Six years after its opening, the Metro Orange Line in Los Angeles remains one of the few true BRT corridors in the United States. Right of way is almost entirely an exclusive busway, and buses receive well-enforced signal priority against cross traffic.
The 14 stations along the 14 mile route currently see approximately 24,000 weekday boardings. A second branch, from Canoga Station in the west north to Chatsworth, will be opening in June 2012. Though only one service currently operates along the route (serving all stops between Warner Center and North Hollywood), the extension will lead Metro to consider other services, such as north-south between Chatsworth and Warner Center. A limited-stop service to the North Hollywood Red Line station might also make sense, given that there are passing lanes at stations and peak headways, currently at 4 minutes, will be high enough to support such service after the extension opens. Though given Metro’s propensity for simplifying service patterns, like the elimination of Metro Rapid Express 920, this seems unlikely. Pictures from a January ride are included below, as is a Measure R construction update on the extension.
Though the Orange Line is not grade separated from cross traffic, it does receive numerous priority treatments.
Wide doors, level boarding, and fare prepayment allow for minimal dwell times.
The Orange Line’s western terminus, Warner Center, offers few passenger amenities.
The eastern terminus, North Hollywood, is visually distinct.
Wayfinding for the Orange Line is good within the North Hollywood Red Line station, but…
Passengers must cross a busy street to transfer between the Orange and Red lines.
Bike lockers are available for rent at most Orange Line stations.
Bicycles are prevalent both onboard the Orange Line and along the parallel bike path.
Construction for the extension to Chatsworth near Canoga Station
Former Mayor of Curitiba and Governor of Paraná Jaime Lerner gave the keynote address at Transforming Transportation 2012. He highlighted the use of “urban acupuncture” and “focal interventions,” used in conjunction with the planning process, to catalyze urban improvements. He also cautioned against unsuccessful and disorganized implementations of bus rapid transit, especially those that do not integrate well with the “concept of a city.” Highlights of his dynamic and comedic speech, and the complete set of slides he used, are both embedded below.
Curitiba, Brazil, implemented the world’s first bus rapid transit system in the 1970s. Along with programs to convert floodplains to green space, pedestrianize downtown streets, and improve waste collection, the new “surface metro” transformed the city. Curitiba is the inspiration for many of the other BRT projects I learned about during my year of travel, so a visit there was perfect for my last stop.
New Volvo/Caio biarticulated bus
Malfunctioning loading ramp
New Volvo/Neobus biodiesel biarticulated bus
“Arrive home more quickly with the new Express Line”
At the end of May, the Mayor of Buenos Aires inaugurated Argentina’s first BRT line (English summary here). Metrobus incorporates lines 34 and 166 (operated by the private companies Juan B. Justo S.A.T.C.I. and Empresa Linea 216, S.A.T., respectively), which run along Juan B. Justo Avenue between Palermo and Liniers. The new corridor consists of dedicated center lanes and raised stops.
“We were expecting ridership growth of 20% in the medium term, but in the first weeks we halve already come to record more than 15%,” staff of the Secretary of Transportation said. According to their explanation, this is due mostly to people realizing that they can travel more quickly and safely with the dedicated lanes, because the drivers can no longer pass each other nor do they need to brake abruptly in stops or corners. “And, incidentally, this also benefits auto drivers, who now drive more relaxed separated from buses,” they added. According to their statistics, the growth of passengers has been recorded, above all, in Line 34, where 18% more users are now noted.
Despite the protracted construction process (pictures below), the system seems to be gaining ground as an important tool for sustainable mobility in Buenos Aires.
Punctuality – a benefit of BRT
Lines 34 and 166, which formerly circulated in general traffic, now use dedicated lan…
Metrobus is coming
Metrobus will cut travel times along Ave. Juan B. Justo by 40% for buses while increa…
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
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
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.
Daniel Chain (Minister for Urban Development), Andres Fingeret (ITDP Country Director…
Metrobus is a central part of Buenos Aires’ Sustainable Mobility Plan
Bus- (and taxi-) only lanes
Extension of Line E
Buenos Aires has a growing network of bike lanes and rental facilities
For the last month and a half, I have been working on a transit evaluation project with the Across Latitudes and Cultures – Bus Rapid Transit Center of Excellence hosted by the Catholic University of Chile in Santiago. The University’s engineering department put together a quick overview of my work here (the result of my first ever interview in Spanish). Below is a loose translation:
Anson Stewart has completed nearly a year touring countries in Central America and Africa, observing transport systems
Anson Stewart, with bachelor degrees in urban studies and engineering from Swarthmore College (Philadelphia) and a masters student at MIT, is undertaking his investigation “School Bus Migrations” thanks to the Watson Fellowship, which 40 young people from the United States receive annually. This scholarship promotes the exploration and learning about other cultures around the world during a year.
