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The Road Not Taken by Hazem Zureiqat

The Road Not Taken by Hazem Zureiqat

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Published by urdunmubdi3
In three years of political turmoil and economic drift, Jordan has seen plenty of error. The decision to kill the Amman Bus Rapid Transit system is one such mistake. Hazem Zureiqat looks at the project’s inception. What went wrong and where do we go from here?
In three years of political turmoil and economic drift, Jordan has seen plenty of error. The decision to kill the Amman Bus Rapid Transit system is one such mistake. Hazem Zureiqat looks at the project’s inception. What went wrong and where do we go from here?

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Published by: urdunmubdi3 on Mar 07, 2012
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MARCH 2012
The Road Not Taken
ost of us have seen the aban-doned two kilometers of buslanes along Queen Rania Street.They are part of an ambitious 32-kilome-ter network of bus rapid transit (BRT).The Amman BRT project, known in Ar-abic as
 Al-Baas Al-Saree
, has been a hottopic in the media and among the resi-dents of Amman. Much has been said onthe project and where it stands today, buttruly understanding this particular issuerequires taking a step back and lookingat the bigger picture.
From Roundabouts To Rapid Transit
Urban transport planning, in its compre-hensive and multi-modal context, hasnever really been part of the public dis-course and policymaking in our part of the world. Some would even argue thatthis is the case for other forms of plan-ning, be they physical or otherwise, butthe absence of proper transport planninghas been especially palpable in our oil-rich region.
It is not hard to make out how this long-standing approach to doing things (or notdoing them) has manifested itself in Am-man. The city today is marred by count-less bridges and tunnels. Sidewalks are,for the most part, ineffective, and pedes-trian crossings are virtually non-existent.Public transport is in disarray, with over  
70% of the eet comprising of small
service taxis or Coaster buses, many of which are individually owned and oper-ated. With the rapid population growththe city has experienced, the size of our  
eet of large buses remained constant
between 2000 and 2010, after which anadditional 116 buses were introduced.Meanwhile, car ownership levels in thecity are increasing by an alarming 10%to 15% per year, even among house-holds with fairly low levels of income.At the same time, more than half of thecity’s population is under the age of 25;add to that the increasing rate of femaleparticipation in the labor force, and whatyou get is nothing short of an explosionin future transport demand that no roadwidening, bridge or tunnel would beable to accommodate.So, how did we get here? Firstly, wehave been relying for too long on cheapoil from our neighbors, so buildingroads and importing more cars was theway to go, not just in Amman, but atthe national level as well. Secondly, theinstitutional set-up was not designed togive the right incentives for policymak-ers at the municipal and national levelsto think more systemically.
In Amman, trafc engineering and op
-erations tasks, in addition to spatial andland-use planning, fell under the respon-sibilities of the Greater Amman Munici-pality (GAM), while public transportplanning and regulation was under adifferent entity working at the nationallevel, the Land Transport RegulatoryCommission. Coordinating both func-tions was not easy across different bu-reaucracies.Today, things have changed. We no lon-ger have access to cheap oil – or at leastnot to the same extent as we did prior tothe 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. PrimeMinister Awn Khasawneh recently reit-erated this point in an interview on Jor-
In three years of political turmoil and economic drift, Jordan has seen plentyof error. The decision to kill the Amman Bus Rapid Transit system is one suchmistake.
Hazem Zureiqat
looks at the project’s inception. What went wrongand where do we go from here?
The city today [Amman] is marred by countlessbridges and tunnels. Sidewalks are, for the most part,ineffective, and pedestrian crossings are virtuallynon-existent. Public transport is in disarray…
Rendering of GAM’s solution for the Press Tunnel. The BRT lanes willrun on a raised structure above the tunnel and will then pass the inter-section at street level. A BRT station will be located at the intersection.
MARCH 2012
dan Television’s
60 Minutes
