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What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?

Sometime this fall. Maybe sooner, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario will submit their evaluation of the proposals put forward by the Tony Valeri task force which was established following the cancellation of the Hamilton LRT last December. For 12 years Hamilton media has been filled with stories about LRT, its benefits and its routes. The public is more than familiar with the LRT concept.

Less familiar to the public, in part because of its dismissal as an option very early in the LRT process, there is less general familiarity with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). There are two major BRT systems in the GTHA. One is Brampton’s ZÜM (pronounced ZOOM) and York Region’s VIVA BRT system. We provide some information here on the two systems and how they serve their communities.


Brampton’s BRT, called ZUM (pronounced ZOOM) opened its first route in 2010. Since then demand has grown and ZUM now has five routes in service:

Züm Queen Street (Downtown Terminal to York University)

Züm Main Street (Sandalwood Parkway to the Mississauga City Centre Terminal)

Züm Steeles Avenue (Lisgar GO Station to Humber College)

Züm Bovaird Drive (Mount Pleasant GO Station to Malton GO Station)

Züm Queen Street West (Downtown Terminal to Mount Pleasant GO Station)

Like LRT, the system offers riders limited stops to reduce travel times. real-time Next Bus Information. transit Signal Priority technology to help buses remain on schedule, plush, high backed seats and interior, seamless integration with all Brampton Transit buses

ZUM buses feature luxury seating

The ZUM stations offer digital displays that post next bus information in real time (i.e. next bus in 3 minutes), Increased lighting and security cameras. comfortable street furniture, a wheelchair loading area, and an information centre that includes a detailed map, customer service information and route schedules.

York University ZUM depot

Zum Buses use clean hybrid diesel-electric technology, and boast, on average, a 10-15% fuel reduction compared to conventional diesel vehicles. Advanced accessibility features include a wider door and an increased entryway, one of the lowest floors (14” step, 10” kneeled) and the best ramp inclination on the market (1:7 slope ratio).

Transit Signal Priority technology can influence the traffic signals if a bus is running behind schedule. The technology can lengthen a green light or shorten a red light so that a bus can get through the intersection faster.

Some stops and routes are located outside of Brampton, namely Mississauga, Toronto and Vaughan. Once the Queen route leaves Brampton and enters Vaughan, the bus schedule alternates between express (along Highway 407) with no stops until York University, or regular (along York Regional Road 7) with stops at all stations that are on the York Region Transit Viva Orange route. Brampton Transit has a fare partnership agreement with York Region Transit who also operate a BRT network called VIVA, that allows for boarding and debarking anywhere along the Viva Orange route, using Züm buses.


Viva operates along major corridors in York Region, connecting Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Aurora and Newmarket, and links York Region with Toronto and its subway system, GO Transit and the Region of Peel. Viva was designed and built using a public–private partnership (P3) model

Viva routes connect to stations on Line 1 Yonge–University and Line 4 Sheppard of the Toronto subway, as well as GO Transit railway stations and bus terminals. Viva is integrated with YRT’s existing bus network, and passengers pay one fare to use Viva and the regular bus system. Fares are valid for unlimited use for two hours from the time of purchase. To speed up boarding times, Viva uses the “proof of payment” system. Rather than have drivers sell fares, passengers obtain tickets at vending machines and Viva officials occasionally check to ensure all passengers have paid their fare.

Often referred to as a transitway or busway by other transit authorities, the term “rapidway” is used to describe the bus-only lanes being designed as part of the bus rapid transit component of the VivaNext plan.[8] The proposed benefit of the rapidways is that Viva vehicles will be able travel faster than before, by avoiding the congestion associated with mixed traffic. While most rapidways will be located in the centre median of roadways, they may also be located curbside to accommodate certain conditions. Rapidway projects funded for construction in York Region are located on Davis Drive, Highway 7 and Yonge Street.

A VIVA station
A VIVA dedicated Rapidway
VIVA’s Terminal at York University, Passengers can transfer to Brampton’s ZUM system from here and other points
Ticket Validation Machines. To speed boarding Passengers board on the honour system and must show proof of purchase if asked by an inspector
Tickets are purchased from vending machines at stops
Viva passengers get real-time scheduling information

In November 2008, the provincial transportation agency Metrolinx selected two infrastructure projects for construction beginning in 2009, including major components of the VivaNext plan. Metrolinx gave its final approval to a capital plan that includes over $1 billion for construction of several rapidways.

The rapidways include, Davis Drive rapidway, Highway 7 rapidway, The Highway 7 rapidway is planned to eventually extend from Highway 50 in Vaughan to Cornell Terminal in Markham. It will connect three major urban centres in York Region; Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, Richmond Hill/Langstaff, and Markham Centre. Yonge Street rapidway The Yonge Street rapidway will extend north along Yonge Street from Richmond Hill Centre Terminal at Highway 7 to Green Lane in Newmarket.

Each stop – called a “vivastation” – has a ticket vending machine and a ticket validator so you can pay for your fare before you board the bus. There is a real-time display screen that lets you know when the next bus will arrive. Fares are on a proof-of-payment system to speed up boarding times, so be sure to always have proof of your paid fare ready for inspection.

Six routes are in operation: Viva Blue, Viva Purple, Viva Orange, Viva Pink, Viva Green, and Viva Yellow, which opened in November 2015.

Leave a comment

  • the “problem” with BRT is it does very little to disrupt “car culture” which is an unspoken objective of the majority of LRT advocates. The automobile is a symbol……a symbol of success, hard work, and perseverance. Sadly unstable anchors like Mr. McGreal are dominated by irrational fear and the constant reminder that they have failed themselves immeasurably.

    Far less disruptive, BRT is going to be a hit with transit users-like me.

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