Reserved platforms: from the bus lane in Madrid’s Paseo de la Castellana to the Latin American BRT

Seville, Spain.

brt5[dropcap style=»default, circle, box, book»]I[/dropcap]n this short post I want to show you once more the opportunities offered by bus networks as a means of mass transport, especially during these economic times. Furthermore, for those of you who wish to internationalise and move further afield, Latin America and Asia are backing systems based on this mode. For this reason, I would like to begin by quoting a few Spanish landmark references.

Line Number 27 in Madrid came into service on August 15th, 1959 running between Plaza de Castilla and Atocha (Emperor Charles V Roundabout), continuing along the emblematic Paseo de la Castellana, passing the Bernabeu Stadium, and the metro stops at Recoletos and Prado. Shortly after it was extended to the Embajadores Roundabout, taking in the Atocha and Valencia avenues, completing the outbound journey along the streets of José Antonio Armona, DeliciasandPaseo de lasDelicias, with the route remaining practically unchanged up to the present day.

The first thing that catches the eye about this line is the number of passengers it transports. According to data provided by the Madrid Municipal Transport Company (EMT), an average of 22 vehicles per day moved 957,034 people last March alone. It is for this reason the phrase “the million passengers a month line” was coined.

Put another way, it carries 40,000 passengers every working days(in bygone times, when there were less lines and line 10 of Metro had yet to become operational, it carried even more). More than twice the passenger volume transported by any of the Madrid Regional Light rail Networks (be it Parlaor BoadillaandPozuelo, for example). The key to its success, in my view, is:

brt 2

  • Most of the journey is covered in a bus lane, meaning:
  • A quite reasonable commercial travelling speed (although this could be improved).
  • As we can see from the photo, it runs using modern, gas-propelled vehicles.

Another example of what the bus can offer whenever they are assigned a reserved lane known as BRTs (Bus Rapid Transit or reserved platform lanes). These are referred to asexpress bus systems, or rapid bus transportsystems or massive public bus transport systems. It is a service offering the highest standards of public transport, having as its aim the combination of bus lanes with state-of-the-art “bus stations”, vehicles, services and brands as to achieve the desired performance levels. This then translates as high-performance solutions for high demand levels. Variants to the solution offered by the railways in traffic corridors with vast potential, it is, in the words of Lucho Gutierrez (Strategic Manager for Latin America at EMBARQ and Secretary General of the Ibero-American BRT Association, SIBRT) a Metro system by bus.


 The first of these was developed in Curitiba and included:

▪   Exclusive lanes

▪   High-capacity, articulated and bi-articulated buses.

▪   Closed stations with pre-paid ticketing.

▪   Centralised control systems.

▪   Smart card payment method.

▪   User information systems.

▪   Powerful corporate image.

 Furthermore, in this city, this represented the proposal upon which the public transport model of the city was based and reorganised. A comprehensive solution, just what was needed. If you think back to my post on 10 keys for a good PMUSthe town planning and mobility binomial must be present in all design stages, and this was how it was done in Curitiba. This was not repeated with the following programme in 1995, in Quito, and theTransmilenioNetwork in Bogota (2000), in which only the purest BRT ethos was taken in to account, these being simple a series of transport projects without entailing any urban redesign aspects. That said, the projects from Bogotaand Quito, carry up to  45,000passengers /hour / direction whilst Curitiba carried 17,000 at the start of the nineties, a limit that would seem to be easily exceeded by the latter examples. With Transmileniait would appear that competition is offered at levels one would think only attainable with an urban railway network.

As can be seen in the graph below showing 119 cities worldwide with BRT corridors, evolution was clearly

 tabla bus eng

To sum up, the near future will take into perspective bus network projects, a means of transport that can offer a great deal if it comes with an accompanying design to enhance its usage, especially in terms of greater separation from general traffic lanes.

If you have any valuable insights on cases involving good and bad practices, please share them with us.

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