April 12, 2003

Experts Outline Benefits of Better Bus System


Contact: Lisa Peterson, 212-629-8001, lpeterson@itdp.org

A group of international transportation experts arrived in last week to help Cape Town officials design a world-class bus system.  Many of the experts were involved in the planning and management of TransMilenio, the successful Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system built in Bogotá, Colombia, which has brought incredible improvements in mobility and quality of life.

“TransMilenio brought unprecedented improvement not only in the lives of the poor, but in all citizens’ lives, as crime rates, pollution levels and commuting times dropped,” said Andrew Wheeldon, South Africa Country Director for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.  “The experience of Bogotá shows how investing in equitable access to mobility can improve a city for all citizens, rich and poor.”

Prior to the construction of TransMilenio, Bogotá had:

  • An average daily commuting time of 2 hours and 20 minutes
  • 750,000 tons of atmospheric pollutants per year generated by motor vehicles
  • 824 motor vehicle accidents per 100,000 inhabitants every year
  • 18 deaths in car accidents per 100,000 inhabitants every year
  • A much longer average commute time to poor communities in the city’s periphery
  • 95% of road space taken up by 15% of the population who commuted by private vehicle

In just two years, Bogotá’s TransMilenio system brought these benefits:

  • 32% reduction in travel time for users
  • Mothers and fathers have 37% more time with their children
  • Violent crime dropped 50% citywide
  • 80% reduction in the number of traffic accidents
  • 30% reduction in the number of fatalities cause by traffic accidents
  • Better air quality as SO2 levels dropped 43%, NO2 18%, and particulate matter 18%
  • Noise pollution reduced by 30%

Bogotá’s TransMilenio system brought many of these improvements after just one year, when 24 km of busways were in use.  Now, 48 km of TransMilenio’s system are open, with another 346 km planned by 2016.

“We cannot talk about urban transport until we know what type of a city we want,” said Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of Bogotá who spearheaded the construction of TransMilenio.  “And to talk about the city we want is to talk about the way we want to live. Do we want to create a city for children and the elderly, and therefore for every other human being, or a city for automobiles?”

“The important questions are not about engineering, but about ways to live. A premise of the new city is that we want society to be as egalitarian as possible.”

Why Bus Rapid Transit?

The popularity of Bus Rapid Transit, also described as a “surface metro system” because it shares many characteristics of an underground metro system, has increased dramatically in the past five to ten years.  Systems are operating in nearly forty cities, and thirty additional cities are in planning or construction phases of new Bus Rapid Transit corridors.

“Bus Rapid Transit is attractive because it is cost-effective, customer-oriented, and easily integrated into a city’s existing transportation infrastructure,” said Dario Hidalgo, one of the experts visiting from Colombia.

“Separate bus-only corridors mean customers are not stuck in traffic, giving the speed and convenience of a rail system.  Yet Bus Rapid Transit systems are built for a fraction of the cost of rail systems, and those savings are passed onto the passenger.”

In Quito, Ecuador, officials chose to build a Bus Rapid Transit system after finding that they could build an expansive busway network for the same cost of a short rail line.  The below maps show these two systems:




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