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.
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.
In March 2016, the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos inaugurated a BRT system in Cartagena, a historical city of one million people on the Caribbean coast. Its centerpiece is a 10.5 km long segregated busway along Av Pedro de Heredia, connecting the old town with the “El Portal” transfer terminal. Each of its 16 stations has an extra passing lane, which permits express services to overtake buses loading and unloading passengers.
Transcaribe buses run exclusively on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Articulated buses, 18 m long with a capacity of about 150 passengers, provide trunk services (“troncal”) along the busway – many of them skipping intermediate stops and thereby achieving high commercial speeds of up to 30 km/h. They have high-level doors on the left side and dock on centrally located platforms which are 90 cm above the bus lane.
In contrast to Colombia’s initial BRT systems such as Bogotá and Pereira which launched providing pure trunk-and-feeder operations (where the BRT corridor is connected to local bus systems speeding up local buses through the corridor while allowing easier access to bus lanes outside the corridor) the system design – conceived in 2003 – included the (then) innovative feature of hybrid services (“pretroncal”), which run partly on the busway and partly on city streets.
As shown on the BRT map, this permits direct busway services, without intermediate transfers, to Crespo near the airport, to the popular tourist area of Bocagrande, and to the southeastern suburbs.
The standard-sized buses (12 m long) used for hybrid services have two high-level doors on the left side, compatible with the BRT station platforms, and three low-level step-down exits to provide access to the sidewalks of city streets; each of these buses has one lift on the right side to accommodate wheelchairs. When the bus operates on city streets, passengers enter the front door and validate their farecard in view of the driver. When the bus operates on the busway, passengers enter through one of the high-level doors on the left side after validating their farecard at the station entrance.
In addition to the hybrid buses, Transcaribe began implementing feeder services, usually using small (8 m long) buses which connect with the trunk-line buses at the last two stations of the busway – El Gallo and El Portal. These feeder services called Alimentación are shown in the map above in green. It is expected that these will be vital for the growth of TransCaribe into a region-wide integrated transport system.
Most Colombian cities, especially the low-lying ones near the Caribbean Sea, have in the last decade experienced a rapid growth of motorcycles, which now account for about 60% of all motor vehicles registered in Cartagena, compared to 30% in 2008. While the number of private cars increased by 74% from 2008 to 2015, the number of motorcycles grew more than five-fold; many of them are used for taxi (“mototaxi”) services, providing quick and fairly inexpensive door-to-door travel. As a result, public transport use in 2016 had fallen to 48% of all trips (of which 35% were in conventional buses and 13% by Transcaribe).
Following the successful experience with Bogotá’s TransMilenio system in 2000/2001, the Colombian Government decided to establish BRT-type mass transit in other cities. In 2016, Cartagena became the seventh city with this type of service. While the implementation of TransCaribe was slower than planned, its design benefitted from the experiences of other cities, such as Pereira, Medellín and Cali (and of course Bogotá where the initial BRT has been greatly extended in the last 15 years).
The slow implementation progress of TransCaribe was much criticized. The above photos illustrate the tremendous change that most of Avenida Pedro de Heredia underwent in the last 10 years. This made it difficult to stick to the original construction schedule. Apart from procurement issues, the project was delayed by complicated land acquisition and resettlement problems, especially at the Bazurto wholesale market where one of the main BRT stations is located. However, it now appears that TransCaribe has become an example of good BRT design (although perhaps not of rapid project execution).
The Colombian Planning Ministry reports that the total investment of TransCaribe amounts to 660,000 million Pesos, equivalent to about US$ 220 million according to the current exchange rate. As in other cities, the Colombian Government contributed 70% of the total costs, supported by a World Bank loan, with the remaining 30% being the responsibility of the city Government. At the technical level, the implementation agency (TransCaribe S.A.) received support from consultants, ITDP, and specialists of the Colombian Transport Ministry. The system also received support from a GEF project to improve its linkage to non-motorized transport (bicycles and pedestrians).
The pictures below show that special attention was given to the functional and aesthetic design of BRT stations. It is expected that public information panels will be installed soon, following the inauguration of a GPS-based control center in April 2017.
