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To cater to the increasing demand for public transport systems, governments have invested in local rail services, metros and bus services. The cities of Mumbai and Kolkata are located in the peninsular regions of the country and therefore cannot expand their road transport networks (Pucher, Korattyswaroopam and Ittyerah 2004). Mumbai and Kolkata have dedicated 11 per cent and 5 per cent respectively, of its total land area for buses (Ibid). These cities have invested in local trains and have become a more preferred means of public transport. In cities like Delhi and Chennai that face no such geographic restrictions the bus services are reaching out to the peripheries. Delhi has dedicated 21 per cent of its total area for buses (Ibid). Thus we can observe that to tackle the problem of urban transport, Mumbai and Kolkata are relying on their widespread suburban rail transport. Construction of the metro is currently under way in Chennai and the plan for introducing a monorail in the city has been finalised but its implementation has not yet begun (Sasidharan 2012).
But more number of people that rely on public transport, commute by buses (Pucher, Korattyswaroopam and Ittyerah 2004). Taking the factors of capacity, comfort and speed into account, buses are a preferred choice. But the problems plaguing bus transport in almost all cities in India are congestion on roads, pollution, limited networks, cost efficiency and safety (Jaiswal, et al. 2012).
With more people preferring to own their own vehicles, the traffic on the roads has increased making it difficult for buses to operate. With a variety of vehicles such as personal transport, buses and bullock carts occupying the streets, traffic woes and congestion further worsen. This results in increased costs and time which discourage people from travelling in buses. All these contribute to the air and noise pollution in cities. Limited bus routes have not only made commuting a nightmare for citizens but also led to overcrowded buses which have resulted in a number of accidents which has become a cause of great concern. There are approximately 80,000 deaths that take place in India annually due to mishaps on the road (Jain, et al. n.d.).
Another important factor that has been responsible for inefficient bus services in the country is the low cost recovery rates. A considerable size of the urban population lives below the poverty line, hence bus fares have been kept low for their convenience. But this has resulted in limited revenues for the government to fund maintenance, repairs and replacement of buses (Pucher, Korattyswaroopam and Ittyerah 2004). However, the bus system in Bangalore has been able to cover its cost a 100% and also make a 5% profit(Pucher, Korattyswaroopam and Ittyerah 2004). Other cities like Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai have been able to cover 92%, 80% and 72% of their costs respectively. Kolkata, has been least profitable with a meagre 42% cost recovery rate (Ibid). These issues with the public transport system stress on the urgent need for a sustainable transport system, one which focuses on a safe and environment friendly mode of transport that provides citizens accessibility and mobility within cities (Krishnan, Sharma and Jaiswal 2012).
It is widely believed that a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) is capable of doing exactly this (Jaiswal, et al. 2012). The aim of such a system is to provide ecologically sustainable and cost effective bus services with better facilities, comfort and speed than that of an ordinary bus line. It involves upgrading the current infrastructure of our transit system by using modernized equipment and operations that gives preferential treatment to buses on urban roadways (Krishnan, Sharma and Jaiswal 2012).
Methodology of the study
This study is entirely qualitative in nature. It comprises solely of secondary research, mainly because our case studies where distant from Bangalore making it difficult to collect primary data. For secondary data, the study has referred to many documents including various research papers, reports and studies conducted on the efficiency of the BRTS, websites and newspaper articles.
What is Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS)?
A BRTS is designed to give priority to buses through dedicated lanes for bus, pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles. There is no specific or clear-cut definition of BRTS, mainly because it is a broad term that has been looked by many scholars differently. One of the most famous definitions is the one given by Wright. He believes that BRTS that is 'Bus Rapid Transit System' is a
"Bus-based mass transit system that delivers the urban vast population with a fast, comfortable, cost-effective and an urban mobility for all" (Wright 2005).
It provides an unimpeded right of way to buses, increasing their efficiency and reducing the time taken for travel. It combines the speed, reliability and amenities of rail-based rapid transit systems with the flexibility of buses. It is a high-capacity transport system which is implemented by using buses through infrastructure planning and scheduling improvements that would help in providing better services to the population. It requires high investments in the modern technologies such as Advance Traveller Information System (ATIS) and Automatic tracking of buses, which aim at bringing in a newer way of ticketing, bus scheduling and traffic signal priority. Hence, to encapsulate BRTS is a system of integrating modern technology with an applicable service design along with a customer interface.
Characteristics of BRTS
1. Physically isolated bus ways: A separate lane which is exclusively kept side for the buses plying by BRTS. This allows for greater speed and lesser congestion of buses and absolutely no traffic.
2. It has been said that BRTS is a relatively cheaper mode of transportation and can be implemented more widely than other transport systems. The cost percentages are lesser, about 10 to 20% of that of light rail and 1 to 10% of the Metro (Jaiswal 2012). This is because it can be tailored to the requirements of the public by increasing the frequency of buses and the number of bus stops.
3. The gestation time for BRTS is relatively short. The duration of construction for 18 km of the BRTS track is expected to take one to three years and in the case of metropolitan cities it is expected to take three to five years, which is shorter than that of developing metros in urban cities (Jaiswal 2012).
