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The City Fix
The Otobuxi could serve as a feeder from residential areas to mass transport stations. Photo by Charles Bombardier. Most residential streets are not serviced by city buses. Even if they were not too heavy, bulky, or noisy, there is seldom enough passengers to fill them. The automobile does not fare much better, creating traffic congestion and parking woes, contributing to poor air quality, and posing as a safety hazards for pedestrians. Another option — the taxi cab — adds the problem of high cost to the automobile’s list of negative impacts. That’s where the Otobuxi comes into the picture. Developed by Canadian mechanical engineer Charles Bombardier, the Otobuxi (pronounced “Auto-Boxy”) would pick you up in front of your house at the time you would need to travel and would tailor your trip based on your travel needs (speed, cost, stops, etc). This electric-powered, self-driving vehicle bridges the gap between cars, taxi cabs, and buses across the urban landscape. Bombardier calls the Otobuxi a “smart transit vehicle concept designed for cities.” Its name incorporates etymological elements of “automobile” (Oto-); “buses” (-bu-) and taxis (-xi). With all-wheel drive and electric power, the Otobuxi can travel with quiet ease on narrow, residential streets. The vehicle can accommodate up to 12 passengers and does not require a driver — similar to the Google Car. To get onboard, passengers use a smartphone app to request a pickup by and pay their fare. An intelligent transit calculator would automatically propose 2-3 possible itineraries to bring you to your final destination by using a combination of vehicles, such as metro, city bus, bus rapid transit, regional train, etc, all integrated into a larger transit network. To learn more about Charles Bombardier’s Otobuxi concept, check out the website.
Air Quality News
More than 2,000 people in the southwestern city of Kunming unfurled banners and shouted, “Protest! Protest!” in a demonstration on Thursday against plans for a petroleum refinery.
The City Fix
Boarding El Metropolitano BRT in Lima, Peru. Photo by EMBARQ. In a capital city with 8 million inhabitants, not only was Lima’s advanced bus system the first of its kind in the country, but it also provides valuable lessons for the rest of Latin America. Building on the Lima experience, other cities in Peru can be inspired to deliver the saved time and lives that El Metropolitano is delivering day after day. TheCityFix sat down with Hernan Navarro, Operations Manager at El Metropolitano to learn more about Lima’s advanced bus system. Navarro highlights key learnings about the 33-kilometer (20-mile) El Metropolitano system connecting 16 districts of Peru’s capital along a north-south corridor opened in October of 2010. Interview: 1. What makes El Metropolitano unique in Peru, and across the BRT world? What makes El Metropolitano so special in Peru, is that it is the first and only BRT system in the country; our buses also run on natural gas, which helps reduce tailpipe emissions. Also, Lima’s BRT has a “fast track” with no stoplights called the “Via Expresa,” on which only small vehicles, and El Metropolitano are permitted in the dedicated lanes. Thus, it saves a tremendous amount of travel time to the benefits of the inhabitants of Lima. 2. Is El Metropolitano integrated with other transport systems? To a certain extent, we could say it is integrated in a “casual way,” with the main, trunk line accessible by peripheral, non-BRT feeder buses. At certain spots in the city, minibuses have become the feeder system, forming a sort of natural integration, as they choose routes that can help passengers reach BRT stations, where they can continue their trips, with the benefit of a fast system as backbone. Additionally, we have planned a formal integration with the Lima metro system to come into effect in the coming months. The metro and El Metropolitano will be connected through the Gamarra shopping center station, the commercial heart of Lima. We see this integration as a way of responding to customer demand in a more effective way. 3. Since El Metropolitano began operations, have Lima’s roads become safer? Before El Metropolitano started working, there used to be around 30 accidents per month along the same route. Since 2010, the number of accidents per month has dropped by almost 90%, and we now have an average of three to four accidents per month. 4. What are the top three ways that El Metropolitano has directly improved people’s lives? Saving time: Some trips that used to take 2 hours in rush hour and can now be made in 25 minutes with El Metropolitano. Saving money: There is a flat fare for riding El Metropolitano, meaning that even in rush hour, and across long distances, passengers still pay 2 soles (USD$0.77). Saving lives: People feel safer, and there are significantly fewer accidents, as compared with conventional buses. 