More and more cities are turning to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a way of cost-effectively expanding public transit services to help relieve traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions, and increase mobility options for the poor. Because of the inherent flexibility advantages of rubber-tire buses – e.g., unlike rail systems, the same vehicle that functions as a line-haul carrier can also morph into a neighborhood feeder -- BRT is especially suited for many lower density and non- CBD settings.
Some of the most advanced and widely heralded BRT services today are found in Latin America, such as Curitiba and Sao Paulo, Brazil, Bogotá and Cali, Columbia, Santiago, Chile, and Lima, Peru. The success of BRT in these cities stems, to a large degree, from the presence of dedicated lanes, which offer significant speed advantages relative to more traditional mixed-traffic services. One of the few cities outside of Latin America that has joined the ranks of world-class BRT serviceproviders is Seoul, Korea. As in cities like Curitiba and Bogotá, Seoul operates dedicated median-lane BRT services which are supplemented by one of the most extensive networks of curbside BRT lanes anywhere. Seoul began implementing curbside bus lanes in 1986 however because of conflicts with traffic entering the main traffic stream these lanes failed to provide significant speed advantages. It was only after the addition of exclusive median lanes in 2004 that buses began to offer significant travel-time savings and win over former motorists.
All else being equal, significant gains in bus speeds should be followed by significant land-use changes, like densification and property value increases, especially in congested mega-cities like Seoul. Land markets can be expected to place a high premium on parcels close to transit corridors that enjoy significant travel-time savings since, after all, such settings have scarcity value – i.e., there is a finite, limited supply of settings with superior transit offerings. This paper probes this hypothesis by studying land-use changes and property-value increases induced by Seoul’s introduction of exclusive, median-lane BRT services. First, the empirical literature on bus transit and land-use impacts is reviewed. This is followed by background discussions on Seoul’s transportation conditions and BRT system. Next, we describe our research methodology and supporting data sources. We then present multilevel models that gauge the influences of upgrading BRT services on land-use changes and land values. The paper concludes by reflecting on the policy implications of the key research findings.