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Green Mobility : Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as Answer for City Transportation. But how?

Updated: Mar 19, 2019

INTRODUCTION – As highly publicized, choking GHG emissions and rapid urbanization in cities have led to the urgent need to address city transportation. Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) often seems to be the answer. MRT is mostly driven by the Government due to its high cost of infrastructure and not attractive to private sector due to minimal return of investment.

However, since the 1970s in dense Latin American cities such as Curitiba (Brazil), and followed Bogota and Quito , Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems have showed some success. Curitiba’s population in 2018 was in the region of 1.9 million. Just above the size of Kuala Lumpur. Seventy percent of Curitiba’s population uses the BRT.

BRT increases bus speeds and improved road safety by placing high capacity buses within committed bus lanes to channel buses to a series of stations similar to MRT.

BRT is a much more cost effective system and faster deployments provided that it is using existing roads with minimal new infrastructures. However, cities that implement BRT using elevated structures as the route for buses will face similar high cost challenges as MRT and will not be feasible to implement.

To date, technology development in areas such as electric vehicle (EV) primarily buses has enabled many pilot deployments. However, the the scaling up of its adoption is fairly organic due to lack of alternative business model other than CAPEX based which is poses high initial cost.

In some countries like Malaysia, each EV Bus cost can be costly and reaches up to RM1.2 million. Such initiative is mostly driven by the Government as part of promoting greener transportation.

Current City Bus initiatives is mostly driven by the Federal Government driven with its implementation policy on adopting 30% of these buses to be electric.

Progressing forward, approximately 2,000 electric buses are to be deployed in Malaysian cities by 2020. If EV Bus is fully adopted through BRT systems, this will provide new market opportunities with potential private sector investments of RM 2.4 Billion (based on current cost model).

CASE FOR REVIEW ON IMPLEMENTATION MODEL FOR CITY TRANSPORT – Based on lessons from the Latin America, land based BRT systems could be one of probable cost effective answer to address and accelerate the resolution to city transportation issues in developing countries.

As in any new technology driven initiative, it need to be private sector driven to make it sustainable. However, current model of EV Bus procurement of a full system is not attractive for any private sector investment and therefore not feasible.

A more lower risk model is splitting the risks into several business models for key areas such as charging stations, batteries, vehicle shell and vehicle diagnostic. In this manner, the risk in implementing the BRT system is shared by various private sector players and more implementable.

Distributed risk model provides greater feasibility in the implementation of EV Buses in cities and induce great collaboration and opportunities for investments by private sectors.

As for the charging stations, it is natural for the national power companies to invest and provide the usual last mile power services to the citizens. This approach will certainly increase the downstream market size of power utilization for these power companies.

For energy security, it is also important for governments to invest into energy storage and batteries technology either through home grown innovations or acquisition of externally owned technologies.

TAKEAWAYS – The effort to mitigate urbanization and climate change is now increasingly intense with the introduction of new solutions to the world. To some extent, it is also an economic rat race towards these new growth areas. Governments need to take strategic lead in partnership with private sectors to develop and increase ownership in strategic technologies and develop feasible implementation models for future national sovereignty and sustainability. A feasible model is to transform city transportation from capital expenditure into operational expenditure to Governments. In this manner, it will also stimulate a new private sector driven EV Bus Industry in the country. Without such model, our mitigation efforts in addressing city transportation will continue to be organic and non-impactful in the medium to long term.

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