InTransit Extra

How a program management approach can streamline delivery of bus rapid transit projects

Qualified PMCs bring additional knowledge and expertise to help achieve success

By Sean Libberton and Greg Thorpe | HNTB

Transit agencies nationwide are increasingly looking to adopt bus rapid transit (BRT) to sustainably improve mobility in their cities. Combining the reliability of light rail with the flexibility of buses can offer many community benefits, from improving mobility to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (particularly when the BRT investment includes electric or hydrogen-fuel vehicles) and stimulating economic development.

To achieve the goal of successfully delivering BRT, agencies can consider engaging with an experienced program management consultant team that can bring additional insights and expertise to the table.

Collaborating with an experienced program manager can help transit planners work through the early decisions of a BRT project, including:

  • Identifying the project scope
  • Financial planning
  • Completing preliminary design
  • Travel demand forecasting
  • Coordinating with stakeholders
  • Ensuring environmental compliance

Having additional expertise and industry knowledge at the ready on how to navigate these steps and bringing perspectives on how other agencies have managed the project development process can be invaluable.

Moreover, program managers can work alongside an agency through the full lifecycle of a BRT project to help streamline its delivery. This can include assistance with:

Securing federal funding: Federal grants – such as the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program and USDOT’s RAISE program – are pursued by many agencies to fund BRT projects.  In-depth knowledge of the federal grant process, including preparation, evaluation, and management requirements can be found in qualified program management teams.

Stakeholder Support, Coordination and Communications: Ensuring community leaders and their constituents have support for, a stake in, and enthusiasm for the project is critical. Consistent communication, particularly at the grassroots level, can ensure that all community members are supportive and prepared for the project. Municipal officials, neighborhood residents, mayors’ councils and community council leadership need to be informed on project goals, timelines and budgets. Program managers can assist in the public engagement process to help key constituents better understand the overall impacts and positive outcomes of a project.

Risk Management: Risk management is needed to assess and communicate risks and work with the team on recommended approaches to address these risks. A BRT program manager can ensure risks are tracked, mitigation measures are identified and the costs of risks are priced properly. This is especially important when FTA funding is involved to avoid higher than required risk contingency costs being added to the project budget.

Environmental Clearance: Environmental review and clearance is an ever-present part of any federally funded BRT project. Once an agency finishes the process of alternatives analysis, the environmental clearance process typically begins. Program managers can assist in assessing the impact of a project on the environment and people, help in securing the necessary permits and agency approvals while ensuring the project is designed equitably and supports a broad range of community stakeholders.

Procurement: Determining what kind of buses will be used and managing their timely delivery is another consideration for BRT projects. Agencies must first determine if buses will be powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), diesel, electricity or hydrogen. Second, a supplier must be identified and a price negotiated. Upon delivery, buses must be commissioned, be certified for service and staff must ensure storage, maintenance and repair space is available and adequate. Program managers can make recommendations on the vehicle type best suited for the project and assist in the procurement process to ensure timely delivery of vehicles.

An Impactful Community Investment

When BRT projects are carefully planned from concept to completion, they can help contribute to enhanced mobility by providing an efficient, accessible and sustainable transportation option. A qualified program management team can help bring that vision to reality through strategic guidance, collaborative decision making and innovative approaches that lead to a project that ultimately benefits agencies, riders and the broader community.


Sean Libberton
National Transit Practice Consultant
HNTB Corporation

Sean has 30 years of experience serving the transit industry, including more than 20 years at the Federal Transit Administration, where he managed FTA’s Office of CIG Project Planning and Analysis and served as deputy associate administrator for the Office of Program Management.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.


Greg Thorpe, P.E.
Senior Project Manager
HNTB Corporation

Greg brings more than 40 years of experience in project management, engineering and executive leadership. Prior to joining HNTB, he developed and oversaw light rail and BRT projects with the Utah Transit Authority.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.