5. Do you have any advice for other municipalities in the planning process for a BRT, or considering it? What lessons could they learn from you? Be careful with contracts. Make sure that plans for necessary infrastructure and land acquisition are secured prior to making an offer to operators, so that you don’t experience later problems. Define the station sizes according to public demand. Some stations are more popular than others, and therefore should be larger. It is all about making the most out of the available space and adapting to customer needs. 6. How is El Metropolitano perceived among the general public? In a city of 8 million inhabitants, El Metropolitano serves 5% of the people. Yet when El Metropolitano is in the spotlight, its actions are closely followed and widely broadcasted by the media. Everything we do, whether good or bad is highlighted in the media and discussed among residents. 7. Now that you have surpassed 300 million passenger trips, what are El Metropolitano’s goals looking ahead? We have 4 specific goals for our next 300 million trips: 1. Use all available buses: We have 522 buses, 96% of which are currently in use, but we want to have them all up and running. 2. Increase ridership: We measure ridership by passengers per kilometer (PKM) travelled along the corridor. For trunk-line buses we have a PKM index of around 6.5 and for feeders we have 3. Our goal is to increase these numbers to 7 and 5 passengers per kilometer, respectively. 3. Increase the value for the operators: In other words, help our bus operators increase their ridership and profit margin. Currently, we offer the operators an 85% of value per kilometer; this is mostly due to the fact that El Metropolitano only attends to 5 % of of Lima’s transport demand. We hope to build upon this. 4. Extend the corridor: We are extending the route 7 kilometers, from Naranjal to Patio Norte, in Lima. El Metropolitano addresses a historic need in Lima, a city which had been waiting for a mass transport solution since the late-1960s. Overall it is making progress, providing passengers a cost-effective and efficient way to go from point A to point B. While the system still has a long way to go in terms of passenger capacity, fare integration, and routes, El Metropolitano is steadily moving Lima step closer to a more sustainable, organized urban environment – a place where people want to live. Interested in learning more about El Metropolitano BRT in Lima? Visit their website. For more info on BRT in Latin America, check out the upcoming conference of the Association of Latin American Integrated Transportation Systems and Bus Rapid Transit (SIBRT). The Third SIBRT Congress: “Best Practices in SIBRT in Latin America”, will be held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, June 4-7, 2013.
The City Fix
An arterial road in China. Photo by Saad.Akhtar. One of the most controversial issues on the agenda of the City Council of Porto Alegre, Brazil, was discussed last week at a roundtable debate and broadcast over local radio: proposed changes to the speed limit on arterial roads in the state capital. For non-experts, arterial roads are high-capacity thoroughfares which connect urban centers to freeways and other cities. Set by the Brazilian Traffic Code at 60 km/h (37 mph), this limit came into question when, in 2010, Councilman Alcaeus Brasinha joined an initiative to raise the speed limit to 70 km/h (43 mph). The main reason for this would be a possible improvement of the flow of vehicles on the main roads of the city. Since then, the proposal has been pending in the Federal Chamber of Deputies. However, a new proposal, from Councilmember Marcelo Sgarbossa, has been submitted, which calls for a reduction in speed limit to 50 km/h (30 mph) for light vehicles and 40 km/h (25 mph) for heavy vehicles. Last week’s on-air discussion also featured Professor John Fortini Albano, transportation expert, and Daniel Denardi, advisor to the management of the Porto Alegre Public Transportation and Circulation, company. While Councilman Brasinha’s proposal to raise the speed limit is based on examples from other Brazilian cities, such as Florianopolis and Rio de Janeiro, where speed limits on main avenues, such as Copacabana and Seaside North is already at 70 km/h, Councilman Sgarbossa shows that, along a 5-kilometer stretch of road, driving 60 km/h instead of 50 km/h results in a time savings of only 39 seconds. Sgarbossa also relies on recommendations from the World Health Organization, which suggests a maximum speed limit of 50 km/h in urban areas. Slower speeds require less distance for drivers to come to a complete stop after hitting the brakes — thereby allowing more space and time to avoid a potential collision. A Belgian road safety study estimated that 45% of pedestrians die when hit by vehicles traveling at 50 km/h (30 mph), whereas the fatality rate drops to 5% when the car is moving at 30 km/h (20 mph). Furthermore, when speed limits are reduced from 50 to 30 km/h, the rate of traffic accidents decreases by around 20%. Check out the video below that talks about the difference that 5 km/h can make: During the broadcast, a poll was conducted, which revealed that among local listeners in Porto Alegre, 47% were in favor of increasing the speed limit, 33% for maintaining current regulations, and 20% calling for a decrease. Where do you stand on the issue? Originally posted on TheCityFix Brasil.
