The Explosive Growth of Bus Rapid Transit

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) existed in just a few cities a few decades ago but has quickly turned into a viable solution for the massive transportation challenges facing cities. With more than half of the world now living in cities and total global population expected to reach nine billion in just a few decades, perhaps more cities should be looking at how to include BRT, a relatively cheap, sustainable, and flexible transportation option in comparison with more highway overpasses and underground metro systems.

Dario Hidalgo with EMBARQ, the sustainable transportation think tank at the World Resources Institute (WRI), kicked off a session a Transforming Transportation 2011 by explaining that 120 cities now have BRT with bus corridors. Worldwide, there are now 200 dedicated bus corridors running over 4,000 kilometers. These networks have 7,000 stations, providing stops for 30,000 buses. Each day, 27 million people, or about one percent of the global urban population, is now riding BRT. Los Angeles, the site of the only major BRT system in the U.S., is in the lead in terms of number of kilometers covered, but falls behind when considering the number of residents using the system each day. Both China and India are seeing exploding growth in BRT ridership.

In addition, more cities are catching on — more than 15 cities started BRT operations in 2010, representing 13 per cent growth over 2009. Seven cities are expanding their systems, 49 cities have BRT under construction, and another 31 are starting to plan out new systems.