The ultimate objective of this research is assessing whether the implementation of BRT in Guangzhou has been successful or not. BRT encompass a system of buses with specialized infrastructure, design and services. The features help in eliminating delays associated with bus transit and improving quality. This research assessment will be aided by analyzing a variety of aspects that are associated with BRT implementation in the region. Among them is the decision making process that has been used by the relevant authority in the implementation. This is because decision making has several impacts on the extent to which BRT is implemented, and its future prospects. Some of the impacts might be negative while some might be positive depending on the decision that was made. Reasons that necessitated the introduction of BRT systems in the first place will also need to be analyzed if an accurate assessment is to be delivered. A great deal of them must have been achieved for the implementation to be considered a success. If they have not been achieved, obstacles that have resulted to this will be analyzed in order to help get an idea of how to avoid them in the future. This will also help in developing a sustainable road-map that will be used by Guangzhou and other interested cities in future. There are other wider factors, some of which might be indirectly related to BRT implementation, but their impact is substantial. Having a close insight into these factors would help in getting a bigger picture of how things are unfolding. The factors might be far-fetched, but ignoring their relevance and extent of influence might render the research incomplete hence nor reliable.
Efficient BRT systems are required to have several features. These include but not limited to platform-level boarding, off-board fare collection, intersection treatment, bus-way alignment and dedicated lanes. Dedicated lanes ensure that the buses are not involved in delays which come as a result of mixed traffic congestion (Baeumler, 2012). Rights of way may be depressed or elevated by use of former rail routes. Off-board fare collection helps in avoiding delays that are associated with passengers paying while on board. Bus-way alignment helps to keep buses away from where trucks, cars and curbs are standing, parking or turning. Platform-level boarding on the other hand helps in easy and quick boarding, making it accessible for disabled passengers, baby strollers and wheelchairs with minimal delays (Baeumler, 2012).
When BRT was first introduced, it took time before it was accepted in various cities. However, things seem to have changed recently. This is because most cities have and are continuing to endorse the implementation of BRT systems. This includes cities based in both developed and developing countries. Success that has been achieved by other cities is the key driver of the systems’ adoption worldwide. The municipal governments are learning from their counter-parts and have seen the need for these systems. Cities with high populations seem to be on the fore-front when it comes to the implementations of BRT. This is because there is need to reduce both congestion and pollution in these cities (Baeumler, 2012). In the long-run, a fair ground for economic development and growth is enhanced. It becomes even more efficient if the relevant authority has the ability of combining BRT with other transit systems in the region. The advantages associated with BRT that include increased capacity, reduced congestion, flexibility and lower costs have played a major role in its adoption.
However there have been some concerns regarding BRT implementation. Among them is how BRT is going to be implemented in connection with the other existing transit systems. This has caused conflict among the relevant stakeholders. Individuals using private means of transport are quite skeptic due to the fear of the unknown. They are not sure of what might befall them in future if this system continuous to gain popularity (Hidalgo & Carrigan, 2010). Another concern is that some cities have been designed in ways that make it difficult to implement the BRT system. This will necessitate the restructuring and redesigning of these cities. Several businesses will be destroyed or hampered in the process. This is not a sign of economic development, and there is no assurance that the establishment will help compensate the loss with the economic viability that it will bring along. Lack of will from various stakeholders is also an issue of concern in the BRT implementation process. This includes the municipal government, passengers and other road users. They might be opposed to the implementation, but they are not coming out publicly. Pretending that they are committed in seeing the process proceed in the best way possible becomes the order of the day. As a result, they tend to make decisions that are not favorable for the implementation of the system. This leads to various delays or poor functioning of the entire system (Hidalgo & Carrigan, 2010).
1.1 Research Background
Guangzhou is the capital city of Guangdong province which is located in mainland China. It is a key national trading port and transportation hub. It is the third largest city in China and the largest in Southern China. Guangzhou has come to be the first city that most travelers tend to visit when they come to mainland China. Some time back, the city exemplified ugly architecture, traffic-clogged streets and never ending flyovers. However, it has received a makeover in the recent times. Stodgy concrete apartments have now been instituted to give the city a new look. Various efforts to relieve the traffic congestion have in a clean environment, tougher traffic rules and modern metro systems (Fjellstrom, 2011). Bus Rapid Transit System has been the latest arrival in the city when it comes to the transportation sector.