4. BRTS is on 'at grade level' as it involves the construction of comfortable and efficient high station platforms and shelter that caters to the needs of the disabled.
5. In BRTS, commuters can only cross at the zebra crossings, thus this will help bring down fatality rates drastically.
6. There is no rigid structure in BRTS that is it is flexible to meet the demands of the growing population and can accommodate local preferences, population density, geography, budgetary constraints, and existing institutional structures.
Figure 3: Characteristics of BRTS
Source: "Developing Bus Rapid Transit System in India" by Madhuri Jain, Arti Saxena, Preetvanti Singh, and P.K Saxena, p.9
The History of BRTS
The BRTS system in Colombia called the TransMilenio system began its operation in 2001. As a result of its success, a number of countries, both developed and developing have emulated its model by retaining some essential features and also by making changes to make it applicable in their cities. (One world Foundation, 2012).
The concept of BRTS is being promoted by the New York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). BRTS has been increasingly adopted in the Asian countries since 2004. BRTS is currently under construction in 18 cities and under consideration in 5 cities in Asia (Kumara 2009). In India, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) aims to boost and reform development in the field of urban public transport. The BRTS was launched in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Vishakhapatnam, Pune, Indore, Jaipur and Bhopal. Moreover, recently in 2012, BRTS has been proposed in fourteen more cities (Asia BRTS meet ends 2012).
The Ahmedabad BRTS Experience-Case I
Started in October 2009, the Ahmedabad BRTS - known as Janmarg- is among the most successful solutions to the problem of inefficient urban public transportation in India. For this successful implementation, the city received numerous awards (Ahmedabad Bus Rapid Transit System n.d.):
1. National Award for "Best Mass Transit Rapid System Project - 2009" from Government of India.
2. International Award for "Sustainable Transport Award - 2010" at Washington DC, USA.
3. International Award for "Outstanding Innovations in Public Transportation - 2010" from UITP, Germany.
4. National Award for "Best Innovation Project Towards Improvement in Urban Mobility in the City of Ahmedabad through New Technological Innovations in Janmarg BRTS - 2010" from Government of India.
5. International Award for Design - "Daring Ambition Award and Knowledge and Research Award - 2011" at 59th UITP World Congress, Dubai.
6. National Award for "Award for Excellence in the category of Best ITS Project - 2011" from Government of India.
Ahmedabad is the largest city in Gujarat, and the seventh largest metropolitan area in India (Census 2011). Historically, it has been a city known for its thriving business communities. Given the new economic opportunities post liberalization and rapid industrial growth of India and in particular Gujarat; the city has been expanding rapidly in recent years.
Table 1: Population of Ahmedabad Metropolitan
Source: National Institute of Urban Affairs, 2011
Geographically, it is a compact city characterised by a great mixture of residential and business areas which seem to blend into each other. It is characterized by a few areas having high density of population, a few well developed areas. It also consists of a balanced street network system with well-developed 5 ring roads and 17 radial roads (NIUA, 2011). Total roadlength is about 2400 km. There are 7 bridges that span across the magnificent Sabarmati river to connect the eastern part of the city with west (Ibid). The city also has two prominent railway stations - Ahmedabad City Station and Maninagar station.
History of City's Transport System
From the early 1940's, there have been local buses plying through the city. Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS), a part of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) ran and operated buses in the city. It was reasonably efficient. However, due to a variety of reasons, the bus fleet could not be expanded and meet the demands of the growing population. For example, from 1995 to 2005, the number of vehicles in the city jumped from 0.51 million to 1.2 million. The per capita statistics would make this supply gap even starker. In 1990, Ahmedabad had 110 vehicles per 1000 people, in 2002; it became 280 vehicles per 1000 people. Vehicles here would include bicycles. Thus, it was abundantly clear that there was a massive supply gap in public transport(Jaiswal, et al. 2012).
In 2005, taking cognizance of this supply gap and the financial constraints of the Ahmedabad Corporation into consideration, it was decided to allow private players to become part of the public transport system, along with the existing AMTC buses.
Table 2: Trends in Bus Fleet
Total Bus Fleet
Source: Urban Transport Initiatives in India : Best Practices in PPP, National institute for Urban Affairs, 2011.
As can be seen clearly from the table, the decision to allow privatization increased the total strength of the public transport system. However, the critical problems remained unsolved.
Most of the traffic is dominated by two wheelers, and three wheelers. According to the household survey conducted by the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology in 2006 (NIUA, 2011), 8 lakh bicycles ply on the city streets accounting for up to 19% of the total trips and the city has 22 lakh registered vehicles of which two wheelers are about 73%. There are comparatively fewer 4 wheelers, accounting for 12.5% (Kumara, 2009). There are more than 35,000 three wheelers. Several of them use adulterated fuels, leading to air pollution. It was the most polluted city in the country in 2003, according to a list prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (NIUA, 2011). A shift to CNG fuels in 2005 improved the situation to an extent.
What this means in real terms is relatively simple. More number of vehicles on the same amount of roads implies more congestion on the streets. Under such congestions, a policy to improve public transport by merely increasing the bus fleet will not solve any problems.