Far East BRT has worked on the ongoing Ulaaanbaatar BRT planning and design throughout 2016 and up to May 2017, as a partial or preliminary BRT conceptual design. Some updates on the project are available at the following articles: Ulaanbaatar BRT plans and designs taking shape (November 2016) and Smart cards provide accurate, comprehensive data in Ulaanbaatar (May 2016). This work was a follow-up to earlier BRT planning carried out by Karl Fjellstrom, Wenxuan Ma, Xiaomei Duan, Derek Trusler and others in Ulaanbaatar in 2011.
Between the earlier work in 2011 and the start of Far East BRT's input in February 2016 there was no additional progress specifically on BRT, though major progress was made in supporting areas such as the establishment of a smart card system, formalization and organization of bus routes, implementation of improved bus stops, remuneration of operators on a time rather than passenger basis, bus fleet expansion, capacity building of the urban transport department, implementation of a traffic control centre, and other reforms. In addition, as part of a related study from February to April 2016, BRT Planning International and other consultants prepared a preliminary BRT business plan, though this was superseded by major changes to the BRT corridor selection in July 2016. In particular, after a change of government in June 2016 it was decided that under that Peace Avenue no longer needed to be considered off-limits for non-technical reasons. Far East BRT revised the BRT plans to take this change into account, and the BRT phase 1 BRT corridor was planned along Peace Avenue.
During the years from the earlier BRT planning work in 2011, traffic conditions deteriorated greatly in Ulaanbaatar, worsened by motor vehicle fleet growth combined with highly inefficient intersections throughout the central area, and unreliable and slow public transport service. Bus speeds throughout the central area average less than 10km/hr from 8AM to 8PM on an average weekday. There have been no significant pedestrian or bicycle facility improvements since 2011. Parking management is somewhat less chaotic than in 2011, but is not used effectively to manage traffic demand or to raise much-needed revenues. In short, while in 2011 the city officials were only lukewarm about the possibility of BRT, by 2016 conditions had worsened so much that officials were very keen to act to improve the situation. Political will is strong, and the potential time saving and other benefits from a well-designed BRT in Ulaanbaatar are huge.
Far East BRT's preliminary BRT design during 2016-2017 including corridor selection, demand analysis, bus speed analysis, intersections analysis and improvements, changes to traffic circulation, BRT stations (types, locations, access, dimensions, configuration, and access, though not architecture), and operational approach (though not operational plan). This work is guiding the ongoing BRT planning and implementation in Ulaanbaatar.
In addition to the strong consensus on the need to drastically improve the public transport system, local agencies have a greater capability to implement the required reforms, and the city has excellent demand and speed data availability from the smart card system. Smart card usage became mandatory in Ulaanbaatar on 1 April 2017, further enhancing what was already an excellent data source for BRT planning.
Major project presentations were held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Ulaanbaatar in November 2016 and April 2017, with recommendations positively received by both the government and the ADB, though much work still remains to be done. The BRT project was announced in the media following the meeting in April 2017, and received the endorsement of top officials. A different consultant team is preparing recommendations on BRT fleet specifications and procurement during 2017. A project implementation unit has been set up, and the bidding is currently being prepared for ongoing BRT planning / supervision and for the BRT corridor engineering design.
Additional inputs will be required to make a complete BRT conceptual design including traffic analysis, intersection design for all key intersections on and off the BRT corridor (especially in the central area), operational plan and bus route changes, BRT station architecture and renderings, modal integration, station area development planning, and other areas.
The BRT conceptual planning prepared during 2016-2017 by Wenxuan Ma and Karl Fjellstrom includes proposals to change road network circulation to reduce the number of intersection phases and improve traffic conditions for all modes in the BRT corridor. The intersection changes, however, can only be done as part of a wider road network revision, to ensure that alternatives are available to the left turn movements prevented at intersections, and are preferably done in conjunction with the BRT. The city trialled a two-phase intersection implementation at some major intersections in August 2017, but without the wider network adjustments. This was ineffective, and the changes along Peace Avenue were rolled back from 1 September 2017. A better approach is to implement the intersection phase changes and associated network adjustments together with the BRT system.
During the years from the earlier BRT planning work in 2011, traffic conditions deteriorated greatly in Ulaanbaatar.