After successfully running in almost two hundred cities around the globe, the BRT system is aptly perceived as an ideal solution for future, for: Ending Traffic Congestion, better fuel consumption, sustainable solution for quick, efficient, and safe transportation and substantial reduction in travel time.
But in Delhi’s sluggish bureaucratic culture, lack of scientific temperament, absence of any path breaking idea, and utterly corrupt practices are killing this highly sought after solution. Right from the day one, there were adverse and naïve criticisms of BRT projects in Delhi, led by bribe happy bureaucrats, visionless politicians, rusted and inexperienced traffic and city planners and a motivated part of the media, which ultimately ended it unceremoniously and without harnessing its worldwide success and meticulous advantages.
Now the question is rightfully raised: Is it done as per a plan to help the powerful Car manufacturer and Car finance lobbies in Delhi and the NCR!
If carefully analysed, every road development project in Delhi and NCR has been implemented in the most people un-friendly way.
Be its endless flyovers, underpasses, toll roads or express highways …everything is done, keeping in view the car users. The footpaths have been taken over by Car Parking spaces, shops and the street vendors, parking zones for mushrooming nursing homes and hotels or car mechanic shops… obviously through regular palm greasing. No perceivable space left for the pedestrians or cyclists. The old people, kids, women walking 2-3 kilometres in the scorching sun along a flyover…to reach the next bus stop! And city busses never had any schedule or regularity.
Delhi’s Public Transport system (Leave aside the Metro Rail), specially the City Bus System is worst among the world Capitals, except perhaps in some West African or Sub Saharan countries!
A huge amount of money has been spent on Delhi’s Bus Transport System, but most of it lost in bribes, in clandestine private channels, in nepotism and political patronage. Only a few years ago, before the advent of low floor busses, the entire Bus Transport System in Delhi was dependant on abominable mofussil type ramshackle private busses running on the roads without any perceivable rules or regulations, hawking and halting on the streets whimsically, just by keeping happy the respective government officials.
People used to call them, the so called blue-line busses, “Shitty Busses”. And they were allegedly run by a nexus of politicians, unscrupulous transporters, bureaucrats and even police honchos!
Cities around the globe are looking for sustainable ways for transporting the citizens efficiently, rapidly, and securely, way through their streets. One of the prime solutions is ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ (BRT), a city-oriented, high-speed bus transit system in which buses run on dedicated routes.
BRT is today widely implemented in both the developed and developing countries with growing success and greater convenience.
Various researches have shown that BRT can reduce travel time by millions of hours for commuters worldwide.
For example, BRT users in the city of Istanbul in Turkey save 28 days per year by shifting from other transport modes to BRT. Commuters in Johannesburg in South Africa are going to save an estimated 73 million hours between the years, 2007 and 2026. And its equivalent of more than 9 million eight-hour work-days in that country.
A new research by EMBARQ, ‘Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts of Bus Rapid Transit Systems’, extensively examined worldwide confirmations as well as four in-depth case studies of BRT systems in Mexico City, Mexico ,Bogota, Colombia, Johannesburg, South Africa and Istanbul, Turkey.
It has concluded that BRT has improved quality of life in the cities by at least four significant means: saving travel time, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and local air pollutant emissions, improving traffic safety, and increasing physical activity.
The first BRT system the ‘Rede Integrada de Transporte’ (‘Integrated Transportation Network’) was opened in Curitiba, Brazil, which had started its service in the year 1974-75.
The success of the system in Curitiba has encouraged similar systems around Brazil itself and the globe. Another such highly successful system has been ‘TransMilenio’ in Bogota, Colombia, which was opened in the year 2000.
The USA and China has been implementing the system successfully in their cities, around these years. In Asia, apart from Chinese cities, Jakarta and Istanbul have been implemented it with growing success.
Not just that, the neighbouring country Pakistan, after the initial success of the system in Lahore, following the Istanbul model, is now going to extend the system in Rawalpindi, Karachi, Faisalabad and Multan.
