Annex 6 Limitation of Conventional Bus Priority Lanes: Case Studies

Brazil, Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre

Busways were widely introduced in Brazil as a quick form of bus priority in the 1980s. A TRRL report on several busway systems (Transport Road Research Laboratory 1991 Gardner, G. Cornwell P. and Cracknell, J.), showed that flows of about 20,000 pax/h/d were being obtained on some of the main corridors in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, though the report does mention that high-flows: “are at the cost of extensive bus queuing and crush loading, and that without special operational measures, the maximum sustainable throughput is likely to be about 11,000 – 12,000 pax/h/d.”

This proved to be more or less correct. In Porto Alegre the city has now introduced HCBRT trunk and feeder operation in order to:

  • Reduce Costs. The rationalization of long routes to the outskirts, using trunk and feeder routes, will reduce fleet size (capital costs) and overall mileage (operating costs).
  • Increase Busway Capacity. With up to 300 units using the Farrapos busway per direction per hour, station capacity is at the limit – both in terms of passengers waiting and in platform docking spaces. In the peak hours, running speeds in the busway can be lower than on other traffic lanes.
  • Improve Frequency of Routes on the Outskirts. During peak hours, main routes are split at the city outskirts into Route xa, xb, xc etc. The frequency on each is thus about 20 minutes. This means that central area waiting times and overall passenger travel times increase. In the off-peak, the routes are shortened, leading to longer walking times. With rationalization, these areas will be served by feeder routes, with improved frequencies.
  • Introduce High-Capacity Units on Trunk Routes. User perception studies show that the main passenger complaint is overloading during peak hours. This can be addressed using higher capacity units – a measure only valid for trunk routes.

São Paulo is one of the world’s largest cities, with a population of 10.4 million in the municipality of São Paulo and 8 million in the other 38 municipalities of the Metropolitan Region. The city has about 3.2 million workplaces, of which 2 million are in the service sector and 640,000 in industry.

Busway technology during the 1970s and 1980s was heavily focused on maximizing throughput. The COMONOR project, for example, went to great lengths to organize bus queues and form convoys – or platoons – of units in order to obtain the maximum passenger capacity. Although efficient at moving people, the environmental and commercial impact of this volume of buses was very negative and undermined further investment in busways.

Current capacity on the major bus lane corridors is about 200 units/h/direction in the peak periods – slightly less than 20,000 pax/h/d for a 15m busway. However, the operating speed is only 13kph rather than the typical BRT level of around 20kph.

The intention of the authority, SPTrans, is to reduce the number of units operating on the infrastructure, with a maximum of 6 trunk routes per corridor using mainly articulated units. Capacity will not increase – and may actually drop slightly – but the expected 50% increase in fleet capacity, due to the increase in running speed, represents an enormous system benefit.

An example of the current standard of operation, with an excessive number of routes using the same busway, can be seen in Figure 4, the 9 de Julho Busway. Buses are forced to wait for platforms to become available; passengers have to position themselves at the correct platforms and moving on the narrow crowded space is difficult.


Figure 4 The 9 de Julho Busway (2007)

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