Rajpath, the Second BRT System in Gujarat, Chugs into Rajkot City.

The Launch Story of Rajpath (In English-Road of the Royal)BRTS : Rajkot, one of the fastest growing cities in India with a population of 1.2 million, has become the second city in Gujarat to launch a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS). Modeled on the success of Ahmedabad’s Janmarg BRTS, it began free trial runs on a 10.5km operational pilot blue corridor during October 2012. At present, 11 buses are carrying an average 6,500 passengers daily. The Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), the local municipal body, christened the new public transport service Rajpath, or “Road of the Royal.” The name derives its origin from the history of the princely state of Rajkot prior to Indian independence. The corridor runs parallel to the 150 Feet Ring Road, which is rapidly developing and interspersed with shopping malls and residential construction.Rajkot Rajpath Ltd (RRL), the special purpose vehicle of Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), the city’s municipal agency, operate the buses, decide on the fares, maintain bus lanes and maintain bus shelters.

Initial Success :Recently, the city celebrated the BRTS nomination as one of the semi-finalists for 2013 International Transport Forum’s Transport Achievement Award. Since its launch of trial run in October, 2012 more than six lakh (0.6 million) passengers have travelled by the bus. The commercial operation of BRTS started in May 2013.

Growing Dependence on Private Vehicles – City’s nightmare :Rajkot city is spread out into 104.86 square kilometre of area. However, the city is witnessing motor vehicle growth of  9.5 per cent annually2 putting pressure on the existing road network and ever-increasing demand for parking. The highest growth is of two-wheelers, with 9.8 per cent, while public transport in the city is abysmally poor at just 0.5 per cent. Rajpath BRT is a major step toward a formal public transport system in Rajkot, where most public transport demand in the city is served informally by three-wheeled auto rickshaws.

Push for Transit Orient Development:The new system provides an opportunity to achieve a long-term modal shift toward public transport through coordinated land use and transport planning.To allow more residents to live and work near BRT stations, RMC has increased the allowed densities along the corridor. RMC in a bid to encourage transit oriented development has increased the floor space index (FSI) limit from 1.50 FSI to 2.25 FSI along BRTS corridor on the 150-Feet Ring Road. The FSI increase adds 250 meters on both sides of the BRT corridor.

Best Practices in  Rajpath BRTS: Rajpath features BRT best practices such as median stations, off-board fare collection, and at-level boarding. Electronic ticketing with smart cards is planned but not yet implemented. Planners also chose to follow Ahmedabad’s approach to contracting and institutional oversight by retaining a private bus operator who receives payment on a per-kilometer basis. The Ahmedabad model has become a successful model for BRT in India.

Accessibility for Non-Motorized Traffic : Rajkot BRTS has a dedicated concrete road, 7.1 meters wide with two lanes, widening to 9.7 meters at junctions, also featuring integrated and well-designed cycle tracks and pedestrian pathways. The cycle tracks are a great first step and can serve as a model for further non-motorized transport improvements in the city.

Rajkot BRTS bus stop in the city.

 The Rajpath BRTS Project in a Nutshell : The Rajpath BRTS project is supported by Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India, Urban Development & Urban Housing Department, Government of Gujarat (UD & UHD), Gujarat Urban Development Mission (GUDM), Rajkot City Traffic Police and Regional Transport Office (RTO) and the implementing agency is RMC. The entire Rajkot system will be implemented in three phases and eventually will cover a length of 63.5 km with three BRT corridors. The first phase was implemented at a cost of INR 175 (USD 29.6 million), of which USD 10.6 million went towards a split flyover along the corridor. The funding came through the Government of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, which contributed half of the total project cost. The remainder came from RMC, the municipal body (30 percent) and the Government of Gujarat (20 percent).

Challenges for Rajpath BRTS : The major issue remains the integration of different modes of travel and the feeder bus system. The pilot corridor is not yet fed by a dedicated city bus service. A robust communications and outreach plan to encourage public transport use and discourage dependence on private vehicles needs to be prioritized and implemented.

 Gujarat, an emerging hub of BRT Projects in India: In addition to Rajkot, two more cities in Gujarat, Surat and Vadodara, are planning BRTS corridors. Surat plans to launch in early 2013. Public Transport like BRTS has the potential to re-define cities in India, which are witnessing an exponential increase in the number of private vehicles, leading to poor air quality and bad health.

