Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – a high-quality, efficient, bus-based mode of public transport – can shorten commuting times, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and generally improve quality-of-life for city residents. Today, 160 cities around the world use BRT and busway systems—up from just 45 cities since WRI’s EMBARQ program was founded in 2002. EMBARQ has played a major role in expanding the BRT concept to cities throughout the world.
Rapid urbanization, motorization, and climate change require high-quality, sustainable urban transport solutions that can be developed quickly and cost-effectively. BRT systems can carry up to 46,000 passengers per hour—matching some of the world’s busiest metros—and can be implemented at one-tenth to one-half of the time and cost as subways or light rail. Yet in the early 2000s, BRT systems were largely limited to Latin America, and the rate of adopting the new system had plateaued.
Since EMBARQ’s founding in 2002, our experts have helped implement and develop the BRT concept around the world. We collaborate with local, regional, and national-level decision-makers to provide research and expertise that is both technical – advising on aspects such as safety, operations, fare integration, and branding – and political – navigating relationships to create a common vision.
EMBARQ provided technical assistance to more than 20 cities over the past 11 years. These cities’ BRT systems have now carried passengers on more than 5 billion trips. These systems save passengers almost 30 percent travel time, reduce CO2 emissions, and improve safety. In 2013 alone, we directly influenced new or improved BRT systems in cities such as Lima, Peru; Indore, India; Puebla and Chihuahua, Mexico; and Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Currently, EMBARQ is helping to plan or expand systems in Bangalore, India; Izmit, Turkey; Brasilia, Brazil; and Chengdu, China..
EMBARQ has also played a major role in championing financial support from international banks and national programs, such as in Mexico and India, for sustainable transport systems like BRT. In addition, we’ve published and widely disseminated cutting-edge research such as Modernizing Public Transport, and built BRT capacity through learning networks and trainings.
Today, 160 cities have adopted BRT. The BRT concept has reached a tipping point, with massive new investment and significant expansion planned on six continents. EMBARQ estimates that dozens of cities around the world are planning new or expanding existing BRT or busways, giving citizens access to safe, equitable transport and a higher overall quality of life.
Moving forward, EMBARQ will continue to promote major global BRT scale-up through project implementation, national policy advice, influence in major financing initiatives, and capacity building.
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Brazil is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. What is less known is that the country is the fourth largest industrial roundwood (timber left as logs, not sawn into planks) and wood pulp producer and ninth largest paper producer in the world. Brazil’s forest sector contributed 5 percent to the national gross domestic product in 2012. Brazil’s forests are not only home to communities and a haven for biodiversity, they are also part of the country’s economic backbone.
Brazil’s government has made impressive progress towards balancing forest protection and production. In 2012, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped to its lowest rate in more than two decades. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has pioneered the use of satellite data to prevent illegal logging. And the forest sector uses the Forest Source Document system (Documento de Origem Florestal, DOF), a sophisticated electronic system to track the wood flow throughout the supply chain.
Despite these positive steps, illegal logging and associated trade in the Amazon continues. Beyond the negative social and environmental impacts, illegal logging poses a serious problem for businesses producing legal wood products. With a price difference of up to 40 percent, legal wood simply cannot compete with cheaper illegal wood.
To reduce illegal logging and support the legal actors in the forest sector, Brazil must strengthen its forest control systems and policies.
Mexico City launched its first Bus Rapid Transit Corridor along Avenida Insurgentes, one of the longest avenues in the world. Eighty low-pollution buses will carry 250,000 passengers per day, replacing 350 dirty and dangerous buses. The Corridor is the centerpiece of an ambitious plan by Mexico City and WRI’s EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transportation to implement a clean transportation system in one of the world’s most polluted cities. The new bus system reduces CO2 emissions by 35,000 tons annually. New partnerships with Istanbul and Porto Alegre are also under way.
