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Branded Bus Corridor primer - Wilbur Smith - Nov 2007

Michael R. Brown, PE, PTP, AICP
Senior Transportation Engineer
257 East 200 South, Suite 825; Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
Ph: 801.363.3955 x301; mrbrown@wilbursmith.com
November, 2007
Branded Corridors: Making buses more like trains.
Why don’t people ride buses? One of the biggest reasons is that many don’t know where they came
from or where they’re going. They would have to seek out a route map to know, which many will
never do. Much of the success behind light rail or a BRT fixed guideway is that there is no need to
actively seek out route information since everyone can see a visible fixed guideway.
A Branded Corridor provides similar passive knowledge. It starts where several routes can merge to
travel through a corridor, resulting in a high frequency service for that space. Marketing techniques
then advertise this space as a “track” such that all vehicles with the insignia of that track are
guaranteed to traverse from end to end. This emphasizes a distinct “Place” more than the vehicle,
thus creating a high-frequency, high-visibility, train-like service, but without the expense of rail or
BRT infrastructure.
This Figure represents Branded Corridors that Wilbur Smith Associates is researching for the Las
Vegas resort corridor. The bus shows a “Queen of Hearts” logo, and the “You are Here” sign
would be posted at attractive stops inform the observer of all the different “train tracks” that are
available. Branded Corridors can work well in almost any CBD-like area, or along a major arterial
where several routes converge.
Figure 1 Vehicles display Corridor they
serve; Stops display "You Are Here" sign for
simple passive knowledge of the system.
Mike Brown,
Page 2,
Rules for a Successful Branded Corridor System
Rule 1 - Identify Corridors: Define corridors where “fair, frequent, familiar” service is desired.
Endpoints represent the point at which several routes can conveniently merge or diverge.
Rule 2 - Bus Carries Corridor Insignia: All vehicles – BRT, corridor shuttle, or even regular
buses that can be routed to travel the full length of the “Queen of Hearts” corridor would
display that insignia to inform would-be patrons of the “track” that the bus will traverse.
Rule 3 - “You are Here” Signs at Stops: Show all branded corridors, major destinations, and
landmarks on mall-type diagrams that are easily visible at stops so that curious passers by
can gain passive knowledge of how the system works. Such signs will also tend to serve as
important way finding maps even for those with no intent to use transit.
Rule 4 - Free or Fair Fare: Someone who both enters and exits inside the corridor could ride for
free, or at a reduced fare (free fare zone). Requiring even nominal payment can
significantly delay vehicles as people scramble to feed dollars into a ticket machine. Even
nominal fares will discourage short trips that may otherwise use the system.
Rule 5 - Must Travel Full Length: Routes that happen to share portions of the “Ace of Spades”
corridor, but for whatever reason do not travel the full length, cannot get the insignia. To
establish patron confidence this cannot be compromised. A vehicle must travel the full
length of the corridor from one end to the other.
Rule 6 - Frequent Service: A branded corridor should only be identified and marketed if
resources can be harnessed such that the average wait will be very minimal. Two 15minute routes in a corridor would equal a bus every 7.5 minutes, and a randomly arriving
patron waits half the headway, or 3.25 minutes on average. Those unaccustomed to transit
will be much more likely to try if the service on a popular corridor is excellent.
Rule 7 - Passive Awareness / Common Knowledge: Simple “You are Here” signs and insignias
on buses will go a long way toward creating “common knowledge” among residents and
employees. Additional steps include media coverage accompanying the unveiling of the
corridors; and advertising the corridors on tourist maps, inside all buses, in the Airport,
and on posters at popular locations. More expensive enhancements discussed below also
help corridors become common knowledge.
Rule 8 - Simplicity: The corridors must be few and simply understood so that even infrequent
users can easily commit the map to memory.
Rule 9 - Maintain Branding Even in the Suburbs: It is advantageous for any route that will
ultimately travel a certain corridor to display the insignia even winding through a suburb at
the beginning of the route. Imagine someone who lives near the start of a line and
happens to work near the “King of Diamonds” corridor. Normally, he sees bus “31”, but
has no idea where it goes. He’s walked past the sign showing the King of Diamonds
corridor on his way to lunch. If he now sees bus 31 displaying the King of Diamonds, he
becomes passively aware of a new opportunity to get to work.