. The pre-mier cited the large number of cars thatenter the Kingdom each year, addingthat meeting the energy bill has becomeJordan’s primary economic challenge.The weak institutional set-up – thesecond reason listed above – has beenaddressed and we now have the rightframework to think and plan in a moreintegrated fashion. In 2007, planningand regulation of public transportationwithin Amman became part of GAM’sresponsibilities, and today GAM hasone integrated Transportation PlanningDepartment that deals with all modesof transport, from private cars to pub-lic transportation and pedestrians. Moreand more, decision makers and staff atGAM are becoming well aware that theproblem in Amman is about movingpeople and goods, not just cars, and thatour transport system needs to be morebalanced and multi-modal and should beplanned accordingly – all while takinginto consideration changes in land useand zoning.The question becomes then: what hashappened since the institutional changesof 2007? GAM developed a Transportand Mobility Master Plan (TMMP) thatoutlined the city’s mobility needs for the period leading up to 2025. The study in-volved conducting a survey of around10,000 households to assess their trans-port behavior. That survey, along with 
extensive trafc and public transport data
collection across the city, created a richdatabase that formed the basis of the Am-man transport model, a powerful plan-ning tool that integrates transport, landuse and socio-economic data.As the outcomes of the TMMP beganto emerge, it became clear that the cityneeded a higher order, namely a morerapid public transport mode. Several op-tions were analyzed, and BRT emergedas the preferred option for Amman dueto its low cost, effectiveness and relativeease of implementation given the city’shilly terrain. BRT is a term used to de-scribe public transport systems in whichbuses run on a segregated right-of-way,essentially offering a service similar tothat of trains (but, clearly, at a fractionof the cost). A BRT lane in Amman canaccommodate more than three timesthe number of people in a regular traf- 
c lane. BRT was rst implemented in
Curitiba, Brazil in 1974, and has sincebeen successfully constructed in over 120 cities worldwide. Often cited as oneof the most successful examples, theBRT system in Bogotá, Colombia, hasa current capacity of 45,000 passengersper hour in each direction, which ishigher than the capacity of most metrosystems worldwide.
Amman BRT And The Perfect Storm
In early 2009, GAM commissioned acomprehensive study to develop theBRT scheme for the city. The study 
aimed to rst validate the BRT network 
developed under the TMMP and then todevelop the complete service and op-erations plan for the system (in terms of number of buses required, frequenciesof service, etc.). This would be followedby estimating the demand and revenueforecasts and operating costs; preparingan economic feasibility study and an en-
vironmental impact assessment; and 
-nally, developing the detailed engineer-ing designs for the infrastructure, frombus lanes to stations and terminals. Focusgroups were held to obtain a better un-derstanding of the problems people facewhen using different modes of transport.An additional survey was carried out atthe University of Jordan, one of the keynodes along the BRT network, to ascer-tain what students felt they needed in anew public transport system. 
As the economic and nancial appraisal
of the BRT began, work on developingthe infrastructure design was undertakenin parallel. It was clear at the outset thatthe engineering design of a 32-kilometer network of exclusive bus lanes would bea challenge given the large number of grade-separated intersections (i.e. inter-sections with multiple levels) in Amman.Starting that process early on was, there-fore, essential. As is the case with suchcomplex projects, an iterative approachwas adopted, so designs were constantlydiscussed and revised as work on other streams progressed.Contrary to what many seem to believe,intersections such as the Press Tunneland Sports City were tackled early on.Alternative solutions were analyzedbased on various criteria, such as thelevel of BRT priority, accessibility to
BRT is a term used to describe public transportsystems in which buses run on a segregated right-of-way, essentially offering a service similar to that of trains (but clearly, at a fraction of the cost).
After conducting a thorough nancial audit for the
municipality, the AFD and GAM signed a creditfacility agreement under which the AFD wouldprovide a $166 million loan to GAM to fund theconstruction of infrastructure for the Amman BRT.

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