4 p.m. – end of shift for Christoph W. He walks to the bus stop just a few minutes away. Together with five other colleagues, he waits and stares at the cars stuck in traffic in front of him. He looks down the long main thoroughfare. There it is. He can easily identify the box shape of the city bus in the midst of the long line of cars – it might be quite a while yet before it makes it to the stop. Christoph sighs. Even when he'll be sitting on the bus about ten minutes from now, it won't get any better. Then he'll have simply turned from a traffic jam observer into a traffic jam participant…
This is precisely the problem tackled by the new bus transport system BRT, short for Bus Rapid Transit. As the name says, it's about being rapid. Like trains, buses turn into a fast mode of transport. Slow progress during the evening rush hour? No more.
Separate bus lanes, coordinated traffic lights, and pre-ticketing
The solution lies in separate bus lanes that ensure rapid and timed operation. Unlike Christoph's bus, whose arrival depends on getting through the traffic jam, BRT provides a reliable ride without stop-and-go despite the rest of the urban traffic. However, separate bus lanes are not the only requirement for an efficient flow of traffic. Richard Mejía, Head of the BRT team at Daimler Buses, explains:
"What is important is a systematic approach to planning. Apart from separate bus lanes, consistent priority at traffic lights, pre-ticketing, and modern barrier-free bus stops are essential. In addition, BRT lines must be linked with the rest of the public transit system as well as with "Park + Ride" and "Bike + Ride" options."
A look a head
Future technologies such as (semi-)autonomous bus operations, for example, are predestined for use in BRT systems and are able to make sustainable mobility concepts like BRT even more attractive: "(Semi-)autonomous bus operations, as are possible on BRT lines with the Future Bus from Mercedes-Benz presented in mid-2016, will offer major benefits both for the operators as well as for the drivers. The operators will be pleased with the lower fuel consumption. The steady accelerating and braking will make the buses run much more efficiently and as a pleasant side effect also enhance the ride comfort," says Mejía. The passengers benefit as well. Separate bus lanes like we have them for BRT now already reduce the risk of accidents. Autonomous driving could in the future help to drive almost without any accidents at all. In addition, precisely controlled bus stop approaches provide barrier-free entry for elderly or handicapped people
Sounds simple. But if you think of a big city, it's hard to imagine that introducing a completely separate bus lane would be simple. But it is actually possible. We have sustainable mobility concepts with BRT on all continents today. New routes are constantly being planned and set up. Experts count 185 BRT systems worldwide, transporting more than 30 million passengers each day. In Istanbul, for example, the BRT lane is 52 kilometers long and transports 750,000 passengers daily. Cities such as Amsterdam, Strasbourg and Paris also already operate their own BRT systems.
So far, BRT has not been realized in Germany, however. Why? "Basically, in Germany it is still the rail that first comes to people's mind. But the fact is that BRT systems offer a lot of advantages that should be taken into consideration when planning transport systems. For example, the investment and operating costs are lower than for rail-bound systems. This insight is now slowly also finding its way into German transport planning," comments Richard Mejía.
One thing is sure, however: Bus Rapid Transit offers a host of advantages in urban environments. Today's concept is also constantly being advanced and adapted to new technologies or the latest city planning. In the future, zero-emission driving with electric mobility will also be a factor. The course is currently being set in this regard. An expanded and intelligent interlinking, for example, of vehicles, signaling systems and the road will also make future BRT systems even more attractive.