Mike Brown,
Page 3,
Thus a Branded Corridor system can be achieved on a shoe-string budget by adhering to these nine
rules to achieve the “Four F’s” that mark a good Branded Corridor system: “Fair, Frequent,
Familiar, and Flexible”:
1. Fair Fare – Free fare or reduced fare zone when origin and destination are in the corridor.
2. Frequent – Vehicles come so often that no one needs to bother with a schedule.
3. Familiar – Opens opportunities to those who would never bother to research obscure
transit routes, as they can discern the system simply by seeing “You are Here” signs along
corridor stops, and buses with corridor insignias.
4. Flexible – Such a low-cost system can easily be altered just by moving the signs.
Enhancing Branded Corridors
Use Vehicles that Stand Out: A flashy vehicle to supplement regular fleet vehicles can be
a “rolling billboard” that allures people to the system. Once at the stop, most will simply
take the first vehicle displaying the right insignia – whether it be the flashy corridor shuttle
they noticed, a BRT vehicle, or a standard bus.
Real Time “Next Bus” Information: Eventually, all stops on a branded corridor could be
upgraded to include next bus information. Wireless and GPS technology are quickly making
this affordable.
Comfortable, Recognizable Stops: Provide attractive
shelters with spacious seating, perhaps fitting a theme
for the corridor.
Other Stop Amenities: Help pass the time and
increase visibility with sidewalk vendors, “did you
know” trivia snippets about your city, free newspapers
or other forms of advertising, etc.
Dedicated Lanes / Queue Jumpers: Transit is always more attractive if it can move
ahead of congestion. HOV lanes and queue jumpers should be pursued if possible.
Use Tinted Lanes: Where light rail or BRT guideway is visible
everywhere, a branded corridor will also enjoy far more passive
awareness if the lane itself is branded by regularly spaced
symbols on the pavement, or by painting or tinting the lane.
Resident Smart Cards: A feature that will attract employees to
select housing near their workplace is to provide them with
smart cards that let them use the Resort Corridor circulation system at a free or nominal fare
so long as their origin and destination are within the fixed guideway/branded corridor
system. This will also encourage locals who are money-conscious to avoid using their car for
lunch trips, etc.
Mike Brown,
Page 4,
Peripheral Parking: It is often very difficult to deliver yet more private vehicles into
congested settings. Park and Ride options at or near a Branded Corridor allow people to
park at a lower cost, more accessible location, and ride into the final destination.
Examples of Downtown Branded Corridors
Hartford, Connecticut
The Star system in Hartford, Connecticut that shares much in common with the branded corridor
concept outlined here. “Star” stops are clearly identified as free in the Downtown area. They have a
dedicated vehicle to serve as the Star Shuttle for advertising, but they can also interline other buses
from across the region that display the Star insignia when serving the Star corridor.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Wilbur Smith Associates recently
recommended the branded corridors
shown here as part of a
comprehensive circulation plan for
Downtown Salt Lake City.
Representatives from the City, the
Utah Transit Authority, and
Downtown business leaders are
confident the system will prove to be
very popular. Because of the
incredibly low start-up cost, in the
Fall of 2007 they organized routes to
conform to these corridors. Next
they will begin making signs,
brochures, and a roll-out marketing
strategy to implement the basic system, with enhancements to come later as funding allows.
Mike Brown,
Page 5,
Las Vegas Boulevard
The Deuce on Las Vegas Blvd. essentially creates a Branded Corridor.
Though there is no specific insignia, the vehicle itself is an eye catcher,
and it is common knowledge that any double-decker on the Strip is
bound to travel between the two major transit centers at both ends.
In operation for just over one year, it operates 24/7. From 3-11 p.m.
it runs on a very frequent 7-minute headway – which is perceived by
the public as an almost insignificant, 3.5 minute average wait. Because
of congestion and dozens of people at each stop feeding bills into an
on-board ticket machine, each vehicle can average 5-mph or even less.
Despite the slow speed, ridership often exceeds 30,000 per day
(comparable to light rail), and gives a hint that this is likely just the tip
of an iceberg if measures can be taken to double or triple its speed,
provide a quality connection to the airport, and coordinate with a more comprehensive Branded
Corridor circulatory system.
Wilbur Smith Associates is leading projects in several locations to determine the role these
innovative concepts could play in each situation. For more information, please contact me.