Guangzhou BRT came into operation in February 2010. This was as a result of extensive design and planning process. Several stakeholders were involved in this realization. Among them are the engineering and research institutes. They were involved in sharing of knowledge and the technical know-how of executing the project. The city’s municipal government also played a vital role in ensuring that the project was executed in the best way possible. This was through the policies that they enacted and their corporation with other stakeholders. Guangzhou BRT has the largest passenger flow compared to other BRTs in Asia (Fjellstrom, 2011). It also has the highest bus flows all over the world, whereby every 10 seconds there is bus into the city during the morning rush hour.
The main reasons for introducing the BRT systems in Guangzhou are reducing pollution, congestion and increasing the capacity of road transport. Reduction of pollution and congestion would play a vital role in ensuring that economic development is enhanced. This is because there are reduced delays, which tend to act as an attraction to a variety of traders and other individuals using different transport systems. Whether these objectives have been met or not is the main question that has necessitated this research. However, some information from published materials can help shed some light on the milestones that have already been attained. An assessment on the mitigation or adaptation, social and environmental benefits and the potential for scaling-up can help in having a greater insight into how the BRT is performing. On the adaptation aspect, it is apparent that sustainable transport has resulted to improved health outcomes, passengers tend to save a combined 32 million hours per annum and there is a projection of saving 84,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions on a yearly basis. On social and economic aspects, it is apparent that now more than 850,000 people use the much enhanced bus service, economic outcomes have improved due to reduced travel costs among others (Fredman, 2012).
Despite the milestones achieved so far, Guangzhou BRT implementation has been slow to develop based on the projections during its inception. The public perception has been among the key bottle-necks. There is conflict between the private transit operators and the municipal authority. The private operators think that they are being ignored by the authority since all attention seems to have shifted on the BRT systems. According to them, they have been given minimal lane capacity, and not attaining the right to streets of the city is oppressive. The media has also played its part by enhancing negative publicity regarding the BRT. People tend to be skeptical based on what they here, making their influence significant (Fredman, 2012).
The research will try to analyze whether implementation of Guangzhou BRT has been successful in light of these challenges. The decision making process for the BRT implementation and its impacts will be analyzed. Assessing the reasons why the BRT was established in the first place will also help in identifying whether the objectives have been met. Other wider factors that revolve around the BRT will be assessed in order to get a comprehensive insight into the situation.
1.2 Research Questions
1.3 Research Aim
The aim of the research is analyzing whether the implementation of BRT in Guangzhou has been successful. This will be achieved by assessing the decision making process, and the impacts it has had in the implementation process. Reasons for investing in the BRT will also be analyzed. This will be coupled by having an insight to other wider factors that can be used in the appraisal process. Assessment of the stakeholders, and the role played by each one of them will also be critical in ascertaining the milestone that has been reached so far.
1.4 Research Objectives
2.0 Literature Review
2.1 Benefits of BRT
BRTs have several benefits both to the cities where they are instituted and to the individuals found in these cities. Among the benefits associated with BRT is enhancement of economic development. Economic development emanates from the fact that BRT implementation results to increased employment opportunities and reduced travelling cost. The employment aspect comes along during the construction, execution and maintenance of the project. Various contractors are sourced during the design and planning, while others are involved in the actual construction. Members of the public also get to be employed as drivers or fare collectors once the operation is initiated. There individuals tasked with maintenance, technological aspects, traffic control among others. Travelling costs reduction on its part helps individuals to save, and use the funds in other developmental projects (Banister, 2008). This shows that BRT systems can play a favorable role in enhancing economic development.
BRT systems also have the ability of enhancing better environmental aspects. This is enhanced by way of reduced congestion and pollution. Establishment of BRT ensures that the number of vehicles on the road tend to reduce. This is because many individuals that use private transit tend to adopt the usage of BRT due to its convenience. As a result, congestion on the road is reduced. Reduced congestion means that the levels of carbon emission in the atmosphere reduce drastically. In the long-run, the carbon footprint in the relevant city tends to reduce. This reduces air pollution and the prospect of global warming (Banister, 2008).
