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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Bus from Curitiba


My latest music video: "The Bus from Curitiba" probably needs some explanation, so here's a little bit about bus rapid transit and then the words with a couple comments.

Bus Rapid Transit and Public Transit Priority
Curitiba Brazil is famous for pioneering the development of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). In the 1970s the city decided to build a very efficient bus-based public transport network instead of a relatively short section of metro line (which would have cost the same amount of money). The results have been nothing short of fantastic.

Curitiba's BRT system has been replicated throughout the world, although not to the extent that it deserves. Many cities are seduced by the thought of rail-based public transport preferring the sexiness of rail over the benefits of creating a more comprehensive public transport network.

Rail-based public transport is critical in large cities where there is sufficient demand, but I think it's better to build an attractive and efficient public transport network - based on buses - and then replace buses with higher capacity rail lines when necessary rather then building 'starter rail lines' and hoping to attract riders. It's the network that enables people to get 'from everywhere to everywhere' thus addressing the oft heard complaint that "I can't get there with public transport."


For more information on Curitiba see: the great Streetfilms Curitiba video showing the system in operation and describing how it works; Professor Robert Cervero's excellent book The Transit Metropolis (which also describes many other interesting examples of public transport throughout the world); and the wikipedia article Rede Integrada de Transporte.

BRT can be defined as the systematic application of public transport priority techniques. Zurich is a great example of another approach towards systematically applying public transport priority techniques; rather than building any large project Zurich incrementally added improvements that speed-up bus and tram service over the last thirty years thus creating a fast and efficient surface public transport system. You can read more about Zurich in Professor Cervero's book and in some of my publications and on my website improving public transport efficiency.

The Bus from Curitiba - Words and Comments

I visited Curitiba to ride the buses in 1997. The city was extremely pleasant and enjoyable. In addition to the buses I remember a fantastic passion fruit smoothie. Here are the words:
Fast and fun and clean and quickly,
The bus from Curitiba comes cruising,
And when she comes the people all say ahh ...
When she moves she's like a Samba that
Rides so smooth and sways so gentle
That when she passes each one she passes says ahh ...
Oh I would ride her so gladly,
If transport planning wern't done so badly,
Yes, I would ride her so gladly,
But each bus that we put in a plan,
Just gets replaced by a tram,
Fast and fun and clean and quickly,
The bus from Curitiba comes crusing
And when she passes I smile
But we don't BRT
Not in our city,
No we just don't BRT.

OK, I am not being totally fair. Planning isn't always done badly, but as I outline above, I think too often we ignore the bus option (of course capital and operating funding programs also enter into the picture, but that's for another song). And, of course, trams make sense in larger cities with strong demand, but gladly and badly is a pretty good rhyme don't you think?

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