The costs of inclusion: Incorporating existing bus operators into Mexico City’s emerging bus rapid transit system

Implementing bus rapid transit (BRT) in systems characterized by a strong presence of weakly regulated private bus operators can be categorized along a “force-foster” continuum, representing the range in effort to replace incumbents. We examine the fostering end of the spectrum in terms of the consequences of incorporating, rather than replacing, existing operators. While the immediate effect enhances the political feasibility of implementation, what are the longer-term consequences on project sustainability? We hypothesize that the short-term political gain from involving existing bus operators may a) negatively affect performance, b) reduce leverage to regulate the emerging system, c) increase operating costs, and/or d) constrain the ability to expand or integrate the system in the future. We test our hypothesis by examining four BRT corridors implemented in Mexico City between 2005 and 2012. Our findings confirm BRT’s potential to transition away from weakly regulated, privatized and atomized systems and empower the state as planner and regulator. We also find longer-term challenges, particularly in the form of non-explicit subsidies to the system and related expectations for subsequent negotiations. The cases suggest that, when managed without a healthy dose of conflict, compromises can be costly. Cities pursuing a “fostering” approach to public transport industry transition should take note.

The macrobus system of Guadalajara, Mexico: an evolved concept in BRT planning and implementation for medium capacity corridors

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is rapidly growing as an effective alternative for medium and high capacity corridors in developing countries. The Guadalajara BRT system represents an important reference for transit professionals considering low cost, rapid implementation, high impact transit alternatives. The initial 16 km line in Calzada Independencia, started operations on March 2009 and has received high ratings by the users. It includes 27 stations, 41 articulated buses and 103 feeder buses. The system operates at a high frequency with a relatively high commercial speed of 21 km/hr. It carries 127,000 passengers/day and 5,000 passengers per hour in the peak load section. Total capital investment was USD 61 million (USD 3.8 million/km). The BRT corridor positively compares with rail alternatives. The authors evaluated both the characteristics and the performance of the system as compared with high-end BRT paradigms. The corridor meets most of the high-end BRT components. Nevertheless, it did not start with all the elements in place. The corridor has also achieved important advances in performance. There is a need to continuously report performance indicators, mainly user perception, reliability, and comfort, so management actions for continuous improvement can be taken. The project was possible due to the strong political leadership; the support of a knowledgeable technical advisory team with international practical experience; adequate level of funding for planning and implementation; and a systematic approach that combines infrastructure, vehicles, operations and technology.