Transport capacity of buses

I spoke at a seminar for investors in green technology recently. One of the questions I got concerned the capacity of bus routes. How high is the capacity of a standard bus route and a route with dedicated lanes?
For the standard buses we know that the upper limit in real traffic at real city traffic conditions is 3 minutes between the buses and about 75 persons per bus. This makes out 1500 persons per hour.
However, a lot of measures can be made to increase the capacity.
For the bus:
Separate lanes, priority at traffic lights, bridges and tunnels by-passing dense traffic zones, central traffic control. I.e. using the same principles as for Metro and rail.
For the passengers:
Easy access by boarding at the same level as the bus floor, wide doors, interior lay-out making the access easy for the passengers, pre-paid tickets, clear signs for guiding the passengers.
My colleague Jorge Suarez gave me the reference to “Movilidad Amable” Numero 4; Septiembre 2007, where capacity data is found for some well known examples of high capacity bus routes: (Read it here)

Capacity: Journeys per direction per hour
Curitiba 13 000
Santiago 22 000
Bogota 45 000
This should be compared to normal maximum capacity of rail by 7 000 trips per hour and direction for rail or 40 000 for the Manilla light rail system that has been developped to allow exceptionally high capacity and is considerd to have the highest capacity in the world, among raillines.
The commercial speed is restricted by the distance between the bus stops. For “Pure bread” express buses the speed is higher while for buses that covers the central business districts the speed is lower.
Commercial speed km/h
Curitiba 18
Santiago 19
Bogota 26
Some BRT systems operate with fare prices as low as $ 0.25 per fare. However, the higher the capacity costs some more. Still, in our example below, Bogota with the highest capacity has the lowest price per fare.
Price per fare US$
Curitiba 0.80
Santiago 0.70
Bogota 0.51
In Europe some say that trams or metro are required to increase the capacity. This is not supported by the recent advancement of the bus rapid transit systems.
Fact is that the measures made to secure the high capacity of the rail bound vehicles applies equally well to bus systems, and to a much lower price for the traveller.
And, as I previously written concluded in the blog, bus systems have lower environmental impact than the rail bound public transports

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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