how to do it, how not to

Here's the good news from Mexico City's MetroBus (sp.) BRT system (via WorldChanging):

Mexico City, Mexico's Metrobus
To date, ridership is up, with 164 million users since Metrobus began operating. Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard wants to see nine more such corridors installed before the end of his term. Much cheaper than subway construction, these new lines will move as many as 1.7 million passengers daily, providing a break for public transit users, motorists and the city's air quality.

In fact, Ebrard plans to spend about $2.5 billion on improving public transit, adding a new subway line and lengthening the Insurgentes dedicated bus lane. He is going to take on the rest of the city's microbus owners as well.

Along with buying new large buses and junking the aging fleet of microbuses and vans, "We want to convince them to participate in companies like the Metrobus," said Armando Quintero, the city's Secretary of Transport and Roads. "Instead of investing in infrastructure for private vehicles, we are going to invest in collective transport, so that it is no longer a poor method of transport for the poor."
And here's the money shot:
While traffic flow has actually improved, Metrobus moves much faster than the rest of the traffic (emphasis mine, UDC) -- some 250,000 people use the Metrobus every day, and a journey that used to take over two hours is now down to 58 minutes. As a result of both faster traffic and speedier bus transit, the city's famously contaminated air is spared 35,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.

However, the system has another innovative aspect to it: a combination of public and private ownership.

Metrobus director Guillermo Calderon knew he'd have a major fight on his hands if he just kicked the microbus owners off the street. "It would have gone against the politics of the city government and brought about major social problems," he said. "Insurgentes Avenue would have been totally blocked in protest."

Since a previous study of transit use on the avenue showed that about 7 out of every 10 persons used private collective transport, "we came up with an innovative scheme, integrating them into the business," he said.

While Calderon deals with management and planning, a consortium of two entities actually owns the system: the city-run Passenger Transport Network, or RTP, and a new privately-owned company called Corridor Insurgentes, S.A., or CISA.

CISA is made up of the 262 former microbus owners who had previously been offering service on Insurgentes.

Meanwhile, Chile's TranSantiago (sp.) stumbled at the gates (via Embarq's The City Fix):

Santiago, Chile's TranSantiago

“It is not common for a president to stand before the nation and say ‘Things haven’t gone well,” Michele Bachelet, Chile’s President, said in March of this year. “But that is exactly what I want to say in the case of Transantiago. The inhabitants of Santiago, especially the poorest deserve an apology.”

Conceived more than six years ago, TranSantiago was nothing less than a complete overhaul of Santiago’s public transit system with a particular focus on the buses that clogged the city’s streets. In broad strokes, Santiago took old, polluting buses off the streets, partially replaced them with new, clean buses, and reorganized bus routes to maximize the efficiency of the system as a whole. The whole purpose was to reduce system costs and, very specially, to reduce air pollution, a major problem due to thermal inversion in the winter months.

After six years of planning, the new system was launched in early February of this year. The results have been far from impressive: service coverage declined, waiting times increased, reliability dropped, and to top things off, buses and trains were overcrowded, bursting beyond capacity, and causing all sorts of delays. The horrendous service resulted in strong public protests, and even rioting in some areas of the city. The system accomplished exactly the opposite that it was intended for, as car ownership and car use rapidly increased as a solution to meet their commuting needs (see ad by a car dealer).

Why? (IndioSign would appreciate these notes):
Some have come away from the TranSantiago experience thinking that large and chaotic bus systems like Santiago’s cannot be fixed without creating an even bigger mess. I want to state unequivocally that this is simply not true. TranSantiago was the most ambitious transport modernization project in a developing city that was carried out in the last decade. The concept was good, but as the adage goes, the devil is in the details. During the development stages, important design components were overlooked. For example, there were not enough bus-exclusive lanes. Low-capacity bus stops were created instead of high-capacity bus stations. And the payment system required commuters to pay once they board, not when they entered the stations. All of these combined to produce overwhelming inefficiencies, with the commuter bearing the brunt of the burden. What we should take away from TranSantiago is that a project of such a massive scale demands a comprehensive design and implementation process, with all stake holders directly involved and in constant communication (emphasis mine -UDC). Quality of service should not be secondary to economic and environmental considerations. At least the average existing service conditions (coverage, total travel time) should be maintained.

Meanwhile, we're making baby steps with Hapi Buses.

Image credit: Metrobus and TranSantiago Images
from Wikimedia Commons


Eugene said...

Hmmm... the MMDA is powerless to unilaterally implement a BRT system, while the Metro Manila mayors are too insular in their activities to care outside of their jurisdictions.

Maybe it's time to prod the congressmen to amend the MMDA charter so that there is a forced cooperation among the Metro Manila LGUs?

For one thing, most of Greater Mexico City lies within the federal district so the mayor has wide-latitude to implement metropolitan-wide systems.

What do you think?

Urbano dela Cruz said...


You've got my vote.

And we could jumpstart the process with a top-level summit on the future of the metropolitan region.

With participation from business leaders, NGOs, local and national agencies.

This would be a great agenda item for any presidentiable's 2010 platform. Do you see any takers? (makes political sense since MM and Southern Tagalog -the most urbanized regions are also the most vote rich regions).


Peter said...

There are certain routes which MMDA can implement or at least push to have a BRT. The main roads which are national are under their jurisdiction anyway. Routes like C5 or R1R10 actually makes sense. Roxas Boulevard for example is wide enough to accomodate an extra dedicated lane plus for most part there are very little crossings. C5 is also the same. The problem of course is that the main need is in places like Commonwealth (scheduled for rail so may kalaban), Ortigas Extension (very narrow in many places) and the most economically feasible places to put these are also the most difficult. In any case lets see what that UP study will say should come out any day soon.

A burst of creative spirit I see! Keep it up.

dave (",) said...

yes peter, there's no public transport that plies all of c5 from the slex to libis to katipunan. but of course jeepney and fx drivers plying parts of the route will raise a howl over such competition. have to make them participants of the new transport system.

Urbano dela Cruz said...


yep. like the mexican model, we have to bring in the PUV drivers and operators. plus all other stakeholders.

getting this project up a running requires political savvy and good alliance building.

but you can't keep BRTs and jeepneys on the same route.


i had some proposed routes

we can also adjust the guideway designs on the narrower roads - it doesn't have to be completely dedicated the whole stretch. (the guideways actually don't take up more space than the pillars for an elevated rail)

bworld reported that MRT-7 seems to have hit a snag. that could be a good thing, since that deal smells more of real estate than transportation. I'd rather see BRT on that route -as it will cost way less and has the chance of involving the current stakeholders (drivers, operators, coops).

the strange thing is, Eli Levin, the MRT-7 proponent, first proposed a BRT on C-5 or on EDSA before they built MRT-3.

how long has this project been stewing?

meanwhile, Beijing rolled out it's first BRT line in just under 16 months from conception to launch.

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