Friday, July 10, 2009

Bus Rapid Transit and Climate Change in the New York Times

The New York Times has an in depth article today discussing the connection between climate change, transportation sector emissions, and how Bus Rapid Transit systems can help solve the problem. It is well worth a read.

The story states, "in the booming cities of Asia, Africa and Latin America account for a rapidly growing component of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. While emissions from industry are decreasing, those related to transportation are expected to rise more than50 percent by 2030 in industrialized and poorer nations." Often times climate change related emission reduction efforts are focused on power and efficiency, both of which are very important. That said, this statistic reasserts that transportation planning is a crucial component to greenhouse gas emission reduction worldwide (in Washington State's transportation emissions account for 47% of emissions).

The article points to Botoga's highly acclaimed BRT system, TransMilenio , as an successful example.

Bus rapid transit systems like Bogotá’s, called TransMilenio, might hold an answer. Now used for an average of 1.6 million trips each day, TransMilenio has allowed the city to remove 7,000 small private buses from its roads, reducing the use of bus fuel — and associated emissions — by more than 59 percent since it opened its first line in 2001, according to city officials.

1.6 Million trips per day just on their BRT system is phenomenal. Bogata is quite a bit bigger than Seattle, but to give you an idea metro's systemwide ridership on an average weekday in 2007 was 365,000.

The story goes on to get into a few stories of what TransMilenio has done for commuters and discusses the diffrence in branding between buses and true BRT:

Mr. Peñalosa noted that the negative stereotypes about bus travel required some clever rebranding. Now, he said, upscale condominiums advertise that they are near TransMilenio lines. “People don’t say, ‘I’m taking the bus,’ they say, ‘I’m taking TransMilenio,’ ” he added, as he rode at rush hour recently, chatting with other passengers.

Jorge Engarrita, 45, a leather worker who was riding TransMilenio to work, said the system had “changed his life,” reducing his commuting time to 40 minutes with one transfer from two or three hours on several buses. Free shuttle buses carry residents from outlying districts to TransMilenio terminals.

For a great video on how TransMilenio works check out this Streetfilms video.

As someone who has experience South American BRT personally , I am continually impressed how large South American cities especially Bogata continue to highlight their success with a fast and efficient BRT systems. Both the Quito and Bogata systems function better than any attempts at BRT regionally so far for two key reasons:

-True right of way that is dedicated solely for Bus Rapid Transit and not shared with other buses or cars. These lanes have controlled access like a rail line and never get stuck in traffic.

-Stations that function and feel like a rail line where you buy a ticket to get into the station and you can not pay onboard (Swift is going to be the first BRT system in the region that has this benefit to speed up boarding).

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