An urban design and transportation engineering team from Santiago came up for a visit to MIT last week. Next fall, a joint MIT-PUC workshop will be focused on BRT corridor planning in the Boston area and for Transantiago. In anticipation, here are some photos from my visit to Santiago last summer:
OC Transpo, the transit provider for Canada’s capital city, has a fleet of just over 1,000 buses. The agency’s service area was home to just over 800,000 people in 2010, while average weekday boardings reached 384,000. While the OC Transpo does provide limited diesel multiple unit (DMU) rail service, the majority of its riders use the Transitway bus network. Inaugurated in 1983, this system of exclusive bus infrastructure speeds transit passengers from outlying suburban areas to downtown, with buses operating at their 56 mph speed limit along most of the route. The Transitway has undergone continuous expansion, and now it handles 10,500 passengers per direction per hour in the morning peak. But with buses passing in each direction every 20 seconds downtown, the downtown bus lanes are approaching saturation and will soon be replaced by an underground light rail link.
Pictures from a recent visit are below. OC Transpo’s Flickr photostream also has an excellent collection of historical photos.
In general, there were less musicians and vendors on Santiago’s buses and Metro than I encountered in other cities’ transportation systems. One exception is the scheming gringo shown in the video below – he may look familiar to my friends from high school.
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
Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher
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
In the forty days I spent in Panama, I rode a total of sixty different vehicles. Forty-three of these vehicles were diablos rojos (former school buses). I spent almost 24 hours on diablos rojos, riding a total of 411 miles in Panama. The average length of trip I took on these buses was 32 minutes (quite short, given that the average one-way commute time for residents of Panama City is about 70 minutes). In terms of bus bodies, almost all were conventional-style buses, and about half of them were Thomas Built Buses, half were Blue Bird, and one was a Ward Volunteer. Most of the buses had manual transmissions (even the ones that were originally manufactured with automatics). One of the buses I rode down the Transistmica had a female driver, a first for my trip.… Read the rest
Cuando yo caminaba por Panamá Viejo, yo ví un hombre lavando su bus. Decidí a saludarle y decirle lo de mi proyecto. Luís era muy amable, dandome mucha información sobre el 1987 Blue Bird/International antiguo bus escolar de su padre, y me invitó a acompañarle y el chofer del bus, Edwin, el día sigiuente.
El día sigiuente, me reuní con ellos en frente de los barberías de la Plaza 5 de Mayo a las 8:00. Eso fue la segunda vez que habían pasado la parada, despues de empezar sus vueltas de Panamá Viejo a las 5:40. Yo abordé a y disfruté el día andando por Avenida Balboa en su ruta para Panamá Viejo (mira la linea roja en el mapa que yo hice).
8:05 – Luís and Edwin les digan a los pasajeros quienes quieren viajar a La Terminal de Albrook que desembarquen y cambien buses. Aunque buses de Panamá Viejo usualmente van para la Terminal, entonces se vuelvan y regresan por El Chorrillo, Edwin a menudo no va a la Terminal en las mañanas porque no hay bastante pasajeros allá.
8:10 – Edwin para el bus en el lado de la puente de Avenida 3 de Noviembre a Avenida de los Mártires. El orina en la llanta y un hombre con muletas aborda. Él llama pasajeros al bus en las paradas de Ancón, y Luís le da unos cuartos por la ayuda.
8:25 – Estamos esperando mas pasajeros en El Chorrillo. Álguien pregunta “¿Esperan cuanto para salir de aquí?” Edwin le contesta que vamos a salir cuando un otro bus viene. El otro ya viene, y salimos por las calles angostas para Calle 12.
8:35 – Estamos en Avenida Balboa/La Cinta Costera otra vez. Todos los asientos están occupados, y ocho personas estan parados.
8:45 – Luís pregunta, “¿Nádie para abajo del puente?” Nádie contesta, y por eso, evitamos el tranque caminando por el Puente Via Israel.
8:55 – Entramos el barrio Panamá Viejo, pasando por una area residencial por primera vez.