The non-governmental organization, Cartagena Cómo Vamos, (Cartagena – how are we doing?), has been monitoring the performance of TransCaribe. Based on surveys carried out in September and October 2016, they determined that on the busway the commercial speed had risen to 24.9 km/h, compared to 11 – 21 km/h in the mixed-traffic lanes alongside the busway (these lanes had also been upgraded as part of the overall project and are still being used by many conventional bus services). Point-to-point travel times by public transport had gradually increased from 57 minutes in 2005 to 68 minutes in 2015 but, after the introduction of TransCaribe, fell by 37% to 43 minutes.
Not surprisingly, 80% of TransCaribe users rated the experience as satisfactory, compared to only 59% for other public transport modes. Motorcycle users who account for a quarter of the trips in Cartagena, are somewhat less satisfied (75%) – despite the low point-to-point travel time and the relatively low out-of-pocket costs. Interestingly, when asked about best way to get to far-away locations in Cartagena during visits to the city, TransCaribe was the suggested mode of transport by hotel staff in El Laguito (a high-end area of the city).
As the Transcaribe services increase, and taking account of the high satisfaction ratings observed, it can be expected that users of conventional buses, and some motorcyclists, will be attracted to Transcaribe, and that its ridership will substantially grow from the 90,000 daily passengers reported in January 2017 – although the quoted 2019 forecast of 450,000 passengers per typical weekday appears optimistic at first sight.
In terms of potential integration of bicycles to the system, a recent study conducted by Despacio (a local research center) for the city found that there was great potential to implement bicycle parking in the terminal station, and in future the entire system. The results are being reviewed by government to find opportunities to implement.
Cartagena’s Trancaribe shows the potential of BRT to be change the trajectory of transportation systems, providing a viable alternative to the growth of car and more recently motorcycle traffic. The system already appear to be changing cultural norms across economic lines. While the implementation timeline provides a cautionary tale, the final system is another example of successful BRT in Colombia. Current signs point to continued success, especially with better integration with bicycles and other improvements.
Brazil is in a state of political upheaval and economic crisis, and just one year after the Olympics, the situation is not much better in Rio de Janeiro. The state government is bankrupt and a new conservative mayor is pushing back on the city’s progressive gains. However, there is a powerful voice in the chambers of city council, one with a biography different from the deep pockets and private school education of your typical Carioca politician.
Marielle Franco was born and raised in Maré, a complex of favelas on a tidal flat near Rio’s international airport. She became a mother at age 18 and raised the child on her own, managing a scholarship to a prestigious university. From a job as a preschool teacher, she got drawn into politics and ten years ago began working for the upstart leftist Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL in Portuguese). Last year, she won a city council seat – one of just six women on the 51 member council – and represents the voice, and daily lived experience, of the city’s black and brown women. For example, she has pushed for Rio buses to stop anywhere along a route so that women have a shorter, and safer, walk home at night.
ITDP: The theme of MOBILIZE Santiago was “just and inclusive cities become the new normal.” To what extent does Rio de Janeiro reach this ideal?
Marielle Franco: Rio de Janeiro is not a fair, democratic or egalitarian city and unfortunately, with regard to mobility, it remains an unequal city as well. There is an investment in some [richer] areas, for example, Center and South Zone, to the detriment of a part of the West Zone, speaking specifically of the neighborhoods of Santa Cruz and Cosmos, for example.
What did you learn from Santiago’s experience here at MOBILIZE?
I’m impressed with Santiago. It’s a city where you can experience urbanity on foot and experience a good integration of modes, especially the subway. It was always surprising to look at the Andes from a subway station as well! MOBILIZE was also a great opportunity to talk to people who have been involved in urban intervention projects, actions, planning and research.
How does the experience of being born and raised in Maré give you a different perspective from most people who work for the city?
From lived experience. In the day-to-day of those who need to take long commutes, a large part of the everyday occurs on buses and in the subway. The waiting hours, the difficulty to get information on the best route to take and the experience of taking the wrong route and having to make unnecessary transfers happened often. Until I went to university, I did not know the city even though I was born and always lived in Rio. Access to opportunities expands when you expand your knowledge and explore the world. Otherwise, if you do not have these experiences of how to get to the hospital, for example, or to the movies, or university, if you only stay in one part of town, you take transit less and have less experience with the city. This is not only my experience- hundreds of thousands of women do this every day, struggling to get around the city. This makes me more qualified to demand action from the city and to change public policy based on those experiences.
Rio has built a lot of transport over the last five years, specifically BRT. How do you assess the impact of these megaprojects on the lives of low-income communities and residents in the city?