Curitiba, showed the way to the world
Currently more than 200 cities around the globe have implemented BRT systems, accounting for 6,000 km of BRT lanes.
Worldwide, around 35 million commuters use BRT everyday, of which about 20 million commuters use it daily in Latin America alone, which has the most cities with BRT systems, with 60 cities at present, of which 33 cities are in Brazil.
BRTS Ahmedabad, a people friendly transport system
In India, its Gujarat at the forefront again. Ahmedabad has become the first Indian city to implement a successful BRT system, starting around the time Delhi did. While Delhi’s top heavy bureaucratic system ended in scrapping the highly potential project, Ahmedabad in first instance, sought direction from Enrique Penelosa, the former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, who gave the world the success Mantra for BRT!
Last year, ‘The Asia LEDS Partnership’, with significant assistances from Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), has organised a regional workshop on June 24-25, , in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Over 65 representatives from Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Philippines, India and Vietnam had participated in the workshop to quantify the economic, social and environmental benefits of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems.
BRTS Istanbul, hugely successful
In addition to SPAD, other technical partners included the LEDS Global Partnership Transport Working Group, World Resources Institute EMBARQ, Clean Air Asia, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), United Nations University – Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), and Institute for Global Environmental Studies (IGES).
The participants have discussed in details, how thousands of kilometres of dedicated BRT corridors have helped to transform mobility in cities, around the globe. It was elaborated how constructing BRT systems have brought a stream of benefits including saving fuel, reducing travel time, increasing access to transportation services, reducing emissions, reducing the frequency of accidents, improving public health, and generally improving the liveability of cities.
The problem perceived was that, many of these BRT system benefits are often not quantified due to pertaining blocks such as lack of knowledge, appropriate methodologies, and lack of qualified manpower and data.
It concluded that: “These barriers hinder decision making to develop BRT systems, with stakeholders not acknowledging the full impacts of the system”.
Global Research Findings
The Bogota Model, Ahmedabad followed
- BRT is known for modern vehicles, established bus-way and implementations of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies, is found to be increasingly a cost-effective method for the provision of a high-quality transport service (Deng and Nelson, 2011).
- Most cities in the developing world are experiencing rapid urbanization, population growth and dispersal of amenities and activities .These have caused an increased demand for and dependence on personal motorized transportation leading to problems such as congestion, accidents, environmental degradation, parking, pollution, stress, noise and urban sprawl. The development of sustainable transport options such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems has witnessed tremendous growth, most notably cities in developing countries. These large, city-wide transportation projects are often central to larger urban revitalization plans intending to foster economic growth and sustainable development (Delmelle and Casas, 2012).
Guangzhou BRTS, China, carries over 1,000,000 passengers
- Public transportation plays a social role in the urban environment: it improves access to workplaces and service infrastructures and at the same time reduces travel expenses. Moreover, within the context of reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, many people believe that public transportation must play a major role as an alternative to the private car (Brebbia, 2007; Dubé et al., 2011; Rothenberg and Heggie, 1974).
BRTS Johannesburg, South Africa
- The ability of mass transit systems to encourage private vehicle users to switch to transit depends on many factors, most notably cost and service performance. The convenience of private vehicle use gives a difficult competitive environment for transit. Research in Bogotá indicates that approximately 10% of former vehicle users have now switched to the TransMilenio BRT system within just three years of operation (Gleave, 2003).
- The BRT system replaced conventional transport modes new articulated diesel buses. The implementation of the BRT system resulted in reductions in commuters’ exposure to CO, benzene and PM 2.5 ranging between 20 and 70%. The results suggest that BRT systems could in general be an effective means of reducing human exposure to traffic related air pollutants and associated health impacts (Wöhrnschimmel et al., 2008).
- One of the main elements of BRT system is Running Way (RW). RW should allow rapid and reliable movement of buses with minimum traffic interference and provide a clear sense of presence and permanence. The basic goal of a running way is to give BRT an operating environment where buses are free from delays caused by other vehicles and by certain regulations and to provide transit riders with better, more reliable service. BRT systems should therefore be considered as a cleaner and less hazardous alternative (from the health point of view) to conventional public transport systems, especially in the quickly growing cities of developing countries. At the same time, a proper maintenance of conventional transport modes should be ensured to reduce commuters’ exposures (Wöhrnschimmel et al., 2008).
