With cities set to house almost 5 billion people by 2030, how urban transport systems are designed will be pivotal for local economies, public health, and the global environment.

In June 2012, Rio de Janeiro blazed a trail for sustainable transport when it launched a 56 km cross-city bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Designed and implemented with technical support from EMBARQ, the high-tech bus route carries 220,000 passengers a day, establishing best practice in bringing improved quality of life while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

BRT Benefits

BRT systems bring proven environmental, social, and economic benefits to crowded, congested, and polluted cities.

In Rio, the new BRT line, Transoeste, replaces short, fragmented bus routes with a rapid-transit corridor that gives priority to buses and enables passengers to cross the city on one bus instead of several. Pre-ticketing speeds journeys, as do dedicated BRT lanes and high-platform stations in place of roadside bus stops. For the first time, people from the west of Rio de Janeiro without cars can easily access opportunities in the far south.

The result is safer transport, shorter commutes, less pollution, and greater social inclusion. Typical travel time has been cut by at least half for 65 percent of riders. Surveys suggest 90 percent of passengers are satisfied with the new service. “Now I have one more hour to sleep in the morning and more time to play with my kids in the evening,” was one typical comment.

EMBARQ studies show road safety benefits from the BRT corridor. The BRT will save an estimated 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2016, as well as 148 million hours of passengers’ time.

Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role

EMBARQ promotes BRT routes and their critical role in sustainable, integrated public transport systems around the world.

In Rio, EMBARQ Brazil partnered with the Municipal Secretariat for Transport and Mayor Eduardo Paes in providing technical support for Transoeste. In addition to providing design and project management expertise, EMBARQ assisted with marketing the new transport system to residents and the media. We also guide continuing safety audits that will help maximize passenger safety benefits.

By 2016, the year Rio hosts the summer Olympics, city authorities plan to expand the BRT network to 153 km. This expansion would make it the largest BRT network in Latin America, carrying 1.2 million passengers daily. By showcasing the bus transportation of the future, Rio’s actions can help promote BRT scale-up across emerging economies.