PRT to Transform Transport

PRT to Transform Transport
PRT to Transform Transport

Over the past 10 years, Tehran Municipality has been praised for its Bus Rapid Transit system, a dedicated line for double-cabin buses that traverses north to south on Valiasr Street and east to west on Enqelab Street.

Tehran’s BRT, which was officially inaugurated in 2008 by Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, transports an average of two million passengers daily. The total length of BRT in Tehran is about 150 km, including six active lines.

Qalibaf won acclaim for his forward thinking on tackling traffic issues. By removing cars entirely from one stretch of the road, the mayor considerably reduced transport times across the city, according to an independent study in 2013.

The response at first was tepid as many car owners and taxi drivers complained about the curbs on driving space, but over time city dwellers appreciated the savings in time and money. They could leave their vehicles at the various “Park & Ride” venues and jump onto the bus.

Currently, BRT plays an important role in transporting passengers across the capital city. According to approved development plans, the number of buses working in these lines has increased to 11,000 by the end of 2014, which has likely increased further as more roads have been dedicated to the fast moving system.

“The municipality allocated budgets to expand BRT network in the city during the last few years,” Peyman Sanandaji, managing director of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, said during a ceremony to mark the extension of the line in 2013.

As the world moves toward automation and drivers begin to play a less important role in the act of moving people from Point A to Point B, the authorities explore alternatives to mobilize Tehran’s transportation potentials.

Iran may be behind the curve currently. However, with the dissolution of sanctions in the next few months, Iranian carmakers should not just be looking at the short-term gains of introducing new models, but should be looking at the larger picture of improving transportation.

This coupled with the rise in services like Tehran’s Subway have already begun to feed into the millennial urge not to have to pay extra for a vehicle when one can use cheaper and faster means of public transportation.

The insatiable appetite of the Iranian market for cars is in part due to the traditional mindset concerning transportation.

However, the spike in vehicle numbers in the coming years will lead to a gradual replacement of older cars with both local and foreign counterparts.

But when the market is saturated and the roads become more congested, the same situation that happened in many European countries will likely repeat in Tehran.

This could be around 2025 by some generous estimates.

What should naturally follow BRT is the Personal Rapid Transit, an automated vehicle that runs on set routes. This new type of transportation could in theory be a valid automated replacement for the countless small and large vehicles in major cities.

These electric PRT vehicles (the size of minibuses) could also replace many of the less busy bus lines with their offering of green, cheap and reliable options.

PRT is likely to be the largest transformative form of transportation in Iran and its expansion could dent the need for expanding the taxi fleet. Trials in the United Kingdom and the UAE’s Masdar City have shown that rather than being just a flight of fancy, public transportation systems like PRT play a crucial role in the mix of urban travel.

In the US city of Austin, Texas, two businessmen have begun a campaign to have the PRT systems in their city as well. According to TWC news, a spokeswoman for the entrepreneurs said the system would run on tracks over Austin’s streets and sidewalks, and cost one-tenth the price of light rail.

Whether the vehicles will replace cars entirely remains to be seen. However, the long-term viability of these vehicles remains an interesting proposition, as they can move smaller groups of people while the regular BRT operates on crowded routes.