On the side of the passengers, Wright (2003) asserts that BRT ensures there is fast, safe and comfortable travel. Fast travel comes from the fact that BRT buses usually follow a timetable that allows high frequency. This means that the buses will usually be available when they are needed. Being reliable and punctual helps in saving passengers time. Safety is enhanced by availability of CCTV at the waiting stations. There are individuals tasked with the responsibility of monitoring them hence have the ability of spotting any malpractice. Drivers employed are usually professionals since they must attain various thresholds before gaining employment. This means that passengers’ lives are on safe hands (Wright, 2003). The modern buses are also fitted with air conditioning and up to date seats hence ensuring that passengers are quite comfortable. This aspect plays a vital role in convincing individuals using private transit to adopt the usage of BRT.
2.2 Delhi Bus Corridor
The first bus corridor in Delhi was opened in April 2008. The project seems to have been used well, but has come under a lot of criticism. Most of the criticisms are based on the difficulty of accessing bus platforms that are located in the middle of the road. Lack of proper enforcement and effects generated to other motor traffic have also been among the criticisms. When the corridor was first initiated, it experienced difficulties in the first weeks of operation. They included delays, traffic timing, bus breakdowns and inadequate drivers training just to mention a few (Hidalgo & Pai, 2009). The media resulted to focus on the things that were not working out. There was more focus on the problems that road users were experiencing. They did not give the system a benefit of doubt since it new, and it required time before people could get accustomed to it. The negative publicity ended up creating a bad perception regarding the project towards the eyes of the general public. It amounted to conflict between the private and the public sector in the transport industry. The private sector instigated that the authority was giving priority to a systems that was doomed to fail, and neglecting them in the process. It even became worse when the whole issue was politicized. The opposition saw an opportunity to sell their popularity among the public by instigating that the government conducted a botched implementation of the Delhi Corridor. No one focused on the positives of the system hence making the whole thing appear absurd and ill-informed.
However, a survey conducted by CSE showed that there were different opinions among the individuals that used the corridor, and what was being displayed in the media. 85% of cyclists and pedestrian gave a positive review regarding the corridor, 88% of bus commuters also did the same. However, only 45% of private car owners gave a positive review (Hidalgo & Pai, 2009). This was expected though since they were the ones spearheading the criticisms.
Baeumler (2012) asserts that recently there have been sharp disagreements among various Indian experts over BRT’s role and potential. Some are convinced that despite BRT’s global profile, the country requires a comprehensive transport reform. This is to ensure that its establishment helps cater for long-term benefits. Some on the other hand, tend to think that BRT works best only when roads are wide enough to ensure that lanes can be set aside to cater for high-speed buses. They also insist that BRT’s promulgated environmental benefits are debatable.
It is quite apparent that benefits and problems of the corridor have been based on prejudice and perceptions as opposed to technical evaluations. Implementation of BRT in India has struggled due to lack of institutional co-ordination and opposition from car owners (Baeumler, 2012). This is the reason why there have been various lawsuits since the system commenced its operation. The negative that has been developed, has hindered development of BRT in India.
2.3 Bus Rapid Transit in China
BRT in China was first introduced in the city of Kunming in 1999. It later on came to spread in Beijing in the year 2004. Ever since, it has experienced a rapid growth in the country (Baeumler, 2012). So far, it has not yet received much worldwide attention like underground rail systems, but its acceptance and implementation is impressive. BRT’s growth in the country spearheads various future opportunities for improving overall quality for sustainable transport in the country. The country’s large and growing population makes BRT a favorable transport system since it has the ability of reducing both congestion and pollution. This develops a favorable ground for various economic activities to be conducted with delays. However, effectiveness in planning and design is prevalent if desirable systems are to be developed.
