(As of February 2007)
|Located in the heart of Colombia's coffee triangle, Pereira is a small, bustling city with an urban area population of about 700,000. Their Megabus BRT recently opened and was modeled after Bogota's highly successful Transmilenio system. Like other Latin American BRT's, Megabus is a public-private partnership designed to replace privately-owned colectivos with an integrated system of dedicated transit lanes, high quality stations, and frequent, all-day service. Before Megabus, there were 1,113 colectivos operating in the city, and each new Megabus vehicle is designed to replace eight of these. As of this report, about 280 older colectivos had been eliminated as a result of Megabus, thus improving air quality and reducing congestion.||Like Transmilenio, stations are enclosed and inviting. There are electronic signs informing passengers of the arrival of the next vehicle and bus location is tracked via infrared sensors at the stations. The stations are linked together by a fiber optic network. Inside the stations, there are glass doors that separate the station from the right-of-way, and these doors open only when a bus arrives (see below). This is identical to Transmilenio.|
|Megabus currently has two private operators running the buses. Each company runs both the trunk service and some feeders, which is different from Transmilenio, where responsibility for trunk and feeder operations is divided among different companies.
Megabus is showing impressive results. According to the city, it has achieved about a 2 percent mode shift from private cars to public transportation across the city as a whole and about 10 percent of Megabus users have a car available. Megabus is seeking approval of a methodology to trade CO2 emissions under the Kyoto protocol (a methodology for Transmilenio has already been approved). The city has noticed an economic development effect around some of the stations, which they characterized as "spontaneous" rather than planned by the city.
Megabus cost $36 million, according to the Colombian government. Seventy percent of this came from the national government and 30 percent was local funding derived from a gasoline tax.
Megabus demonstrates that BRT can work in smaller cities as well. It also demonstrates that where there is the political will, downtown streets can successfully be transformed into transit and pedestrian friendly routes, making the city more livable and accessible without requiring a private car. There are at least five other smaller cities in Colombia pursuing similar BRT systems and we hope to have reports on those in the future.
|Megabus is a trunk and feeder system with two terminal stations where passengers transfer from the feeder buses to the trunk lines. Once in the terminal, passengers may choose among three different routes that provide coverage through much of the downtown area. One remarkable feature of Megabus is the way in which the trunk lines have been integrated into some very narrow downtown streets. As shown below, the streets were made one-way and bus only, and the sidewalks were widened substantially, creating friendly transit and pedestrian only rights-of-way. To accomodate existing buildings and alleys, some cars are allowed on the right-of-way to access parking facilities along the route. The cars are allowed on the right-of-way only for this purpose.|
|All trunk line buses are branded green while all feeder buses are branded yellow. The feeder buses are substantially smaller than the trunk line buses because they branch out into neighborhoods and other activity centers away from the terminals. They also operate in mixed traffic, so the smaller buses are more maneuverable and less intrusive.
Currently, there are 51 green articulated vehicles for the trunk services and 81 yellow feeder buses. The articulated buses have a maximum capacity of 160 passengers each and operate on a 3 minute combined headway during peak hours (5 minutes off-peak). About 50 percent of trips in the region are by public transport, but the proportion of trips on Megabus is unclear. According to APTA, Megabus carries 45,000 trips per day. However, according to Megabus managers, the system is carrying 100,000 trips per day, and roughly 140,000 trips are expected when all of the terminals are completed.
Fare collection is accomplished with a contactless smart card. The current fare is 1,100 pesos, or about $0.45 and there are no operating subsidies. Fare cards may be purchased at trunk stations and may be recharged at stations or at various points of sale around the city. The fare card is free if at least four trips are purchased and no discounted fares are available.
Unlike Transmilenio, the feeder buses requires fares to be paid. This is accomplished by an on-board smart card reader and turnstile (below). Although Megabus believes this system is preferable to Transmilenio, it requires passengers to board the feeders through one door. On the way to a terminal station, passengers must enter through the front door and pass through the turnstile. When transferring from a terminal to a feeder bus, passengers must enter through the rear door, thus avoiding the turnstile and paying their fare twice (they already paid at a station when entering the trunk line.) During peak hours, this appeared to cause significant queuing to enter a feeder bus at a terminal. The advantage of this system versus free feeder buses on Transmilenio was unclear.
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