Bus Rapid Transit Systems -aka Mabasi yaendayo Kasi
An alternative form of mass transit growing in popularity and use around the world is Bus Rapid Transit. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a surface-based, flexible rapid transit system chosen by cities as diverse as Bogota, Columbia, Quito, Ecuador, Auckland, New Zealand, and best known perhaps from Curitiba, Brazil.
As its name would indicate, Bus Rapid Transit relies on buses as the service technology. Unlike conventional bus service, BRT systems include features such as dedicated, exclusive busways employing physical barriers to separate them from other modes, platforms at bus floor levels for rapid boarding and exit, traffic signal linkages and priority, information technology links between vehicles and passenger information displays, and pre-entry ticketing that allow BRT systems to operate at the pace and volumes of underground metro systems or fixed rail service. BRT systems can be built at a fraction of the cost of underground metros and rail, and are relatively flexible in their operations.
According to Lloyd Wright, an international public transport consultant, the cost of BRT systems can vary from about $1 million per kilometer to as much as $10 million per kilometer, and averages between $3 and $5 million per kilometer. In high labor cost areas such as the United States, sophisticated BRT systems including "bus tunnels" have pushed costs as high as $10 million per kilometer, but this cost pales in comparison to surface level rail systems and underground metro systems. Rail costs average between $20 - $30 million per kilometer, while recent underground metro systems have averaged from $70 million per kilometer in Santiago, Chile, to $180 million per kilometer in Los Angeles, California, in the United States.
Inter-city BRT systems often cost even less than those contained within the dense boundaries of a city, due to lower land acquisition costs. Sao Paolo, Brazil, for example, runs a BRT system from the ends of its metro lines to satellite cities. That system averaged just over $1 million per kilometer for construction.
BRT systems offer a practical solution for cities facing considerable congestion, but where densities do not suffice to implement rail solutions. BRT systems can offer passenger capacity very near to that available from rail, but at both construction and operating costs several levels of magnitude less than fixed rail – either above or below ground. BRT systems also offer modularity, and a high degree of flexibility in routing. In terms of land acquisition costs, BRT compares very well with fixed and light rail systems.