BRT improves quality of life in cities, report says

Posted on December 12, 2013

Rio De Janeiro's TransOeste bus rapid transit system pictured.
Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil
Rio De Janeiro's TransOeste bus rapid transit system pictured.Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil
New analysis of four iconic cities shows that commuters can save millions of hours of travel time by shifting to bus rapid transit (BRT) systems (video). The report from EMBARQ, the World Resources Institute program for sustainable urban transport and planning, draws primarily from case studies conducted in Bogotá, Colombia; Mexico City; Johannesburg; South Africa; and Istanbul, Turkey.

Findings from "Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts of Bus Rapid Transit System" point to BRT’s capacity to improve quality of life by reducing travel time, improving local air quality, curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and preventing road fatalities and crashes.

BRT is a city-based high-speed bus transit system where new and efficient buses travel on dedicated routes. As of October 2013, more than 29 million passengers ride BRT daily in 163 cities, with an additional 143 BRT systems currently being implemented or expanded. BRT is a growing transport solution around the world, both in developed and developing countries, .

“New research on the broad impacts of bus rapid transit demonstrates the potential for cities to achieve environmentally, socially and financially sustainable urban mobility,” said Holger Dalkmann, Director of EMBARQ. “Results from fast-growing cities that are implementing sustainable mobility around the world strengthen the case for BRT as a response to the challenges of urban transport."

Key report findings show:

  • In Istanbul, the average passenger on Metrobüs saved 28 workdays per year in reduced travel times.
  • In Johannesburg, commuters stand to save an estimated 73 million hours by shifting to BRT between 2007-2026. The travel time saved is equivalent to over 9 million 8-hour workdays.
  • In Mexico City, 2,000 days of lost work due to illness were prevented by reducing local air pollution and emission on the Metrobús Line 3. Additional benefits including prevention of 4 new cases of chronic bronchitis and two deaths per year will save an estimated USD $4.5 million over 20 years.
  • In Bogotá, the city will save an estimated $288 million in avoided traffic injuries and fatalities between 1998-2017.

Recommendations in the report include steps for policymakers, technical experts and financing bodies to maximize the benefits of BRT projects. Of special note are national and municipal transport policies, physical and operational system design, and effective financing mechanisms.

“Our analysis shows the wide variety of benefits BRT can have on quality of life,” said Dr. Robin King, director, urban development and accessibility, for EMBARQ and co-author of the report. “In addition to saving people thousands of hours on the road, BRT is safer and causes less pollution than business as usual. With the findings and methodology we present, city officials can make better informed choices when shaping the future mobility of their cities.”

BRT has received considerable interest from institutions financing infrastructure and transport projects, including HSBC, which supported this research and the accompanying video.

“With sustainable mobility, cities can become more successful and attractive to business and citizens. BRT offers the means to connect people to economic and social opportunities in a sustainable way for long term growth in cities,” said Graham Smith, director, export finance, at HSBC.

EMBARQ is also releasing a short video — "Bus Rapid Transit: Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts" — focused on the key benefits of BRT outlined in the report. The video features interviews with technical experts, planners, government officials and BRT users.

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