BRT and BHLS around the world: Explosive growth, large positive impacts and many issues outstanding

A survey of Bus Rapid Transit BRT and Bus of High Level of Service BHLS around the world indicates that there are about 120 cities with bus corridors, with 99 of the cities entering into the list in the last 12 years. The existing bus corridors comprise about 280 corridors, 4300 km, 6700 stations and use 30,000 buses, serving about 28 million passengers per day. In 2010–2011, 19 cities completed new systems − 16 in the developing world – and seven cities expanded their current systems. By late 2011, about 49 new cities were building systems, 16 cities were expanding their corridors, and 31 cities were in initial planning. This impressive growth may be attributed in part to the successes of Curitiba, Bogotá, México City, Istanbul, Ahmedabad and Guangzhou. These cities show low cost, rapid implementation and high performance BRTs, with significant positive externalities. Interesting trends are emerging, such as the implementation of citywide integrated bus systems, improved processes for private participation in operations, increased funding from national governments, and growth of bus manufacturers and technology providers. Despite the growth, there are some outstanding issues: BRT and BHLS do not have a single meaning and image and are often regarded as a “second best” as compared to rail alternatives. In addition several systems in the developing world suffer problems resulting from poor planning, implementation and operation, due to financial, institutional and regulatory constraints. The BRT and BHLS Industry are in their “infancy” and there is need for consolidation and concerted effort.

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.