EMBARQ Mexico presents on the state of bus rapid transit in Mexico City
This past month EMBARQ Mexico participated in the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), held in Washington, D.C. At the meeting, Juan José Hernández, Integrated Systems Analyst for EMBARQ Mexico, presented an assessment of Mexico City’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, Metrobús. Using Mexico City as a case study, Hernández spoke both about the challenges faced by BRT systems across the country and highlighted potential solutions EMBARQ Mexico has identified.
Challenges facing BRT in Mexico
In 2003, León was the first city to implement a BRT system – Optíbus – with a daily ridership of 237,000. Today, 10 BRT systems operate in Mexico with daily ridership at 1.8 million. Mexico’s BRT network has made enormous strides a short span of time, yet still faces many problems related to capacity, frequency, infrastructure, and operational systems that require adaptation to meet growing transport demands of the population.
Hernández presented at a session entitled, “The Politics of Public Transportation and an Analysis of Latin America,” chaired by Nicholas Estupiñan of the Colombian Ministry of Transport. His research, “Evaluating BRT improvements in Mexico City: How Feasible is it to Improve a Consolidated System?” focused on the challenges of meeting demands of both quality and capacity, as well as exploring proposed solutions for Line 1 of the Optíbus system. Current proposed solutions range from minor operational changes to large-scale infrastructure projects, but all of these solutions are piecemeal and do not provide a long-term, citywide strategy for BRT systems. Hernández hopes EMBARQ Mexico can lead the way in providing citywide, data-backed solutions for Optíbus.
EMBARQ Mexico works to identify solutions in Mexico City
Hernández believes this system-wide solution lies in the operation, infrastructure, and technological components of BRT systems. This idea is grounded in Hernández’s research with EMBARQ Mexico, made possible by funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. For the study, seven scenarios that varied in the difficulty level of implementation were created and then examined with the use of EMBARQ’s BRT Simulator. Data was collected over a four-week period between October and November 2012, calibrated, and validated using the simulator.
The seven scenarios evaluated fell into two categories. One category was infrastructure and technology, which included improvements to stations, removing intersections, dedicating lanes for buses, and concentrating traffic on main streets. The second set of solutions dealt with system operations, and included congestion pricing and fleet adjustment. The results also fell into two categories, one that dealt with capacity: the number of buses on the street, the number of people on the buses, and the number of people waiting for buses. The second set of results focused on quality: bus speed, travel time, and quality of service.
A long way off: Simulation conclusions
Based on analysis of the data and results obtained from the study, EMBARQ Mexico found both promise and new challenges. Among these challenges was the fact that the simulation was incomplete, with the seven solutions limited to operational and system capacity in specific conditions. Private car flow and system integration was not considered in the model, and so the BRT simulator has limitations for estimating external benefits of proposed solutions. As well, in a city with rapidly changing demographics, the solutions that might very well work in the Mexico of today, might not work for the city of tomorrow.
Despite the lack of clear solutions, there has never been more conviction to press forward towards a citywide BRT strategy. Metrobús’s daily ridership is at 855,000 passengers, and this number is growing with each day. In order to ensure those people have access to affordable, reliable, and high quality transport, EMBARQ Mexico will continue to collaborate with Mexico City and other cities in the country to improve their BRT services and the quality of life for Mexico’s urban residents.