Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, January 6, 2017



Happy New Year from the DUNER BLOG! Over the holidays, our staff was on assignment in Colombia. Sadly, we were unable to interview Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos. Sigh. Afterward, daunted by the horrendous traffic, we chose to take the bus back from the Presidential Palace. See, Bogota has invested heavily in Bus Rapid Transit, which features dedicated lanes used only by buses. Separated from automobile traffic and congested intersections, they are essentially subways in disguise. This prompted us to conduct research into this new Public Transport phenomenon.

The original system in Curitiba
The idea began in 1974 in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. Unable to secure funding for a subway system like neighboring São Paulo, a creative mayor came up with a solution. Instead of digging below the streets, the city instead grabbed two lanes of traffic above ground. These were for buses only. Next, stations, not stops, are ten blocks apart. At the entrance, passengers pass through turnstiles to pay. This lets dozens of people board the bus simultaneously, thus eliminating the tedious routine for drivers to collect fares in addition to driving. Today, 80% of Curitiba residents take the bus and the city has the lowest per-capita spending on transport in the entire nation of Brazil.

Twenty years later, Bogotans found themselves in a similar situation. Unable to fund the subway system the 8,000,000 residents demanded, the mayor instead turned to the Curitiba Model. After years of skepticism, in the year 2000, the (aptly named) Trans-Mileneo opened. Since then, it has mushroomed into the largest BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system in the world, carrying over two million people every day. Having proven that the system can work in a major metropolis, cities worldwide have begun investing heavily in buses and not subways.

Los Angeles has one too!
Take Mexico City for example. It now has five Metrobús lines with no plans to build any new subway lines. In Los Angeles, the Orange Line crosses San Fernando Valley in minutes, not hours. LA Metro calls it ‘the bus that thinks it’s a subway.” However, the largest BRT system in the world is in Jakarta, Indonesia. It has a whopping 210 kilometers of dedicated roads. In fact, there is a system on every continent. In Tehran, two million Iranians take the bus as do hundreds of thousands of folks in Johannesburg and Dublin, Ireland.

Jakarta has the largest RTB
Like everything in life, BRT systems does have its critics...mostly environments. Subway lines are electric and don’t pollute. A fleet of 1,000 enormous buses makes a lot of smog. However, as the bus systems grow, so do the profits. Slowly but surely, hybrid vehicles, made by Mercedes and Van Hool, are replacing the gas guzzlers. While none of these fancy coaches can ever replace the glamour of a Paris subway station, we here at the DUNER BLOG applaud the cities for looking outside the box for transit solutions. 

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