For a moment of great investment in urban projects and after such major events, the expectations were for better results. But what do we see today? The choices made have not been discussed with the population as they should, and despite the promise of increased circulation, I think unfortunately what has remained as an [Olympic] legacy is a greater violation of social rights, and not a more democratic circulation by the city.
What would you change about the way Rio goes about urban planning in order to improve the lives of low-income people in Rio?
To start, I think the guidelines for greater access and rights to the city are already in a master plan that is not followed. I think the challenge is to think from the demands that already exist, to rethink favela priorities – sanitation, for example, and other fundamental rights. This, of course, is part of integrated planning. With what is provided in the master plan, we must build dialogue with the population, which is after all who uses and who seeks the services. It is fundamental to think, for example, “is it really a priority to expand line four of the subway to the” Recreio dos Bandeirantes neighborhood? “This is a proposal that has been reinforced by the municipal transportation secretary and the deputy mayor. It is time to look at the whole of the city, and with this logic, benefit a larger population. Investments should focus on another part of the west, which is not Recreio. It is a question of how to start from a place of the demands we have- the demands of favelas for basic rights.
How are Brazilian cities functioning within the current political climate and in the midst of the economic crisis?
I think Brazilian cities are undergoing a reorientation. The crisis is also a creative opportunity. If you have difficulty then you also need to reorganize. For example, look at the self-organizing of motorcycle taxi drivers or of social movements themselves. The current political situation interferes directly in the lives of all. Unfortunately, the experience of living in public spaces and circulating around the city is impaired, but I think we can make a qualitative leap thinking about the alternatives. That is if there is a dialogue between civil society and public power, if there is planning, if we talk about financing. I hope that in the crisis we can think about bettering the coming years by building a more accessible city and reducing travel time, guaranteeing the right to the city in its completeness.
This interview is the part of the MOBILIZE Santiago Speaker Series. In this series, we will feature interviews with speakers and researchers from VREF’s Future Urban Transport where they will discuss their work in sustainable transport and reflecting on MOBILIZE Santiago’s theme: Just and Inclusive Cities Become the New Normal. To learn more about MOBILIZE Santiago and next year’s summit in Dar es Salaam, visit mobilizesummit.org.
This year, the MOBILIZE Summit in Santiago, Chile was a call to action on our theme of “just and inclusive cities become the new normal”. This vision of mobility and community demands for transport policy advantages to be experienced more equitably throughout neighborhoods in our cities. We must consider how people really travel, and how goods are delivered. Just and inclusive cities promise broader distribution of resources and therefore, justice.
Santiago won the 2017 Sustainable Transport Award, the criteria for hosting MOBILIZE, by making improvements to walking conditions in the downtown area, enhancing access with transit-priority streets, and adding new kilometers of cycling lanes. In a region where much of the infrastructure has been car-oriented, Santiago is in the process of reprioritizing to improve access to the city. Walking is how humans naturally get around, but walking infrastructure continues to be neglected at crisis levels internationally due to the continued emphasis on moving cars as fast as possible. Inequality in city design produces concentrations of wealth and poverty, and two populations that experience the city very differently. Making difficult trade-offs over issues such as parking and urban freight delivery in how street space is used is part of the challenge. Santiago is confronting a history of class divisions, showing how much progress can be made when city leadership along with a coalition of supporters gives budget and policy priority to low-carbon, inclusive modes.
The MOBILIZE Summit brought together researchers, practitioners, civil society groups, private sector stakeholders, international financial institutions and philanthropies to see first-hand how Santiago developed more sustainable mobility projects. It also gave participants a chance to share ideas about the challenges Santiago and other cities still face around the theme of inclusivity.
Accelerating the implementation of sustainable transport is the best available solution to the dire forecasts of global climate change, the challenges of social inequality and the urgency cities face in coping with rapid urbanization. Santiago initiated several efforts gearing up for and following up from the MOBILIZE Summit:
- César Rodríguez, Secretary of Planning in the Municipality of Santiago, announced that the city will support a project that decks approximately three kilometers of the Central Highway, a sunken multi-lane thoroughfare, to create an at-grade public park next to downtown Santiago.
- A new bidding process to operate Transantiago buses is coming. The process which is handled by the Ministry of Transportation includes half of the routes and buses of Santiago. The new firms are expected to be announced by March 2018.
