Annex 5 Case Studies and Lessons

MetroBusQ, Quito (Ecuador): One of the First Successful Modern Bus System Projects in Latin America

Source: Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center

Clean, Articulated Trolley Buses Procured and Operated by the Public Sector

Pre-Boarding Stations on Trunk Routes

Doors Located on the Left Side of Buses (the opposite of conventional units)

Operating at 8,000 passengers/hour/day, i.e., beyond initial expectations

Summary of the System
Capacity Line 1: 8,000 passengers per hour per direction
Line 2: 6,000 passengers per hour per direction
Users (whole system) 170,000 passengers per day
Segregated busways on trunk roads Line 1: 16.1 km
Line 2: 9 km
Line 3: 21.46 km
Headway Line 1: 90 seconds (peak period)
Line 2: 2 minuets (peak period)
Line 3: 4 minuets (peak period)
Number of Buses Line 1: 113
Line 2: 42
Line 3: 17
Bus vehicle capacity per unit 174 passengers (trunk bus)
Infrastructure cost
(Line 1 “trolley bus system” includes vehicle cost.)
Line 1: 5.1 million/km
Line 2: 1.2 million/km
Line 3: 2.3 million/km
Ticket price US$0.25

City Characteristics

Source: Unknown

  • Quito has an area of 290km2, an urban population of 1,504,991, and a population density of 5,190/km2
  • The shape of the city is generally linear, approximately 30km long and 4–10km wide due to its location in a narrow valley, 2800m above sea level.
  • The historical center of Quito has been a World Cultural Heritage Site since 1978.
  • Ecuador’s GDP per capita (2005) is US$4,300 with Quito Municipality at US$3,536.

The “Before” Situation

  • In 1992, the transport system of Quito had an estimated 2,600 units operated by 60 companies.
  • Significant bus subsidies were costing around US$500,000/year.
  • 12 public bodies were involved in the control and organization of urban services causing excessive administration and a lack of responsibility
  • Bus units were oversupplied on routes and haphazard in picking up passengers
  • Buses and general congestion were contributing to significant air pollution problems

BRT Scheme Characteristics:

Three BRT trunk line routes now run in roughly parallel corridors in Quito’s main urbanized area with feeder bus systems. The first to be implemented was the “Quito Trolebus” (a trolleybus system). The second and third were the “Ecova” and “Central-Norte” corridors, both of which are served with diesel buses. A dedicated Transport Planning and Management Unit (UPGT) was established to plan and guide the introduction of the integrated BRT scheme.

Scheme Cost: Line 1: US$5.1million/km including vehicles, wires, electrical infrastructure, and rolling stock (1.0million/km for basic busway, stations and other civil works); Line 2: US$1.2million/km; Line 3: US$2.3million/km

Source: Quito Municipal government homepage

Source: Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (2003)

Segregated Central Busways: All three lines have wide busways located in the center of the roadway and segregated from other traffic. Along the major corridors, general traffic uses 2–3 lanes on each side. Spacing between bus stations is about 500m.

Despite the loss of the carriageway for general traffic, traffic flow was observed to improve due to the removal of stopped buses from the general flow.

Public Sector Involvement in Implementation and Operation: The Trolebus BRT scheme was implemented by the Municipal Transport Planning Department (public sector). The trunk line uses electric trolleybus technology and the buses were purchased, owned, and operated by public sector because it was difficult to attract private investment for the rolling stock for the electric trolleybus. One line is operated by the Trolleybus Operating Municipal Department (public sector). The second line is operated by Trans SA, a consortium formed by eight private bus companies that previously had served bus operations along the corridor. For the operation of Ecovia Busway, seven small companies that operated along the corridor were formed into a consortium called Tranasoc and this consortium was given the concession. However, the municipality again assumed responsibility for bus procurement as the consortium was sufficiently creditworthy.

