The Soft Side of BRT Lessons From 5 Developing Countries




    Such is the power of informal bus, mini-bus and shared-ride taxi operators. Because of the sensi-tivity of populations to transport issues and their impact on everyday life, local incidents involving mismanagement of the sector often receive widespread coverage by the press and other media, sometimes making national news. The number of people directly and indirectly engaged in provid-ing public transport services can be large. For example, in Lagos, there are more than 75,000 mini-buses and 200,000 commercial motorcycles, moving far more people than any other transport mode and providing direct employment to more than 500,000 people. Assuming one public transport worker per household, with an average household size of five, means that more than 2.5 million people, or almost 15 percent of the population, rely on the sector to provide their basic needs. The size and importance of the sector gives its workers the power to cripple a local economy,


    such as by calling a strike, perhaps in response to a negatively received government action, thus denying transport to millions. The sheer number of people potentially affected gives transportation workers enormous political power. In turn, politicians have a significant stake in maintaining the status quo, sometimes because of opportunities for their own financial gain; many informal sector vehicles are owned and operated by public officials, who can also use their position for patronage, often in return for financial benefit.


    Loosely regulated operators, despite the power they wield, can offer only low-quality service domi-nated by oversupply on some routes and undersupply on others. Several cities have attempted to improve the organization of the informal transportation sector with a view toward ensuring more balanced supply and demand across all sections of these cities and improvement in the quality of service. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems have been among the most commonly adopted strategies for such reform.

    Authors: Ajay Kumar, Sam Zimmerman, O.P. Agarwal