- A new Metro Line was announced just before the event. The line will run east-west covering 25 kilometers and considering 21 stations.
- Mayor Felipe Alessandri announced two weeks later that three blocks of Bandera Street in the heart of downtown Santiago will be devoted to pedestrians and cyclists.
Cities can not be places that only the privileged get to enjoy, but the poor must endure. This, we know from history, is unsustainable and has led to political upheaval. The decision about whether a street is used primarily by private cars, heavy trucks or shared demands is a decision made by politicians, not technical experts. It is possible for cities to be places where individuals can pursue their own goals and also benefit from inclusive, compact urban design that fosters social cohesion. For the sake of our society, our economies, and our environments, we must keep involving more perspectives outside of our typical transport bubbles to make just, equitable cities the new normal.
Director of Global & U.S. Initiatives & Head of MOBILIZE
BRT now plies Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world (Andrzej Otrebski, Wikimedia Commons)
With the recent election of former mayor Mauricio Macrí as president, the city of Buenos Aires should now have greater support from the Argentine government. Down at the local level, meanwhile, the city of 3 million continues to push for innovations that will bring Argentina’s capital and largest city into the 21st century. On the transport front, a young, dynamic official is leading the way. Paula Bisiau, Assistant Secretary for Sustainable Mobility, has a handle on everything that porteños (the city’s inhabitants) can count on to help them get around this charming South American city. Visitors may be captivated by tango and parrilla, but they should also pay attention to bike share, BRT, and pedestrianization.
Paula spoke to us about MOBILIZE Santiago‘s theme, “Just and Inclusive Cities Become the New Normal” and the future of BRT & cycling in Buenos Aires.
ITDP: The theme of MOBILIZE Santiago is “just and inclusive cities become the new normal”. How does Buenos Aires’ transport system live up to this ideal?
Paula Bisiau: Having a good network of diverse and well-connected transport is part of having an inclusive and fair city. So, in that sense, Buenos Aires has worked hard for at least 8 to 9 years to improve its public transport network. The reality is that in Buenos Aires, the use of public transport is very high. Almost 80% of trips are completed using public transport, on foot, or by bicycle. This means that in Buenos Aires we can talk about a city, in that sense, as fair and equitable because there is public transport throughout the city and the cost is relatively low.
Then, there is the whole accessibility point of view, the inclusion of all people with different abilities. In that sense, we still need more work. However, we have begun to design the streets and sidewalks so that they can be crossed by children, the elderly, and people in wheelchairs.
What other cities around the world are the most interesting to you in the area of mobility?
Recently I was in two cities that were very interesting: Copenhagen, obviously, on the one hand, and Tokyo on the other. Tokyo is very different, but with a spectacular subway network, and especially with lots of information facilitated by technology. I was astonished by how I was able to get around so easily and plan my trip within a city I didn’t know, in a country where obviously I didn’t speak the language.
I also find Paris interesting and innovative. And what I find interesting about a city like Paris is that it’s a city that preserves all its heritage and history, but constantly renews itself. This power of renewal is very interesting. They started with Paris Plages, then what they did with Les Berges de la Seine was also very innovative. Other cities had already done what they did with bike share. But what they did was fill the city with public bicycles everywhere. And they encouraged all that in a city that was already fully built, which already had many residents and businesses everywhere.
To name a Latin American city, I would say São Paulo also has many innovations for being a megalopolis. I was there maybe two years ago for the first time, and the truth is that I was amazed. Their transportation is also spectacular. But still, they still have things that are not as good as they could be, like urban highways. Not that everything is fine, but as big as the city is, they are still doing a good job. For example, on road safety, they took certain actions that are not easy to take politically, like reducing the maximum speed. And those are difficult political measures to take. But they did so, and thanks to that, they managed to reduce the number of road casualties. Cities have to take risks on new measures in order to improve.
In 2014, Buenos Aires won the Sustainable Transport Award for giving Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world, a transport and pedestrian makeover. Three years later, how are these interventions improving the quality of life in Buenos Aires?
The implementation of transit on Avenida 9 de Julio translated into shorter trips for those who used public transport, because all the buses that passed through downtown are now funneled onto the 9 de Julio Metrobus [BRT]. There was a reduction of almost 50% in travel times.