How BRT Helps
BRTS in the USA, is spreading rapidly
Saving Travel Time
Dedicated bus lanes separating BRT buses from motley traffic, allow them to travel more rapidly through the city. Pre-paid boarding and level platforms somehow akin to a metro station rather than the traditional bus stop – quicken passenger boarding, while traffic signal management that prioritizes BRT buses, reduces waiting times.
In Johannesburg, BRT users save an average of 13 minutes each way during their daily commutes.
In Istanbul, the savings are higher- a regular Metrobüs passenger saves 52 minutes every day.
As estimated in Mexico City, savings stand to US $141 million in reclaimed economic productivity as the travel time drops.
The Teheran BRTS
Reducing Air Pollutant Emissions
BRT reduces the overall amount of Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) in a city by shifting passengers to high-capacity buses that can carry up to 175 passengers at a time. Fewer vehicles transporting the same amount of passengers decrease traffic congestion, and offer the scope to replace older, more polluting vehicles.
The modern fuel efficiency technologies in BRT buses and better driver training also contribute to lower fuel consumption and emissions. Cities experienced a better chance to reduce local air pollutants by effecting BRT systems.
Improving Traffic Safety
BRT systems reduce traffic crashes and fatalities in several ways. Firstly, an overall decrease in VKT results in fewer drivers on the road and a safer transport situation for drivers, commuters and pedestrians alike. Secondly, dedicated bus lanes reduce interaction between buses and other vehicles, minimising the risk for traffic crashes. Lastly, BRT can change bus drivers’ behavior by decreasing on-the-road competition with other vehicles. Latin American cities, which are at the forefront of implementing BRT systems, saw an average 40 percent reduction in injuries and fatalities.
Increasing Physical Activity
BRT systems increase physical activity of the commuters due to the spacing of BRT terminals that require longer walking distances than private vehicles and other motorised modes of transport. As estimated, Mexico City’s passengers walk an average of 2.75 minutes more per day than before the city implemented its BRT system. Users of Beijing’s BRT system have added 8.5 minutes of daily walking. WHO recommends adults aged 18-64 do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week. BRT passengers undoubtedly have a healthier way from their daily commuting.
Curitiba’s BRT Success Story
The bus system of Curitiba, Brazil, illustrates a highly successful Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, and plays a larger role in making it a highly liveable city. The buses here run frequently-some as often as every 90 seconds-and reliably, and the bus stations are efficient, well-designed, comfortable, and trendy.
Curitiba has one of the most optimally used, yet low-cost, transit systems in the world. It offers several of the features of subway system-vehicle movements: unimpeded by traffic signals and congestion, fare collection prior to boarding, quick passenger loading and unloading-but the entire system is above ground and publicly visible. p
Curitiba is the Capital city of the State of Parana in Southern Brazil. The city is located about 250 kilometers southwest of Sao Paulo near the coastal mountain range. It has a population of some 2.4 million distributed within city limits of about 430 square kilometers and a total metropolitan area population of approximate 3.5 million.
A wide-ranging plan for Curitiba was developed as early as in 1943, which had projected exponential growth in automobile traffic. Then in 1965, prompted by worries that Curitiba’s rapid growth would lead to unimpeded development and congested streets, the city planners adopted a new Master Plan.
In this new Plan, one thing was made clear that Curitiba would no longer grow in all directions from the core, but would grow along designated corridors in a linear form, goaded by zoning and land use policies encouraging high density industrial and residential development along these corridors.
Downtown Curitiba would no longer be the primary destination of travel, but a hub and terminus. Mass transit would replace the car as the primary means of transport within the city, and the development along the corridors would produce a high volume of transit ridership.
The broad roads laid in the earlier Plan would provide the cross section required for exclusive bus lanes in which an express bus service would operate.
