September 27, 2017

BRT TransOlimpica: Olympic Project Just Misses Gold BRT Standard Rating


BRT TransOlímpica was conceived to connect the Olympic arenas of Barra da Tijuca and Deodoro. It also offers a new cross connection in the West Zone of the city.

One of the most recent additions to Rio de Janeiro’s public transit system, the BRT TransOlímpica, offers great service to 25,000 people/day who were previously underserved. Building upon the model of previous BRT corridors implemented in the city, the silver-rated system received all the points in the BRT Basics metric of the BRT Standard– its corridor has physically segregated bus lanes throughout the entire 23 km of extension with platform-level boarding, and off-board collection in all stations and terminals. All 16 stations and 3 terminals serve both directions, have full accessibility provided with a good tactile ground surface, and all buses are wheelchair accessible. What makes this corridor truly unique is how it complements other corridors in Rio. TransOlímpica’s reach allows for integration with BRT TransCarioca and BRT TransOeste and other forms of public transport including rail and metro.

Rio de Janeiro currently has a total of 120 km of bus rapid transit (BRT) throughout the city, serving half a million passengers per day. TransOlímpica was implemented as a part of the city’s commitments to host 2016 Olympic Games, with an aim to make the connection between Deodoro Olympic Complex and Barra da Tijuca Olympic Park.

Between March and May of 2017 ITDP hosted various site visits, where a rating, best practices, and opportunities for improvement, were established and identified according to the BRT Standard, an evaluation tool for world-class BRT based on international best practices. As a result, the corridor received a Silver BRT Standard rating.

The BRT Standard has allowed the evaluation of the corridor design and operations based on international practices documented and disseminated by an international Technical Committee of experts on the subject. The tool has already been used by ITDP Brazil to evaluate fifteen corridors. In some cases, the complete evaluation has also led to tailor-made recommendations, for example in Belo Horizonte and Brasilia BRT corridors. The full list of corridors ranked by ITDP Brazil can be found here.

Besides the connection to the existing BRT system, the TransOlímpica corridor also allows integration with the rail transit network. Jardim Oceânico subway terminal is served by one of its lines and there is also physical integration between two of its stations with the metropolitan train stations of Magalhães Bastos and Vila Militar. The project design of two of its terminals (Recreio Terminal and Olympic Terminal) was supported by ITDP, through the specialized consultancy Oren Tatcher OTC Planning & Design.

Evaluation of BRT TransOlímpica
The area of the city where BRT TransOlímpica was built is not fully developed and has a low population density. Only 1.4% of the city’s population is located within one kilometer (approximately a 10 to 15 minute walk) from the corridor stations. Part of the extension of the new corridor was inserted parallel to a new elevated expressway, Via Rio, which hinders the adhesion to the new option of public transportation by the population that lives nearby. Despite its connectivity to other BRT systems and public transport, low population density, Via Rio, and other economic factors (Rio de Janeiro no longer benefits from the Olympic investments of the recent past), the corridor has been carrying only a third of the expected demand of 70 thousand users per day.

There are still opportunities to improve non-motorized transport (NMT) infrastructure around the corridor as planned infrastructure elements have not yet been completed. For example, at the Recreio terminal, passengers of BRT TransOlímpica who want to connect to the BRT TransOeste corridor must walk an uncovered path to reach Salvador Allende station, underutilizing the recently built Recreio terminal. A direct connection between this corridor and BRT TransOeste has also not yet been built.

The evaluation of BRT TransOlímpica with the BRT Standard revealed that the corridor stands out for service planning. The corridor offers, besides the lines that run throughout the corridor, other lines that access parts of two of Rio’s other BRT systems, TransCarioca and TransOeste. With these lines, the number of stations in which it is possible to use a service that accesses more than one corridor of the system has more than tripled (from 8 to 27). These multiple lines complement each other and allow greater integration between the corridors of the BRT system, facilitating access to different parts of the city.

Its infrastructure is also well evaluated for the adoption of high quality concrete pavement and the presence of dedicated passing lanes at stations. These aspects allow higher operating speeds (42km/h on average) and express service operations, which reduce the travel time of users and enable an increase in capacity in the medium and long term. People can travel from one extremity of the corridor to another in approximately 30 minutes.  The buses run at a max of 12 min during off-peak hours for all lines and no conventional buses run parallel to the corridor.

The evaluation of the BRT TransOlímpica also reveals some points that should be improved, especially regarding access by bicycle and by foot. The infrastructure for bicycle access and parking is in the beginning stages and only covers Salvador Allende Avenue. However, even at this part of the system, the cycle network is shared with pedestrians where sidewalks are narrow and is interrupted in crossing streets.

Currently, the corridor only has one shared bicycle station, near the Recreio Terminal. Adequate access and parking infrastructure for bicycles and the presence of shared bicycle systems in the stations would guarantee comfort and safety for users who already make part of their journey on bikes and would also provide another option for users to access their final destinations, which would potentially increase the coverage of the system.

The pedestrian access to stations is also another area to be improved. Most of the access routes on the elevated expressway segment are uncomfortable for users, since they are forced to walk a considerable distance sometimes exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Besides that, access to the elevated expressway consists of walkways between two viaducts, which causes a feeling of insecurity, felt especially by women, due to the lack of visibility of these segments.

The corridor also had part of his score deducted for operational reasons. Despite the high operating speed noted earlier, a couple of lines presented a low frequency of buses during peak hours, leading to overcrowding of the stations. Besides that, during the field surveys, considerable gaps were found between the bus floor and the station platform, which hinders boarding, especially for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Conclusions
Despite its room for improvement in NMT infrastructure and operations, BRT TransOlímpica’s high operating speeds, unique integration with other BRT corridors and public transport systems in Rio, BRT basic metric achievements garnered the system its deserved Silver rating.  Other corridors also given the Silver rating by ITDP include: Expresso Tiradentes BRT system in São Paulo, which circulates in an elevated way and connects the city’s periphery areas to the central area, BRT Antônio Carlos in Belo Horizonte, which has an intense operation during peak hours, some corridors in Mexico City and Ahmedabad in India, which had wide acceptance and led other Indian cities to adopt the BRT model, and the corridors from Brisbane, Australia and Istanbul, Turkey.

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