Road accidents were reduced because the average speed of cars was reduced. Within what is called the pedestrian zone, the maximum speed is now 10 km per hour. The entire downtown area was once very noisy and heavily polluted. The air and noise pollution levels dropped a lot. Before it was impossible to even have a conversation there. Now there is economic development, adding life beyond the offices and banks. Nightlife is beginning to come up in that neighborhood and we hope soon enough that will create the possibility of people moving downtown.
What is the next big mobility project around the city?
We’re continuing to develop the Metrobus network. Along 9 de Julio you have the Bajo [Lower] area, near the port. We are adding Metrobus to Bajo and that is also going to be an important change. We are also pedestrianizing part of the area on the other side of 9 de Julio, where the Palace of Justice is; another area where there are also many pedestrians.
There are also two new projects: One that is called Paseo del Bajo, in order to get the trucks out. Buenos Aires is a port city and we have many trucks coming from the port. For that, we found a solution to stop them from going through the city. This project broke ground in May and will be finished in two years. The other is a new regional rail that will connect the Constitución area with the Retiro area.
Has the number of people that use bicycles in Buenos Aires grown in the last few years and if so, why?
Yes, mainly because we started building cycle tracks in the most populated areas of the city, places where people go to work and where people live. We started in downtown and continued to the periphery of different neighborhoods. Today we have 180 km of bike lanes and cycle tracks in almost every area of the city.
The number also increased thanks to the public bikeshare system, Ecobici. A lot of work went into education and promotion. We convinced the city of the idea of cycling by talking about cycling in every sector. However, if I were to give you one main reason, people did not ride a bicycle in Buenos Aires because of road safety issues. In fact, we conducted surveys, and people already owned bikes. Buenos Aires is flat and has a relatively pleasant climate. The main reason they weren’t using it was because of road safety.
Ecobici used to operate on a valet system, now it has docking stations. What was the impact of this shift?
Regardless of how it works, the system itself is very popular because it is free. Today, we have more than 200,000 users who have taken more than 5 million trips. We are working to build out the system with 200 stations and 2,500 bicycles. We currently have 1,900 bikes.
Last year was a difficult time for us because of vandalism and theft. That was something we had not planned for and that had not happened in other cities. This, for example, made us stagnate on the number of bike trips in the year 2016. Now in 2017, we are growing again.
Do you think that Ecobici will ever go dockless?
We’re studying that. First we want to finish installing these 200 stations that we have planned. Then we want to understand what new technologies are being implemented in other cities around the world. When we think about the growth of this system, we want to move toward what is more innovative and what is working best. Because of our vandalism experience, I have to see to what extent it can work in Buenos Aires, but it seems fantastic to me- a much more flexible as a system. All of us who think about transport think this way: having innovation that is flexible because cities are dynamic, technologies change, and we have to be open to adapting.
This interview is the part of the MOBILIZE Santiago Speaker Series. In this series, we will feature interviews with researchers from VREF’s Future Urban Transport where will discuss their work in sustainable transport and reflecting on MOBILIZE Santiago’s theme: Just and Inclusive Cities Become the New Normal. To learn more about MOBILIZE Santiago and how you can register to attend the summit in Chile, visit mobilizesummit.org.
Which of the two images above shows a public space? Technically both. But they are two very different approaches to what makes a public space, and they beg larger questions for all cities. Which public space is more inviting? Which one looks like a place for all people? Which public space gives more back to its city?
The images show Philadelphia’s South Street, a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, and residences at the border of Center City’s hustle and bustle and the tightly packed rowhouse neighborhoods of South Philly.
On the left: South Street on a typical Saturday. Although the street looks physically crowded, it is hard to see how many people are actually present, because the entire streetscape is taken up by parked cars or kept clear for those driving in cars.
On the right: South Street on an exceptional Saturday, September 24, during Philadelphia’s first open streets event, Philly Free Streets. As people walking five abreast illustrate, the street is full of life. And yet there are no visible street vendors or food stands, like at Philadelphia’s Night Markets, the typical city approach to draw pedestrian crowds. The people are not holding protest signs, nor are they dressed in costumes as part of a parade. They are simply walking down the street, in the middle of the street. That is the power of open streets.
Open Streets are Public Spaces Brought to Life
What is the purpose of an open streets event? At first glance, walking down a street might seem redundant. After all, most urban streets have sidewalks. But prioritizing street space for people-powered movement speaks to a much deeper purpose than simply changing the use of a street. When people walk, they exercise without thinking about it, become less stressed, and add years to their lives. When people walk in the street without fear of getting hit by a car, they open up their minds to their surroundings: family, friends, and neighbors walking around them; flowers and trees they’ve never noticed before; or the history embedded in building architecture, all of which glides by at an easy pace.