Curitiba’s Bus system is made of a hierarchical system. Minibuses routed through residential neighbourhoods, feed passengers to conventional buses on circumferential routes around the central city and on inter-district routes. The backbone of the system is composed of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), operating on the five main arteries leading into the center of the city like spars on a wheel hub.
Buses running in the dedicated lanes stop at cylindrical, clear-walled tube stations with turnstiles, steps, and wheelchair lifts. Passengers pay their fares as they enter the stations, and wait for buses on raised platforms. The bus stations provide the dual functions of shelter and enabling the simultaneous loading and unloading of passengers, even including wheelchairs, quite competently.
This system of same-level bus boarding, plus the pre-boarding fare payment, results in a typical dwell time of no more than 15 to 19 seconds at a stop.
The popularity of Curitiba’s BRT has resulted in a modal shift from automobile travel to bus travel.
Based on 1991 traveller survey results, it was estimated that the introduction of the BRT had caused a reduction of about 27 million automobile trips per year, saving about 27 million liters of fuel annually.
In particular, 28 % of BRT riders in Curitiba previously travelled by car.
As compared to eight other Brazilian cities of its size, Curitiba uses about 30 % less fuel per capita, resulting in one of the lowest rates of air pollution in the country.
Today around 1,500 ultramodern buses makes some 13,500 trips every day, serving more than 1.8 million commuters, 60 times the number in last 20 years. Almost 70% of the city travellers now use the express or direct bus services.
And best of all, Curitibanos today spend only about 10 % of their income on travel. Too much below the national average!
A car lane will not be able to carry more than 1,250 cars per hour safely. Given the fact that on an average it carries less than two persons, the number of people a car lane carries does not exceed 2,500 persons per hour.
A bus on the other hand, with a minimum 50 seats, peak time load of say 70 persons, plying every minute, carries 70 x 60 = 4,200 persons.
If this frequency is increased to 30 seconds, it will carry 8,400 persons per hour. If the bus to be used is an advanced one with capacity of 175 passengers, the bus lane will carry 120 x 175 = 21,000 people per hour.
If there are three lanes on a road and there is mixed traffic on it, the number of persons the three-lane road carries, with stoppages at signals, etc, come to about 3,000 plus about 1,500 from 20 buses that may pass in an hour. Thus just 5,000 persons are carried by a three-lane road with mixed traffic.
In a dedicated bus lane, busses can ply in every 30 seconds also and it can then carry 60×60/30 x 70 = 8,400 people per hour. At a speed of 30 km/h and a small headway of 30 seconds, the distance between two consecutive buses would be as much as 250 m which would make other road users wanting to use the space.
With the dedicated bus lane or the BRT lane, the throughput of the three lane road would be as high as 3500 + 8400 = 11,900 persons per hour.
If developed buses with capacity of 175 or bigger volume two-tier busses with capacity of 250 per bus are deployed at 30 seconds headway, the throughput would be 120 x 175 = 21,000 and 120 x 250 = 30,000.
Thus, using bus rapid transport system (BRTS), overall mobility on the road is increased more than two-fold, five-fold and seven-fold of mixed traffic for normal, developed and bigger two tier buses respectively.
What Ails Delhi?
It’s now official, Delhi’s much contentious BRT system is now being officially scrapped.
The AAP-led Delhi Government on 21 July last has decided to scrap the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor system introduced by Shiela Dikshit-led Congress Government, on April 20, 2008.
“The decision to scrap BRT was taken in a meeting chaired by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal,” Delhi Law Minister Kapil Mishra said.
Surprisingly, it was one of the promises made by AAP in its electoral manifesto!
Right from the beginning, it was alleged that, various vested interest groups. In tandem with an uninformed media, took the cudgel against BRT corridor in Delhi!
Only one phase was made operational, in all these years
And none of these journalists had commuted by busses or for that reason, the public transport system ever!
Litigation after litigations was filed in the High Court and Supreme Court, to stall the project.
The then State Government was right in its stand that only a small section of car owners complained while a large category of daily passengers using public transport was overall satisfied.
