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Special - Spatial Planning and Energy for Communities in All Landscapes Town and Country Planning Association European Union

Knowledge Pool

Module 4: Implementation of Sustainable Planning

2. Good Practice Example: The first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line (Catania, Italy)


In April 2013 the first Bus Rapid Transit line started its operation in the city of Catania, located in southern Italy. It is operated by the AMT spa, the municipal public transport company. The Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering of the University of Catania has been responsible for the scientific and technical assistance to the Municipality of Catania for  the planning and implementation of the line.

List of relevant key words

Transit Planning, Bus Rapid Transit, Sustainable Mobility

Background, objectives, implementation measures and financing

The city of Catania has about 300’000 inhabitants and a metropolitan area with 750’000. Since 70’s the city has been losing inhabitants due to urban development policies that have encouraged urban sprawl, thus implicitly promoting the use of private car and increasing traffic congestion.

Catania has one of the highest car ownership rate in Italy, equal to 0.7 car per inhabitant (against 0.6  in Italy and 0.45 in Europe). Today there are almost 60’000 trip going towards downtown and 7’000 outgoing during the peak hour in the morning. The modal share of public transport is 13% of the total travelled km. Walking and cycling is poorly widespread, mainly due to the amount of urban spaces occupied by cars.

AMT spa is the municipal public transport company. It operates 50 bus lines, covering approximately 40% of the city road network, with a low average headway (23 minutes in the peak period). It runs 11 million kilometres and transports 30 million passengers. Though a set of park-and-ride facilities have been built around the city, the mixed traffic operation and the high level of car traffic strongly affect the capability of AMT to supply a competitive public transport service with respect to car use.

Long term transport planning provides a strong improvement of the rail transit system by the completion of the subway line serving  the east-west corridor and the transformation of the railway line into a high frequency regional  service in the north-south corridor.
Considering the long time needed for construction  the rail systems, in 2011 the Municipality of Catania called the cooperation of  the University of Catania for the preparation of a short term transport plan (Urban Traffic Plan, which would include some pilot projects able to effectively promote a change in the transport modal choice of citizens.
The BRT line was one of these pilot projects.
The objectives were:

  • demonstrate that public transport can be competitive with car and that the modal shift can be increased
  • build a feasible cost-effective transit line in short times
  • reduce the volume of cars accessing the city through  park-and-ride system
  • increase the passenger occupancy of cars accessing the park-and-ride facilitiy
  • Park and ride
  • Car pooling
  • Linea pt che funziona
  • Servire il corridio nord sud
  • Shift modale
  • Integration with metro line


Implementation measures

The idea of a BRT line was built on the consideration that actually, it is not rail transit, per se, that is technologically superior to rubber tired highway transit, but the so called right-of-way (ROW), that is the most critical element to the system’s performance. A bus transit system with a high percentage of protected running way performs closest to Light Rail Transit as it runs in its own way most of the time, separated from cars and possibly with separated grades to avoid intersections. Such a transport system is called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Extensively used in many parts of the world, BRT is proving a cost-effective transportation mode that bridges the capital cost gap between a regular bus service and light rail transit, and the ability to deliver services with features that are normally only found with rail service.
In the Urban Traffic Plan of Catania a BRT network of 4 lines  has been designed, as the main backbone of the whole transit bus network. It is integrated with the existing and under construction rail systems (subway and railway)  and with the park-and-ride facilities. (See BRT network’s picture below).

Figure 1: Planned BRT network of Catania (Source: PGTU Catania, 2013).

The first line already implemented as pilot project is called BRT1 (the red one) and links the park-and-ride facility Due Obelischi with downtown (Stesicoro). It had a high priority because the main car flows congesting the city are in the north-south corridor (see desire lines’s picture below).
It is 12.8 km long, with 18 stops. The running way is protected by a rubber curb for most of its path or alternatively the carriageway has been painted, the distance between stops is much wider than standard bus lines, all stops are provided with shelter and real time information systems on expected waiting times, all main road intersections are equipped with traffic lights giving priority to BRT, a special design of the vehicles has been realized to give a distinctive image of the BRT line as a separate system from the standard public transport. Aa dedicated fare system has been adopted to encourage more people sharing the car to be left  at the park-and-ride facility ranging from 1.5 € to 1.0 € per person for a round trip ticket, on the basis of the number of people inside the car; the car parking is free.  The ticket is integrated with one of the subway. The line is operated with a 7 minutes headway from 7.00 am to 2.30 pm, 10 minutes up to 9.00 pm and 15 minutes up to 12.00 pm. The travel time from the terminus to downtime is around 18 minutes and the commercial speed is more than 21 km/h (1/3 higher than other lines). The ridership is about 5000 pax/day, while 600 car spaces are occupied at the parking lot.

