Megapolis team makes strong case for Light Rail Transit over Bus Rapid Transport
Says BRT likely to become most expensive in the world if roll out
In response to the heavy criticism levelled against by many quarters over the selection of highly expensive Light Rail Transit (LRT) system over the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system and monorail in the Colombo Metropolitan Region (CMR), the Western Region Megapolis Project team made a strong case for their selection and even expressed their readiness in implementing the system.
According to Dr. Dimantha De Silva, a consultant and the team leader for the transport committee of the project, although the BRT appeared least cost mode of Rapid Transit System (RTS) in the world at the outset, the feasibility study already carried out for the Galle Road corridor suggests a considerably higher cost.
“Although BRT is a low-cost option in general, the cost of US $ 5 million per kilometre is the benchmark number when it comes to worldwide figures. But the cost will be considerably high when acquisition is needed grade separation like elevated roads are required,” Dr. De Silva told Mirror Business.
The Megapolis project team came under severe flack from a section of transport sector academia for blindly selecting the high-cost LRT over the cheaper BRT and Dr. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, the former Secretary to the Ministry of Transport quantified the former is as much as 10 times the latter.
“Unless you have 10 times the ridership, it becomes a problem (financially unviable) because we are operating under capital constraints. We don’t have money to spend lavishly. Without doing that analysis, I don’t know how BRT was rejected,” said Dr. Gunaruwan, who is also an economist with special interest into the public transport planning.
However, Dr. De Silva, who is also a Senior Lecturer at the Transportation Engineering Division of the University of Moratuwa refuting the allegations said the preliminary study into the feasibility of LRT makes the system financially viable.
“We have done preliminary demand analysis to show that the numbers look good and it is most probably feasible. So, we will go with LRT feasibility so (that) we can complete feasibility in a short time so we are ready for implementation in quick time.
If it is not feasible which is highly unlikely, we will then consider other modes. We are taking a calculated risk here based on our expert knowledge,” he added.
On the contrary, the earlier feasibility study carried out on the earlier proposed BRT showed average per kilometre cost of the Galle Road BRT becomes US $ 16.2 million per kilometre – including the investment for an elevated road.
The proposed BRT for the Galle Road corridor required a six kilometre stretch elevated at a cost of US $ 27.5 million per kilometre.
“This actually becomes one of the most expensive BRT in the world, even higher than the Bogota which is US $ 12.5 million per kilometre,” Dr. De Silva said.
Bogota – the capital city of Colombia, commissioned its BRT system in 2000 named ‘Transmilenio’, which is the world’s largest, fastest and generally one of most highly renowned systems in the world.
The system currently serves 2.4 million people everyday but the population has plummeted due to high crime rates, over-crowded buses and up to 45 minute up waits at some stations during rush hour.
Another argument against a BRT system brought up by Dr. De Silva is that the system would reach its maximum capacity in five years of operations – 2025 – after which the system would have to be replaced – hence not sustainable.
“Capacity of typical BRT is 13,000 passengers per hour per direction. However, with different systems we can increase the capacity. One way is having two lanes of BRT in each direction (to which we don’t have road space) then the capacity will be 26,000 like in Bogota,” he explained.
Further he said the implementation of the system would also take at least three to four years before being operational, which is quite a lengthy period.
Construction of the elevated road for six kilometres, elevated overpasses and land acquisition which leads to huge social and political issues plus longer period.
“But mostly why we have dropped the idea is that, BRT can be ideal if we can implement (it) in the short term and without considerable acquisition, so that its impacts are provided in short term,” Dr. De Silva added.