Latin America’s Bus Rapid Transit Boom–Lessons for U.S. Public Transportation
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has positioned itself as one of the most important additions to sustainable transport in the world, significantly improving urban mobility and lowering the cost of public transit. During the last ten years, 97 cities have implemented BRT corridors, many of them located in Latin America. In the region, BRT has become easy to implement, safe, environmentally friendly and efficient, and has been successfully deployed in cities like Curitiba, Bogotá, Mexico City. Often regarded as a second-best option vis-à-vis rail alternatives, the successful implementation of BRT requires concerted efforts to enhance its image, funding and planning. Valuable lessons can be extracted from Latin America’s experience with bus rapid transit, lessons that can serve as a point of departure to discuss the applicability of BRT in the United States.
On Tuesday, March 8, the Latin American Initiative at Brookings hosted a panel discussion of lessons learned from Latin America and the applicability of BRT in the United States. Panelists included Marc Elrich, councilmember of Montgomery County, Maryland; Darío Hidalgo, director of research and practice at EMBARQ, WRI Center for Sustainable Transport; Sam Zimmerman, urban transport adviser at the World Bank; and Robert Puentes, senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. Mauricio Cárdenas, senior fellow and director of the Latin America Initiative, moderated the discussion.
After the program, panelists took audience questions.
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"You have to play the long game. It’s fine to add money, but when the commitment is volatile and your funding goes up and down constantly, you can end up creating more harm than good."
"We have been in Central America for a long time. It’s not just money that has made us effective in the region — there is a lot of hard-earned experience, trial and error, and institution building that is slowly reaping results. The worst thing that could happen now is to go back to zero."
"Cutting aid to Central American countries would be a mistake, since U.S. aid dollars fund programs that reduce violence, strengthen the justice system, and encourage investment that make them more attractive places for their citizens."