On foot, people can pause at any moment without worrying about parking (or double-parking). They can casually check out a shop or glance at a restaurant menu. Taking a moment to make a call, text a friend, or look something up online no longer becomes a life-threatening choice when made at an open streets event. Without car exhaust, the air will be cleaner to breathe. Without honking horns, conversations and laughter will be more pleasant to hear. Infuse an open streets event with activity and cultural programs, and suddenly people will be invited to dance, jump rope, create art, play music, or simply sit back and watch it all unfold. There is near unlimited potential in the streets that is unlocked simply by putting people first.
Growing Momentum to Take Back the Narrative of the Streets
Philly Free Streets was Philadelphia’s first open streets event, which took over South Street and extended up along the Schuylkill River to Fairmount Park for nearly ten miles. In doing so, Philadelphia joined in a growing movement of over one hundred cities and towns around the world.
For example, New York City’s Summer Streets shuts down Park Avenue in Manhattan for tens of thousands of participants a few times every August. Recently, Nairobi, Kenya and Pune, India have hosted open street events. Los Angeles hosts CicLAvia periodically throughout the year for over one hundred thousand people and across a wide variety of neighborhoods. In Guadalajara, Mexico, Vía RecreActiva gives arterial streets over to nearly two hundred thousand every Sunday, and Santiago, Chile, opens up an entire network of streets during CicloRecreoVía to about four hundred thousand every Sunday. Finally, the mother of all open streets events is held in Bogotá, which started in 1974 and has grown into the 80-mile-long Ciclovía, in which over one million people take to the streets every Sunday and holiday throughout the year.
Although these events are only temporary in nature, they are essential to rewriting the narrative of the street. Open streets are an intervention in the face of a city’s addiction to cars and a real-time chance to experience the argument in favor of streets as truly public spaces. As more cities host open streets at increasing frequencies, more people will be exposed to a new way of experiencing their city. Soon enough, the once-radical idea of people-prioritized streets takes on a mainstream reputation. Simultaneously, the century-old narrative that streets are for cars alone starts to fall apart.
Above all, open streets events let people live briefly in an alternate reality where their city prioritizes streets for people. This alternate reality challenges what people experience in their daily life, and argues that streets where people come first are not only possible but better than the current reality.
Connect Temporary Changes to Permanent Transformations
This new outlook can be accelerated beyond temporary events by advocating for a wide variety of small, incremental changes that share the same DNA as open streets. Examples include converting under-used or dangerous road space into space for public plazas, widened sidewalks, protected intersections, and protected bike lanes. When proposed as a demonstration or on a pilot basis, these incremental projects are much quicker, more cost-effective, and above all, more acceptable to the public than the often expensive and controversial capital projects that takes years or even decades to construct – often with unintended consequences only apparent after completion.
Open streets events can work in tandem with these pop-up and pilot projects by highlighting the changes during an event that educates participants or even connects them along the route of the event to a pop-up. In Minneapolis, Open Streets MPLS seized the opportunity of their event to connect cyclists to pop-up interventions such as protected intersections and protected bike lanes along the route. Afterwards, organizers collected feedback from participants.
Applying this strategy to a long-term scale, the content and projects highlighted by open streets events can tie into a comprehensive plan. This is starting to be the case in cities like Los Angeles, where CicLAvia links up with the city’s Mobility Plan 2035, passed early this year. CicLAvia routes are designed for streets that have been targeted for improved biking and walking infrastructure, which ultimately reinforces a larger network for active transport. By connecting the ephemeral yet mentally impactful open streets events with less press-worthy but more substantial short-to-long-term citywide efforts, cities can be more intentional about transforming their streets by strategies far greater than the sum of their parts.
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, together with an international committee of development and transport experts, invites you to nominate your city for the Annual Sustainable Transport Award. Nominations are now open and will be accepted online at staward.org until April 17, 2017.
This year, Santiago, Chile, won for major improvements in pedestrian space, cycling, and public transit. The city redesigned several streets in the city center to limit car traffic, and improve pedestrian, cyclist, and transit access. The high quality and transformative scale of these projects, and the fact that it was backed up by policy changes, education programs, and a huge increase in cycling mode share made Santiago the clear winner.
