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Traffic Safety on Bus Priority Systems

This report includes recommendations for integrating safety into the planning, design, and operation of major bus routes.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

Bus rapid transit (BRT) and bus priority systems have become an attractive solution to urban mobility needs in recent years because of their relatively low capital costs and short construction times compared to rail transit.

As these systems gain popularity,1 a number of studies and planning guides have appeared, illustrating the different design options available and their impact on the operational performance of the systems, as well as outlining some of the institutional challenges to implementation (see Rickert 2007; Hidalgo and Carrigan 2010; and Moreno González, Romana, and Alvaro 2013).

The traffic safety aspects of bus priority systems, however, are typically not as well understood as the better documented impacts on travel times, greenhouse gas and local pollutant emissions, or land values. Our research shows that bus priority systems have had significant positive impacts on traffic safety, reducing severe and fatal crashes on the streets where they were implemented by over 50% (Duduta, Lindau, and Adriazola-Steil 2013). From this, we estimate that safety impacts typically account for 8% to 16% of the total economic benefits on these types of systems.

This report is based on an extensive research project on the traffic safety aspects of bus priority systems, based on data analysis, road safety audits and inspections on over thirty bus systems around the world, and microsimulation models testing the impact of safety countermeasures on operational performance.

This report is designed as a practical guide for transportation planners, engineers, and urban designers involved in the planning and design of bus systems. It covers a broad spectrum of system and corridor types, ranging from curbside bus priority lanes to high-capacity, multi-lane, and median-running BRTs. We identify the main risk factors and common crash situations, and suggest design concepts to address them. We also consider how the main design concepts impact the operational performance of the bus system, with a focus on passenger capacity, travel times, and fleet size requirements.


Improved planning and design of bus priority systems can benefit 31 million people every day

One of the primary challenges associated with rapid global urbanization is how to ensure the safety of city streets. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 1.2 million people die on the world’s roads each year, and traffic crashes could become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030 without intervention. The growth in bus rapid transit (BRT) and bus priority systems worldwide—which serve more than 31 million people each day in 189 cities—is an opportunity to reverse that trend.

New evidence from WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ Traffic Safety on Bus Priority Systems report clearly shows that high quality public transport systems can improve traffic safety, reducing injuries and fatalities by as much 50 percent in cities like Ahmedabad, India and Guadalajara, Mexico.

The report, which also received feedback from experts at the World Bank’s Transport and ICT Global Practice, contains evidence-based planning and design recommendations that help cities make streets safer for all road users. Pilot-tested over two years in cities like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Delhi, India; Mexico City, Mexico; and Istanbul, Turkey, these recommendations address design strategies to make bus priority systems safer at intersections, transfer stations, pedestrian crossings, and more.

“As a leading cause of death in cities worldwide, we know that creating more sustainable, livable cities can improve traffic safety. Our evidence shows that sustainable transport solutions like bus rapid transit can greatly improve traffic safety while bringing a number of other social, environmental, and economic benefits for cities. The design recommendations in this report provide a strong foundation for city leaders to take action on traffic safety and save lives in their cities,” said Holger Dalkmann.

Improving road safety also is an integral part of the World Bank Group strategy of providing safer, cleaner, and affordable transportation in developing countries. From the inception of the Global Road Safety Facility in 2006, for example, World Bank road safety lending has almost tripled to some $US1 billion dollars over the past nine years compared to $US358 million for the previous eight.

“This is a timely report as we get ready for the mid-term review of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety later this year,” said José Luis Irigoyen, Director of the World Bank’s Transport and ICT Global Practice. “The World Bank is committed to improving road safety worldwide, and this report sheds light on practical solutions that foster sustainable road safety outcomes, which will help prevent the unnecessary loss of millions of lives to road crashes.”

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