South Africa, Tanzania, Guatemala, Panama, Belize, Nicaragua, and Argentina were some of Stewart’s destinations before arriving in Chile. In these countries he began his investigation about school buses that the United States exports en masse to different countries of the world for public transportation. After a bit of exploring, Stewart encountered some interesting findings.
All of the countries of Central America are scrapping the yellow buses which served in previous years as public transportation. Today there exist ongoing implementations or at least plans for bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, as was established in Colombia with the name Transmilenio at the beginning of the past decade, and recently in Johnnesburg. Nicaragua and Tanzania are in the planning stages, Guatemala has two corridors, and Panama has the buses but still do not use them because of the lack of political agreement.
Stewart believes that this tendency to implement BRT in all of these countries does not end up positively in all cases. “I think that the countries are replicating a technical model without necessarily thinking in the specific cases of culture, political system, or infrastructure,” he says.
Although there are not agreements among experts about its definition, according to Stewart, BRT is understood as a system of exclusive corridors for buses with prepaid fares. According to this definition, Transantiago corresponds to a BRT model in the trunk routes where prepaid boarding areas exist.
“Transantiago is the only case in which the change was complete at the level of the city, and not gradual, in contrast with the other countries where BRT is being implemented. This leads to quite a few challenges, and I think that the system functions quite well,” affirms Stewart. Among the positive aspects of Transantiago, the expert highlighted the ease of obtaining and using the Bip farecard,website services, and the security that results from drivers not having to race and compete for passengers.
To complement his investigation, Stewart hopes to travel to Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt, the furthest destinations to which school buses from the US have arrived. At the end of July, he will return to the US where he will begin his MS Transportation studies at MIT to complement his studies in urbanism and engineering.
The exhibition was in South Africa during my stay there, but I waited to visit it until it opened at Argentina’s Museum of Architecture and Design. It was especially fun to read about the African cities I had gotten to know in an exhibit in South America. Speaking about the exhibition’s cities when it was in South Africa, the executive manager for planning and strategy at the Joburg Development Agency, Sharon Lewis, noted, “Nearly all of the cities are in developing nations, because this is where most urban growth will happen over the next 20 years. They have the opportunity to learn from and leapfrog over the mistakes made by developed nations, particularly the over-dependence of cars in the United States.”
Our Cities, Ourselves explores the use of bicycles, public space, and public transportation as tools to combat overdependence on cars in cities (PDF booklet highlighting these tools here). A video of the exhibit (in Spanish) is here.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the exhibit in Argentina was a lecture by Columbia sociologist Saskia Sassen, who grew up in Buenos Aires. She shared her thoughts on transportation’s role in bringing about a “tipping point” in the fight for global sustainability. There are important “microprocesses” involved with transportation, and “we don’t need the big flagship project.” This was an important perspective to hear, especially given the publicity and flagship status cities tend to give to BRT projects. She also mentioned the prevalence of “sites in the city of non-voluntary immobility,” a phrasing I found helpful. A video of her remarks (in Spanish) is here.
Bike sculpture outside the Museum of Architecture and Design
Andrés Fingeret (ITDP Argentina) and Saskia Sassen
Rea Vaya, Africa’s first true BRT system, commenced operations in Johannesburg on August 31, 2009 (see a video of the first day of operations here). Phase 1A includes the T1 trunk line, which uses articulated buses to convey 30,000 daily passengers through the 21 enclosed stations between Thokoza Park in Soweto to Ellis Park via the Central Business District. It also includes circulatory buses in the CBD and neighborhood feeder routes in Soweto (see route maps here). Construction of additional phases is ongoing; the system will eventually criss-cross the city, with a corridor running north through Sandton to Sunninghill. Rea Vaya faced violent opposition from some sectors of the preexisting minibus taxi industry. Strong municipal leadership and a focus on building meaningful relationships between stakeholders has enabled the system’s success, not only as a transportation corridor, but also as a tool to realize higher aspirations for Joburg’s urban space.
Rea Vaya in Soweto
Rea Vaya station
Rea Vaya’s Library Gardens Eastbound station
F4 Mofolo bus – The feeder buses have high doors on the right for station boarding an…
“Yield to BRT”
Bus robots (traffic lights)
Tracking buses at the Rea Vaya Control Center
With MMC Rehana Moosajee at Rea Vaya headquarters
At one of the bus dispatch workstations
At one of the bus dispatch workstations
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Joburg’s MMC (Member of the Mayoral Committee) for Transport, Rehana Moosajee, has been one of the driving forces behind Rea Vaya. She graciously shared with me her perspectives on the system’s development and arranged for me to take guided tours of the its routes and central control center. In 2006, Joburg’s newly elected mayor decided to elevate transport to a stand-alone portfolio within the city’s government. This act underscored the importance of public transportation, and it was with a clear mandate that MMC Moosajee and others in the government began exploring options to transform the city’s mobility options. They invited leading BRT proponents to give a presentation, which included a showing of Making Things Happen with BRT. This short film promises numerous benefits for the urban environment (and politicians’ careers) from a high quality, world-class, subsidy-free transport mode. Leaders simply need to have the “guts,” “bite the bullet,” and take the first steps towards building a BRT system.