In June, Santiago will host ITDP’s MOBILIZE Summit, to be held each year in the winning city. MOBILIZE will bring together 200 international urban transport and development planners, practitioners, and officials, world-class researchers, and NGO representatives to share opportunities, challenges, and study the example of Santiago as an international best practice in pedestrian, cycling, public transit, and policy. The new winning city will be host to MOBILIZE in 2018.
“The STA recognizes bold political leadership. It’s not about crowning the best transport city in the world, it’s about celebrating vision and positive changes that improve quality of life for people in cities,” says Michael Kodransky, chair of the STA Committee, “There are so many great things happening in cities that aren’t known as the usual transport best practices, and the STA and MOBILIZE are great vehicles for recognition for the city, and opportunities for those of us working in sustainable transport to learn from these innovative approaches.”
Since 2005, the Sustainable Transport Award has recognized profound leadership and vision in sustainable transportation and urban livability. These strategies should improve mobility for all residents, reduce transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions, and enhance safety and access for bicyclists and pedestrians. The award is presented to a city each January for achievements in the preceding year. Nominations are accepted from any interested parties, including government, civil society organizations, and academic institutions. Nominations must include verifiable project data and contact information for the city.
The 2018 winner will be announced at MOBILIZE Santiago on June 30. The winner and honorable mentions will be honored at an awards ceremony and reception in Washington, DC during the Transport Research Board conference.
Cities of all sizes from all over the world have been recognized by the committee for best practices in sustainable transport. Past winners include
Yichang, China; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City, México; Medellín, Colombia; San Francisco, United States; Ahmedabad, India; Seoul, South Korea; and Bogotá, Colombia. A complete list of winning cities with details on their win is available at staward.org.
The Sustainable Transport Committee includes the most respected experts and organizations working internationally on sustainable transportation:
- Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
- The WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
- The World Bank
- Clean Air Asia
- Clean Air Institute
- The BRT Center for Excellence
For more information about MOBILIZE, visit mobilizesummit.org.
High profile International Speakers from Government, NGOs, and Research Institutions Partnering with Santiago Officials to Inspire Replication of Transport Best Practices.
For three days in June, 200 urban transport and development planners, practitioners, and officials, world-class researchers, and NGO representatives will convene in Santiago to share opportunities, challenges, and study the example of Santiago as an international best practice in pedestrian, cycling, public transit, and policy. Organizers expect representatives from around 20 nations to attend the MOBILIZE Summit, June 28-30, to be held at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.
Speakers will include Dr. Philipp Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities at The London School of Economics, Laura Ballesteros, Undersecretary of Planning for the Secretariat of Mobility of Mexico City, Shin-pei Tsay, Executive Director of the Gehl Institute, and Manuela Lopez Menendez, Secretary of Public Works for the Transport Ministry of Argentina.
MOBILIZE is an annual summit organized by ITDP. The summit aims to elevate the winner of the annual Sustainable Transport Award. MOBILIZE spotlights the achievements of the winning city and gives transport professionals and researchers from around the world an opportunity to experience the city as a learning lab with lessons on how to get world class projects implemented.
Last June, Santiago was announced as the winner of the Sustainable Transport Award, selected by a committee of international transport experts for major improvements in pedestrian space, cycling, and public transit. Director of Mobility Miguel Olivares accepted the award at the ceremony in Washington, DC on Tuesday, January 10th. Together, the STA and MOBILIZE highlight an elite group of international cities that inspire and catalyze more cities around the world to implement transport solutions of their own.
Participants, including representatives from the Municipality of Santiago, Santiago Metro region, and the Chilean Ministries of Transport and Housing, will spend half the day in workshops sharing ideas and best practices in sustainable transport, development, and urban planning, and half the day on site visits in and around the city, including visits to Transantiago, the public bicycle and cycle network, and a walking tour of the newly-redesigned streets in the city center.
ITDP is organizing the summit in partnership with the Volvo Research and Education Foundation (VREF), and additional sponsors, and is consulting with a local host committee as planning moves forward.