The City Fix
An auto-rickshaw transports passengers in Gujarat, India. Photo by lecercle. Recently, the State Government of Maharashtra (the third largest state in India, located on the western side of the country, and home to the cities of Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur) began looking into a proposal to run long-distance, point-to-point shared taxi services to improve the quality of daily commutes in Mumbai. The service is seen as a potential solution to overcome the crippling congestion and reduce the alarming air pollution trends that increased motorization has brought to Mumbai’s streets. Sharing daily commutes is being touted as a viable alternative to single-occupancy (or chauffeured) drive-to-work for many Mumbaikars. It’s success, though, might reside in it being offered as a quality service, as opposed to merely a transport solution. Commuters: ridesharing potential extends beyond short-distance trips Ridesharing has become popular the world over, and in Mumbai and other Indian cities, shared auto-rickshaws and taxis are common feeder services to suburban railway stations, central business districts, and tourist locations. Such services depend greatly on strong and regular demand for taxis or auto-rickshaws and have traditionally operated out of assigned shared-taxi/rickshaw stands. A central feature of the shared services is that they ferry commuters only for short distances, with the fare split equally between the number of commuters (for auto-rickshaw, usually 3, and for taxi, 4). In comparison, the proposed shared-taxi service will aim to cover long distances, ferrying commuters from major residential areas to dense central business districts in Mumbai (Bandra-Kurla Complex, SEEPZ and Lower Parel to name a few). Currently, there are a few innovative services that facilitate ridesharing in Indian cities – most of them provide technological tools to facilitate the development of ridesharing networks, rather than the building of a specialized fleet of shared taxis. For example, SmartMumbaikar is a technology-based startup that enables social connections between registered users having similar commute patterns (origin-destination points, time of commute). Other services like SharedCab, Zinghopper, and Khali Seat offer ridesharing with Facebook-verified user accounts, to help assuage safety concerns of sharing rides with strangers. SharedCab, based in Mumbai, makes use of air-conditioned fleet taxis to offer a comfortable and high-quality service to those willing to share rides, whereas the other services encourage commuters to make their own taxi sharing arrangements. Local governments: scaling up shared taxi service and meeting demand with regulatory consistency In Mumbai, regulations relating to operating shared transport services range from ambiguous, and thus open to interpretation, to strict prohibitive of shared-taxis operating as regular for-hire taxis during off-peak hours. One of the key challenges to scaling up point-to-point, shared-taxi services in Mumbai comes in the form of delineating regulatory barriers and consistency. Another key challenge cited during EMBARQ India’s consultations with entrepreneurs was the uncertainty in organizing demand for the service. There is little assurance that a waiting shared-taxi will collect 4 passengers all at once; often the passengers will have to wait, and their schedules or willingness to wait may not allow it, thereby affecting the demand for the service. An efficient way of managing demand and making supply of shared taxis available will be crucial to the feasibility of such a service. Success in managing supply and demand creates key demand areas for such a service among new audiences, such as corporate employers that have major offices in Mumbai central business districts. These firms have a large number of employees traveling from different parts of the city to their offices, and some even offer fixed or variable travel allowances, depending on the mode of travel. For example, some companies will offer allowances for parking and fuel for private vehicles, whereas others will provide reimbursements for travel by the local train or bus service. Companies: employers play a key role in commuter choices Employers play a key role in travel choice – depending on the incentives provided to their employees, they can encourage ridesharing or taking public transport to work, by simply discontinuing travel allowances for private vehicles. Furthermore, by connecting with ridesharing services, they can ensure an efficient and timely commute for their employees, possibly even helping to save the environment from harmful excessive emissions from increased motorization. For point-to-point, long-distance shared taxi service to successfully operate in Mumbai, several issues need to be addressed. These present themselves from the point of almost every stakeholder: