Another elegant feature of Janmarg is its bus stations. Janmarg is a revolution in public transit and the bus station is its main interface with the people. It is the face of the system and represents the state-of-the-art, efficient and modern design and yet retains its social and cultural context. Various studies and visits to several BRT systems the world over have revealed that a BRT station is not just a regular bus stop. Therefore, the notion of a regular bus system and bus stop has been revolutionised into a high quality BRT bus station with both being controlled spaces providing a point of pause to the people who are otherwise on the move. These are significant transit points and inserts in the centre of urban roads and in the context of diverse urban activities. Thus, the Janmarg bus station has evolved into a well designed, simple and yet contemporary structure that is also completely barrier-free, giving access to a marginalised section of society that includes the differently disabled, children, pregnant women and the elderly. Twelve meter ramps on each side, tactile blocks, adequate space for wheel chair movement and at grade alighting make this task possible.
The bus stop design has specially been made considering its location – in the centre of the road – and its safety for and accessibility by passengers. Stainless steel cables have ensured transparency and hence security, climatic efficiency and a distinct identity to the system. Bollards have been installed at all pedestrian crossings for safe access.
Important to the continuity of the BRT system has been its operations plan. A well worked out route, with a proper operations plan, needs well trained manpower. Hence, special training workshops for drivers (practical and theoretical) along with yoga programmes for their mental and physical health are a continuous part of the system. Drivers take pride in being precise and considerate. The training focuses on appropriate docking at the bus stations as that is likely to challenge the safety of the system. Elaborate testing of scheduling and bus operations and signal interface has also been part of the operations plan. For vehicle tracking and controlling the system, a Control Room is set up at Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL) at the Municipal Corporation Office. With the help of this system, passengers get real time information on bus arrivals at their bus stops.
Setting up of SPV
AMC was aware that creating the infrastructure was only one part of a successful system, the other being its management and maintenance. For this purpose, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) – Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL) has been formulated with the Commissioner of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Chairman. Other members of the SPV include pofessional experts, executive director, representatives of the people and an exclusive working staff. This generates a corporate structure and a professional working culture that is expected to ensure a continued well managed system.
The system was named Janmarg by the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi as it was envisaged as a system to facilitate the carrying of all the citizens of Ahmedabad, in safety and comfort and at high speeds. A separate logo, designed by NID, gives it its distinct identity which can also be seen in the special buses with a distinct colour and graphics.
As a tool for branding Janmarg, a catalogue has been prepared with briefing on the project, its design principles and characteristics. Apart from this, brochures, illustrative cartoon strips and other materials like yearly newsletters are also prepared and distributed to help spread the idea of a dedicated bus transit system in the city. Bus stop models and Janmarg branded pens are specially made and gifted as souvenirs.
Other initiatives taken include uniform designs for AJL and control centre staff, workshop staff, station operators, bus operators, depot staff, BRTS police and AJL staff.
People’s Acceptance: After creating the design, the most important challenge was to bring the system to the people, instill confidence among them on its reliability and make it an acceptable and welcome alternative to the existing ineffective system. One of the unique experiments of the process of implementation has been the AJL’s continuous connection with the people regarding the system. This has been done through various measures like proto typing the bus stops, free trial runs, conducting surveys on the conditions of the system and its running.
A prototype bus stop design has been constructed to understand the reaction and gain public understanding and opinion. Before bringing the system to the people on a regular basis, a short stretch of 13kms was opened as a trial. It was run free of charge and people from all walks of life came on it, bringing with them their opinions, concerns, cheer and goodwill. About 20,000 people per day used to take a ride on the system and during Navaratri, a special festival in Ahmedabad, the number of passengers rose to 35,000 per day. Special rides were organised for school children, making Ahmedabad move closer to being a child-friendly city. Eminent citizens, doctors, industrialists, religious leaders and government employees were encouraged to use the system and become its brand ambassadors. Thus, the system has now embarked on a complete public partnership programme. National and international experts have refined the system further.
With a 25Kms route in operation and deploying of 39 buses by now, higher ridership is observed due to extension of the Maninagar and Narol corridor. The total ridership has increased from 17,000 to 70,000 on an average since the past eight months of operation and will rise further.
More than half of total passengers travel on BRTS for the purpose of travelling to the workplace. About 50% of total commuters have shifted from city bus service, around 28% from auto rickshaws and about 21% of passengers have moved from two-wheelers and cars to BRTS.
Many workshops have now been conducted to share the Janmarg experience with people all across the globe. Within a few months of implementation, the project attracted national and international visitors like delegates from Indonesia, Vietnam, Nigeria and Bangladesh. Delegates from cities like Bangalore, Indore, Pune and Raipur have also visited Ahmedabad city for understanding the planning, implementation, operations and maintenance of the system through a series of workshops conducted by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and CEPT University. Consultations with stakeholders like operators and bus manufacturers have also been organised to get their perspective.
Minister’s National Award for Excellence in Urban Planning and Design” in 2009-10 by MoUD, Government of India. Within a span of a month of national recognition, the city was chosen for an international award. It was presented the 2010 Sustainable Transport Award for visionary achievements in sustainable transportation and urban liveability at a function held at Washington on January 12, 2010. Janmarg is a dynamic system which has been evolving continuously and is sensitive to the needs of the people it carries. As new routes are laid out, new challenges are posed and resolved in an innovative manner. Continuous surveys are being conducted, people’s feedback is being evaluated and analysed by CEPT, results being computed and patterns derived to aid operations.
An entire gamut of data is now available to other systems as Janmarg becomes a live laboratory. As Janmarg collects goodwill, the media has played its role, both through encouragement and through constructive criticism. It also underscores the quality of life that Ahmedabad anticipates for its citizens – safe, secure and reliable. But the completion of Phase II by the end of 2012 will not be the end of the vision. Phase III is in the pipeline as the total length in the overall plan has been decided at 217kms. While the first two parts are taking care of 90 kms, the third phase needs to detail further course of action. The Ahmedabad experiment has also been replicated in Surat where a 35kms stretch is already under construction. Rajkot too has adopted the system for a 10kms stretch initially. The road is under construction in Rajkot as well.IP Gautam, IAS Municipal Commissioner Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Prof Shivanand Swamy Associate Director, CEPT University, Ahmedabad Executive Director, Centre of Excellence in Urban Transport, CEPT University