The first BRT system in the world was the OC Transpo system in Ottawa, Canada. Introduced in 1973, the first element of its BRT system was dedicated bus lanes through the city centre. The introduction of the first exclusive separate busways (termed 'Transitway') occurred in 1983. By 1996, all of the originally envisioned 31 km Transitway system was in operation; further expansions were opened in 2009, 2011, and 2014. As of 2017, the central part of the Transitway is being converted to a Light Rail Transit, due to the downtown section being operated beyond its designed capacity.
The second BRT system in the world was implemented in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1974. Most of the elements that have become associated with BRT were innovations first suggested by Curitiba Mayor architect Jaime Lerner. In 1980 the Curitiba system added a feeder bus network and inter-zone connections, and in 1992 introduced off-board fare collection, enclosed stations, and platform-level boarding.
The TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia, opened in 2000, was the first BRT system to combine the best elements of other BRTs and achieved the highest capacity and highest speed BRT system in the world. The success of TransMilenio spurred other cities to develop high quality BRT systems. In January 2004 the first BRT in Asia, TransJakarta, opened in Jakarta, Indonesia. As of 2015, at 210 kilometres (130 mi), it is the longest BRT system in the world.
Main features of BRT:
BRT systems normally include most of the following features -
Dedicated lanes and alignment: Bus-only lanes make for faster travel and ensure that buses are not delayed by mixed traffic congestion.
Off-board fare collection: Fare prepayment at the station, instead of on board the bus, eliminates the delay caused by passengers paying on board.
Intersection treatment: Prohibiting turns for traffic across the bus lane significantly reduces delays to the buses. Bus priority will often be provided at signalized intersections to reduce delays by extending the green phase or reducing the red phase in the required direction compared to the normal sequence. Prohibiting turns may be the most important measure for moving buses through intersections.
Platform-level boarding: Station platforms should be level with the bus floor for quick and easy boarding, making it fully accessible for wheelchairs, disabled passengers and baby strollers, with minimal delays.
High capacity vehicles: High-capacity vehicles such as articulated or even bi-articulated buses may be used, typically with multiple doors for fast entry and exit. Double-decker buses or guided buses may also be used. Advanced powertrain control may be used for a smoother ride.
Quality stations: BRT systems typically feature significant investment in enclosed stations which may incorporate attractive sliding glass doors, staffed ticket booths, information booths, and other more standard features listed above. They will often include level boarding, using either low-floor buses or higher boarding platforms level, and multiple doors to speed passenger boardings and enhance accessibility to disabled passengers.
Prominent brand or identity: A unique and distinctive identity can contribute to BRT's attractiveness as an alternative to driving cars, marking stops and stations as well as the buses.
Large cities usually have big bus networks. A map showing all bus lines might be incomprehensible, and cause people to wait for low-frequency buses that may not even be running at the time they are needed. By identifying the main bus lines having high-frequency service, with a special brand and separate maps, it is easier to understand the entire network.