9:20 – Todos los pasajeros desembarcan en la ultima parada en Vía España. Edwin sale del bus para comprar sus boletos to rotulo. Mientras Edwin está comprando sus boletos, Luís y yo hablamos sobre la transformación de los buses viejos. Me dice que muchos turistas quien abordan su bus no saben que estuvo un bus escolar en EEUU. Edwin regresa, molestado porque no tenían El Chance.
9:30 – Luís les dice “No voy” a los que quieren abordar. Continuamos conversando sobre el reusar de los buses cuando manejamos para Panamá Viejo. Comprando en la subasta, los dueños panameños puenden comprar un bus usado por $4,000. Ellos cambian los cambios de automáticos para palancas, los que piensan son mas durables. Luís y Edwin felicitan la durabilidad de los diablos rojos y critican los buses con aire acondicionado, como los nuevos de Hyundai y Daewoo. Prefieren chassis de International para las máquinas, y para los buses, a Luís le gusta los de Thomas (mas de Blue Bird), porque son mejor para modificar con pintura.… Read the rest
Overturned Bus on the Cinta Costera (Photo from Critica en Linea – Click on the photo to see more)
Racing each other to pick up more passengers, the old school buses in Panama City collide with alarming frequency. One particularly horrific crash, which injured nearly three dozen people, occurred on the Cinta Costera in January, 2010. Here is a translation of excerpts of an article about the event:
Transit: Race Leaves More than Thirty Injured
Panic on the Coastal Beltway
Oh my God! The shout was followed with alarmed screams of the more than sixty passengers aboard a Panama Viejo bus, which rolled over several times as crushed sheet metal crunched over the hard pavement. Out of the completely overturned vehicle climbed men, women, and children, some bleeding, others in pain, and the rest in hysterics. Thirty-five injured was the final count, among them ten seriously injured and two infants.
It was about 10:40 AM yesterday, Sunday, when the vehicular tragedy occurred. The Panama Viejo bus, license plate B-3388, expired since 2003, was racing with another Panama Viejo bus, which fled the scene. During the race the young driver lost control and ended up crashing into a lamp pole. The bus destroyed the signs, literally flew and spun in the air, fell 20 meters away from the impact, and ended up facing in the opposite direction. People escaped from the emergency door and the front on their own, but several passengers were trapped inside the vehicle. A young man’s right arm was trapped between the pavement and the heavy bus; more than fifteen soldiers were able to move the diablo rojo to free him.
Tears, pain and blood – the scene was sad. The injured, trembling in panic, sat among the steps that are used daily by dozens of children for fun, waiting this time for the help of paramedics. Most victims were women.
The driver of the vehicle, Elías Eliecer Guerra Singh, 20, was unhurt in the accident. He is not licensed to drive public transport, only private cars. In addition, his age is not adequate to drive that kind of public transport.
The second bus involved was located hidden in Panama Viejo, where it was impounded.
With such graphic and sensational media reports about diablo rojo crashes, it’s no wonder the government is making the implementation of Metrobus such a priority. At a November event with the first of the newly delivered buses, the Presidential Minister made the ambitious claim that there would be zero diablos rojos in the city by August, 2011. When questioned about the seating capacity of the new Volvo buses, he replied “The important thing is not to go seated, the problem is to go safely, in a comfortable and trustworthy manner.” Crashes like the ones above only heighten the government’s ability to replace the existing system and eliminate the existing drivers. Metrobus drivers will not be competing for fares, so there should be little incentive for them to drive at such high speeds.… Read the rest
Unlike in Nicaragua, the majority of the intercity buses I saw in my week in Costa Rica were coach buses (mainly Marcopolo bodies manufactured in Brazil). There were, however, plenty of old school buses being reused as transport for agricultural workers and students. The ones still being used as school buses were well marked with stop signs, etc.
Assorted buses outside of Nicoya
Thomas Saf-T-Liner FE for pineapple pickers
?”Turismo – Pulaski County Special School District”
Blue Bird All-American FE
Many of the school buses in Costa Rica are still used as school buses
Blue Bird All-American FE with the Arenal Volcano in the background
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.