Can Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Be a Sustainable Means of Public Transport in Fast Growing Cities? Empirical Evidence in the Case of Oslo
Christoph Endresen Siedler, Norwegian National Rail Administration
In this paper, I investigate under what conditions BRT should be regarded as the best solution to meet the challenges facing the Oslo metropolitan area.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has been considered a convenient and efficient means of public transport as is evident in the literature of transportation planning and economics. Also planners and decision makers are increasingly advocating for BRT as a better solution to public transport as compared to other options. The most important reasons for preferring BRT over more “traditional” alternatives such as Light Rail Transit (LRT) is its affordability while offering similar or more transport capacity measured in passengers per hour and per direction. Furthermore, by applying new propulsion technologies, e.g. fuel-cell technologies, BRT can be competitive against other options e.g., electric transport systems in terms of emissions.
Norwegian cities such as Oslo have in the recent years experienced a formidable population growth. The Norwegian bureau of Statistics has forecasted that the population in the larger Oslo metropolitan area will grow by more than 30 percent in the period 2010 -2030. This growth will induce demand for transport which, in turn will increase the emission of greenhouse gases unless some measures are taken to reduce it. The Norwegian government has already committed itself to reducing greenhouse gases, so the planning authorities of the Oslo metropolitan area have started to plan for sustainable public transport.
In this paper, I investigate under what conditions BRT should be regarded as the best solution to meet the challenges facing the Oslo metropolitan area. The rationale is that there is currently no BRT system in Norway and one does not get to know its sustainability advantages over other forms of public transport.
As our point of departure, I consider bus route 31 which is the Oslo’s longest bus route with the highest Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) and with a very high rate of capacity utilization. Parts of this route are currently being considered replaced by a tram to increase capacity. I therefore compared the merits of a BRT system versus that of a Light Rail (LRT) system with the current bus system as the base alternative. The framework for comparison was a simple Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) to analyse efficiency in terms of social welfare of each system as compared to the base alternative.
Our findings are that: (1) the results are highly sensitive to investment costs, carbon prices and the rate of interest, (2) at high investment costs and low carbon prices, there are no differences in efficiency between BRT and LRT systems and both them are not desirable from efficiency point of view and, (3) at lower investment cost and higher carbon prices, the BRT system is highly desirable while LRT remains undesirable from efficiency point of view.
I argue further that decision makers should now start to consider BRT as better solutions to sustainable public transport as compared to LRT which traditionally has been considered as the only option to buses.
Association for European Transport