Annex 2 Best Practice Design Recommendations

Experience in the design of modern bus technology, as developed in Latin America over the past three decades, has shown that there are many “best-practice” options that can be adopted, which will simplify the design process and avoid the more common pitfalls. Key words are in italics and underlined so the reader can check the references in the context of the case studies presented in Annex 5.

Type of Bus Unit

On exclusive busways, only adapted, high-capacity units should be permitted (such as 18m articulated buses). The use of existing units could damage the mass transit image of modern bus systems. The units should allow at-level boarding, be disabled-friendly, and have wide doors to allow speedy loading and unloading. Construction of a BRT corridor will be undermined if the choice of bus units is not appropriate and long queues of both passengers and buses build up at BRT stations during peak hours. The existing fleet, which complies with minimum standards, however, can be used on feeder routes, where there is no specific busway infrastructure.

System Rationalization

If an exclusive busway is not feasible, then the option of rationalizing demand, fleet and city centre platform space with ordinary high capacity units, using bus lanes and mixed flows can be considered.

Passenger Access

Passenger access to buses should be pre-paid and preferably at at-floor level.

Distance between Stations

The stations should be set about 400–500m apart on corridors with mixed residential/commercial use. In lower density sections, or where the corridor is being used to induce growth, this distance can be increased. Multiples of 400–500m can thus be subdivided when necessary (such as on the Metropolitan Corridor in Curitiba).

Direct Services

If the busway corridor has a high proportion of long trips (typically from the outer interchange terminals to the city centre) then direct routes, with very few stops can greatly increase overall system efficiency and reduce travel times and costs – specifically during peak hours. Overtaking lanes require additional width – either two bus lanes per direction as in Av. Caracas, Bogotá, or having stations set back as on the Autopista Norte, Bogotá. Pedestrian access has to be strictly controlled to avoid the risk of accidents. An option in less congested cities is for direct services to use existing streets for most of the trip.

Balancing Routes

Trunk routes should be preferably diametrically arranged, going from one interchange on the outskirts to another. In order to have balanced fleet sizes on each arm of the corridor, the demands on the critical stretches of these trunk routes should be similar. If this is not the case, other travel options can be offered, using a central area turn-round as a last resort. This measure:

  • Allows greater accessibility to the city to passengers without the need for a transfer; and,
  • Reduces overall operating costs (kilometreage), as the units do not have to make long, slow “loops” in the downtown area in order to cover the main destination zones before returning.

A single trunk route operating on two radial corridors offers better coverage for a much lower cost than a solution with two separate radial routes. The number of feeder routes at each main interchange can also be managed to maintain the correct balance on the individual trunk sections.

Implementation Risk Management

To keep the element of risk to a minimum, the first phases of the system should have a low initial infrastructure cost, with minimum relocation/resettlement

Operation Risk Management

Again, to minimize public sector risk, the fleet should be operated and owned, at least in part, by the private sector, under a concession compatible with the working life of the units. This is normally 10 years, with an option for a further 10 years, if services are considered to be adequate;

High Quality System Design

All design should be of high quality. Modern busways should operate and look like subways – usually the world reference standard for high-quality mass transit. Interchanges, the livery of the units, and the designation of a system logo are all important factors. The first contact the passenger has with the system is at the stations, which have to be comfortable and safe. All designs should be tested to check that they have adequate capacity for the predicted demand (at a maximum of 6 passengers/sq.m) and that internal temperatures do not become uncomfortable;

High Quality Urban Design

All physical interventions should be accompanied by high-quality urban design, not simply concrete New Jersey dividers. This reinforces the positive image of the new system. Other elements of good urban design should also be part of the system, specifically, better sidewalks, the restoration of green areas and parks, lighting and street furniture etc.

Busway Construction

Construction costs can be kept to reasonable levels as articulated buses can handle ramps of up to 10% and turn on a minimum internal radius of 12 metres. Station design for pre-paid, at-floor boarding requires that the platforms be set about 80 cm above the pavement level. At junctions and stations the pavement should be in reinforced concrete (40cm) in order to support the repeated loads of braking and accelerating. If the busway is a completely new pavement, then a rigid concrete option is recommended (such as in the proposed Metropolitan Route in Curitiba); where an existing highway is being adapted, (as in the proposed busways for Fortaleza), the most cost-effective solution was to keep the flexible pavement.

