Annex 5 Case Studies and Lessons

BRT, Curitiba (Brazil) – The First BRT System in the world and Still One of the World’s Best-Regulated Bus Systems

Source: Unknown
Various Types of Bus Services for Different Trip Patterns
Three Roads for Bus Services within a Corridor
Tube Station for the Trunk Buses
Bi-Articulated Buses on the Trunk Busways
Free Transfer between Different Trunk Lines Operated by Different Companies
No Direct Subsidies for Bus Operation or Procurement
Summary of the System
Capacity -
Users (whole system) 1.9–2.1 million passengers per day
Segregated busways on trunk roads 58km
Headway 90 seconds (peak period)
Number of Buses 1,550–1,600 (whole system)
Bus vehicle capacity per unit 270 passengers (trunk bus)
Infrastructure cost US$1.5 million/km
Ticket price US$0.55

City Characteristics

Source: Unknown

  • Curitiba has an area of 430 km2, an urban population of 1,788,559, and a population density of 4,159/km2. (2006)
  • The city has been planned to limit central area growth and to encourage commercial service sector growth along structural transport arteries (five busways radiating out from the city center).
  • Blocks along busways have a plot ratio of 400%. The farther from the trunk roads the block is, the less its plot ration.
  • Curitiba’s GDP per capita is US$8,000, compared to the national average of about US$5,000.

The “Before” Situation

Source: IPPUC homepage

  • In 1962, there were 321 separated private, informal sector bus companies, which were forced by the Mayor to consolidate into 10 separate formal sector companies.
  • In 1974, (i) exclusive bus lanes were installed; (ii) the routing structure was changed from point-to-point to a trunk and feeder system, called “express” routes; and (iii) larger buses with a capacity of 100 were introduced on the trunk corridors.
  • In 1979, a system of free transfers between different trunk lines operated by different companies was introduced.
  • In 1990, all stations were closed to allow free transfers.
  • In 1992, (i) articulated buses started running along the express lines with capacities for 270 passengers; and (ii) boarding and fare payment inside tube stations was installed.

BRT Scheme Characteristics:

Five BRT trunk line routes, segregated busways of total 58km, run along five structural axes of the city. Moreover, the overall citywide bus operation includes: (i) 340 bus lines; (ii) 1,550–1,600 buses; (iii) 1,100 km of bus routes; and (iv) 26 major and moderate size integration interchange terminals. URBS, a company largely owned by the municipality, controls timetables, costs, routes, and general conditions of the fleet of buses operated by nine private companies.

Scheme Cost: US$1.5 million/km

Various Types of Buses for Different Trip Patterns: There are several kinds of buses operated, painted in different colors, as follows: (i) “Express” buses operated on the segregated busways, which are the trunk lines (red/orange); (ii) “Direct” buses, which are speedy services stopping at limited bus stations (grey/silver); (iii) “Inter-Direct” buses (green); (iv) “Feeder” buses, which feed to/from terminals and stop serving “Express” or “Direct” buses (orange); (v) “Conventional” buses operating regular services on normal roads where other services are not justified (yellow); (vi) “Circular center” serving the CBD (white); and (vii) “Metropolitan” serving destinations outside of the city (blue). This whole structure forms the trunk and feeder system of Curitiba.

Source: IPPUC

Source: TCRP

“Trinary” System: “Express” and “Direct” buses run along the major routes crisscrossing the city along its five structural axes (north, south, east, west, and southwest). Each of the structural axes was developed as a “trinary system” comprising three roads. The center of the three roads contains a two-way busway for “Express” buses and traffic lanes (1–2 lanes in each direction) for the service access to frontage development. The other two are one-way traffic roads of 3–4 lanes, located on both sides of the central road, for use by private vehicles and “Direct” buses. There is a one block interval between the central road and each traffic road, where high-density development has been encouraged.

