Photo courtesy of Bibiana Antoniacomi Schappel
In 1974, Curitiba, Brazil, introduced the world’s first ever bus rapid transit (BRT) system. It offers the rapidly growing city a reliable, high-quality transportation option that provides accessibility and reduces congestion. The innovative bus service offers many features similar to rail transportation - dedicated right-of-ways unimpeded by traffic signals and congestion, fare collection prior to boarding, quick passenger loading and unloading - but built at a fraction of the cost. Today, the Curitiba BRT system not only serves 1.3 million passengers every day, including 70 percent of city commuters, but is also the international model for BRT.
Cities across the world have built their own BRT systems by using the Curitiba blueprint. In the process, however, they have included other features to improve upon the original design. Bogota’s Transmilenio system was built along with an extensive, 70-mile bike network to offer connectivity between stations and a viable alternative to automobile travel. The Seoul, South Korea, transit system uses a universal smart card, T-money, which enables riders to seamlessly transfer between all BRT, conventional bus, and rail services in the city. The York region of Canada’s system, Viva, provides real-time arrival information on displays at every stop, to improve the dissemination of information to passengers. BRT is constantly evolving and adjusting to the differing characteristics of cities around the world to provide the best transit service possible.
BRT has proven benefits and increased mobility in other parts of the world, creating burgeoning interest throughout the United States. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Boston, have already introduced elements of BRT on smaller scales with the possibility for expansion. BRT is also recognized by the federal government as a viable transportation option. The Federal Transit Administration is allocating $280 million in discretionary grants towards Bus and Urban Circulator projects, which includes BRT, streetcars, and other fixed guideways.
This article was featured in Talking Transit, MPC's bi-weekly e-newsletter. To sign up to receive Talking Transit, please visit http://www.metroplanning.org/signup.html.