Developing Cities from India to Colombia Leapfrog Ahead With Clean, Green Bus Rapid Transit Systems


Traditional modes of transportation meet high-tech ones in Ahmedabad, India, which just won an award for its bus rapid transit system. Photo by Emmanuel Dyan via Flickr.

Ahmedabad, India, leads the pack as cities in developing nations race ahead of their richer counterparts in adopting eco-friendly transit solutions, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), which last week gave the western Indian city its 2010 Sustainable Transport Award.The award has been given out since 2005 to a city that best "uses transport innovations to increase mobility for all residents, while reducing transportation greenhouse [gas] and air pollution emissions and increasing cyclist and pedestrian safety and access." This year, for the first time, all five nominees -- Cali, Colombia; Curitiba, Brazil; Guadalajara, Mexico; and Johannesburg, South Africa, in addition to Ahmedabad -- were cities in developing countries.

Janmarg, India's First Full BRT
Environmentalists often express hopes that developing nations will "leapfrog" the United States and Europe by adopting the newer, greener technologies that are now available without ever becoming fully dependent on the older, more polluting ones that richer countries are currently struggling to transition away from. These five cities, the ITDP says, have done just that.

"This year's Sustainable Transport Award nominees demonstrate the relevance of the developing world in the fight against climate change while improving citizen's quality of life and enhancing their international competitiveness," said Walter Hook, the ITDP'S executive director.


Passengers wait for the new bus rapid transit line in Cali, Colombia, one of the nominees for the 2010 Sustainable Transport Award. Photo by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy via Flickr.

Ahmedabad got the nod for successfully implementing India's first full bus rapid transit (BRT) system, dubbed Janmarg, or "people's way." Like other such systems around the world, it creates a dedicated lane for buses to speed their passage through congested streets, enticing riders who would otherwise be stuck in traffic. Writes the ITDP:

City residents have embraced their new BRT system; 18,000 daily passengers use Janmarg to commute to work, to school and elsewhere. In just a few months of operation, Janmarg has transformed the delivery of transit in South Asia... Bus stations feature passive solar design, an inexpensive way to keep stations naturally cool. The city is making continued efforts to be a leader in sustainable transport, including incorporating high quality pedestrian facilities in some corridors, as well as bicycle lanes. Ahmedabad has initiated car free days and recently announced more.

First Transit Links from Soweto to Downtown
Bus rapid transit was the theme of the year for the award, with all five nominees recognized for their work expanding existing BRT systems or creating new ones for their cities. Curitiba, a pioneer in the field, opened a new line and city park in the place of a former federal highway, while Guadalajara made its first BRT system, Macrobus, fully operational within two years. Cali's system allows the buses to work both within and outside their dedicated corridors, while Johannesburg "opened the first full BRT in Africa, and completed the first mass transit investments in the city since the fall of apartheid," according to the ITDP, which added that "Rea Vaya is the first public transit system to link the previously disadvantaged Soweto area to the central business district."

The Sustainable Transport Award was given to New York last year for its comprehensive PlaNYC 2030 sustainability plan, which includes creating more than a hundred miles of on-street bike lanes and converting roads and parking lots to areas that can be used by pedestrians and cyclists.

More about bus rapid transit:
This Warms the Cockles of My Heart: True Bus Rapid Transit in Los Angeles
Public Transit: Buenos Aires Could Welcome Metrobus System Next May
NYC Gets First BRT Line
Mexico City Receives Payment for BRT Carbon Mitigation
Light Rail or BRT?

Tags: Awards | Brazil | Buses | Cities | Colombia | Curitiba | Developing Nations | India | Mexico | Public Transportation | South Africa | Urban Planning

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