High Capacity and Low Cost Bus Vehicle – Bi-articulated Bus: The “Express” buses (trunk buses) were designed focusing on high capacity and on-time operation rather than speed. These buses are bi-articulated, 24.52m long/2.5m wide, with a capacity for 270 passengers and five doors although their speed is only 21–22kph. Operating costs of the bi-articulated units per passenger-km are, in fact, less that those of conventional buses. This is largely because the “dead” weight of the vehicle per passenger is far less than other modes. High capacity buses are truly “Light Vehicles” in relation to Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs).

Speedy Buses for Long-Distance Commutes: The speediest buses are “Direct buses”, with a speed of 32kph. They run along the one-way roads on each side of the central roads that form the structural axes. These services feature fewer stops and passengers pay before boarding the buses in special raised tube stations. The service was initiated in 1991 with four routes that parallel the busways. By 1995, there were 12 lines that served more than 225,000 daily trips. Most of their passengers had commuted in private vehicles before.

Functional, Clean, and Unobtrusive Bus Stations –Tube Station: Boarding and fare payment inside tube stations was initiated along trunk lanes in 1991. The objective was to find a design that was functional, “clean”, and unobtrusive. Under this system, passengers ride on articulated buses from the middle three doors and use the other two doors to get off, contributing to smooth passenger movements. The tube units can also be used as modules, allowing for combinations to be made where demand is higher.

Passengers boarding smoothly at a Tube Station Internal View of the Bi-articulated Bus Unit

Strong Government Leadership Involving Private Companies: The private operating companies were forced to procure special, higher capacity buses to operate as “Express” buses on the trunk corridors by the municipality in 1974 when the first busway opened. Since then, the private bus operators have always financed the buses. Station maintenance has also been the responsibility of the bus operators, while the Municipality of Curitiba paid for the entirety of the infrastructure. They also covered maintenance of the roads.

Effective Management, Supervision and Operations: Although the Curitiba system has no direct subsidy, the growing complexity of the system has led to the creation of a permanent structure charged with the planning and administration of the system. This company – URBS – was originally formed to handle community improvement projects, but has since developed as a transport and traffic management centre. URBS is a company largely owned by the municipality and it controls timetables, costs, routes, and general conditions of the fleet. The cost of these services is covered by a 4% levy on fares.

High Passenger Demand: Curitiba’s buses carry 50 times more passengers than they did 20 years ago. About 70% of Curitiba’s commuters use the bus system even though Curitiba’s automobile ownership and per capita incomes are significantly higher than the national average for Brazil. The total passenger demand is 1.9–2.1 million trips per day.


The significant aspects of Curitiba’s BRT relate not only to the BRT system itself but also its coordination with land use, enabling commercial/service development along the busways based on the Master Plan. As a result, Curitiba’s bus transport system has become economically efficient and convenient for commuters.

Large-scale reform of the transport sector requires strong political leadership. BRT development in Curitiba’s was led by Mayor Jaime Lerner’s strong political leadership. Reorganization of bus companies and bus facility investment by private operating companies would not have happened without his strong intervention.

Large investment in infrastructure and effective planning by the government enabled full recovery of operating costs and bus procurement. By giving private operators full exclusivity to operate bus services and removing operating risks (e.g., congestion, regulatory risk), operations have been profitable even when the capital costs of bus procurement are included, due to proper system design.

The establishment of a government-owned company for supervision of the entire bus system greatly assisted management of Curitiba’s BRT. URBS, a company for planning and administration largely owned by the municipality, significantly contributed to creation of a successful and effective bus system in Curitiba.


Walter Hook, Institutional and Regulatory Options for Bus Rapid Transit in Developing Countries – Lessons from International Experience–, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, 2005; TCRP report 90, case study of Curitiba Brazil, 2000; Asia-Pacific Environmental Innovation Strategies, Integration of Land Use and Bus System in Curitiba, Brazil; Lars Friberg, Innovative Solutions for Public Transport: Curitiba, Sustainable Development International; IPPUC homepage

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