Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts of Bus Rapid Transit

New analysis of four iconic cities shows that commuters can save millions of hours of travel time by shifting to bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. The report draws primarily from case studies conducted in Bogotá, Mexico City, Johannesburg and Istanbul. Findings point to BRT’s capacity to improve quality of life by reducing travel time, improving local air quality, curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and preventing road fatalities and crashes.

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Key Findings

Executive Summary

Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a high-quality, efficient mass transport mode, providing capacity and speed comparable with urban rail (light and heavy rail). Its insertion in urban transport systems is relatively recent and as a result there remains a need to introduce the concept to several audiences, particularly urban transport decision makers, and to better understand its cost, performance and impacts. To that end, this report provides a synthesis of existing literature and new data, and develops a detailed analysis on selected case studies to explore the economic, environmental and social impacts of BRT. BRT flexibly combines stations, buses, exclusive and segregated busways, and intelligent transportation system elements into an integrated transit system with a strong brand that evokes a unique identity. BRT provides higher quality of service than traditional urban bus operations because of reduced travel and waiting times, increased service reliability and improved user experience.

This report aims to synthesize available evidence regarding BRT performance, costs and impacts, and contribute new evidence from four case studies:

  • TransMilenio, Bogota, Colombia
  • Metrobús, Mexico City, Mexico
  • Rea Vaya, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Metrobüs, Istanbul, Turkey

High-quality bus rapid transit systems can impact the quality of life, productivity, health, and safety of people living in cities. These impacts have been explored in varying depth in the existing research as travel time benefits, environmental impacts, and public health and safety benefits.

The four cases reinforce the conclusion that BRT projects can provide net positive benefits to society and can be socially profitable investments. Trends at the local, national and international levels suggest continued growth of BRT worldwide. Data collected by EMBARQ show that 143 cities are currently constructing 1,000 kilometers of new or expanded BRT corridors and planning 1,600 more kilometers.

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