The challenges of sustainable transport in Peru
For many cities, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a highly cost-effective option for developing a comprehensive, high-quality public transport system. Arequipa, Peru – Peru’s second largest city – is no exception. For several years, the city has been pursuing the idea of a modern integrated transport system. The first proposed solution was a BRT project launched in 2007 originally called “Mistibus,” in honor of one of the volcanoes near the city, which was later renamed “Arequipa bus.” Today, Arequipa is changing course in response to transportation technologies being implemented in other parts of the world – electric rails. EMBARQ Andino is helping shape the future of Arequipa’s public transport by providing research and technical guidance to two major players behind a proposed monorail project – the Peruvian Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) and the Provincial Municipality of Arequipa.
Ministry of Transport and Communications announces monorail project
An announcement from Peru’s Ministry of Transport and Communications in October 2013 shook up the current transport situation in Arequipa. For several months there had been an intriguing rumor that the System of Integrated Transport in Arequipa (SIT-AQP) would undergo a major change after more than seven years of planning, research, and construction. The announcement stated that the system’s buses would be replaced by an electric train opening for service in 2016. While this will eventually decrease travel time for passengers, the change will require an increase in the project’s budget and construction time.
Debate in Arequipa: BRT or rail?
Mauritius Huaco, a city planner and architect of the BRT project, was not pleased with the change in plans: “The option of replacing buses with rails should be debated as widely and deeply as possible. A decision should be made based solely on preferences from the people, rather than the political will to appear more modern through implementing electric rail. Everything that was invested until today worked towards a BRT network, and I see no feasibility for the presence of a monorail through the city’s historic center.”
In recent years, there has been significant debate among transportation professionals regarding whether BRT or rail solutions are most appropriate. As evidenced by Huaco’s comments, there are some experts in Arequipa who advocate the continuation of the original BRT project in order to maintain the heritage of the city’s historic center – a United Nations World Heritage Site. They claim that constructing elevated structures, which are necessary for a monorail, would seriously impact the aesthetic and beauty of many parts of Arequipa.
EMBARQ Andino outlines technical criteria for consideration, facilitates decision making in Arequipa
Soon after the new monorail system was announced by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, EMBARQ Andino submitted a document outlining observations and technical criteria to consider for the project to the Ministry and the Provincial Municipality of Arequipa. Providing vital information addressing the pros and cons of the project, the report emphasized that although the proposal would help relieve traffic congestion in Arequipa, it’s essential for the responsible parties to ensure a fully private and appropriate concession regime to guarantee the quality of operations and financial sustainability of the integrated transport system for Arequipa.
According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), several monorail implementations have not gone as well as expected. For example, Kolkata, India’s underground required 22 years of construction and its budget was increased 14 times. Kuala Lumpur’s monorail system also struggled during eight years of construction that left the project only half finished. In Lima, Peru’s capital city, the President selected a corridor for a rail system in 1985 without proper studies for efficient use, which resulted in poor demand and an estimated $300 million spent by the Peruvian Government to build only 9.8 miles of the planned 43 miles. High costs, poor location, and poor estimates of passenger use forced the system’s construction to stop, however, ongoing maintenance to the existing 9.8 miles of rail is an expensive burden for the city to this day.
These experiences should inform Arequipa’s planning for its new monorail project. Jorge Jara, Executive Director of EMBARQ Andino, urged the city to consider not only infrastructure and equipment in the planning stages, but also integration. In order for the monorail to be truly part of an integrated transport system, it must be seamlessly connected to feeder routes, other mass transit in the city, non-motorized transport options, and even private motorization. Without this operational and functional integration there is a high risk the monorail system won’t be successful.
In order to avoid these challenges, Jara emphasized the importance of proper planning and considering alternatives in places where the monorail could negatively impact public spaces, green areas, water sources, and more. These obstacles have been overcome in other countries, and in order to do the same in Arequipa it will require the political will of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and of the Municipality of Arequipa. EMBARQ Andino is helping facilitate a well-informed decision making process in Arequipa by sharing technical knowledge and lessons from experience with policymakers.