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BRT system. Source:wikimedia.org

Alternative Transport Lines in Saint Petersburg — ITMO’s Experts Share Their Opinions

19 September 2016, 10:42

The St. Petersburg City Administration has announced that it has yet to decide on the the type of transportation that is to be used to connect Pulkovo airport to the city. The officials are going to announce a contest to decide on whether it will be subway, light rail transit or an aeroexpress train line. As soon as all the calculations are done, Smolny will choose the best offer. Experts from the «Optimal Transport Systems» of ITMO’s Technopark have proposed their own alternative — a speed bus that is cheaper than any other options and can solve many problems.

«For countries that don’t have much financial resources BRT (bus rapid transport) is a great choice. As of now, it is really popular in Latin American and Asian countries. The Chinese build kilometers of such lines in their cities. On the other hand, such a system implies making serious changes to the city’s landscape — like gigantic guardrails, cross-walks and huge stations in the middle of roads. Surely, that won’t fit in St. Petersburg. Thus, our city has no need for a 100-percent BRT with all the relevant infrastructure. Yet, something like a speed bus — similar to ones they use in Germany — can be an option», — shares Timophei Volotski, a specialist in transport planning and co-head of the «Optimal Transport Systems» Laboratory.

By the way, the speed of the buses depends on many factors. There are systems that are quite slow, with an average speed of 18 km/h, and fast ones like those in Johannesburg — those are about two times faster. Though the speed is not very impressive, one should note that it’s the average speed — and it guarantees no traffic jams and delays. For instance, the average speed of public traffic in St. Petersburg is about 10 km/h. What is more, according to the data presented at one of the recent press conferences, the speed of public transport continues to decrease.

BRT or speed buses are a good temporary solution for St. Petersburg, believe experts from «Optimal Transport Solutions». In the scope of 50 years, rail transport will prove cheaper than buses that serve a lot less. Buses need replacements more often, and they are more likely to have accidents. Their infrastructure will prove insufficient in some time. Something similar happened in Bogota: after ten years of using BRT, they faced a problem of transport overload with no alternatives to solving it. Light-rail systems don’t have such problems — you can always add a car. So, in the long term, light-rail transport is more preferable for such cities as St. Petersburg, notes transport infrastructure design specialist Dmitry Baranov.

«We do have places where speed bus lines can be introduced. There are lots of specialists in traffic organization that can do that, and there are several interested companies. Also, that will be really cheap, so a simplified BRT system is a great option. All we’d require is good delineator and a well-organized route topology — if some 50 minibuses will be using the route as well, the speed will be as low as usual», — believes Timophei Volotski.

It’s really important that these buses are different from regular ones — so re-branding is an essential part of the plan. They have to be named accordingly and be of a different color, be big, of high quality, and have their own bus lanes.
Also, another feature of a classic BRT is using turnstile on bus stops — first, passengers pass the turnstiles and enter a small pavilion, from which they enter the bus as it arrives. This system prevents stowaways. Still, Timophei Volotski and Dmitry Baranov are sure that this is not really necessary in St. Petersburg. Improving the validator system will be enough.

«As of now, the validators used in public transport are not installed correctly. There are not enough of them, and they have an indicator on only one side. Many people hurry to sit down and then ask the conductor to validate their ticket», — notes Yaroslav Smirnov, the Laboratory’s co-head and a specialist in mathematical modeling.

The experts note that BRT or speed bus lines will be a good option for the «hive» districts that have been growing to the north and south of St. Petersburg for the past several years. They can become a good replacement for light-rail transport in times of crisis.

Polina Poleshchuk, Vasilii Perov

Editorial office, ITMO University