Determined to move forward with BRT, the city began laying the groundwork for Rea Vaya. They anticipated strong resistance from existing minibus taxi operators, whose industry and self-governance evolved on the margins of apartheid governmentality. The informal transit sector simultaneously contested and enabled apartheid practices, and in today’s Rainbow Nation, their market niche continues to be “the preservation of apartheid spatiality,” as South Africa’s Deputy Minister for Transport Jeremy Cronin put it. Given the minibus industry’s historically complicated relationship with government, the city government knew that building trust would be vital, and they accordingly employed a number of key tactics:
Giving taxi industry leaders “exposure to comparable informal operators.” When touring other cities that had also formalized previously informal systems, minibus industry leaders sensed an “element of resonance.” Realizing that informal operators in South Africa were not unique, and that others were better off for having embraced change, helped motivate industry leaders to move forward in cooperation with the city.
The City of Johannesburg has compiled an excellent self-guided bus tour of Soweto. My South African hosts and I decided to do the tour one Saturday morning. Serendipitously, we reached the Jo’burg Theater Rea Vaya station just as city council members were boarding a special Rea Vaya bus for their own guided tour of the corridor. We were invited to join them, and I loved the tour and the chance to talk with some of the city and PioTrans officials.
We disembarked in front of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s house, then continued with the official delegation up Vilakazi Street past some captivating public art and the former residence of Nelson Mandela (now a museum). At the memorial to Hector Pieterson, we turned and went down the hill, hopping on a Rea Vaya T1 bus and continuing to the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication. Rea Vaya does an excellent job of providing easily-comprehensible, efficient, and reliable transportation service to Soweto. Not only does this provide a much-needed service for Soweto’s residents, it also enables residents from other parts of South Africa to more comfortably visit these historic sites. Many of those who visit for the first time are pleasantly surprised by the quick trip on Rea Vaya and the warm welcome they receive in Soweto, a place that, in the country’s historical memory, is far-removed from Johannesburg.
The only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners
At Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s house on Vilakazi St.
“The land shall be shared among those who work it!” – The ANC Freedom Charter, adopte…
Formal and informal retail are both included at the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedicatio…
The complete Phase 1A of Cape Town’s MyCiTi bus rapid transit system commenced operation in mid-May. It was originally planned to open in April 2010, but only the airport and stadium links were operational in time for last year’s World Cup. The BRT corridor and stations between Cape Town Civic Center and Table View were completed by this past January, but contentious negotiations with minibus taxi and bus operators led to a series of delays.
The political clashes and strikes leading up to MyCiTi’s implementation have their roots in historical difficulties regulating the informal minibus taxi industry:
In deregulating the minibus taxi sector in the late 1980s, and subsequently aiming to return to regulation through formally structured interventions such as the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme and the creation of a government-sanctioned representative structure (ie SANTACO), government has not created conditions conducive to the formalisation of minibus operating or business practices. Past interventions have, rather, contributed to the entrenchment of informal operating practices, the creation of ‘warlord’ figures fervently opposed to a loss of control of the sector; representative structures and operator associations well organised to violently disrupt the transport system and threaten public safety; and fluid loyalties within the industry. [Herrie Schalekamp, ACET Research Officer, in Mobility Magazine]
In one of the meetings I had with Herrie, he described the city as attempting to use BRT as an “infrastructural solution to a social issue.” Attempting to address transportation regulatory and governance issues by building dedicated rights of way and BRT stations would clearly lead to the “imbalance in work streams” characteristic of the project, with physical infrastructure delivered far earlier than operational and organizational structures. Further complicating the efforts to formalize and regulate the taxi industry (which receives no operating subsidies but generally pays no taxes) were unrealistic promises made by politicians and the lack of reliable data on existing operations.
The Stadium MyCiti BRT Station
MyCiti Airport Shuttle at Civic Center Station
Putting the finishing touches on the Granger Bay BRT Station
Civic Center Station
BRT station under construction on Hans Strijdom Ave.
BRT station under construction on Hans Strijdom Ave.
Dedicated bus lanes on Hertzog Blvd.
Dedicated BRT right of way
MyCiti Airport Shuttle
The MyCiti exclusive right of way is the red pavement running through the center
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These two factors combined to confound the process of compensating existing minibus operators. At a national level, politicians promised that existing operators would not suffer any “legitimate loss of revenue” due to the implementation of BRT. Yet in most South African cities, revenue from legitimate minibus taxi operations is difficult to calculate accurately, especially considering the industry’s marginalized origins in the apartheid era. In Cape Town, transportation officials do not know accurately how many minibuses operate, or on what routes they operate, since so many minibuses are unlicensed. Given the promise to compensate existing operators for business taken by the BRT system, Cape Town officials must either offer jobs or monetary compensation to a growing list of (licensed and unlicensed) minibus owners whose routes will be affected.… Read the rest