Brazilian Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) networks lead the way

Posted: 14 July 2014 | | No comments yet

Fortunately the theme of urban mobility has gained increasing prominence in discussions at all levels. For the International Association of Public Transport, UITP, knowledge management and studies related to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems has always been addressed as the main item of a positive agenda. UITP support for BRT schemes is justified because it is a mass transport alternative suitable to cities of all sizes, notably for its low-cost and shorter implementation time compared to other modes. For Eurotransport, Arno Kerkhof – Head of the UITP Bus Division – provides an overview of BRT developments in Brazil with Rio as a particular focus.


BRT systems are networks where buses circulate on a network of exclusive lanes with special attributes, such as multiple positions of stops at stations, the possibility of overtaking, level boarding, universal accessibility, capacitive vehicles, payment and control outside the bus, good spaces at stations and information systems for users and is integrated with land use policy in order to substantially upgrade the bus system performance. Its benefits are reflected in the fluidity and high average commercial speed of operations, and therefore the quality of life of the customer, who now has a transport mode that is more comfortable, reliable and efficient and also cleaner and safer from an environmental standpoint.

The UITP has been holding its International Bus Conferences since 1994 and will head to South America for the 8th edition on 5-7 November 2014. South America is a natural choice to host such an event as it is a bus continent par excellence; a real flagship of BRT expertise.

BRT technology was developed in Brazil and according to EMBARQ there are 180 cities that employ BRT systems worldwide.

Rio de Janeiro in Brazil was particularly enthusiastic to host this event and it will put the city’s BRT system in the international spotlight. Rio is an interesting example in that it has a privately-run, non-subsidised bus system and it is one that we all in the international sector will be particularly keen to learn more about. This event will be the ideal opportunity not only to highlight the importance of South American innovation to the global public transport sector, but also to act as a platform and multiplier for the rest of the continent.

In South America, urban passenger transportation on rubber wheels is in a process of modernisation to meet the needs of the population in an increasingly efficient way. This process has been occurring through the gradual transformation of relations between the business sector, governing bodies and society (Public Transport Triangle), who began to work together for the establishment of infrastructure and services consistent with the social and economic advances achieved in the last two decades.

In the current context in Latin America, users expect and demand a low cost service, high reliability, and security that ensure the daily participation in various activities spread throughout the urban space. To meet these increasingly complex demands, the modernisation and transformation of public transportation systems are directly associated with the use and improvement of knowledge and experience accumulated by the public transport sector.

The UITP Bus Committee, created in 1960 as the international committee for the study of buses, has been acquiring and sharing day-to-day operational and technical knowledge from the field of city bus operations and maintenance ever since. The Bus Committee is part of UITP, and from 2000 to 2010, the Association’s global reach and influence has grown due to the creation of a number of Regional Divisions around the world, with now over 3,400 members in more than 90 countries. With this regionalisation, many worldwide BRT experiences and best-practices have been formed due to the pivotal role of the UITP Latin America Division’s office based in São Paulo, Brazil, and to information exchanged via the Bus Committee itself as well as through successive International Bus Conferences (Brisbane 2004; Bogota 2007; Lyon 2010; and Istanbul 2012) and regional workshops and seminars.

Back in 2007, the Growth Acceleration Programme, known locally as PAC, was launched in Brazil, which targeted over USD 200 billion of investment in housing, sanitation and infrastructure over a three-year period. Initial estimates indicated that over USD 1 billion would be invested in various public transport projects, such as the expansion of rail-based systems in state capital cities (Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador) and a BRT corridor in São Paulo. Under this programme, USD 836 million was allocated to the improvement of public transport, equating to the construction of 149.5km of built-infrastructure, which will provide for an additional 744,000 passengers per day.

In 2010, the federal government announced urban mobility projects in the 12 host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. These projects totalled over USD 3.1 billion of investment. Nine of the 12 cities have managed to implement 43 projects that were expected to be operational before the end of the World Cup. The latest reports indicate that 247km of infrastructure assets will be created, although official sources cannot estimate the precise number of passengers that will be transported on a daily basis at this stage.

As part of the second stage of the PAC, the federal government issued a call for expressions of interest in 2010. Twenty-eight municipalities with over 700,000 inhabitants were selected to be part of PAC 2, which foresees the implementation of 43 projects due to receive over USD 13 billion in funding over a four-year period. In many cases, a precise budget specification and demand estimate are not available. Currently, only seven projects have detailed budgeting, which totals USD 1.2 billion in investments.

In 2012, the federal government launched the PAC 2 for Medium Cities. This programme focused on municipalities with between 250,000 and 700,000 inhabitants. Fifty-nine municipalities were initially selected to carry out 115 different projects. Initial estimates indicate that USD 2.9 billion will be made available to finance these projects. The most common project (49 out of 115) is the implementation of dedicated bus lanes.

