166 cities worldwide adopt bus rapid transit – a key tipping point
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – a high-quality, efficient, bus-based mode of public transport – can shorten commuting times, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and generally improve quality of life for city residents. Today, 166 cities around the world use BRT and busway systems—up from just 45 cities since EMBARQ’s founding in 2002. EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport and urban planning program of the World Resources Institute (WRI), has played a major role in scaling up the BRT concept to cities throughout the world.
The World Resources Institute is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, whose experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources – the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being. Each fiscal year the institute reviews its work and identifies ten Top Outcomes that represent the greatest external impacts WRI has had on the ground that year. Recently, the arrival of a BRT global tipping point was honored as a 2013 WRI Top Outcome.
EMBARQ Network helps scale up BRT systems worldwide
Rapid urbanization, motorization, and climate change require high-quality sustainable urban transport solutions that can be implemented quickly and cost-efficiently. BRT systems can carry up to 46,000 passengers per hour per direction—matching some of the world’s busiest metros—and can be implemented at one-tenth to one-half of the time and cost as subways or light rail. Yet in the early 2000s, BRT systems were largely limited to Latin America, and the rate of adopting the new technology had plateaued.
Since EMBARQ’s founding in 2002, our experts have worked to help implement and catalyze the BRT concept around the world. EMBARQ’s role has been both technical – advising on safety, operations, design, fare integration, branding, vehicle selection, financing, and institutional setup – and political, as we have navigated relationships to build bridges toward a common vision. Here’s a look at specific actions the EMBARQ Network has undertaken:
- EMBARQ has provided technical assistance for BRT systems that have carried over 5 billion trips in over 20 cities, reducing CO2 emissions, improving safety, and saving roughly 30% of travel time for BRT riders. Among these, EMBARQ has helped implement precedent-setting BRTs in Mexico, Turkey, India, and Brazil – each a first of their kind in terms of quality or technology in that country – and helped to inspire replication. In 2013 alone, EMBARQ influenced new or improved BRT systems in Lima, Indore, Puebla, Chihuahua, and Belo Horizonte.
- At the national level, EMBARQ influenced Mexico’s national climate change law and Public Transportation Federal Support Program (PROTRAM), a transport financing program, as well as India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) to finance buses for over 60 cities.
- Internationally, EMBARQ collaborated with several NGOs and develop bank champions to support eight banks to commit $175 billion toward sustainable transport, including BRT, by 2021. These billions are envisioned to leverage trillions of dollars of national and local investment.
- EMBARQ has built critical knowledge and capacity through learning networks and cutting-edge research. EMBARQ trained several thousand city officials in India, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru on concepts of high-quality BRT design and operation. Additionally, EMBARQ established The Latin American Association of Integrated Systems and BRT (SIBRT), a network of BRT and bus agencies from 14 Latin American cities, to learn and share best practices, advocate for supportive policy, and collectively bargain for vehicles.
- Finally, EMBARQ has published prominent research, including “Modernizing Public Transit”, which compares BRT performance across systems; the world’s first ever “BRT Road Safety Guidelines”; and a unique evaluation of alternative fuels and vehicles by their emissions performance. EMBARQ also plays a central role in Across Latitudes and Cultures – Bus Rapid Transit (ALC-BRT), a leading research effort also known as the BRT Centre of Excellence.
EMBARQ values key partnerships
The EMBARQ Network’s achievements would not be possible without extensive support from a wide range of key partners. Most notable are cities, national policy-makers, and development banks themselves. Prominent NGOs, academic partners, and local groups have also contributed extensively to the global achievements detailed above.
BRT concept at a tipping point
The BRT concept has now reached a tipping point, with massive new investment and significant expansion planned on all continents. EMBARQ estimates that 105 cities around the world are expanding existing or planning new BRT or busways, giving citizens access to safe and equitable transport, and a higher overall quality of life.
Moving forward, EMBARQ will continue to promote major global BRT scale-up through project implementation, national policy advice, influence in major financing initiatives, and capacity building.