December 01, 2005

BRT Poised for Take-Off in China

In 2005, China has been the scene of the most frenetic BRT development in the world. Plans for Bus Rapid Transit systems are being elaborated in a dozen major cities. A Construction Ministry decree and ongoing promotional efforts by the Energy Foundation and others have played an important role in this rapid expansion.

Photo: Beijing BRT buses parked at a station at the southern end of the BRT line 

Beijing

The Beijing BRT, with technical support from the Beijing Energy Foundation, was launched in December 2004 as a test BRT corridor. It was the first closed BRT system (stations requiring fare collection before boarding) in China and only the second outside Latin America after Indonesia’s TransJakarta Busway.

The first line was a 5.5-kilometer segment of the first 16-kilometer corridor, from Qianmen in the city center southward.

The system’s planners forecast a 2005 ridership of 6,000 to 8,000 passengers per hour per direction. The actual ridership is around 1,000 to 1,500 passengers per day, in both directions. The only part of the corridor that has any meaningful passenger demand or congestion, namely the first two kilometers from Qianmen to Tiantan, has neither exclusive bus lanes nor a single BRT station.  The Beijing BRT has been deemed to have passed the test phase, and the remaining 11 kilometers of the first corridor are currently under construction.

Hangzhou

Hangzhou will open the first ten kilometers of its 28-kilometer east-west BRT line after construction is completed in April 2006. Construction of the first of six planned transfer terminals started in September.

Photo: Hanghzou’s BRT corridor, to commence operation later this year, features impressive bicycle and pedestrian facilities. 

The city’s monopoly state-owned bus operator has taken a leading role in the planning, and in the procurement of a fleet of 18-meter articulated, semi-low floor BRT buses.  The first BRT corridor will be adjacent to a new curbside bicycle lane serving tens of thousands of cyclists each day and reaching into the heart of the city. Highlights of the exemplary bicycle facilities in the BRT corridor include a grade-separated, fully segregated bikeway through a multi-level intersection and a cavernous underground bicycle parking area in front of the city’s fanciest shopping mall.

Guangzhou

Guangzhou has not yet made a formal decision to implement a BRT system, but ITDP has a memorandum of understanding with the City Construction Commission and has been working with the city to develop a detailed conceptual plan and evaluate various corridor alternatives.

Demand analysis shows that the peak passenger demand on an 18-kilometer Guangzhou BRT system in Zhongshan Avenue would approach 20,000 passengers per hour in the peak direction, exceeding the passenger ridership in any other BRT system being considered in China and even the daily ridership of the city’s two 18-kilometer metro lines. A decision is expected in early 2006.

Chengdu and Jinan

BRT is being planned on the 28-kilometer second ring road in Chengdu. This proposed system, which would feature 30 stations, was designed by mid-2004, but officials are re-assessing the design and planning options.

Jinan is currently carrying out the detailed planning for a BRT system to be built simultaneously with an elevated road on an east-west corridor with reasonable demand north of the city center. The design of the elevated expressway has been changed to accommodate BRT stations between the pylons in the center of the road.

Logit Consultiva of Brazil is providing planning assistance to try to ensure that flexible buses (with doors on both sides to allow operation inside and outside of the BRT infrastructure) are used. If, however, nothing is done to address national regulations that currently prohibit buses with doors on both sides, there is a risk that the infrastructure will be built with no buses to run on it.

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