Cali Columbia’s Bus Rapid Transit System Film

Here’s a film from current TV on Cali Columbia’s new bus rapid transit system which is called MIO. It’s a nice film illustrating many of the benefits of BRT. At one point a user complains that she likes the older minibuses better – because the new system is too crowded! Not sure if that’s really a negative … a few more buses might solve the problem.

For a slightly less serious look at South American BRT systems check out my music video parody: The Bus From Curitiba on YouTube.

Bus Meister and BRT

Bus Meister will help citizens lobby city hall (this is Vienna) in support of public transport priority (from my flickr photos).

I just returned from a meeting in Udine (Italy) where I spoke about my Bus Meister idea of creating an integrated suite of web applications (game, social network and wiki best practices library) to help educate citizens on how to improve public transport operations (by introducing public transport priority measures) and to empower them to help actually implement these ideas. It’s a general approach that I think could be used to solve many urban problems.

Going through my e-mail I was glad to read about Barcelona’s new BRT lines which one of my UC Berkeley professors, Carlos Daganzo, is helping plan. The article in the ITS Berkeley News is a very good summary of for the importance of public transport priority and BRT. Daganzo is a brilliant scientist, it’s great to see him working on improving public transport!

The Bus from Curitiba

My latest music video: “The Bus from Curitiba” probably needs some explanation, so here’s a little bit about bus rapid transit and then the words with a couple comments.

Bus Rapid Transit and Public Transit Priority

Curitiba Brazil is famous for pioneering the development of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). In the 1970s the city decided to build a very efficient bus-based public transport network instead of a relatively short section of metro line (which would have cost the same amount of money). The results have been nothing short of fantastic.

Curitiba’s BRT system has been replicated throughout the world, although not to the extent that it deserves. Many cities are seduced by the thought of rail-based public transport preferring the sexiness of rail over the benefits of creating a more comprehensive public transport network.

Rail-based public transport is critical in large cities where there is sufficient demand, but I think it’s better to build an attractive and efficient public transport network – based on buses – and then replace buses with higher capacity rail lines when necessary rather then building ‘starter rail lines’ and hoping to attract riders. It’s the network that enables people to get ‘from everywhere to everywhere’ thus addressing the oft heard complaint that “I can’t get there with public transport.”

For more information on Curitiba see: the great Streetfilms Curitiba video showing the system in operation and describing how it works; Professor Robert Cervero’s excellent book The Transit Metropolis (which also describes many other interesting examples of public transport throughout the world); and the wikipedia article Rede Integrada de Transporte.

BRT can be defined as the systematic application of public transport priority techniques. Zurich is a great example of another approach towards systematically applying public transport priority techniques; rather than building any large project Zurich incrementally added improvements that speed-up bus and tram service over the last thirty years thus creating a fast and efficient surface public transport system. You can read more about Zurich in Professor Cervero’s book and in some of my publications and on my website improving public transport efficiency.

The Bus from Curitiba – Lyrics

I visited Curitiba to ride the buses in 1997. The city was extremely pleasant and enjoyable. In addition to the buses I remember a fantastic passion fruit smoothie. Here are the words:

Fast and fun and clean and quickly,
The bus from Curitiba comes cruising,
And when she comes the people all say ahh …
When she moves she’s like a Samba that
Rides so smooth and sways so gentle
That when she passes each one she passes says ahh …
Oh I would ride her so gladly,
If transport planning weren’t done so badly,
Yes, I would ride her so gladly,
But each bus that we put in a plan,
Just gets replaced by a tram,
Fast and fun and clean and quickly,
The bus from Curitiba comes cruising
And when she passes I smile
But we don’t BRT
Not in our city,
No we just don’t BRT.

OK, I am not being totally fair. Planning isn’t always done badly, but as I outline above, I think too often we ignore the bus option (of course capital and operating funding programs also enter into the picture, but that’s for another song). And, of course, trams make sense in larger cities with strong demand, but gladly and badly is a pretty good rhyme don’t you think?

Car Trap in Holland

Daniel Sparing, a colleague from Hungary, just posted the photo above on his flickr site. It’s a good picture of a public transport priority measure. He calls it a bus trap but says in the comment “or to be more precise, a car trap. Buses can pass through.” He’s got lots of great bicycling photos on his site too.

Travels – Silver Line BRT Boston

I just returned from a trip to the USA. Starting with my hometown of Buffalo, then Troy NY (for a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute reunion), on to Boston, then San Jose and finally San Francisco. Lots of traveling.

Last Monday was a real adventure: my sister dropped me off at the commuter rail station in Worchester MA, took the train to Boston South Station. From there I took the new Silver Line bus rapid transit (BRT) line to the airport. The photo above is of downtown Boston from the airplane.

The Silver Line has a neat system where they send people heading to the airport with baggage to one end of the platform enabling them to board the bus first and put their baggage on the racks. Then the bus pulls up to the main platform and all the other riders board (there are four stops before the airport).

My only complaint was that the signs in South Station were not easy to read/understand. Specifically, they have a very small silver airplane symbol on a maroon background … this is supposed to tell you to go this way to the airport. I went up and down the escalators several times looking for the Silver Line to the airport – and, when I – a fairly seasoned public transport user and traveler – have this kind of problem I am sure I am not alone!

The flight to San Francisco was fine. From San Francisco airport I headed south to San Jose via Caltrain. More in my next post!

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