The BRT stays for now - but debate over it continues

April 27th, 2008 - 12:23 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) The Indian capital’s new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system - dedicated bus and non-bus lanes to speed up and discipline traffic - has proved to be a nightmare for commuters. Experts say the authorities have failed to design it keeping the peculiarities of Delhi roads in mind. Although a decision to go ahead with the project’s proper implementation (so long only testing was going on) was taken Saturday, there is considerable pressure on the Delhi government to scrap the Rs.1.80-billion system that so far runs on the 5.6-km stretch from Ambedkar Nagar to Moolchand in south Delhi.

“The concept of the BRT corridor is perfect, but its implementation is pathetic. It was initiated with a focus to encourage people to use the public transport system instead of private vehicles. But the way it is being implemented is not acceptable to anyone,” a top Delhi Police official told IANS.

“There are four lanes, but only two are dedicated for private vehicles that constitute a major chunk of traffic. One was given for buses and one was given to cycle riders.”

With plans to expand BRT to six other parts of the city, which has over 5.2 million vehicles, just two lanes for private vehicles does not seem feasible.

“For smooth vehicular movement we need at least three lanes for private vehicles and the bus lane has to be at the extreme left instead of right,” explained the police official, who did not want to be named because of service rules.

“Commuters have already begun using arterial and radial roads to avoid being stuck in long jams on the corridor.”

BRT, patterned on similar systems operational in many cities in Asia and Latin America, is meant as a system of mass transportation wherein dedicated lanes are provided for buses either in the middle or extremes ends of the road.

The next two lanes are provided for other motorised vehicles (MV), including cars, two wheelers, three wheelers and heavy vehicles. The bus lane is physically segregated from the MV lane by means of concrete dividers. A cycle track is provided to the left of the MV lane for non-motorised traffic, next to which is a footpath for pedestrians.

All bus stops are located in the middle of the road. The bus stops and footpaths are disabled-friendly.

Yet this model has not worked in Delhi where an estimated 6.5 million people use buses for commuting every day - a number that the government was hoping to push up through the 45 spacious, eco-friendly buses that are to be plied on the BRT from May.

“We may duplicate Bogota’s system but Delhi is not Bogota (Colombian capital), where the project is successful as the traffic is half of what it is here. Similarly our system lacks facilities for underpasses or over-bridges,” said another police official.

“Do you think it makes sense to provide six-foot wide roads to pedestrians and cyclists? The space could have been shortened and used in providing more space for vehicles,” the official rued.

He said no discussions were made with Delhi Police prior to and during the implementation of the project.

However, the BRT corridor has found backers among two environmental watchdogs defending the new traffic segregation model and saying it should be given time to iron out initial hiccups.

“The BRT system means a massive transition in Delhi’s traffic ways, therefore implementation problems are bound to happen. But scrapping the project cannot be a solution for the capital’s traffic woes,” Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) director Sunita Narain said.

“The BRT system will supplement the metro and be part of the integrated transport that will be the future of the city. We need to build a public transport system where all metro, road and proposed monorail are interlinked,” said Narain.

Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) chairman Bhure Lal also backed the project, saying that BRT was necessary as 1,000 new motor vehicles were added to the city’s roads every day.

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