Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Replay 5.21.07: Curitiba Transport Chief Throws BRT Under the Bus

Whoa. This article is an amazing expose of Curitiba in the New York Times Magazine that was touched on earlier in the blog. But the best part comes here...
“That competition is very hard,” says Paulo Schmidt, the president of URBS, the rapid-bus system. During peak hours, buses on the main routes are already arriving at almost 30-second intervals; any more buses, and they would back up. While acknowledging his iconoclasm in questioning the sufficiency of Curitiba’s trademark bus network, Schmidt nevertheless says a light-rail system is needed to complement it.
What?!?! Light Rail to compliment the mighty BRT of Curitiba??? This is going to do two things. 1. This will drive folks like Bill Vincent crazy and perhaps they'll start slamming Mr. Schmidt like Bush slams former allies Karl Rove style which will show that they are super fanatics that will do anything to promote the BRT sham. 2. The pro-BRT folks aren't going to like this very much because it shows that even the BRT needs help from rail. For years they have been trying to resist rail in Curitiba believing that it would be a big blow to their efforts to get BRT in the United States. Seems like this might be one of those watershed moments when hopefully we see the beginning of the end of "The bus that looks like a train" argument.

9 comments:

arcady said...

Even packing the equivalent of 120 people per 40 foot bus, running the bi-articulated buses every 30 seconds, and having four lane busways that basically take up a whole street, they still can't manage to get their bus system to scale up adequately to meet demand.

Justin said...

Hmm... You should send the article to Breakthrough Institutes, and any other organization that think BRT can handle heavy loads better than LRT.

Michael said...

They're actually 88 foot bi-articulated buses that can carry 270 passengers, or about the same as two fully loaded DC subway cars (your cars may vary).

My calculations are that the capacity for this bus line is approximately the same as heavy rail (around 30,000 passengers per hour single direction), but the average speed is likely lower (heavy rail averages about 5 mph faster than BRT), and operating costs will be higher because you'll need 4-6 times the number of drivers/operators (a bus every 30 seconds as opposed to a train every 2-3 minutes).

Also, you'll be powered by diesel or ethanol (it's in Brazil) as opposed to electricity.

arcady said...

Yes, I'm aware that they're 88 foot buses, but the capacity of the system very much depends on them being packed so tightly that the passengers can't move. You could, in theory, fit the same number of people into a 75 foot (but 10 foot wide) DC subway car, but the people of DC probably wouldn't agree to such an experiment.

Loren said...

I've found an article on Carlos Richa, mayor of Curitiba, dated 11 June 2006, which claims

The most immediate challenge facing the city and its administration is increasing capacity on its innovative but ageing public transport system. Recently Mayor Richa gave the go ahead for the constructing of a two-line light rail transit system to relieve congestion on the city’s busiest bus routes.

I've also found a page at Curitiba's site called Conheça o metrô elevado ("About the elevated metro") mentioning studies of various rail options, as far as I could tell from some auto-translators' output. It mentioned Mayor Cassio Taniguchi, Mayor Richa's predecessor from 1997 to 2005, so it's an old page.

So it may be the beginning of the end for Curitiba's grand experiment in high-density raillessness.

grvsmth said...

Thanks for that link, Loren! Figuring I could do better than some auto-translator, I translated it, but it turns out there's a newer one linked from the Portuguese Wikipedia entry. At the very least, they're planning to break ground on a monorail next year.

Loren said...

A monorail? That would be a rather unusual development. Monorails may be snazzy-looking, but for the most part, they have not been very successful in urban transit. They need to be grade-separated, and their switches are rather cumbersome.

A light-rail system does not need to be grade-separated, however, and it can be built with tunnels if desired.

Jame said...

I think we all missed the point here. Buses leave every 30 seconds. We are lucky to get a bus every 10 minutes. During the busiest time of day.

I vote for BRT. It will take us a very long time to get to the number of trips in the Curitiba BRT. Making service twice as frequent would do a world of good here, and be cheap enough to get us through the rough patches of investigating other solutions.

Matt Fisher said...

A large number of these 270 passengers often cited are normally standing. I here could never tolerate Curitiba levels of crushloading, and neither would Ottawans here. I was away at the time this replay was published.