BRTS – difficult but inevitable
A developed country is not one where the poor own cars. It is one where the rich use public transport,” the judges of Delhi High Court quoted while dismissing the plea to scrap the Bus Rapid Transit System in the City. The Delhi BRT has been slammed as a failure time and again. But, contrary to popular belief, a study by technical experts WRI India, EMBARQ and CST India found that despite its faults, the system provided better mobility to road users with a ridership of over 53,000 passengers a day along a mere 6km stretch. Average time for bus travel reduced by 35 per cent due to the BRT and it enjoys the thumbs up of an overwhelming majority (88 per cent) of bus commuters.
The Delhi High Court in October 2012 upheld the view on the grounds that nearly 70 per cent of users were moving faster and bus ridership had increased 32 per cent.
Why BRT for India?
Indian cities are characterized by its size and complexity with about 27 cities having million-plus population. A single transport system cannot possibly meet their needs. In Delhi alone, half of its 17 million citizens depend on public transport, which includes buses, auto-rickshaws and a sophisticated metro rail system.
BRTs stand out for their flexibility, relative low cost, and rapid rate of implementation. BRTS have been implemented in 194 cities worldwide integrating trains, buses and other forms of transport with the more than 5,000km of bus corridors serving 32 million passengers per day. In a nutshell, BRT is a safe and reliable system of transportation that can be easily integrated into, and become a valuable part of the city’s overall mobility system.
BRT designs can range from simple to very complex — from basic bus corridors to high-capacity systems that combine multiple lines and connect to transport services outside the BRT corridor. In Curitiba (Brazil), the BRT system was built to run buses like a surface metro, with level boarding stations, prepayment, large buses and exclusive bus lanes. In Bogota (Colombia), this idea was expanded into a two-lane system to accommodate both non-stop express services and local services with multiple stops. In Istanbul (Turkey), high-speed buses travel in a fully segregated BRT corridor, which multiplies both capacity and speed. In Guangzhou (China), the BRT is so sophisticated that passengers need not disembark to transfer to a different line.
Planning is the key
A BRT system is the amalgamation of stations, vehicles, services, running ways and information technology which all work in tandem. Stepwise process of getting a right system for BRT is:
One: Daily management of the system to function at high capacity
Two: Ensure that the BRT can integrate into the city’s existing transport systems and the urban fabric of the city – connect people to metros or last-mile modes of transport, such as auto-rickshaws in Delhi, building safer access to and from the rapid transit corridor, and optimising bus schedules to link with available metro services.
Three: It should be remembered that although newer technologies bring higher capital costs, they are key in delivering success. Cities should update BRTS accordingly.
Four: Improved coordination across municipalities and government agencies will make city planning easier by bringing stakeholders together around a single vision. Institutional frameworks must be improved to help remove the barriers.
Above all, education and outreach can spur sustained interest and investments in a BRT, paving the way for its success.