The implementation of BRT systems in Brazilian cities is undoubtedly one of the most important steps for urban passenger transportation to be really efficient and in line with the expectations of the population. Originally designed, tested, operated and approved in Curitiba, Brazil, BRT systems have become international benchmarks of high performance, quality and low-cost mass transportation. Today, major cities in the world use the BRT concept as the main mode of mass transport as the backbone for sustainable urban development policies.

The Brazilian National Association of Urban Transport Companies (NTU) which is the direct representative of 600 bus companies in Brazil and a member of the UITP Bus Committee, had the opportunity to increasingly explore and advance in the operation of BRT systems, which influenced the urban mobility of much of the Brazilian population.

NTU has recently distributed a major publication aiming to catalogue the various characteristics of BRT systems that are being designed and built in 13 Brazilian cities. Through the contact with the main individuals involved in the design, project, management and implementation, NTU managed to successfully diagnose the current stage of development of BRT systems in major Brazilian cities. It seeks to discuss how the BRT concept has been adopted in order to examine best-practice references and point out areas for improvements and refinements. In particular, it seeks to describe: the context and challenges; the basic design of BRT corridors; the physical-operational characteristics; the environmental aspects; the physical design; and the relationship with urban planning activities.

BRT Networks in Rio: TransOeste and TransCarioca

Rio de Janeiro is going through major structural changes in its public and road transportation systems, aiming to improve people’s mobility and in order to equip the city for major events that have already taken place and are still to come, especially the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016. Among those changes was the implementation of the BRT transport system, consisting of four large capacity bus corridors, interconnecting several neighbourhoods in the city of Rio de Janeiro and enabling effective inter-modal integration with the various modes of transport in the metropolitan region. The first to be deployed was TransOeste which opened in 2012. In 2014, the TransCarioca corridor, which connects the international airport of Rio de Janeiro (Galeão) to Barra da Tijuca, came into operation, serving several populous neighbourhoods of the north side of Rio and connecting with the TransOeste. All lines are connected and monitored by one of the most modern Operational Control Centres (OCC) in Brazil.

During this year’s UITP Bus Conference visits, delegates will be able to see the OCC as well as the TransOeste and TransCarioca BRTs. UITP members can access more details on Brazil’s public transport projects through the Mobi+ electronic library.

The guiding theme of the 2014 International UITP Bus Conference will be ‘Grow with Bus Public Transport,’ based on UITP’s campaign, ‘Grow with Public Transport’, with a fantastic programme oriented around E-bus, BRT, operations, big events, safety and new technologies. Alongside E-Bus and BRT operations we will be taking an in-depth look at e-buses and bus line-electrification-strategies along with electric propulsion solutions that will demonstrate the active role public transport is taking in providing low-energy, environmentally-friendly mobility solutions. Other sessions will look at operational solutions and new and innovative technologies.

The UITP’s Bus Committee will meet in its plenary session on 7 November 2014 after the Conference as well as the UITP Trolleybus Committee which will meet in São Paulo 9 and 10 November 2014. During the last UITP International Bus Conference in Istanbul in 2012, the Istanbul Bus Declaration was issued reinforcing the importance of bus transport in achieving the UITP’s strategic objective of doubling the market share of public transport worldwide by 2025. It is too early to say what form the official announcement might take this year, but stay tuned!

Sources and further reading

Brazilian National Association of Urban Transport Companies – NTU (2013) BRT Studies in Brazil: Technical Report / Brazilian National Association of 2nd edition; 146 p. Brasília, Brazil; ISBN: 978-85-66881-03-5.

EMBARQ (2014)

 Improving urban public transport infrastructure and services in Brazil, André Dantas, PTI N°2, 2014


In 1996, Arno Kerkhof graduated as a Civil Engineer at the Engineering University of Delft after having obtained a Certificate in Transport and Planning at the French École Nationale des Ponts and Chaussées in Paris (ENPC) in 1995. He is currently working as Head of the UITP Bus Division and is directly in charge of all bus activities within the Association, coordinating members’ work on the Bus Committee, the Trolleybus Committee, its four Technical and Operational Working Groups and the UITP Vehicles and Equipment Industry Committee and acts as Senior Trainer on a worldwide basis in the development of the UITP training business. Since 2003, Arno has been making several contributions to the UITP Bus of the Future functional requirements catalogue, tender structure platform and fuel consumption referential. He has acted as a conceiver and contributor of the European Commission initiated large-scale R&D project EBSF and the COST Action on BHLS (the European BRT). Arno is the leading UITP representative in the European projects dealing with bus systems. From 1996 to 1998, he held the position of Project Manager at Grontmij (a Dutch engineering company), and from 1999 to 2003 he held the position of Safety Engineer then Member of the Board of TCAR, Rouen’s Public Transport company and was responsible for light-rail (tunnel) infrastructure safety audits and international affairs for Connex (Vivendi Groupe), today called Transdev.