According to Baeumler (2012) BRT systems have spread across various regions in china. Initially, most of these systems had been concentrated along the coastal region. This aspect has changed with time since BRT has been embraced in the western region of the country, in Urumqi, Yinchuan and Lanzhou. Most BRT systems have been established in third and second-tier municipalities with populations not exceeding 5 million. BRT is established as a backbone transit mode since the cities do not harbor urban rail systems. Most of these systems contain one or two corridors that average 45 kilometers in length. Despite this, they have had the opportunity of showcasing their ability of playing a vital role in public transit. In Changzhou for example, BRT accounts for 25% of passenger trips in the city using public transport (Fredman, 2012). This has been enhanced by ease of accessibility to many city commuters and residents. Recently, it is being regarded among the most successful BRT systems in the country.
However, BRT implementation in China has also had its fair share of challenges. The main challenges include integration of BRT with other transit systems and the debate on the right-of-way in the city. There are doubts among the car owners who believe that they should be the ones owning the right-of-way in various cities in the country. This has resulted to conflict between the private and the public transport stakeholders. Some of these conflicts are only mitigated when the residents see the systems operate conveniently. Efficient operation works as an indication that the future is bright for the usage of BRT.
Fjellstrom (2010) asserts that BRT systems might be working fairly well in China, but municipal governments and other relevant stakeholders could maximize their impact by enhancing an efficient integration with other transport modes. This include traditional buses, subways and non-motorized transport systems. Moreover, BRT’s future prospect in China seems bright. The rapid growth it is enjoying is likely to continue for the forthcoming years. Around 100-km BRT systems are under planning. In future, it will play a supplementary role to rail and metro systems in most cities, as seen in Guangzhou and Beijing.
2.4 Barriers to BRT Implementation
Since the inception of BRT systems, various bottle-necks have surfaced, and have played a huge role in hindering the implementation of the system. Political will has been the major barrier to the implementation of BRT. This is among the most significant ingredients that are necessary for a BRT system to be established efficiently. Within the political circle, there are certain individuals with special interests and others with general inertia towards change. Various lobby groups such as automobile and rail operators also have the ability of making powerful political arguments in an attempt to oppose the implementation of BRT. The interest that every group, which is politically connected has, hinders their ability to view the bigger picture regarding the project. They are concerned with what they will gain personally if the project was to be executed (Wright, 2010). It even becomes more complex if the interests of one group conflict with that of the other group. This tends to hinder government operators from issuing a go ahead with the project. If every political stakeholder was willing to implementation of BRT, everything would flow effectively.
Existing transit operators have also proved to be a major stumbling block in BRT implementation. They tend to be skeptical of any systems being introduced, and are likely to have a ramification on their viability and profitability. In a city like Quito, found in Ecuador, transit operators have been involved in violent demonstrations in an attempt to prevent implementation of BRT. In some cities, the operators are pressuring political through lobbying efforts. Some of the issues that are raised by these operators are just hypothetical and their occurrence is not known to certainty (Hidalgo & Carrigan, 2010). The benefits associated with BRT are not given any consideration during their arguments. Lack of knowledge on their side triggers this form of opposition. It is upon the relevant stakeholders to educate the operators on how they stand to benefit once these projects are initiated.
Geographical limitations are also viewed as valid and eminent bottle-necks to BRT implementation. Some cities have been structured in such a way that the roads that originally existed cannot be expanded any further. Expansion of these roads may lead to destruction of people’s property something which might not go well with the residents. It also goes against the initiative of enhancing economic development in affected cities. This is because there is no assurance that the cost involved in restricting the city will be worthwhile in future once the BRTs start to operate. This limitation leads to implementation of BRT systems that are not efficient. The buses tend to use similar lanes with other existing operators hence making the whole process even more chaotic (Hidalgo & Carrigan, 2010).
Technical capacity and lack of information also plays a hug role in the implementation of BRT. If not adequately available, they can be a very huge barrier to the implementation process. Technical capacity ensures that there is availability of individuals with the technical know-how of how the system should be developed. This starts from the planning process, design and execution. When the technical capacity is quite low, the end product tends to be of poor quality. Instead of bringing the intended benefits to the city, it will result to more shortcomings compared to the previous systems (Wright, 2010). Lack of information on its part affects all the stakeholders. This includes the developers and other individuals intended to benefit from the implementation. When people do not have sufficient information regarding the project, conflict is likely to arise. The level of resistance will be high due to the fear of the unknown.
