Emissions from vehicles in the booming cities of Asia, Africa and Latin America account for a rapidly growing component of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. Rapid transit systems like BogotÃ¡â€™s may hold a key to combating climate change.
BOGOTÃ, Colombia â€” Like most thoroughfares in booming cities of the developing world, BogotÃ¡â€™s Seventh Avenue resembles a noisy, exhaust-coated parking lot â€” a gluey tangle of cars and the rickety, smoke-puffing private minibuses that have long provided transportation for the masses.
But a few blocks away, sleek red vehicles full of commuters speed down the four center lanes of Avenida de las AmÃ©ricas. The long, segmented, low-emission buses are part of a novel public transportation system called bus rapid transit, or B.R.T. It is more like an above-ground subway than a collection of bus routes, with seven intersecting lines, enclosed stations that are entered through turnstiles with the swipe of a fare card and coaches that feel like trams inside.
Versions of these systems are being planned or built in dozens of developing cities around the world â€” Mexico City, Cape Town, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ahmedabad, India, to name a few â€” providing public transportation that improves traffic flow and reduces smog at a fraction of the cost of building a subway.