Learning from other cities

Learning from  other cities

In their pursuit of a workable Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), Bengaluru’s planners have been looking at such models in Ahmedabad and other cities. How are systems there faring, have they been successful in streamlining traffic and pushing commuter away from personal to public transport?

Recent reports from Ahmedabad suggest that all is not well with the 89-km BRTS there. One analysis showed that in the five years of its existence, that city’s vehicular population actually increased by around 50 per cent. Worse, the citizens’use of public transport fell by about 18 per cent!

Currently, the reports say, the Ahmedabad BRTS’s peak ridership is 1.4 lakh passengers daily with a fleet of 215 buses. But in 2009-10, with only 35 kms and 45 buses, the top ridership stood at 1.35 lakh per day. 

Also known as Janmarg, Ahmedabad BRTS was launched in October 2009. Thanks to its relative success, the BRTS became a model for similar initiatives in Chennai and Pune. It has 13 operational routes serving 126 BRTS stations and cabins at extended routes; and a mixed fleet of air conditioned and non-air conditioned buses.

The Ahmedabad BRTS is equipped with an Integrated Transportation Management System that includes Advanced Vehicle Tracking, Fleet Management, Automatic Fare Collection, Passenger Information, Passenger announcement and Vehicle Scheduling and Dispatching.

If Janmarg has been a mixed bag, Delhi’s experiment with BRTS was worse. It was scrapped by the current government earlier this year. Introduced in South Delhi in 2008, the Rs 400-crore system was blamed for an acute rise in traffic congestions.

Under the system, each side of the road was divided into four lanes. One lane each was dedicated for buses, scooters and cars, cyclists and pedestrians. But lack of lane discipline, improper planning and faulty traffic signals triggered heavy congestions. Commuters ended up spending more hours on the road.

The dedicated bus lanes too were hit by snags. Every time a bus broke down, it caused massive pile-ups. Besides, the BRTS had inadequate facilities for pedestrians to cross the roads and reach the bus shelters placed in the middle.

Problems have surfaced even in Curitiba, the Brazilian city where BRTS was first introduced. Ridership still remains highest in the world for BRT, but there is an year-to-year decline, with rising car usage. One reason, as a local newspaper noted, was the poor protection offered by the bus stations to the city’s extreme temperatures.

Nevertheless, Curitiba’s pioneering romance with BRTS has found takers for the system in cities across the world, starting with the Columbian city of Bogota. Cities in the United States, China, South Africa and other countries have emulated the model with mixed results. For Bengaluru, the message is clear: Learn from these models, modify and emulate or simply say no!

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