A report prepared by a purely bureaucrat run organisation. ‘Central Road Research Institute’ (CRRI) in 2012 that suggested that “No BRT” option was most suitable under present traffic conditions in Delhi. The report was over hyped as a guideline to dismantle the optimistic project.
During Court proceedings, Delhi Government had rejected the CRRI report terming it “unconstitutional” and “irrational” as it ignored the rights of bus commuters.
The stand was supported by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan who represented NGO, ‘National Alliance of People’s Movement’. He trashed the CRRI study as “unscientific” and anti-poor commuter.
A particular organisation, named ‘Nyayabhoomi’, headed by one Mr. B.B. Sharan, came out with preposterous arguments, while spearheading the campaign against the BRT. Find here some specimens of his argument: …those who travel in their own cars are the decision-makers, therefore, they should get a priority over buses. The bus users can wait because they are engaged in less important jobs.
According to a BBC report, Mr Sharan argued: “You cannot keep a commander-in-chief waiting in traffic while his army is waiting for his orders. How does it matter if a peon reaches office five minute before time?”
The Delhi High Court dismissed the petition by Nyayabhoomi seeking scrapping of the corridor.
Underdeveloped BRTS in Delhi is now scrapped
The HC said that, Courts should not interfere with a policy matter aimed at promoting public transport. “Within the parameters of a scope of judicial review, the scattered material placed before us would not justify a conclusion that BRT as a concept is bad and is a misfit in Delhi and thus should be scrapped,” the HC had observed.
The Court had also said that motorists sooner or later would shift to public transport due to limited scope of expanding the width of roads. “Even if we were to accept the argument that as of today, with the implementation of BRT corridor some inconvenience is being caused… We see no escape from the fact that citizens of Delhi have to, one day or the other, use public transport,” it stated.
Nipping In The Bud!
According to a survey, the number of vehicles on Delhi’s roads increased from 3.3 million in 2000–01 to 7 million in 2010–11. Today, it must be more than 10 million and the number is still growing.
And if compared to other Capitals of the world, less than 10% people in Delhi use private cars, with 33% traveling by bus and 30% walking to work.
The length of roads in Delhi has increased by 17% between 1991 and 2008 with new flyovers and underpasses. The Ring Road has been made signal-free with the construction of 15 flyovers. The Delhi Metro opened its first section in 2002 and now carries more than two and half million passengers every day.
At the same time, the pedestrians have almost become marginalised and journey times and air pollution both have substantially increased.
There is very little scope for building new roads or widen the existing roads, which already make up 21% of the city’s total land area.
The Delhi BRT system was inspired by similar systems in Curitiba, Brazil which had introduced and implementing the system for last 40 years, successfully. Later, similar systems were being introduced in Bogotá, Colombia (TransMilenio), Guayaquil, Ecuador (Metrovia) and the Eugene, Oregon, USA(Emerald Express (EmX).
The National Capital Region Territory Development Authority had appointed RITES and IIT Delhi to design and implement a system for the city in 2004. TRIPP IIT Delhi was appointed as technical and conceptual advisors.
The Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) was initiated in the year2006 to supervise the public transport systems in Delhi and operate it on a day-to-day basis.
A DIMTS commissioned Socio-Economic Survey on the issue of BRT Corridor, more than 50% of respondents had asked for: “timeliness of bus service, clean busses, well trained and well behaved staff and certainty of bus service”. 85% of the respondents, who were presently not using public transport system, also showed their willingness to use new BRT system if it is properly run and well maintained.
In 2012 too, after so many unwarranted litigations and continuous negative reports in the press, it was reported that 70% of users of BRT were moving faster and there has been a 32% increase in bus ridership.
Transport observers said that the entire debate over private versus public transport reflects the mindset that believes in the great social divide that has existed in Delhi, due to its colonial past.
In a city mostly made of refugees and migrants, it manifests the class divide in a status-conscious milieu, where a car is considered more of a status symbol than a convenient mode of transport.