 

Sources:

Rajkot Rajapth Limited: http://www.rajkotrajpath.com

Photo Credit: Rajkot Rajpath Limited 

Hits & Misses in Cyclesharing in India

Cycle sharing story in India so far 

Caught up in traffic jam for long hours and agonising wait for short-distance commute for public transport system in Mumbai, one of the busiest place in India, Raj Janagam, came up with Cycle Chalao, an organised system of renting out cycles at certain parts in Mumbai to provide last mile connectivity to hapless commuters.The pilot project started with 30 cycles. It was operational on 2.5 kilometres between  Mulund East Railway Station and Vaze Kelkar college in Mumbai. This was an instant hit among  young commuters. The system helped the commuters who get out of buses and trains and then have to wait for long or haggle with autos and cabs to reach home or near by offices which were located within a kilometre or two.

A cycle Chalao, cycle sharing cum renting in Mumbai. The services are  not in operation

A cycle Chalao, cycle sharing cum renting in Mumbai. The services are not in operation.

Riding on the success, in year 2011, Cycle Chalao was awarded a project by Pune Municipal Corporation(Pune) to run and operate public cycle share system in the city. However, the project ran into rough weather. Cycle Chalo winded up their initiative and this what they have to say  on their official website “Bicycle sharing systems to be successful in India have to be fully sponsored by the public authorities wherein the private corporations shall act as contractors to provide construction, operations and maintenance alone. ”

In city of Bengaluru which is riddled with traffic jams and parking issues, Kerberon Automations, a green technology start-up came up with  bicycle sharing system known as ATCAG(Automated Tracking and Control of Green Assets), an automated unit which automatically issues and accepts bicycles electromechanically.

The pilot project ran with nine cycles at three locations in the central business district of Bangalore in association with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), Govt. of Karnataka. According ATCAG, an automatic system will  immensely  help in popularising the concept, just like an an ATM machine. The system cuts waiting time and human intervention and makes it easier for the commuters to use the system. Now, the cities are moving towards single mobility cards and this  system can be well integrated into that.

A  welcome beginning

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Launch of Namma Cycle in Bengaluru at IISC campus

On August 6, 2012, Namma Cycle, a cycle share system was launched at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. The system works on “simple sign-Up, select, ride and return system where students can sign-up via the website and get a registration ID, select a cycle from any of the station racks, ride the cycle to their destination and return it to the nearest station.” According to Namma Cycle website , within five months of its operation, 3000 trips were made covering 4500 km and prevented one ton of CO2 emissions because 300 liters of petrol were not used.

Cities eager to experiment with cycles to ease congestion

The other cities in India which are toying with the cycle share idea are Bhubaneswar, Mysore, Jaipour, Rajkot, Vadodara and Ahmedabad. Bhubaneswar seems to be the most promising one among them. Recently, a delegation of  Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC)  visited  Amsterdam  to see the facilities provided to cyclists as a part of a study tour.

The National Urban Transport Policy, 2006 of Government of India(GoI) emphasizes on” movement of people and not vehicles”. Recently, Ministry of Urban Development, GoI  came up with a toolkit to promote cycle share systems in India. The toolkit outlines  cycle sharing  planning process, project prerequisites, institutional roles and responsibilities, the coverage area, number of cycle stations, and outreach and marketing of the concept.

A captive young audience for cycling

In India, already 25- 30 per cent of daily trips are by walking & cycling  which needs to be preserved with better facilities for them on roads. Current cycling trends show that majority of cycling is done for transport by the poor. There is also a growing tribe of  very high end cyclists who do this for leisure and endurance exercise.India has a young population and for them cycle can be an ideal transport mode for short trips which they used to take by bus, walking or auto rickshaw. The cycles can be used for short commute, with the additional benefit to health & environment, but with this intermodal travel as a main focus.

Challenges  ahead

However, there are challenges ahead for cycle share schemes in terms of political will, dedicated allocation of government funds for cycling infrastructure, competition with mega city projects, image of cycle as a poor man’s choice  and inclusion  of unorganized cycle rental facilities existing in different cities provided by local cycle shop owners.No doubt, Cycle sharing systems in India will create a new group of people who will  use cycles for everyday commute from different economic backgrounds and not just poor.The cities need to invest in providing  proper safety on roads for cyclists, innovation in street design by allocating dedicated space for cyclists and extensive  use of mobile & IT applications and good outreach & marketing of cycle sharing concept among young population.

Future is bright for cycling in India

Compared to other public transportation projects, cycle sharing systems are very inexpensive, fun and people friendly. Cycle sharing systems can be well be utilised or integrated as a feeder system which can provide first & last mile connectivity to  public transport systems like, BRTS & Metro. India has a thriving bicycle industry in existence which needs to be explored and encouraged to be part of city cycling revolution with proper incentives and friendly government policies.

*Originally the article got posted on Sustainable Cities Collective, an independent editorial for Urban Thinkers