March 15, 2012

Duke U. BRT seminar focuses on building the industry

Photo courtesy Duke University.

Photo courtesy Duke University.
Experts from industry and the bus rapid transit (BRT) research community gathered at Duke University on March 8 for a one-day working meeting hosted by the Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC). Participants in “BRT in the United States: Building a Business Constituency,” will focus on how to build a bus rapid transit industry as an assertive constituency, similar to those for light rail and high-speed rail.

BRT is a transit innovation that can achieve the speed and efficiency of a subway, at only a fraction of the cost. In BRT, the bus typically travels in its own lane, receives traffic signal priority and stops only briefly because passengers pay their fares before the bus arrives, making the bus system more efficient and removing the hassle of putting coins in the farebox.

The Rockefeller Foundation-funded event posed the question, “How can the whole supply chain — i.e., firms that provide BRT design, engineering, vehicles, equipment and services — work as an industry to promote BRT?”

Marcy Lowe, senior research analyst at CGGC, said value chain analysis can play a key role in the effort to develop a BRT industry in the U.S.

“By studying a number of clean tech industries, we’ve learned how important it is to map out the roles, identify the key players, and find the leverage points that can move an industry forward,” said Lowe. “BRT is the perfect example of a little-understood industry that comes into focus when you create a clear picture of the value chain.”

The Duke meeting featured the demo of a first-of-its-kind global database, developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and EMBARQ, reporting data on all of the world’s BRT systems, including those already in operation and those in the planning. EMBARQ is a program of the World Resources Institute (WRI) and a member of the BRT-ALC Center of Excellence.

IEA energy analyst Tali Trigg — who is also an alumnus of the Nicholas School (MEM 2010) and a former research associate at CGGC—developed the database in cooperation with EMBARQ.

“This joint effort results in the most comprehensive and robust database for a cost-effective transit option that improves mobility and reduces carbon,” said Trigg. “It will also help assess the market potential for BRT goods and services, including buses, bus replacements, potential for upgrades and expansions.”

Several of the worlds’ cities, most notably Bogotá, Colombia and Curitiba, Brazil, have adopted BRT systems and achieved stunning success.

The IEA plans to recognize the extensive potential of BRT in its upcoming biennial report, Energy Technology Perspectives. According to IEA senior transport analyst Lew Fulton, “In the 2012 edition, the IEA will call for a doubling of the world’s BRT systems by 2020.”

In the U.S., interest in BRT has built gradually over the years, and it is now heating up, said Cliff Henke, a senior analyst at Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international engineering firm.

“The Duke event builds on work begun by the FTA nearly a quarter century ago. Now is a great time for all facets of the industry to come together again to revisit goals and develop recommendations for the next wave of BRT in the U.S.”

Seminar attendees (from left): Marcy Lowe - Senior Research Analyst, Duke University Center on Globalization; Kim R. Green - President, GFI Genfare; Robert Puentes - Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution.

Seminar attendees (from left): Marcy Lowe - Senior Research Analyst, Duke University Center on Globalization; Kim R. Green - President, GFI Genfare; Robert Puentes - Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution.

Bill Coryell - VP of Sales, Western Region, NABI; Tali Trigg - Energy Analyst, International Energy Agency

Bill Coryell - VP of Sales, Western Region, NABI; Tali Trigg - Energy Analyst, International Energy Agency

Jason Hellendrung, Principal, Sasaki Associates; Benjamin De La Pena - Associate Director for Urban Development, Rockefeller Foundation

Jason Hellendrung, Principal, Sasaki Associates; Benjamin De La Pena - Associate Director for Urban Development, Rockefeller Foundation

John Hodges-Copple - Planning Director, Triangle J Council of Governments, North Carolina; Doug Roberts - CEO, Global Traffic Technologies

John Hodges-Copple - Planning Director, Triangle J Council of Governments, North Carolina; Doug Roberts - CEO, Global Traffic Technologies

Brendon Hemily - Public Transportation Consultant, ITS America; Amanda Sevareid - Associate, Rockefeller Foundation

Brendon Hemily - Public Transportation Consultant, ITS America; Amanda Sevareid - Associate, Rockefeller Foundation

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