Why Are South African Cities Different? Comparing Johannesburg Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System with Its Latin American Siblings

The objective of this paper is to shed light on the discussion about why Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has structural operational indicator differences between South African cities and their siblings in Latin American. Under the understanding that BRT does (and will continue to) have a role in South African mobility, South African local and national governments are working together to better understand how does BRT work in the South African context and what type of subsidization would be needed as these systems expand. Inspired by the success of BRT systems in Latin American cities (LACs), Johannesburg pioneered implementing a BRT network in South Africa, along with Cape Town. As of 2016, 43.5 km of trunk BRT corridors were fully operational in Johannesburg and their results in terms of ridership and operating cost recovery from fares were approximately one-third of initial estimates. It is widely known that, as a result of apartheid, Johannesburg urban form is characterized by an average low density and spatial patterns where the poor are located very far from opportunities. This results into passenger travel demand patterns that have long, unidirectional trips with high peak-to-base ratios, which significantly differ to the travel patterns in dense LACs where there is high turnover and much shorter journeys. The paper provides a comparative analysis of Johannesburg’s BRT structural conditions and selected performance indicators with those BRTs in LACs that originally inspired their implementation in South Africa. The comparative analysis provides unequivocal evidence that Johannesburg’s (and South African cities’) BRT, as implemented, may not have the conditions to cover its operating costs from farebox revenue and therefore will typically present significantly different operation indicators to those of its LAC siblings.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This paper was sponsored by TRB committee AP050 Standing Committee on Bus Transit Systems.
  • Authors:
    • Scorcia, Harvey
    • Munoz-Raskin, Ramon
  • Conference:
  • Date: 2018


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; Maps; References;
  • Pagination: 15p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01663646
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 18-04710
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Jan 8 2018 11:09AM