How will these resources help you?

Geographers studying strategies to improve life for the urban poor will often be drawn to regeneration schemes, but bus rapid transit systems are definitely worth a look. These schemes aim to optimise the use of public transport to tackle congestion and air pollution in rapidly developing cities, providing affordable transport for urban dwellers and increasing the mobility of the urban poor. This list will introduce you to the first BRT, in Curitiba, and the largest, in Bogota. However, not all cities can be easily adapted to include a BRT: Kampala is included as an example. These case studies will prove useful to teachers and students on strategies to improve life for urban communities at GCSE level and urban management at A-level or equivalent.

How did the first BRT develop?

Case Study - What the World’s First Bus Rapid Transit System Can Teach Us

by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, published by Development Asia, (2016)

Curitiba City in Brazil was the first to develop a BRT, growing from a simple bus system in 1974 to a network of six lines by 2009. The system uses 70km of busway corridors to enable the buses to move rapidly around the city, with customers paying a flat fare to travel wherever they wish across the network. This article summarises the development of the system, including useful images and a video. As it concludes, this scheme has shown the world how creativity can lead to successful low-cost solutions to improve city transport.

How the largest BRT in the world has improved life for urban communities

Case Study  TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit System

by Jakki Mann, published by Urban Sustainability Exchange

Bogota’s rapid growth in the 1990s led to concerns about the safety and efficiency of public transport. In 1999, the Mayor proposed building the TransMilenio BRT system to tackle these problems and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Busways now cover 207km, and the TransMilenio is the largest BRT in the world. This case study presents information about the city’s problems in the 1990s, the implementation of the system and the benefits it has brought to the inhabitants. Many of these benefits can be linked to the urban poor, including reductions in time spent in congestion, respiratory diseases, noise pollution and accidents. There is a very useful section on lessons learned, which lists six factors that led to success. Students could be challenged to use these criteria to analyse other BRT systems or assess each factor’s relative importance in the context of the TransMilenio.

How can urban communities benefit from BRT?

4 Ways Cities Benefit from Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

by Robin King, published by World Resources Institute, (2013)

This resource considers the benefits of BRT systems to be time-saving, pollution reduction, improved traffic safety and increased physical activity. It also has a useful video on BRT systems in Mexico City and Istanbul. If students are looking at a particular BRT, it would be helpful for them to investigate the extent to which these benefits are being realised in their chosen location. It would also be useful for them to link these benefits to the problems they are tackling in urban areas, categorising them as social, economic, environmental and political (SEEP).

Why aren’t all BRT systems as successful as in Curitiba and Bogota?

The problem with Uganda’s public transport system

by Didas Kisembo, Anna Katusiime, Sarah Tumwebaze, Ivan Okuda and Abubaker Lubowa, published by Monitor, (2021)

The Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in Uganda’s capital city began its quest towards creating a BRT system in 2012, with Pioneer transit buses introduced under the ownership of a private company, but financial problems put the company out of business within a year. The World Bank and KCCA produced a feasibility report into a BRT in 2010 but found that most roads were too narrow to convert into bus lanes, and only 38% of roads in the city are tarmacked. Other barriers to the BRT include a lack of collaboration between the government and private organisations and the lack of investment in road infrastructure. Students could use the six factors for success listed in the article about the TransMilenio BRT system to analyse the proposed Kampala BRT – how can the problems be overcome, and how could the urban poor benefit?

Further materials

With Bus Rapid Transit, African Cities Are Riding Toward a Better Future, published by The World Bank, (2022) Access this resource
Why Did Bus Rapid Transit Go Bust in Delhi? by Tanvi Misra, published by Bloomberg UK, (2016) Read this article
Story of cities #37: How radical ideas turned Curitiba into Brazil’s ‘green capital’ by David Adler, published by The Guardian, (2016) Read this article
Are Bus Rapid Transit Systems Effective in Poverty Reduction? Experience of Bogotá's TransMilenio and Lessons For Other Cities by Dario Hidalgo and Tito Yepes, published by ResearchGate, (2005) Access this resource
Catherine Owen is Head of Geography at The King Alfred School an Academy, a CGeog and a Geographical Association Consultant. She writes and presents for OUP, Hodder Geography, Tutor2U and more.

Text © Catherine Owen, 2022-2023