Shorter commutes, but for whom? Comparing the distributional effects of Bus Rapid Transit on commute times in Cape Town, South Africa, and Barranquilla, Colombia


  • Manuel Santana Palacios University of California berkeley
  • Lisa Rayle



Bus rapid transit, equity, commute times, BRT network design, urban form


Bus rapid transit has become an increasingly popular investment in cities in the Global South, where policy discourse often positions BRT as a pro-poor investment. Planners usually expect BRT to reduce commute times in urban areas, particularly for economically disadvantaged populations, thus reducing mobility gaps between transit users across different socioeconomic population groups. Despite increased interest in BRT, there is surprisingly limited research testing these assumptions. Using data from a retrospective survey administered in Barranquilla, Colombia, and Cape Town, South Africa, we investigated whether BRT contributes to reducing commute time gaps between socioeconomic populations. Our comparative and distributional analyses indicate that, while BRT narrowed the gap in commute times in Cape Town, it did not contribute to closing the gap in Barranquilla. We argue that this contradiction may, in part, be explained by the degree to which BRT route configuration responded to the urban form and pre-BRT transit conditions in each city—two factors often overlooked in academic literature and discussions surrounding BRT planning. We close by providing policy recommendations that promote more equitable planning practices and recognize the links between transport and land uses in the Global South urban context.


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How to Cite

Santana Palacios, M., & Rayle, L. (2021). Shorter commutes, but for whom? Comparing the distributional effects of Bus Rapid Transit on commute times in Cape Town, South Africa, and Barranquilla, Colombia. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 14(1), 647-667.