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.

The Challenge

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.

WRI’s Role

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.

Our Impact

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.