Valparaíso Metro

From a tour of Merval in July, 2012

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Portland Transit Photos

Pictures of some of Portland’s transit options:

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Intermodal La Cisterna

My supervisors from the Across Latitudes and Cultures – Bus Rapid Transit Center of Excellence gave me a tour of Santiago’s Metro and the Transantiago bus system, focusing especially on the relatively new La Cisterna Intermodal Station. The massive complex includes bus loading bays on three levels, connections to two subway lines, a grocery store, and a gym.

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Plan de Movilidad Sustentable

The municipal government of Buenos Aires has developed and begun to implement a comprehensive plan to foster healthy and sustainable mobility options for the city’s residents. From their website:

“We’re working to improve your quality of life. To accomplish this with the Sustainable Mobility Plan, we seek to reorder transit so that all of us can travel in a rapid, safe, and orderly manner in our city, contributing additionally to improved environmental quality. The Sustainable Mobility Plan integrates linked programs which were developed by using the global best practices, the support of recognized professionals in each field of expertise, and the mainstays of managing transportation and public transit: public transit priority, healthy mobility, and roadway safety and design.”

These three pillars have a number of supporting programs that are being implemented successfully:

Public transit priority

  • Preferential lanes – counterflow lanes used exclusively by buses and taxis during rush hours have been introduced on many of Buenos Aires’ main arteries, including Santa Fe, Pueyrredon, and Callao.
  • Metrobus – the city’s first BRT corridor opened at the end of May
  • New Metro stations – fifteen new stations are in planning or construction along four Subte lines

Healthy mobility

  • Ecological buses – hybrid buses are being introduced to reduce emissions
  • Pedestrian priority – restricting auto access to pedestrian corridors to encourage walking
  • Buenos Aires Better on Bike – the city has introduced a bike sharing program and is ambitiously expanding its network of bicycle lanes. Additionally, bike-friendly policies are in place for public transit. Daniel Chain, the city’s minister for urban development, credits these advances with fostering geometric growth of bicycle use over the past months

Roadway safety and design

  • Traffic safety and enforcement – This multipronged effort includes improved DUI enforcement, speeding crackdowns, and improvements to scholar transport.
  • Efficient parking systems
  • Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) implementation
  • Infrastructure improvements

The city is doing an impressive job of articulating a comprehensive vision of sustainable mobility, even though progress in making such significant changes can seem to be slow (see the above video – it features porteños praising a mobility improvement and suggesting a change in a different area, only for the video to then show that the suggested change is in fact underway). Working with strong allies like ITDP, Transeunte Argentina, and the Society of Architects is helping to turn this vision into reality.

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Alianza Pro Ciudad

One of my favorite parts of Panama City was sitting in on meetings of Alianza Pro Ciudad. Founded in 2007, the alliance is a nonprofit network of architects, urbanists, and engineers that speaks out for civic participation and a livable city. The group’s bulletin has covered topics ranging from proposed development at the site of the former US Embassy to the state of transportation in Panama City (which is how I found out about them). Every Tuesday afternoon, I would sit in on their weekly meetings at the coffee shop in the Exedra book store. Hearing professionals (including a former director of ATTT, the national ground transit authority) discuss and debate urban issues such as public space (“the government builds houses, not a city – there are no public spaces, no places to meet”), traffic congestion (the average commute time in the city is 70 minutes), and historic preservation (“developers manipulate the term restoration for exploitation”), was an excellent way for me to learn more about the city (and practice my Spanish).

Nicaragua Transit Diagram

Nicaragua Transit Diagram

Nicaragua Transit Diagram

In comparison to the one I made for Belize, the transit diagram I made for Nicaragua is not based as heavily on the iconic London Underground diagram. I am being more careful about using the word diagram instead of map, since in these images I aimed for representational clarity rather than geographical accuracy. I have been working on this diagram over the course of two months; a number of features made it more of a challenge to create than my first.  Including both English and Spanish introduced both translation and layout concerns.  I tried to make the diagram colorblind accessible by coding routes with two-letter service designations.  This coding scheme served additionally to indicate that certain cities were the final stop for at least some of the buses running along a given route.  I also included an inset to show local bus routes connecting Managua’s main terminals.

Download a high quality PDF here.

The image below shows the routes I traveled during my time in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua Transit Diagram with the routes I traveled shown as dashed lines

Nicaragua Transit Diagram with the routes I traveled shown as dashed lines


I had the opportunity to meet with the General Director of Managua’s Transport Regulatory Agency (Instituto Regulador de Transporte del Municipio de Managua). He graciously shared a number of interesting facts about their work and gave me some great maps about land use, bus routes, and transit planning in the city.

In the Managua, there are approximately 800 local buses that run on 34 different routes, with 855,000 unlinked boardings daily. The agency’s ridership statistics come from BEA infrared passenger counters installed at the entrance and exit of each bus. Initially, convincing the bus owner cooperatives to allow the installation of these bars was difficult; the owners soon realized, however, that passenger counts would allow them to determine how much fare revenue the drivers were filching (it turned out to be an average of 40%).

A few years ago, President Daniel Ortega announced his Modernization Plan for Urban Transport in Managua. Since then, hundreds of buses amarillos (“yellow buses,” as Nicaraguans call the former school buses) have been replaced, mostly by new 28-seat Kurgansky Avtobusny Zavod (Kavz) buses donated by Russia. These buses, though they are more comfortable for passengers and less polluting for the environment, have had a number of “acclimitization” problems (including with bearings, lubrication, and brakes). Nonetheless, the agency is planning to order 250 additional 40-seat Kavz buses, as well as 300 more buses from Mexico, to arrive by March. I especially enjoyed in looking over a report of specifications and finite-element analysis of these new buses; it was a definite highlight to be sitting with Managua’s head transit planner (and an automotive engineer by training) discussing, in his words, “the design of the perfect bus.”

IRTRAMMA’s long term plans are also interesting. After replacing all of the old school buses, by June 2011, according to plans, they will start implementing a bus rapid transit system tentatively named Metrovia. The agency is in the process of analyzing ridership data from the onboard passenger counters, and they plan to consolidate the thirty-four currently operating routes into eighteen BRT trunk lines and feeders. The Director stressed that they were attempting to optimize these new routes by using a scientific, data-driven approach.

Overall, IRTRAMMA’s goal is to facilitate efficient, safe, comfortable, and economical transport service in Managua. Groups like the BRU in Los Angeles or TRU in Boston might find this last priority interesting; the director explicitly stated that affordability, “to favor the people with the fewest resources in society,” was at the top of his agency’s political agenda.

A couple of years ago, the government proposed raising the bus fare from 13¢ to 15¢, sparking disruptive student strikes that eventually convinced the government to forgo the fare increase. Maintaining affordability while modernizing the fleet and improving bus rights of way will, in the Director’s words, require a “step by step” implementation over a number of years. Aid from other countries will also help (more on that here).