Is Brazil’s bus rapid transit system the way forward for Indian cities?

K. P. M. Basheer Kochi | Updated on August 05, 2013

Curitiba, one of the largest cities of Brazil, is an icon of transit-oriented development and its Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system is reckoned the most successful in the world. Ahmedabad’s Janmarg BRT system and the transit plan in the proposed Naya Raipur have found inspiration in Curitiba’s RIT (‘Integrated Transport Network’ in Portuguese).

Curitiba, which has a population of 1.8 million, relies mostly on RIT for local mobility as it is fast, convenient and cheap.

The RIT is so popular that nearly three-fourths of the commuters ride its buses to work, schools and malls.

Bus-only roads

“Use of private cars in Curitiba is far lower than other cities of its size and prosperity,” says Fabio Duarte, a Professor of Urban Management at the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana, Curitiba. “The experience shows that if easily accessible, fast and comfortable public transport is available, most people would leave their cars at home.”

The RIT has dedicated bus lanes, a fleet of 2,000 buses, and specific bus terminals and stops. There are five vast and wide transit corridors, with hundreds of feeder bus lines linked to them which ensure last-mile connectivity. And, there is only one fare — you can travel on the entire system, with unlimited transfers at terminals. In many ways, bus rapid transit system is like the Metro rail system. Because of the dedicated lanes, there is no congestion on the roads and no traffic signals. The buses stop for 15 to 19 seconds at a stop.

“It’s is the planning of urban development and transportation together that has made Curitiba’s BRTS a great success,” Duarte, who is also an advisor to the Urban Planning Commission of the Curitiba’s city Government, told Business Line in a recent interview in New Delhi. “Development of roads and transport system went hand in hand with land-use planning.” Curitiba’s bus rapid transit system, the world’s first, opened in the early 1970s after a long process of planning and design. The transit plans and urban development plans complemented each other. Back in the 1960s, the city Government, alarmed by the unchecked development, adopted a new master plan.

The planners decided that the city should not grow in all directions from the core, but instead should grow along designated, linear corridors. The development should be triggered by zoning and land-use policies that encouraged high-density business and residential development along the corridors.

The planners wanted mass transit to replace cars as the primary means of transport and foresaw that the high-density development along the corridors would lead to large number of bus users.

It was along the corridors that the later development of the city occurred. Hundreds of skyscrapers, huge business complexes and residential localities line each of the five transport corridors in a well-ordered fashion.

The dedicated lanes, which other vehicles cannot use, make bus movement smooth and fast. The system has 362 tube-shaped stops and 30 terminals. Some 23 lakh passengers a day use the buses which cover close to half a million km a day.

The RIT is owned by the municipal Government, but the buses are operated by 11 private companies.

1 bus replaces 150 cars

The extra-large buses carry 150 passengers each. “This means one bus can keep 150 passenger cars off the road, thus reducing air pollution, traffic jams and fuel consumption,” Duarte points out.

Duarte feels that BRT system is the way forward for many Indian cities where traffic snarls and air pollution make life miserable.

“If convenient BRT is provided in the cities, people will definitely opt for it, rather than go for private cars.”


Published on August 05, 2013

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