors. Figure 1 illustrates the various screening stages of the study along with the defined criteria developed for each.