June 11, 2015

The Power Of A Site Visit

Lanzhou Party in Guangzhou Blog Header

Seeing is believing, as the saying goes. That holds true for officials on site visits to high quality public transit projects. Experiencing a successful bus rapid transit or bike share first-hand is often the key to helping decision makers visualize how such systems can be implemented and benefit their city. For years, ITDP has hosted decision-makers and technical experts from around the world on visits to high quality demonstration projects as part of efforts to promote replication and dissemination of best practices. In addition to BRT, a strong demonstration corridor may feature integrated bike share, greenways, transit-oriented development, public space improvements, better parking management, and high quality pedestrian infrastructure. With hundreds of delegations visiting corridors on every continent, ITDP is helping leaders around the world see how high-quality transit builds a strong city.

Almaty in Yichang
Officials from Almaty Kazakhstan visit construction of the Yichang China BRT corridor

Site visits serve several purposes. At the initial stages, experiencing the efficiency and speed of a high-quality BRT can inspire skeptical decision makers to take the next step in exploring if the option is right for their city. Officials from Yichang and many other cities credit their visit to the Guangzhou BRT in 2012 as a major factor in deciding to pursue BRT. As the Executive Vice Mayor commented, “I have totally changed my opinion about BRT. The experiences from Guangzhou are extremely useful as a reference for Yichang.” After a year of subsequent planning, the Yichang system started construction in 2014 and will open in mid-2015.

As planning moves ahead, exploring the details of successful systems helps a city’s technical staff gain insights on creating their own design. The trip also provides decision makers and technical staff the opportunity to meet with high level staff of the host city to share their experiences. Detailed discussions on construction strategies, management structures, and political challenges can better prepare planners as they build their own high-quality systems.

A delegation from Manila Philippines visits the control center of the Guangzhou BRT to better understand the systems management structure and logistics

Today, a strong set of high-quality BRTs allow delegations to visit a system that best speaks to their local context. In 2014, officials from Almaty, Kazakhstan visited the Guangzhou and Yichang BRT corridors. Though the BRT in Yichang is still under construction, officials were eager to see how the system was incorporated into comparatively narrow streets, more similar to Almaty than the megacity sized avenues of Guangzhou.”We were taken to the narrow section of the BRT corridor in Yichang, which very much fits our situation in Almaty. It was very useful for us to understand how you find the design solution for this narrow section”, attested Mr. Yerlan Adilov, Deputy Head of Almaty’s Department of Public Transport.

Since the opening of the groundbreaking TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia in 2000, ITDP has hosted hundreds of delegations in Ahmedabad, India; Bogotá, Colombia; Guangzhou, China; Jakarta, Indonesia; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Mexico City, Mexico.

An early ITDP site visit to TransMilenio

ITDP provides tours, insights, and experience to visiting delegations (though ITDP does not cover the costs of the visit). Since ITDP China developed the site visit program in 2010 as a key part of an initiative to ‘scale up’ impacts across China and worldwide, more than 440 delegations with 2,400 representatives have visited the Guangzhou BRT alone.

“This type of training can really have an influence not only on getting more cities to think about Bus Rapid Transit, but when they do, to implement Bus Rapid Transit to a much higher standard,” said Lloyd Wright, Senior Transport Specialist, Asian Development Bank. “The opportunity to come to the place, [and] to touch and feel and experience Bus Rapid Transit really made all the difference.”

Visit www.sitevisits.net for more information about site visits through ITDP, or contact any of our field offices directly.


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