The bus as a solution for urban mobility: the concept for the future is BRT – Bus Rapid Transit

Jul 18, 2016
Stuttgart / Amsterdam
  • City populations are growing fast – and need to remain mobile
  • BRT lines: successful on every continent
  • Daimler traffic experts advise cities all over the world
  • Tailor-made vehicles bearing the Mercedes star for BRT systems

City populations worldwide are growing at a very fast pace, and therefore also the need for mobility. The answer to this cannot be private transport in every case, and especially not in the metropolitan regions. Buses are part of the solution to these traffic problems. As a mobility provider, however, Daimler supplies more than just suitable vehicles: a special department successfully works on establishing bus-based transport systems around the world. One of the main emphases is on BRT systems (BRT = Bus Rapid Transit). These make it possible to connect suburbs rapidly, inexpensively and flexibly, to consolidate traffic flows in cities and to maintain mobility in megacities.

City populations are growing fast – and need to remain mobile

There are more than 1000 cities around the world with populations of at least 500 000. Between 20 and 40 million inhabitants call metropolitan regions such as Tokyo-Yokohama, Mexico City, New York, Seoul, Mumbai, São Paulo and Manila their home. Since 2008 more than half the world's population lives in cities. The UN expects that this proportion will reach around 70 percent in 2050 – with a growing world population.

The people in all these cities and regions expect mobility – they need to reach their workplaces or schools, do their shopping and be mobile in their free time. The challenges in these conurbations can no longer be answered with private transport. Specialists in traffic data have produced measured results: every inhabitant of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, for example, spends an average of around 40 hours per year in traffic tailbacks. In Germany, Stuttgart and Cologne are the "tailback capitals" with more than 70 hours in tailbacks.

Traffic gridlock: The bus as a major part of the solution

The UITP (Union Internationale des Transports Publics) has produced a simple calculation: Transporting 10 000 people over one kilometre requires 2000 cars needing around 24 000 m2 of road space. In the case of a roughly twelve metre long solo bus such as the Mercedes-Benz Citaro, only 100 vehicles with a road space of 3200 m2 are required. If a high-capacity bus such as the Mercedes-Benz CapaCity is used, 50 vehicles covering a total road space of around 3000 m2 are even sufficient.

BRT is therefore a way out of impending traffic gridlock. The three letters stand for Bus Rapid Transit. BRT systems are characterised by their own lines with separate, barrier-free bus stops, own traffic light settings and special ticketing systems with advance sale of tickets. Depending on the expected passenger demand, the individual elements of BRT systems can vary in size. In South America BRT systems have taken over the role of subway systems, and are correspondingly large in extent. European solutions are more like tram systems in size.

BRT systems: inexpensive, flexible, quick to set up

The advantage of BRT systems: They are quick to set up, inexpensive and flexible. They reduce traffic density, lower exhaust and noise emissions, increase travelling speeds and generally improve the quality of life.

Daimler Buses was one of the pioneers of such systems with the introduction of a BRT system in the Australian city of Adelaide around 30 years ago. Experts estimate that there are now around 180 BRT systems with a total of around 40 000 buses around the world. These alone carry around 30 million passengers each day.

BRT lines: successful on every continent

There are now BRT lines on every continent, and new ones are continuously being planned and set up. One major BRT region is South America, where fast-growing cities are serviced by BRT systems. The Brazilian city of Curitiba, for example, was an early pioneer in this transport concept with the 1968 introduction of a BRT system. Over the last few years, the Olympic city of Rio de Janeiro has developed a BRT system consisting of three corridors with a total length of 150 km. 90 Mercedes-Benz articulated buses, all with four axles and a length of 23 m, are e.g. in operation on the "TransOeste" line, the first to be opened. In Brazil these are known as "Ligeirão", i.e. "large, rapid bus".

“Metrobüs” line 34 in Istanbul is equally fascinating. It is covered by buses operating in extremely close succession, with left-hand traffic. The numbers are spectacular: 52 kilometres in length, 750 000 passengers each day. The backbone of this system are 250 Mercedes-Benz CapaCity articulated buses and 250 Mercedes-Benz Citaro and Conecto articulated buses.

In central Europe it is usual to use BRT lines as local systems, e.g. as feeder routes from the suburbs in Nantes, Nancy and Strasbourg, or to divert traffic from the city centre in Granada, Spain. In the Netherlands, Line 300 links the town of Haarlem (155 000 inhabitants) with nearby Schiphol airport and metropolitan Amsterdam.

Daimler traffic experts advise cities all over the world

BRT systems are not uncharted territory for Daimler Buses. On the contrary, a team of experts advises cities and transport operators worldwide during the introduction and further expansion of BRT systems. This unique service within the industry once again demonstrates that Daimler Buses is far more than a bus manufacturer. Instead Daimler Buses places its faith in all-round expertise, and gives support during the development of complete transport systems. The current team has been in place for just under ten years, and consists of traffic and urban planning specialists. These specialists are active around the world. The core team is located in Germany, plus there are locations in Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The local specialists know the regional circumstances from personal experience.

The BRT specialists examine urban planning structures and the mobility behaviour of the population, and also existing roads and transport systems. They use these to develop recommendations for lines and routing, bus stops, payment systems and vehicle concepts. And they go right into detail, e.g. the choice of the right road surface covering or kerb stones suitable for bus stops.

The advisers benefit from their experience and knowledge of a wide range of different BRT systems. The resulting solutions are as individual as the cities themselves. In France, for example, there is the BHNS (Bus à Haut Niveau de Service = Buses with a high standard of service) - these are city buses with particularly high-quality appointments on BRT lines in Nantes or Strasbourg. They successfully induce car drivers to switch to buses. In other regions of the world such as South America, Asia or Africa, rapidly expanding megacities require a fundamental transport infrastructure.

Tailor-made vehicles bearing the Mercedes star for BRT systems

Daimler Buses is successfully active on every continent as one of the world's leading bus manufacturers. The Mercedes-Benz brand is the centrepiece when it comes to regular service city buses. There is a suitable bus for every market and every BRT system. The mainstay of the range is the low-floor Citaro service bus, available in numerous variants and the world's most successful city bus, with almost 50 000 units sold to date. The large-capacity, four axle CapaCity articulated bus is derived from it. As a close relative of the Citaro in the economy segment, the Mercedes-Benz Conecto meets all the requirements for a functional and cost-effective low-floor bus.

For the global chassis markets, Mercedes-Benz also has numerous different chassis with rear or front-mounted engine available for solo and articulated buses. For example the OC 500 LE, a low-entry chassis produced in Spain. As a Brazilian-made chassis suitable for BRT systems, the Superarticulado is an articulated bus chassis with four axles designed for buses with a length of up to 23 m. Mercedes-Benz works together closely with well-known regional and local bodybuilders to complete the buses.

A look at the world map confirms the global approach: Mercedes-Benz produces the Citaro in Mannheim and Neu-Ulm, as well as in Ligny/France, the Conecto in Hosdere/Turkey and service bus chassis in Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, South Africa and Indonesia.