A few times a week, I get off the subway and walk one short block down a hill to catch a bus. The bus is going down the hill with me, and sometimes I see it when I get to the top of the subway steps. There are always enough other people waiting at the bus stop so that if I see it at the top of the hill I know I can take my time walking and still make it.
Until one day recently, when I was halfway down the hill and noticed that almost everyone was on the bus. They had all gotten on so quickly that I had to run to catch the bus. What changed? It was one of the new low-floor hybrid buses.
There are many things that make buses slow, and “dwell time” is one of them. I was mildly inconvenienced having to run to catch that bus, but I’d have been pretty happy if I were already down the hill waiting to board, or on the bus waiting for everyone else to get on so the bus could get going.
Level boarding is one of the “features” of BRT, but of course you can have level boarding without any of the other features. Prepayment of fares is another one, so that you don’t have to stand in line while everyone digs through their change or dips their metrocards. NYC Transit has level boarding on lots of buses now, and is testing prepayment on the Select Bus Service on Fordham Road. Maybe soon they’ll roll it out in other locations.
It’d be kind of lame if we had to wait for “BRT” to get pre-payment or proof-of-payment citywide, when bus systems around the world have had it for decades without any of the other “BRT” features. Kind of lame – like waiting for six people to swipe a metrocard before you can get on the bus.