Figure 2: Desire lines of transport demand in Catania (Source: PGTU Catania, 2013).


Figure 3: BRT1 fares (Source: Municipality of Catania, 2013)


The cost for park-and-ride’s work for  completion and adaptation was 600 k€
The cost for the busway and related works was 1600 k
The operation cost is lower than a standard bus line, because the higher commercial speed reduces the driving cost, which is about 70% of the global operation cost.

Cost benefit, effects and results achieved
  • the image of public transport in Catania has intensely changed and people ask for building the entire BRT network
  • for the first time in Catania it is reported that users, other than “captive”,  leave their car to use the public transport
  • for the first time a park-and-ride facility has started its operation
  • the ridership of 5000 pax/day is the highest of all the network lines
  • it is estimated that one third of the passengers were using the car before the opening of the new line
  • a significant CO2 reduction of 800 t per year is estimated
Planning procedures, involvement of stakeholders and possible participation structures

The role of local planning policies has been essential, as well as the cooperation between the University of Catania and the Municipality. On December 6, 2010 the Guidelines for the preparation of the Urban Traffic Plan were approved by the Municipality, addressing a new transport policy for the sustainable mobility. In the same year the business plan of the Municipal Transit Company was approved, highlighting the need of a deep rethinking of the role of public transport in the city. On April 2013 the Urban Traffic Plan, including the provision of the BRT network is approved by the City Council and in the same month the first BRT line starts its operation.

Images, map
BRT1 vehicle (Source: Municipality of Catania, 2013)
BRT1 vehicle (Source: Municipality of Catania, 2013)
BRT1 vehicle (Source: Municipality of Catania, 2013)
BRT1 vehicle (Source: Municipality of Catania, 2013)
BRT1 in action (Source: Giuseppe Inturri, 2013)
BRT1 in action (Source: Giuseppe Inturri, 2013)
BRT1 park-and-ride facility (Source: Giuseppe Inturri, 2013)
BRT1 park-and-ride facility (Source: Giuseppe Inturri, 2013)
BRT1 vehicle (Source: Municipality of Catania, 2013) BRT1 vehicle (Source: Municipality of Catania, 2013) BRT1 in action (Source: Giuseppe Inturri, 2013) BRT1 park-and-ride facility (Source: Giuseppe Inturri, 2013)
Innovation fostered - local / regional developments triggered

Favouring urban development around transit facilities has proved to be effective in improving accessibility, quality of life and transit financial sustainability.
This is usually accomplished by a rail mass transit as the fastest and most effective transport mode to compete with car, produce significant mode shift, reduce car dependency and urban sprawl.
We believe that also a BRT, with a high percentage of protected running way, performing as a Light Rail Transit, can induce some land use changes in the long term.
At the present, after few months of operation of the new line, we record that “closeness to BRT stops” has started to appear as choice attribute within the market of real estate sale and rent.

Lessons learnt – practical recommendations

A fast, economic, real, concrete and operational pilot project, such as the BRT line, can be the most effective way to demonstrate that a radical change in transport policy is possible.
It can let emerge and aggregate a coalition of stakeholders positively asking for a change.

The design and building of a single transit line project can be a multiplier of  several other demonstrative transport planning measures, such as:

  • parking pricing and management: removing on street parking along the transit path, using the park-and-ride facility free of charge, increasing the fare of the down town destinations
  • introducing Intelligent Transport Systems: pre-emptive traffic light activated by the transit vehicle approaching the intersection, electronic stop displays, showing information real time on the service
  • improving the walking infrastructure to access the transit stops

Il bus rapido:

Related Links

Project Details:


Urban Traffic Plan:


AMT Public Transport Company:


Contact possibilities

Name(s): Giuseppe Inturri

Organisation(s): University of Catania.

Phone: +390957382220

e-Mail: ginturri@dica.unict.it

Web: http://www.ing.unict.it/it/didattica/docenti?view=docente&id=93