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Ask an urbanist about Latin America’s influence on international cities and chances are Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will feature. The first BRT in the world was implemented in 1974 in Curitiba, Brazil, and high-speed, bus-priority public transport systems have been cropping up in cities all over the world since then. Here’s five that followed Latin America’s lead:
The ‘South East Busway’ stretches from Brisbane’s city centre to Eight Mile Plains – a suburb located 13km (8 miles) from the CBD. Special bus-only roads – known as the ‘trunk route’ – were constructed leading up to the city centre, with a ‘feeder system’ allowing buses to join and leave the route at certain points onto shared roads. Designed to complement the city’s existing train network, Brisbane’s Busway opened in 2000 with a view to reducing congestion in a low-density area of Queensland’s capital.
Southeast Asia’s first BRT system opened in 2004, and currently has 11 routes in operation. Unlike Brisbane, Jakarta’s BRT does not use a feeder system, instead being a ‘closed trunk’ (I hope you’re keeping up with all the quotation marks). Many predicted this lack of flexibility would result in the system not receiving much use, but with around 250,000 passengers a day, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Perhaps making the service free for its first two weeks of operation got everyone hooked?
Imaginatively known as the blue bus, Stockholm’s four BRT lines serve the city centre, with feeder routes connecting suburban areas to the high-speed trunk route. With speeds relatively low and tickets still checked by the bus driver rather than at the point of entry to bus stops, Stockholm’s response to Latin American public transport innovation has seen it nicknamed BRT-lite.
Cape Town, South Africa
Is Cape Town’s MyCiTi Bus the world’s newest BRT system? Service began in May 2011, taking a deliberately flexible approach. Some feeder routes serving the main trunk route were initially temporary, being used to test demand and shape the future distribution of the feeder network. With buses running every 10-20 minutes between 5.45AM and 10PM, Cape Town’s BRT has neither the highest frequency or longest hours of operation, but for a city whose CBD has been inadequately served on the public transport front since, well, forever, this BRT is a revelation.
Canada’s capital city is served by nine BRT lines, and, having opened in 1983, is one of the longest-running systems outside of Latin America. Much of the route is fully separated from road traffic, and bridges and trench highways mean buses can travel much of the route without ever meeting a traffic light. That said, roads become shared with private vehicles as the route approaches city centre, a design feature responsible for most of the service’s delays. Despite more recently venturing into Light Rail, the city of Ottawa is still keen on BRT, with a tenth line currently being proposed.
These examples are just five of many. Which BRT projects do you think are most noteworthy? Let us know in the comments below.