Financial aspects also act as barriers in most developing countries. Most of these countries are used to borrowing in order to implement such projects. However, it does not make sense to them borrowing funds in order to implement BRT while there are other projects whose importance supersedes BRT systems. It will take long for such countries to have the ability of implementing these systems (Gauthier & Weinstock, 2010).
2.5 Steps Taken to Ensure Smooth Implementation of BRT
BRT is often faced with several challenges during its implementation process. There are several things that can be done in order to prevent these challenges. Among them is sourcing for the most qualified personnel during the planning and design process. Whatever is done during this period will affect the project for the entire life cycle. Effective planning and design ensures that all the transit operators are considered once the BRT initiates operation. Every stakeholder’s need is met in the best way possible. This would help to avoid various conflicts that have seemed to arise with the operation of BRT. There would be an understanding between the private sector and the public sector because none of them views the other as an intruder (Steiner & Butler, 2007).
Educating the public regarding the BRT would mitigate some of the obstacles that usually present themselves. Education should come inform of the reasons why the BRT is being implemented, it’s functioning, future prospects among others. This helps in clearing the air since the public is skeptic at times due to the fear of the unknown. They are not quite sure whether the advantages of the system outweigh the disadvantages or not. It is apparent that every system has its own benefits and shortcomings. There can’t be a system that is 100% efficient and sufficient. Lack of proper understanding would lead the public in to focusing on the shortcomings and forgetting about the benefits. Resistance to such systems becomes the order of the day if proper education programs are not initiated (Steiner & Butler, 2007). This is usually the responsibility of the municipal government to appoint qualified personnel to execute this task. Funds should be budgeted and included as part of the BRT implementation budget.
The media also has the ability of playing a significant role in trying to mitigate obstacles that come along with BRT implementation. This can achieved based on the message that they are passing to their consumers in the reporting segment. They should try and bring out the benefits that are likely to accrue to various cities as a result of implementing BRT. On previous occasions, they have been on the forefront in trying to bring out various shortcomings that are associated with these systems. Steiner & Butler (2007) assert that some go ahead to magnify minor issues in order to get the attention of the public. If the media personnel work in partnership with the municipal governments, some of the bottle-necks associated with BRT implementation will be mitigated.
Ensuring that a sufficient budget for the project has been drafted ensures that deficit will not be experienced once implementation commences. This is an issue that tends to affect most developing countries. When poor projections are made, the chances of smooth operation are always minimal. Developing countries do not have sufficient resources to cater for deficit budgets within short time frames. This aspect will prolong the implementation process or result to development of inferior systems (Steiner & Butler, 2007). Having sufficient projections that put all the relevant factors in to consideration would help in avoiding such occurrences.
3.1 Research and Data Collection Methods
3.1.1 Research Methods
The research uses a philosophical paradigm, which focuses on positivist research. That is the empirical testing by use of both inductive and deductive hypotheses. Three methods are used for the research process. They include case studies, observation and surveys. Observation involves having an observation of how individuals are behaving and the general functioning of the system. Survey on its part encompasses use of interviews for collection of data.
3.1.2 Data Collection Methods
The research uses both primary and secondary data collection methods. Primary data collection emanates from observation and interviews that will be conducted towards various respondents. Observation focuses on a wider array of issues that are involved with Guangzhou BRT. This includes how individuals behave and the systems involved. This tries to analyze an interconnection between the individuals and the systems being used. Interviews on the other hand, entail a total of 20 questions. Between 100-150 respondents are involved in the interview questions. Among these respondents there are 15 different stakeholders.
Secondary data collection is conducted from other researches that have been conducted before regarding this topic. This entails having an insight at various publications like journals, websites, books and magazines among others.
3.2 Conducting the Interviews
When it comes to conducting the interviews, I will visit Guangzhou city so that I can gather the necessary information. Several stakeholders will be interviewed in the process. The research aims at incorporating a wide variety of people as possible. This would mean obtaining the most appropriate information since aspects of bias have been eliminated. A total of 15 different stakeholders will be interviewed. The total respondents for the whole interview are expected to be between 100-150. Among the stakeholders that will be interviewed include car owners, passengers, civic/educational personnel, municipal government officials, transit riders, area residents, business owners, general BRT employees, developers, traffic operators, research institutions and academics. A total of 20 questions have been developed to help in this process. These questions will be served on face to face or telephone basis depending on the availability of the respondents.
