Buenos Aires City is part of a broader Metro Area with 15 million inhabitants: 48% of workers in the city live outside the city, which means 3 million people commute every day, 40% by car and 60% by public transport. The city already has a dense, multimodal, well structured urban and suburban transport system including a railway and subway network, several bus lines, taxis and charters.
A key challenge was Legal Framework: bus routes, bus companies and the commuting rail network are managed by the federal government, whereas the city government can only carry out improvements on public space and infrastructure like better bus stops or dedicated bus lanes. Since 2003, most urban public services (subways, trains, buses and taxis) were deregulated and heavily funded with state subsidies. Since service providers benefited from the subsidies, there was little incentive for them to improve the service, resulting in unsafe and under-resourced public transport services. BRT was an innovative solution with the aim of improving service and take advantage of the current bus system, so that people choose public transport over particular cars.
This transformation brought about by Metrobus is framed within a sustainable mobility plan. Public space is being redesigned to give priority to public transport. Cycling and walking are being promoted. “IT” is being incorporated. Thanks to real time information, that people can choose the most efficient way of moving around the city.
The quick establishment of Metrobus was made possible by a proactive stakeholders engagement plan, involving NGO's, neighbourhoods associations, urban planners, and residents affected by the changes. A communication effort was carried out through specific messages for different stakeholders in several areas. A network of public ambassadors was created to introduce and explain the details of the project to faculty members, journalists, environmentalists and reknowned urban planners, who had the chance to participate in the planning process. They suggested certain number of changes, some of which were accepted. This information and consultation process created a sense of ownership of the project. Furthermore, bus drivers attended training courses to learn how to operate BRT buses.
By the end of 2015, the 56 km of BRT will result in a reduction of 49,100 tons of CO2e per year.
The main climate change goal is traffic reduction and improvement. The 9 de Julio Avenue used to be a wide highway with 16 central lanes used by cars and 6 lanes at the sides for buses, cars, and taxis. Today, the 4 central lanes of the avenue are exclusiveley reserved to 11 bus lines. A public space that was a monument to the car is now pedestrian-friendly, including sidewalks and protected walkways to get to the stations. The former 55 minutes bus travel were reduce to less than 20 minutes, therefore allowing higher frequency from 180 services/h to 220 services/h. Travel time by car was also reduced, from 40 to 27 minutes. Taxis and combis (minibuses) have steadily improved (in) their travel time and activities.
Economic benefits: Exclusive lanes make trips safer, as buses are able to circulate more freely. Road safety dramatically increased: for example, on the 9 de Julio Avenue, the bus line 45 used to be involved in 8 accidents per month. After the implementation of Metrobus, only one accident was reported in a whole year. The reorganisation of traffic flows across the avenue also generated a positive impact for all other users, such as private cars, taxis and combis. The Metrobus also represents a great opportunity cost: for developing countries, BRT is a quick high quality alternative in order to solve massive transport compared to cost implied in subway or railway construction.
Social benefits: Time travel is now more predictable and waiting time is more comfortable. Metrobus stations gives an accessible shelter for people with limited mobility (older adult, people in wheelchairs and mothers with strollers).
Metrobus has brought about wide-sweeping changes in entire neighbourhoods: with Metrobus Sur, eight neighbourhoods in the south of the city were renovated, with the creation of new recreational green spaces.
Health benefits: The system improves air quality since the average 400 metres distance between bus stops diminishes accelerations and sudden braking, reducing fuel consumption.
Metrobus will be scaled in the next few years. The Metrobus AU 25 de Mayo has been inaugurated on October 2015 and is the first Argentinean BRT system on a highway (7.5 km, 120 000 daily passengers, 7 bus lines + minibuses + long distance bus services). The Metrobus San Martín (5.8 km, 70 000 daily passengers, 11 bus lines) will be launch in late 2015. The Metrobus Paseo Colón is also being planned.