Position of Bus Doors

The bus units can have doors on the left or right. In Latin America, traffic drives on the right, hence applies only for cities that have traffic on the right. Normally the best option for an articulated unit is 4 doors, 110 cm wide, on the left, for the following reasons:

  • The road median is used as part of the station area with the minimum of road works;
  • The use of contra-flow lanes (normally highly dangerous for pedestrians) to access the median is eliminated;
  • One station can serve both busway lanes, hence the overall road width needed for the busway is less;
  • Station infrastructure and maintenance costs are less, as are staffing and security costs;
  • There is no conflict with parked cars or loading/unloading vehicles;
  • There is no conflict with vehicle access/garage curbs;
  • Potential conflicts at openings of the median can be eliminated by closing these gaps or banning left turns;
  • Pedestrian and 2-wheeler conflicts can be minimized by using either a high curb on the median or by a fence.

Traffic Management

All traffic management measures are considered to be secondary to the public transport network. In other words, the network and its operational needs are established and the necessary traffic management is then arranged to fit the network. This policy has to be established openly to avoid local political pressures, such as requests to change street direction or keep a conflicting median gap open for a local “authority”; Conflicting left-hand turns should be eliminated where possible, using “P” type traffic management to handle these movements.

Traffic Control at Intersections

All intersections should be controlled by traffic signals, preferably with priority for units using the busway. At highly conflicting sites, these controls should be enforced by traffic police in order to minimize the risk of units being involved in accidents. This does not imply that traffic police can override the signals. These signals should be programmed for minimum passenger delay as well as vehicle delay and, if spaced less than 300–400m, should offer synchronization for trunk routes.

Segregation of Bus Lanes

To keep the public transport lanes free from private cars and motorcycles, the lanes should be physically segregated/separated, with adequate drainage (such as in Bogotá). Penalties for using this reserved space should be high, as this will minimize encroachment by other users. Good design can reduce encroachment and simplify police enforcement. When using a binary corridor approach (two one-way streets), with the busway/lane on the left, pedestrian and 2-wheeler access (and hence risk) should be kept to a minimum by using a low fence, preferably with a “green zone” – a strip of grass/bushes. A simple form of separation used in Curitiba is a double yellow 20cm line, spaced 40cm apart, with studs at 2m intervals. This not only separates the flows but also provides a refuge for pedestrians, while allowing limited vehicle access. In addition, the busway is entirely paved in concrete.

Interchange Design

Terminal interchange design also has to be of a high standard, with good pedestrian access, using covered platforms at least 6m wide, preferably with the most used routes operating on both sides of the platform to minimize walking distances. When moving from one platform to another, passengers should either use a subway (for large volumes) or a 4m wide pedestrian crossing (normally raised to almost the height of the platform as a traffic calming device).

The system should offer new travel options at interchanges. In all the Latin American systems examined, passengers see the interchange as a benefit (greater accessibility) rather than a transfer penalty. This is valid even if different modes are used on the corridors. In Quito, for example, both articulated buses and trolleybuses use the same trunk route interchange facilities.

A useful rule-of-thumb based on the dimensions of the interchanges operating in Curitiba is to estimate a total interchange area of 360 sq m for each route using 12m units, 500 sq m for routes using 18m articulated units and 600 sq m for 25m bi-articulated trunk routes.

Platform Dimensioning

The operational aspects of Integration Terminals include determining the access and circulation of vehicles and passengers, areas of passenger accumulation, layout of platforms and mechanisms of operational control. Typically, platforms are dimensioned taking into account the intervals and the layover time of each route. Bearing in mind the need for future expansion, reserve platform areas should also be provided.

To obtain the number of platforms, the average arrival interval is considered for all routes. Usually five minutes is sufficient for the on and off loading of passengers. To provide a better distribution of routes for available platforms in the terminals in this stage, a minimum of one platform for each feeder route should be adopted, thus allowing a greater level of comfort inside the terminal, facilitating the identification of the routes and allowing for the formation of orderly queues. Platforms for trunk routes should be at least 6m wide, the circulation should allow for trunk units to stop on one side and the major feeder or inter-district routes on the other. Feeder route platforms can be 4m, with units stopped on one side.

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