The first 5 questions are related to the first sub-question “what were the reasons for investing in BRT in Guangzhou City?” The first question tries to understand the main reasons why BRT was introduced. The question will be directed towards the municipal government officials. This is because they are the ones that sat down and came up with the idea of this implementation. The second and third questions will be directed to other stakeholders such as passengers, BRT employees and residents among others. The second question will try to get their views on which reason they think was the most significant to necessitate implementation of BRT. Their views on the third question will be used in assessing the sector where BRT is performing efficiently. The fifth question will also be directed to all other stakeholders apart from the municipal officials. This will try to figure out if the officials got it right based on the reasons that they outlined for setting up the system. It also gives the respondents an opportunity to voice their views on what they think should have driven the establishment of BRT
The 6th question up to the 15th one, tries to cover the second sub-question “what wider factors might be of significant impact from the project?” These questions cover other wider factors involved with BRT implementation apart from the ones mentioned in the first 5 questions. The 6th and 7th question try to focus on the economic and safety prospect of BRT. Every stakeholder involved in the interview process will have the opportunity of answering the economic question, while the one pertaining to safety will be reserved for the passengers only. Integration of BRT with other systems and the right-of-way in the city are other wider factors that have had an impact on the BRT implementation. Their inclusion in the 8th and 9th question will help in shedding some light. Roles played by the media and municipal officials could also have had a significant impact while implementing the project. Other stakeholders will be given the opportunity to assess how these two parties executed their rights and power. That will be done in conjunction to identifying the major obstacles in BRT implementation by use of the 12th question. Assessing on how the public was educated regarding the projects is also important. This is because it gives ideas on why they reacted towards the BRT implementation the way they did once it was introduced. The question will be served to civic/educational individuals that were involved with the process. Residents in the area will also act as favorable respondents for this question.
The 16th to 20th questions are based on the third sub-question “how might these wider factors be included in the appraisal of BRT systems?” Some aspects of the wider factors are favorable for the appraisal process. For example, question 16, 17 and 18 can be used to find out whether the actions undertaken by the municipal government and the media fraternity have contributed positively or negatively. This is a way of trying to find out whether they have been successful or not. On most occasions when the stakeholders fail in their duties, the entire project rarely comes out as a success. Question 19 also tries to assess whether there are other wider improvements that have resulted from BRT implementation. This is a favorable appraisal question since it will be easy to analyze whether BRT implementation has been successful.
The respondents involved will have an average of 25-30 minutes to answer their relevant questions. A respondent will not be required to answer all the questions. They will only answer those questions that are relevant to them based on the role that they play. The research aims at clearly outlining its purpose to the respondents before any interview commences. This will ensure that all the information they provide is appropriate and relevant for the research.
3.3 Interview Questions
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Banister, D., 2008. The sustainable mobility paradigm. Transport Policy, 15, 73-80.
Deng, T. & Nelson, J., 2010. Recent Developments in Bus Rapid Transit: A Review of the Literature. Transport Reviews, 31, 69-96.
Fjellstrom, K., 2010. Bus rapid transit in China. Built Environment, 36(3), 363-374.
Gauthier, A. & Weinstock, A., 2010. Africa Transforming Paratransit into BRT. Built Environment, 36(3), 317-327.
Hidalgo, D. & Carrigan, A., 2010. BRT in Latin America High Capacity and Performance, Rapid Implementation and Low Cost.Built Environment, 36(3), 283-297.
Hidalgo, D. & Pai. M., 2009. Delhi Bus Corridor: An Evaluation. Washington DC, EMBARQ.
Kothari, C. R., 2009. Research methodology methods & techniques (2nd rev. ed.). New Delhi: New Age International (P) Ltd..
Wright, L., 2003. Bus Rapid Transit Options, Sourcebook 3b.Eschborn: GTZ.
Wright, L., 2010. Bus rapid transit: a public transport renaissance. Built Environment, 36(3), 269-273.
Wright, L. & Fjellstrom, K., 2005. Mass Transit Options, Sourcebook 3a. Eschborn: GTZ.
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