Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a bus transport system that provides fast, convenient and cost-effective urban mobility. The most visible element of a BRT system are the separate bus lanes that ensure fast and tightly timed operation. Its independence from other traffic conditions therefore ensures calculable travel speeds and a high degree of reliability in driving operation - quite to the satisfaction of passengers.
City populations are growing fast – and need to remain mobile
There are more than 1000 cities around the world with populations of at least 500 000. Between 20 and 40 million inhabitants call metropolitan regions such as Tokyo-Yokohama, Mexico City, New York, Seoul, Mumbai, São Paulo and Manila their home. Since 2008 more than half the world's population lives in cities. The UN expects that this proportion will reach around 70 percent in 2050 – with a growing world population.
The people in all these cities and regions expect mobility – they need to reach their workplaces or schools, do their shopping and be mobile in their free time. The challenges in these conurbations can no longer be answered with private transport. Specialists in traffic data have produced measured results: every inhabitant of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, for example, spends an average of around 40 hours per year in traffic tailbacks. In Germany, Stuttgart and Cologne are the "tailback capitals" with more than 70 hours in tailbacks.
Traffic gridlock: The bus as a major part of the solution
The UITP (Union Internationale des Transports Publics) has produced a simple calculation: Transporting 10 000 people over one kilometre requires 2000 cars needing around 24 000 m2 of road space. In the case of a roughly twelve metre long solo bus such as the Mercedes-Benz Citaro, only 100 vehicles with a road space of 3200 m2 are required. If a high-capacity bus such as the Mercedes-Benz CapaCity is used, 50 vehicles covering a total road space of around 3000 m2 are even sufficient.
BRT is therefore a way out of impending traffic gridlock. The three letters stand for Bus Rapid Transit. BRT systems are characterised by their own lines with separate, barrier-free bus stops, own traffic light settings and special ticketing systems with advance sale of tickets. Depending on the expected passenger demand, the individual elements of BRT systems can vary in size. In South America BRT systems have taken over the role of subway systems, and are correspondingly large in extent. European solutions are more like tram systems in size.
BRT systems: inexpensive, flexible, quick to set up
The advantage of BRT systems: They are quick to set up, inexpensive and flexible. They reduce traffic density, lower exhaust and noise emissions, increase travelling speeds and generally improve the quality of life.
Daimler Buses was one of the pioneers of such systems with the introduction of a BRT system in the Australian city of Adelaide around 30 years ago. Experts estimate that there are now around 185 BRT systems with a total of around 40 000 buses around the world. These alone carry over 30 million passengers each day.
BRT lines: successful on every continent
There are now BRT lines on every continent, and new ones are continuously being planned and set up. One major BRT region is South America, where fast-growing cities are serviced by BRT systems. The Brazilian city of Curitiba, for example, was an early pioneer in this transport concept with the 1968 introduction of a BRT system. Over the last few years, the Olympic city of Rio de Janeiro has developed a BRT system consisting of three corridors with a total length of 150 km. 90 Mercedes-Benz articulated buses, all with four axles and a length of 23 m, are e.g. in operation on the "TransOeste" line, the first to be opened. In Brazil these are known as "Ligeirão", i.e. "large, rapid bus".
“Metrobüs” line 34 in Istanbul is equally fascinating. It is covered by buses operating in extremely close succession, with left-hand traffic. The numbers are spectacular: 52 kilometres in length, 750 000 passengers each day. The backbone of this system are 250 Mercedes-Benz CapaCity articulated buses and 250 Mercedes-Benz Citaro and Conecto articulated buses.
In central Europe it is usual to use BRT lines as local systems, e.g. as feeder routes from the suburbs in Nantes, Nancy and Strasbourg, or to divert traffic from the city centre in Granada, Spain. In the Netherlands, Line 300 links the town of Haarlem (155 000 inhabitants) with nearby Schiphol airport and metropolitan Amsterdam.