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Investigaciones geográficas

versión On-line ISSN 2448-7279versión impresa ISSN 0188-4611


ROSAS GUTIERREZ, Jorge  y  CHIAS BECERRIL, Luis. The BRT new paradigm of global urban mobility?. Invest. Geog [online]. 2020, n.103, e60045.  Epub 09-Mar-2021. ISSN 2448-7279.

This study addresses two research questions. Does Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) constitute a new paradigm of urban mobility? Is it convenient to implement BRT approaches in any city regardless of its size and especially without considering the negative externalities that these approaches have upon urban functionality?

Given the inability of quantitative and qualitative methods to separately explain transportation problems in large metropolitan areas, this research is carried out considering methodological triangulation, as a good alternative to visualize a problem from different angles, considering that if two strategies provide very similar results, then it is viable to corroborate their findings, but if the opposite happens, their results could be discarded. In addition, the present research is developed from an urban geography approach, evaluating the implementation and functionality of BRTs on a global scale, according to different regions and cities necessities.

The systems of BRT were born in Curitiba Brazil back in 1974, combining the bus-ways of Chicago with Metro stations, nevertheless, at the moment, there are few investigations that question the paradigm shift from urban trains to BRT buses. The truth is that BRTs have spread rapidly in much of the world, under the impulse and interests of several Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), civil associations, or private companies that encourage the governments of low and middle-income countries to implement them, based on short-term costs without considering the long-term consequences of their operation on metropolitan transport systems.

Historical evidence indicates that in large cities within the developed regions of the world (such as Western Europe and East Asia), the solution to the problems of transport and universal mobility is based on the combination of non-motorized travels and multi-modal mass transport that circulates through rail networks which are independent of urban roads.

On the other hand, in megacities of more than 10 million inhabitants, in developing countries such as Mexico, BRTs approaches have been promoted with little success, as a uni-modal solution, which is not considered as an important factor of an inter-modal transport system built to discourage excessive use of auto-mobiles and low-capacity public transport; to improve metropolitan accessibility; to reduce the use of fossil fuels; to reduce the phenomena of congestion, pollution, road insecurity and the deterioration of urban heritage.

Undoubtedly, BRTs work ideally as a semi-massive mode of transport for medium-sized cities. However, it is a mistake to want to introduce them as uni-modal solutions for roads with elevated passenger demand in highly populated cities like Mexico. The change of paradigm from urban trains to BRTs in Mexico and Latin America in general, must be carefully analysed before its implementation. The results offered by trying to replace multi-modal mass transport networks with uni-modal networks of limited capacity, in the most populated metropolitan areas of the world, have not generated the expected benefits in terms of urban mobility. Several Latin American cities have applied BRTs approaches, but they still provide evidence of very high levels of pollution, congestion and extensive consumption of public space for transportation purposes. They even register severe threats of collapse, not only in their own networks, but also in metropolitan roads.

In general, it is recommended that BRTs must play the role of a supplier to high capacity multi-modal transportation networks, such as the Metro, Trams, Light Trains and Suburban Trains, because the latter are the only modes of transport that have the capacity to satisfy most of the metropolitan trips and to offer unique economic, social and environmental benefits. The aforementioned benefits will continue to increase along with the size of the cities providing these means of transport.

It is concluded that high capacity urban train networks can share the top of the new “mobility pyramid” along with pedestrians and cyclists, because these are the most efficient modes of transport in order to free urban roads from the auto-mobiles and the low capacity public transport. Finally it is worth mentioning that its implementation and functionality should be promoted so that to reduce congestion, the emission of pollutants and traffic accidents, without having to drastically reduce the number of trips.

Palabras llave : paradigm shift; congestion; urban mobility; multi-modal services; uni-modal services.

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