The BRT is not a bus

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete - The Freeman

This statement would probably meet immediate opposition from most people. How can it be not a bus when the word BRT itself means Bus Rapid Transit, and for all intents and purposes, buses are the main vehicles used? But many of those familiar with the BRT’s history ever since the word “BRT” was reportedly coined by Bogota, Colombia, former mayor Enrique Peñalosa, understand what this means. A BRT is NOT your ordinary bus line.

There are even no clear differences in the buses themselves. While most BRT systems have high-capacity vehicles, a few use ordinary buses, too, while some bus lines which ordinarily won’t be called BRTs may use the 18-meter articulated or even bi-articulated buses (the ones that look like an accordion). Indeed, the demarcation is blurred but most BRT experts and enthusiasts will readily distinguish the two. The key is operation and capacity.

Ordinary bus lines all of us are familiar with. Even in Cebu where the jeepneys have persisted for the longest time when buses already plied everywhere else, people know what a bus service is … between the provincial buses that ply here to those buses serving the airport route. What differentiates the BRT then? First is capacity. On the whole, BRT buses generally have high passenger capacity in terms of number of passengers per unit. Besides being bigger, most BRT buses have fewer seats, too, allowing for bigger areas for standing. Standing in buses is acceptable in almost all cities in the world, with the seats offered more for those who really need them. This will allow for more passengers per bus.

But the bigger difference in capacity is being offered through operations. Public transportation capacity is measured not in the number of passengers carried but in the number of passengers transported over a period of time. This is generally quantified as “pphpd” or passengers per hour per direction. The entire operations design of BRTs allows them to carry capacities many times over that carried by ordinary bus lines. This is mostly executed through segregated lanes, using stations for boarding and alighting, following a strict schedule, etc. That’s why BRTs can attain capacities that are nearer to those offered by monorails or LRT’s than to ordinary bus lines.

This makes a substantial difference in highly urbanized cities, where land in the city center is at a premium that there is no more opportunity for road widening. So instead of widening streets, we make them more efficient. A car may carry 2,000 to 4,000 pphpd and buses may carry 8,000-10,000 pphpd. BRT’s can carry 12,000-20,000 pphpd and may even reach up to 35,000-40,000 (in Guangzhou and Bogota). Of course, having overhead rail lines would have higher capacities but their tremendous costs actually make them less economically viable, and usually require subsidies. People might not understand it, but this has dire effects on people's lives as they are actually paying more for their daily rides without knowing it.

Still, we hear a lot of grumbling about the BRT. But if you inquire further, we find out most of them are car owners unhappy they have less road space to ride leisurely.

vuukle comment



  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with