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How bus rapid transit is cleaning the air and saving commute time in Mexico City and Istanbul

Kaid Benfield

Posted December 11, 2013

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  BRT station in Mexico City (by: EMBARQ Brasil, creative commons)

The international transportation policy group EMBARQ has just released a great new short video highlighting the benefits of bus rapid transit systems in Mexico City and Istanbul.  The video illustrates some of the findings in the organization’s detailed recent report, Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts of BRT Systems.

BRT can be particularly useful in developing countries because it can bring (or extend) many of the benefits of rail transit systems – speed, predictability, priority, comfort – while requiring considerably less capital investment.  The key to success is assigning dedicated travel lanes to the BRT vehicles so they avoid congestion, and committing to modern stations at appropriate intervals with streamlined fare collection and boarding (see photo at top).

Nine hundred thousand passengers per day ride the Mexico City BRT, which supplements the city’s Metro rail system.  EMBARQ says BRT has reduced accidents and air emissions, including reductions of 690 tons of nitrogen oxide, 2.8 tons of fine particulate matter, 144 tons of hydrocarbons and 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, compared to previous levels.  BRT has also improved mobility on bus routes by 50 percent, reduced accidents by 30 percent and shifted an estimated 6 percent of travelers from private vehicles to public transport, says the group’s report.

In Istanbul, EMBARQ says that the average passenger on Metrobüs saves 28 workdays per year in reduced travel times compared to alternative forms of transport; the line uses dedicated space in the median of the city’s D100 freeway and operates at near-highway speeds.  Bridging Asia and Europe, Istanbul’s system is the first BRT in the world to provide intercontinental service.  The system serves 600,000 passengers daily.

Here’s the video.  Enjoy:


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Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment on Switchboard and in other national media.  Kaid’s forthcoming book, People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities, will be published January 6, 2014, and can be pre-ordered now.

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Eric OrozcoDec 12 2013 01:04 PM

I hope we won't relegate these paradigms as a subcategory of strategies that apply to "developing countries". Let me ask the humble question: Could not the vibrant and well-walked BRT Avenida be the eloquent model to inform our work in compelling ways for us stroadily developed nations? In what way could that model, indeed, not be even more perfectly suited for us?

This piece is funny, because it recasts my struggle as an urban designer as my personal life story. Mexico City and Istanbul have existed as the paradigms of my experience for Walkable Cities (indeed, born in Mexico City, my literal first home and neighborhood was Insurgentes). Simply, these are the amazing cities that I've understood and experienced primarily by walking. And they inform my work! Lessons, markers and paradigms that enrich my transit and LEED-ND work for stroadville!

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