Bus Rapid Transit Explained

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has featured prominently in the South African news lately, with various parties fighting over ownership and the validity of installing a system which will rival the current taxi system.

But what exactly is all of the fuss about? How is a BRT system different to the legion of buses that we currently have on the road, and most importantly, how will a BRT system improve the lives of South Africa’s daily commuters?

Essentially BRT is a road-based public transport system which replicates systems used on the railroads. The system is designed to provide consistent service delivery which is affordable, fast, efficient and comfortable, and delivers a high degree of urban mobility. BRT buses will run from 05:00 AM to midnight everyday, with a buses arriving at stations every 1 to 3 minutes during peak travel hours and every 10 minutes during off-peak hours.

The system utilises dedicated bus lanes, which will run down the centre of existing inner city roads. These dedicated lanes will form the trunk service of the BRT system. The trunk service will be equipped with raised bus stations every 500m and will cover more than 300 km of commuter routes. Articulated buses with a seating capacity of 75 or 112 people, will service the trunk system. The trunk service will in turn be complemented by buses with a seating capacity of 60 passengers. These buses are small enough to operate kerbside and on the dedicated roads of the trunk system. This will allow BRT to operate outside of the confines of dedicated bus lanes. Feeder buses, with a seating capacity of 32 passengers, will be used to transport people from outlying areas into the trunk service area. Park and ride facilities will be implemented to encourage people with their own cars to use the BRT system.

So what does all of this mean for your average commuter? BRT ultimately means that your average commuter will be able to effectively navigate the city between 5 am and midnight everyday. With the current commuter system, service delivery peaks during rush hours and then fizzles out shortly afterwards as a result of diminishing clientele. Service providers for the BRT system will be paid by the kilometre travelled on routes, instead of per commuter carried. The immediate result of this is the elimination of reckless fast driving to meet daily targets and an emphasis on continuous service delivery which will ensure that service providers operate punctually and effectively. BRT will also reduce the number of vehicles currently operating on our overburdened roads, and as a result carbon emissions and traffic congestion. The system will allow handicapped and wheelchair bound commuters to use public transport reliably for the first time, a segment of society which has been completely ignored with the current public transport system.

BRT was developed in Brazil during the 1970s to combat similar transportation issues to those that South Africa is facing presently. Since the conception of BRT, the system has been implemented in over 40 global locations, with another 80 currently in the planning stages, including New York and London. The system also emerged as a necessary addition to the Beijing transport system to reduce the number of privately owned vehicles on the road and carbon emissions generated by traffic. The system was effectively implemented by the city for the Beijing Olympics and has proved highly successful in attaining the objectives of efficient, affordable, comfortable public transportation.

So while BRT will result in traffic disruptions while under construction, the long term benefits far outweigh the teething problems that will face South African commuters during its implementation.

Information sourced from

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