by Claudia Gunter, ITDP
The city of Guangzhou, China, officially opened the 22.5-kilometer Guangzhou bus rapid transit system, known as GBRT, on February 21, after a ten-day test run over the Chinese New Year holiday period. The GBRT is a system of firsts: it is the first BRT to directly connect to a metro system, the first BRT system in China to include bike parking in its station design, it has the world’s highest number of passenger boardings at BRT stations, highest BRT bus frequency, and longest BRT stations. Station operation is impressive, and its ridership levels are second only to Bogotá’s Transmilenio.
The Guangzhou BRT is the highest-capacity system in Asia. Photo: Walter Hook
Passenger interest in the system is high—all day at Tangxia and other stations people line the pedestrian bridges to view the system in operation. Passenger ridership now exceeds 25,000 passengers per hour in a single direction, at the highest demand point in the rush hour; more than triple any other BRT system in Asia. Daily passenger ridership is currently more than 800,000 boardings per day, which is more than any of Guangzhou’s 5 metro lines, and is expected to exceed 1 million passenger trips per day by the end of 2010. More than 70,000 passenger boardings take place each day at a single station (Gangding). Each ride on the system is 2 yuan, or passengers can use a smart card to board. Regular smart card users get a 40% discount after taking 15 trips in a month, and passengers can transfer for free to other BRT routes in the same direction.
A view inside Gangding Station, which has more than 70,000 daily passenger boardings
Photo: Karl Fjellstrom
Stations are integrated with other features of the urban environment, such as metro stations and nearby buildings. This temporary bridge at Gangding BRT station will be dismantled in April, when a direct metro-connecting tunnel will open. Photo: Walter Hook
The 26-station system runs along the Zhongshan Avenue corridor, an important route for commuters, in the center of the roadway with right-side prepaid passenger boarding. Each 12-meter long bus in the system features two right-side doors and uses liquid petroleum gas (LPG) fuel.
System stations are spaced approximately 880 meters apart all along the corridor, with one further station to be added in 2011, upon completion of a related road project. The GBRT features connecting tunnels from the BRT platform to the Guangzhou metro at three stations, one of which is currently open, with the other two to open later this year. Forty-two bus routes operate in the corridor, all but one of which operates both inside and outside the BRT corridor and stations.
The system is regulated by the Public Transport Management Office (planning) and BRT Management Co. (control), and is operated by seven bus operating companies divided into three corporate groups. Bus operators are paid per kilometer rather than per passenger, with a new BRT control center used to control bus departures from terminals. The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) was the international design and planning lead on the project, and the local lead agency was the Guangzhou Municipal Engineering Design and Research Institute (GMEDRI). Infrastructure costs to build the GBRT were 30 million yuan renminbi (US$ 4.4 million) per kilometer.
Dongpu BRT station Photo: Karl Fjellstrom
Guangzhou’s system was faster to implement than a new metro line would have been, with the conceptual plan, engineering design, construction each taking one year to complete. Including times when the project was placed on hold, planning and building the Guangzhou BRT took five years from start to finish.