Environmentally Friendly Trolley Buses: The Trolebus vehicles were imported from Spain and are 17.75m long with a maximum capacity of 174 passengers. This trolley bus system was chosen due to the pollution problems of the city, the need to operate quiet clean units in historical sections, and difficulties in operating diesel units at 3,000m above sea level. The trolley subsequently became a city trademark.

High Frequency and Long Hours of Operation: The buses operate at 18–20kph with 90 second headways during peak hours (20–25kph and headways of 180 seconds during off-peak hours). Operational hours have been increased beyond the 8 PM termination of the original bus system to midnight on weekdays.

Efficient Passenger Ticketing: The bus stations are 24m long and 2.5m wide. They are equipped with two automatic ticket readers that accept currency, tokens, and magnetic cards. Passengers pay at turnstiles at the station entrance. The platforms are raised to bus floor height. A flat fare integrated system is utilized enabling the passenger to decide the trip route. The scheme operates as a closed bus system.

Source: Trolebus homepage

Source: PADECO (2005)

Passengers boarding comfortably and safely at a Bus Station Passenger interchange in Quito, which also attracts urban development

Passenger Demand Exceeded Expectations: Initial simulations forecasted passenger flows of 140,000 passengers/day. However, the average demand in 1997 has already reached 150,000/day, peaking at 202,000. The introduction of feeder routes increased demand to 170,000 in 1999. The system now handles approximately 28% of all city bus passengers, with 78% traveling by conventional bus.

Effective Bus Route Rationalization: All conventional routes that were overlapping or in parallel with the new trunk routes were reorganized. Around 60% were transferred more than 100 meters from the main corridor.

Wide Impact of the Scheme: In addition to the reduction in congestion, pollution levels reduced. It has been calculated that one year of trolleybus operation reduces atmospheric emissions by 400–500 tons of pollutants. It has also been observed that new urban development has taken place near the terminals.


The establishment of a single authority in transport planning and management was critical to building a successful integrated system. A Transport Planning and Management Unit (the Unidad de Planificación y Gestión del Transporte) was set up in Quito and staffed by young professionals with assistance from international experts. This unit successfully guided the introduction of the BRT scheme.

Before introducing a BRT scheme, prior information on the operating revenue of existing bus operators can be important. In the case of Quito, the lack of information on the profitability of the existing bus companies (which collected fare revenues directly and argued a lack of profit) forced the Municipal Government to procure buses by itself on the Trolebus Ecovia Line. Therefore, although Quito has achieved successful development of a BRT system with a trunk and feeder system, reducing traffic congestion and emissions, its financial structure has created problems for the municipal government

A lack of creditworthiness from the private concessionaire can delay or jeopardize the scheme. The consortium of bus operators on the Ecovia Line could not obtain credit from a first-line bank, which delayed procurement of the bus fleet and caused the Municipality to intervene.

Segregated bus lanes can actually improve the flow of traffic in the remaining carriageway. In the Quito BRT scheme, despite the loss of the carriageway for general traffic due to bus lanes, traffic flow was observed to improve in the remaining carriageway due to the removal of stopped buses from the general flow. This also contributed to civic acceptance (public approval) of the scheme

A mass transportation system can be successfully superimposed on a chaotic bus network. The Quito system showed that a BRT system can be implemented in a deteriorating network without the support of a detailed land use plan.

Feeder services can increase trunk line demand. The addition of feeder services to the trunk routes increased ridership demand from 150,000 to 170,000 passengers per day.

PADECO, A Study to Demonstrate the “Basic Case” for Bus Priority Measures in Hanoi, the World Bank, 2005; Dr. 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, Quito, Case Study, 2000, World Bank, Fact Sheet, Quito Busways, Ecuador, 2003; World Bank, Latin American Experience with bus rapid transit, 2005; Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Quito Busways Ecuador, First Progress Report, 2003; TransMilenio homepage; Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center homepage; Direccion Metropolitana de Transporte y vialidad, Quito, April 2005; Quito Municipal government homepage, IGEF, 2003; Trolebus homepage, Allen Morrison’s webpage, 2000

Next page Page top