The Amazon is a precious natural resource subject to significant human pressures. Identifying these pressures and understanding how they are related is critical for successful forest management. Traditional forest assessments look at only one or two pressures at a time, such as logging and agriculture. That isn’t enough. WRI and its Brazilian partner Imazon have created a new set of forest maps that include the impacts of civic construction projects, human settlements, fires, and mining operations on the Amazon, thereby providing a more complete picture. We believe these “human pressure” maps will guide better policy decisions. Already, Brazil has used these maps and analysis to establish federally protected areas and state forests, setting aside 9.5 million hectares of important intact rainforest.
Brazil currently ranks fifth in the world in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions. The country’s energy mix, long dominated by hydro power, is
trending towards fossil fuels, and the Brazilian general public is increasingly
concerned with climate change.
Although not bound by Kyoto Protocol GHG emissions limits, Brazil is
committed to fighting global warming. In partnership with WRI and other
organizations, the Brazilian government launched the Brazil GHG ProtocolProgram, a voluntary public registry of corporate greenhouse gas emissions.
Participants will log annual inventories of emissions and will receive training on
accounting practices and management reduction strategies. Sixteen major
corporations joined the effort, the first program of its kind in South America.
Standardizing how greenhouse gases are measured and reported lays the
foundation for future mitigation efforts. Our goal is to expand the program
and bring GHG accounting tools and training to the agricultural, biofuel, and
forestry sector, which are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil.
When Brazil secured its position as future host to both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, a new opportunity to upgrade urban transport came into focus. In 2009, the federal government announced $6.6 billion of funding for improved urban mobility to host cities, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) became a central plank of this agenda. Around 500 km of BRT systems will be constructed in eight cities, almost doubling the current BRT lineage in all of Latin America.
EMBARQ’s Center for Sustainable Transport in Brazil (CTS-Brasil) convened a pivotal international event at which President Lula declared sustainable mobility a priority for Brazilian cities—marking the first time that a president of Brazil attended an urban transport event. CTS-Brasil leveraged its expertise, relationships, reputation, and political and technical leadership to promote high-quality BRT in four major cities:
In Recife, CTS-Brasil introduced the BRT concept and technically supported the terms of reference for contracting a $1.3 million BRT engineering design study.
In Belo Horizonte, CTS-Brasil delivered a strategic framing workshop to align stakeholders and identify potential risks to the implementation of the three planned BRT corridors.
In Rio de Janeiro, CTS-Brasil applied the EMBARQ BRT Simulator to provide critical support the city’s candidacy as an Olympic site.
In Porto Alegre, CTS-Brasil and EMBARQ played a vital role in acquiring $100 million financing from CAF, and convincing CAF to approve a $1 million, non-refundable grant for refining BRT studies.
CTS-Brasil also contributed to the editing of a BRT manual which will be distributed to all urban and metropolitan bus operators throughout Brazil.
These achievements pave the way for a consistent national sustainable transport policy. In recognition of CTS-Brasil’s contributions, the Ministry of Cities invited CTS-Brasil to a prestigious group of advisors to guide its criteria for federal financing of an additional $10 billion in sustainable transit solutions.
Rio de Janeiro is a leader among the Brazilian cities aggressively promoting low-carbon development. In 2011, the city passed a landmark climate change law with a target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 8% below the business-as-usual (BAU) emissions scenario by 2012, 16% by 2016, and 20% by 2020.
Now Rio is conducting a GHG inventory for 2012, the first target year under its climate change law. The inventory will measure the city’s emissions against its 8% reduction target for 2012, and assess the effectiveness of GHG mitigation actions implemented so far.
On July 2, the city government of Rio invited me and my colleagues from the Greater London Authority and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (COPPE) to a seminar to share our experiences in conducting GHG inventories and to discuss Rio’s 2012 inventory. At the seminar, Nelson Moreira Franco, Director for Climate Change Management and Sustainable Development for the City of Rio, stressed that GHG inventories help identify emission sources and provide scientific evidence on GHG levels, so it is extremely important that the city gets it right. To me, the seminar covered four important items: