Life cycle emissions from a bus rapid transit system and comparison with other modes of passenger transportation

  • Luis Carlos Belalcazar Ceron Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
  • Rodrigo Buitrago Tello Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
  • Yohen Cuellar Álvarez Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
Keywords: Bus rapid transit, Emissions, Climate change, Air quality, OpenLCA, Biofuels, Sustainable urban transport


This work presents Life Cycle Emissions from the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) TransMilenio compared to other modes of passenger transportation in Bogota, Colombia®. We applied the life-cycle assessment (LCA) and the well-to-wheels approach. We used the OpenLCA software, the Ecoinvent database and all the information available in the city to perform this LCA. The impact category climate change (CO2-eq) and emissions of PM2.5, CO and NOx were considered. The functional unit is mass of pollutant per kilometer and per passenger transported (mass/km-passenger). Results of this work indicate that public transport buses including BRT produce the lowest emissions of CO2-eq, CO and NOx. While the lowest emissions of PM2.5 were achieved by an electric BRT and buses powered by natural gas. The highest emissions of PM2.5 are given by motorcycles and private cars, and taxis present the highest emissions of NOx. Finally, if TransMilenio buses change from diesel to electricity, CO2-eq and PM2.5 emissions would be reduced by 86% and 88%, respectively. However, these values are lower than reductions achieved when strategies are focused on controlling emissions from other vehicle categories.


Baghini, M. S., Ismail, A. & Hafezi, M. H. (2014). Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system impacts to environmental quality. Res. J. Appl. Sci., Eng. Technol., 7(7), 1158-1164.

Bergthorson, J. M., & Thomson, M. J. (2014). A review of the combustion and emissions properties of advanced transportation biofuels and their impact on existing and future engines. Renew. Sust. Energ. Rev., 42: 1393-1417. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2014.10.034

Buitrago-Tello, R. (2014). Evaluación de los efectos ambientales de la gasolina, diesel, biodiesel y etanol carburante en Colombia por medio del Análisis de Ciclo de Vida. Tesis de Maestría. Ing. Química y Ambiental. Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Bogotá. 81pp.

Buitrago-Tello, R. & Belalcázar, L. C. (2013). Análisis del ciclo de vida para la producción de bioetanol en Colombia por medio de OpenLCA. Épsilon, 21: 145-156.

BYD Motor Colombia SAS. (n.d.). BYD 100% Buses Eléctrico para Transporte Masivo. Bogotá D.C.: BYD Motor Colombia SAS. Retrieved from

Ciroth, A. & Winter, S. (2014). OpenLCA 1.4 overview and first steps. Berlin: GREENDELTA. Retrieved from

Concejo de Bogotá D.C. Proyecto de acuerdo 161 de 2012 (2012). Bogotá D.C. Retrieved from

CUE. (2012). "Evaluación del ciclo de vida de la cadena de producción de biocombustibles en Colombia". Capitulo II : Estudio ACV - Impacto Ambiental. In Evaluación del ciclo de vida de la cadena de producción de biocombustibles en Colombia (p. 203). Medellín: BID, Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo Mmec, Ministerio de Minas y Energia República de Colombia.

Cui, S., Niu, H., Wang, W., Zhang, G., Gao, L. & Lin, J. (2010). Carbon footprint analysis of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system: A case study of Xiamen City. Int. J. Sust. Dev. World, 17(4), 329-337. doi:10.1080/13504509.2010 .490657

Deng, T. & Nelson, J. D. (2011). Recent developments in bus rapid transit: A review of the literature. Transport Rev., 31(1), 69-96. doi:10.1080/01441647.2010.492455

Dinçer, I. & Zamfirescu, C. (2011). Life-Cycle Assessment. In Springer (Ed.), Sustainable Energy Systems and Applications (pp. 663-700). Chapter 15 New York. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-95861-3

Donateo, T., Ingrosso, F., Licci, F. & Laforgia, D. (2014). A method to estimate the environmental impact of an electric city car during six months of testing in an Italian city. J. Power Sources, 270: 487-498. doi:10.1016/j. jpowsour.2014.07.124

Dryer, F. L. (2015). Chemical kinetic and combustion characteristics of transportation fuels. P. Combust. Inst., 35(1), 117-144. doi:10.1016/j.proci.2014.09.008

Duarte, F. & Rojas, F. (2012). Intermodal connectivity to BRT : Acomparative analysis of Bogotá and Curitiba. JPT, 15(2), 1-18. Retrieved from

Gao, L. & & Winfield, Z. C. (2012). Life cycle assessment of environmental and economic impacts of advanced vehicles. Energies, 5(12), 605-620. doi:10.3390/en5030605

García-Sánchez, J. A., López-Martínez, J. M., Lumbreras- Martín, J., Flores-Holgado, M. N. & Aguilar-Morales, H. (2013). Impact of Spanish electricity mix, over the period 2008-2030, on the Life Cycle energy consumption and GHG emissions of electric, hybrid diesel-electric, fuel cell hybrid and diesel bus of the Madrid Transportation System. Energ. Convers. Manage., 74: 332-343. doi:10.1016/j. enconman.2013.05.023

Geraldes, É., Acevedo, H. & Freire, F. (2013). Greenhouse gas intensity of palm oil produced in Colombia addressing alternative land use change and fertilization scenarios. Appl. Energy, 114: 958-967. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2013.09.010

Hidalgo, D. & Gutiérrez, L. (2013). BRT and BHLS around the world: Explosive growth, large positive impacts and many issues outstanding. Res. Transport. Econ., 39(1), 8-13. doi:10.1016/j.retrec.2012.05.018

Hidalgo, D., Pereira, L., Estupiñán, N. & Jiménez, P. L. (2013). TransMilenio BRT system in Bogota, high performance and positive impact - Main results of an ex-post evaluation. Res. Transport. Econ., 39(1), 133-138. doi:10.1016/j.retrec.2012.06.005

ISO 14040:2006. Environmental management - Life Cycle Assessment - Principles and framework. Ginebra: ISO.

ISO 14044:2006. Environmental management - Life Cycle Assessment - Requirements and guidelines. Ginebra: ISO.

Kalghatgi, G. T. (2015). Developments in internal combustion engines and implications for combustion science and future transport fuels. Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, 35(1), 101-115. doi:10.1016/j.proci.2014.10.002

Ma, H., Balthasar, F., Tait, N., Riera-Palou, X. & Harrison, A. (2012). A new comparison between the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of battery electric vehicles and internal combustion vehicles. Energy Policy, 44: 160-173. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2012.01.034

Martínez-González, A., Casas-Leuro, O. M., Acero-Reyes, J. R. & Castillo-Monroy, E. F. (2011). Comparison of potential environmental impacts on the production and use of high and low sulfur regular diesel by life cycle assessment. CT&F - Ciencia, Tecnología y Futuro, 4(4), 123-136.

Mejía-Dugand, S., Hjelm, O., Baas, L. & Ríos, R. A. (2013). Lessons from the spread of Bus Rapid Transit in Latin America. J. Clean. Prod., 50: 82-90. doi:10.1016/j. jclepro.2012.11.028

Messagie, M., Boureima, F. S., Coosemans, T., Macharis, C. & Mierlo, J. V. (2014). A range-based vehicle Life Cycle Assessment incorporating variability in the environmental assessment of different vehicle technologies and fuels. Energies, 7(3), 1467-1482. doi:10.3390/en7031467

SDA. (2010). Plan Decenal de Descontaminación del Aire para Bogotá. Bogotá D.C. Retrieved from 9c5f-40ef-912a-51a5822da320&groupId=55886

Sengers, F. & Raven, R. (2015). Toward a spatial perspective on niche development : The case of Bus Rapid Transit. EIST, 17: 166-182. doi:10.1016/j.eist.2014.12.003

Subdirección de Energía Eléctrica - Grupo de Generación. (2015). Informe mensual de variables de generación y del mercado eléctrico colombiano - Enero de 2015 (p. 16). Retrieved from

Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories. (2010). Ecoinvent data v2.2. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from

Turrio-Baldassarri, L., Battistelli, C. L., Conti, L., Crebelli, R., De Berardis, B., Iamiceli, A. L., Gambino, M. & Iannaccone, S. (2006). Evaluation of emission toxicity of urban bus engines: compressed natural gas and comparison with liquid fuels. Sci. Total Environ., 355(1-3), 64-77. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2005.02.037

UPME. (2003). FACTORES DE EMISIÓN DE LOS COMBUSTIBLES COLOMBIANOS (FECOC). SIAME - Sistema de Información Ambiental Minero Energético. Retrieved from

Wright, L. (2002). Bus Rapid Transit. In K. Fjellstrom (Ed.), Sustainable Transport: A Sourcebook for Policy-makers in Developing Cities (p. 48). Eschborn, Germany: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). Retrieved from

Wright, L. & Fulton, L. (2005). Climate change mitigation and transport in developing nations. Transport Rev., 25(6), 691-717. doi:10.1080/01441640500360951

Zimmerman, S. & Levinson, H. (2006). The facts about BRT. Planning, 72(5), 34-35.
How to Cite
Belalcazar Ceron, L. C., Buitrago Tello, R., & Cuellar Álvarez, Y. (2016). Life cycle emissions from a bus rapid transit system and comparison with other modes of passenger transportation. CT&F - Ciencia, Tecnología Y Futuro, 6(3), 123-134.


Download data is not yet available.
Scientific and Technological Research Articles

More on this topic