The initial phase of the 14.5 km long corridor from Ambedkar Nagar to Delhi Gate was impended from the day one. The overburdened city had to delay implementation of a further 14 fast-track bus corridors in response to the level of controversy created by the first scheme.
Unlike other cities, where it was successful, the legality of the BRT system was seriously challenged in the Court in 2012. During the nine-month-long legal challenge the Delhi High Court initially ruled that private vehicles should be allowed the use the bus lanes on a temporarily basis and ordered the Government to review the feasibility of the project.
Delhi Government appealed to the Supreme Court of India against the ruling in July 2012, but was unsuccessful. The High Court subsequently ruled in favour of the scheme however, concluding that: “a developed country is not one where the poor own cars. It is one where the rich use public transport”.
The embattled BRT was not extended beyond its initial 5.8 km pilot length, which grossly minimised its major benefits.
And now, the optimistic project is dismantled eventually.
Lobbying Against It!
Some vested interest lobbies were enraged when the BRT was given priority in mass transport system in Delhi, over private cars.
The mainstream media was made active against this growingly popular idea.
An editorial in a largely circulated newspaper even declared that the BRT was a despicable Leftist scheme to spread socialism on Delhi’s roads, fit for Mao’s China, to “Ensure equal distribution of traffic and road space by “taking away” lanes from private vehicles to persuade (read force) car-owners to shift to public transport.”
The humble bus commuter in Delhi sometimes had to wait for as long as one hour for the bus to arrive. When it does, it is often full. And one is never sure of the amount of time it will take! Everything is uncertain and whimsical.
But story at the much-maligned Bus Rapid Transit Corridor (BRT) was somehow different. Take the case of Sheikh Sarai bus stand (the BRT intersection) .Every bus user, a pedestrian found it safer to approach than many other busy intersections in parts of Delhi. Apart from the exceptions might be elite roads of Lutyen’s Delhi, no one had seen such good footpaths anywhere else in the city. And undoubtedly, the bus journeys on the BRT corridor would have been much faster had cars stuck to their designated lanes. People who travel in cars might not like the BRT corridor, but the commuters always liked the experience.
The BRT, an incursion that served the majority of people on the road, is now being scrapped because influential residents of colonies like Panchsheel, GK I, GK II, Defence Colony and likes perhaps not liked dedicated lanes for the pedestrians, cyclists and buses!
Several observers and analysts have made it clear about this lobby, of car manufacturers, interested bureaucrats, powerful policy planners, car loan providers and pro-corporate NGOs.
For the unbiased observers, it is lamentable that the Delhi government has prioritised taking back the space from the transport of the masses to give it to the polluting cars and SUVs in a city where public bus system is erratic, irregular and inadequate and due to growing vehicular pollution, every third child has impaired lungs.
Now, the ‘Centre for Science and Environment’ (CSE) has alleged that the Government has “given in to the car lobby”, saying dismantling the bus corridor will mean giving the road space meant for buses to cars.
In its statement, CSE has said:
- This decision has been taken even before the government could present its plans to the people of Delhi on how it proposes to scale up affordable public transport for the masses to meet the Delhi Master Plan target of 80% public transport ridership by 2020.
- Delhi government’s budget plans more buses but it shies away from allocating dedicated road space and parking spaces for buses. Defeats the purpose.
- Recommendations on making BRT fully functional and effective were not implemented
- This move will turn the clock back on pollution control efforts in the city
Anumita Roy Chowdhury, CSE’s Executive Director has said that the Delhi government has also made no effort to implement the local solutions crafted by Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) and Delhi Integrated Multi-modal Transit System Ltd. (DIMTS) to ease the stretch before a full network can be put in place.
RITES forecasts that even after the full completion of the Metro rail project, Metro ridership will still be at 20 per cent of all trips in 2021. The bulk of the public transport services will have to be bus-based and BRT will help meet the bulk of public transport ridership.”
CSE also said that the scrapping of the BRT corridor went against the basic principles of the National Urban Transport Policy, which advises planning of roads for people, not just for vehicles.
By Deep Basu
Images were supplied by author