transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
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.