Addis Ababa prepares for its first Bus Rapid Transit system

By Gifti Nadi, C40 City Adviser for Addis Ababa

C40 recently partnered with the Addis Ababa Road and Transport Bureau to deliver a two-day workshop to measure the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction benefits for Addis Ababa’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. A total of 18 representatives from the Addis Ababa Road and Transport Bureau, Transport Authority, Institute of Technology and the Environmental Protection Authority learned how to use available data and make assumptions to demonstrate the impact of BRT’s forecasted operations, construction and manufacturing on emissions.

Addis Ababa has seen many firsts in recent years. In 2015, the city launched the first Light Rail Transit (LRT) in sub-Saharan Africa. In the same year, the city conducted a feasibility study in anticipation of breaking ground on its first BRT system. Construction is currently estimated to start in middle to late 2017.

Globally, the transportation sector is responsible for approximately 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With rapid growth and urbanization, emissions from this sector have the potential to increase significantly. According to C40’s Deadline 2020 report, BRT shows to be the most effective transport program in emission reduction terms, delivering just over a third of all potential savings from in-city action.[1]

Photo Credit: Mulugeta Ayene/AP

Developing effective ways to transport residents around Addis Ababa remains a priority for the city government. As a city known for its high pedestrian rate and not for high emissions, the discussion is centered around controlling rather than reducing future emissions growth. BRT can provide access and relief to pedestrians, consisting of more than 60% modal share. Unlike other developed cities, the challenge here is not to convince the relatively small number of private car users to switch to BRT. Bigger results are projected from the shift from one type of public transport (i.e. minibuses) to BRT.

For Dr. Solomon Zegeye, Head of Addis Ababa Road and Transport Bureau, there is more to BRT than engineering and design.

“Residents can more easily discuss impact on long term health, social and environmental stress related to transport. Issues of equity and safety for vulnerable communities lie close to the heart of most. Commuters are interested in knowing that time savings will lead to productivity and a potential increase in income and consumption. The potential for land value increase along the BRT corridor is key for investors. This approach makes it easier to market the BRT from transport users to politicians,” he said.

By the end of the C40 workshop, participants developed three baseline and policy scenarios to estimate the impact on emissions with or without the introduction of BRT. Emission reduction estimates will be documented in a case study that will be shared with other cities undertaking a similar process.

As a member of C40 since 2012, Addis Ababa stands to continue learning from other cities on BRT design, technology use, integration, branding, public engagement and GHG measurement. City officials have already visited and taken inspiration from BRT systems in Amman, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Tswhane and a few other cities.

It is exciting to see where BRT will take Addis Ababa, and its citizens. One thing is for sure – it will help contribute to Addis Ababa’s transformation into a megacity leader in the next 5-10 years.