- Mayor Felipe Alessandri, Host
- Juan Carlos Muñoz, Chair, Director of the Bus Rapid Transit Centre of Excellence
- Claudio Orrego, Intendant of the Metropolitan Region
- Paulina Saball, Minister of Housing and Urbanism
- Claudio Olivares Medina, Bicivilizate
“We are very pleased to participate in MOBILIZE, and welcome participants to this key global summit on sustainable transport. This June, the eyes of the sustainable transport community will be on Santiago, and those who visit us will find a very interesting opportunity to learn from these new changes and advances that our municipality, and the city region, have made,” said the Mayor of the Municipality of Santiago, Felipe Alessandri.
2017 will be the second annual MOBILIZE Summit. The first was held in 2016 in Yichang, China by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in co-operation with VREF and the City of Yichang. More information on MOBILIZE Yichang is available.
Sustainable transport and development professionals interested in attending should contact Nora.Pena@itdp.org to request an invitation. Members of the press interested in attending should contact Jemilah.Magnusson@itdp.org . For more information, visit mobilizesummit.org.
Over the last year, there has been international record growth in fixed-route transit, according to a comprehensive collection of rapid transit data maintained by the ITDP Global staff. ITDP looked at bus rapid transit (BRT), light rail transit (LRT), and Metro built in 2016 in 373 urban areas around the world. Data is collected either directly from government sources or publicly available news sources.
In 2016, 37 cities added 754.5 km of metro rail, and 9 cities added 163.2 km of bus rapid transit, and 7 cities added 72.1 km of light rail. While Metro is by far the most prevalent form of rapid transit construction, these numbers are largely due to the rapid transit growth of China. Incredibly, of the 754.5 km of built in 2016, 533 was in mainland China.
More than twice as much BRT was built in 2016 compared to LRT, continuing the the trend of BRT growth outpacing the increasingly less-popular option of LRT. 2016 marked the fifth straight year where more BRT opened than LRT. Using this data on all rapid transit openings since 1980, we can see where each mode stacks up in terms of grand total of kilometers. While there is more km of LRT, BRT is rapidly catching up. At this rate of construction, the total length of operational BRT should catch up to LRT by 2030.
In the past decade, Metro construction has skyrocketed, increasing by 50% or 5,000 km, the same amount that was built in the preceding 20 years. We can also aggregate the data into buckets of four years to get a sense of more macro trends in rapid transit construction over the past 35 years. LRT was clearly relatively popular in the 1980s, before dropping off in the 1990s. Metro construction stayed relatively consistent through around 2005, before increasing dramatically in the next decade. And finally, it is clear that BRT was a marginal mode until around the beginning of the new millennium, but has since become an increasingly popular choice for cities around the world.
One fascinating application that this dataset allows us to explore is the comparison of rapid transit built in different countries. Instead of simply comparing kilometers built, which ignores key contextual factors, we have normalized this data by population to create the Rapid Transit to Resident Ratio (RTR), which compares the length of rapid transit lines (including rail, metro, and BRT) in kilometers in each country with its urban population (cities with populations over 500,000). In China, for example, we can see that the RTR has quickly risen over the past decade, thanks mostly to a boom in Metro and BRT openings.
Another country worth highlighting is Brazil, which for most of the past two decades was stagnant or declining in terms of its RTR. However, in the past five years the nation has seen a notable improvement, driven mostly by a spate of BRT construction. Since 2012, 171.6 km of BRT have opened in Brazil. This period of transit expansion coincides, of course, with the preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and indeed 70 percent of BRT built in Brazil during this period was built in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area. However, over this same time frame, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte both opened their first BRT corridors, indicating a nationwide trend towards BRT construction in Brazilian cities.
It appears that cities and countries are responding to both continued global growth in urban population, and more importantly over the past 10 years, a jump in global wealth, (2002-2011) which has allowed cities to invest more in infrastructure. A lot of the projects that stemmed from that boom time (especially metros, which often take up to a decade to complete) are now opening.
As the global economy has slowed down, but city populations continue to grow, the world has increasingly turned to BRT as a means of improving access in cities, without breaking the bank. With much less lead time, the planning of many BRT projects that have opened more recently began after the global boom period (2011-2016). As more cities demonstrate the potential of high quality BRT, some are choosing BRT over metro, and fewer cities are choosing LRT, which is often significantly more expensive and is less able to achieve higher capacities.
With our current global instability, we expect slower economic growth, and thus fewer expensive metro projects opening in the coming years. Yet, demand for more transit will continue, and as more cities demonstrate the capacity potential and relatively low cost of high quality BRT, we expect to see more of these projects.