The daily commute of twenty-nine-year-old Ranjit Rao, a professional working for a multinational company based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, has changed for good. Rao is part of new breed of city commuters who has ditched his private vehicle to use the new form of public transport: Janmarg Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in Ahmedabad. According to him, it is more economical and comfortable to travel in by BRTS than vehicle. There is no worry of traffic jams and the system is easily accessible. He travels daily from his home in Maninagar, located in the central part of Ahmedabad, to Iskon circle in the Western part. He saves 15-20 minutes on his commute time, a few hundred rupees on fuel, and takes great pride that he is not part of the traffic anymore.
Ahmedabad BRTS celebrates 4th anniversary of Janmarg, synonymous with Ahmedabad, celebrated its fourth anniversary on October 14. In 2009, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, under its special purpose vehicle Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL) had launched the BRTS in dedicated corridors in middle of the road as an earnest effort to bring sanity back to roads.
For all those who complain of the futility of BRTS corridor, here is an interesting fact, revealed by Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited: “Janmarg moved 180 people by just occupying 90 square metres of road space while in the mixed traffic lane on the Janmarg corridor, and 168 people were moved by occupying 550 square metre of road space.” This is very much in line with The National Urban Transport Policy of Ministry of Urban Development which focuses on “Moving People, not Vehicles”. On an average 116,000 passengers travels on BRTS for work (53 per cent), Education (19 per cent ) and Social and Recreation (27 per cent). According to an AJL study for the month of March, 2013, 26 percent of two wheelers have shifted to BRTS. However, the number of car users shifting to BRTS remains around one to two percent. No doubt, driven by the need for an alternative mode of transportation, people are buying vehicles, adding to traffic snarls and pollution. In Ahmedabad alone, the number of vehicles has climbed up to 2.2 million. An estimate suggests that 600 vehicles are getting added daily on city roads in Ahmedabad. So, the pressure on existing road networks increases and insures demand for parking in the city.
Overcrowding in BRTS Buses
The BRTS in Ahmedabad needs to keep the standard high for the confidence of regular users and to attract future commuters. The basic issues like BRTS bus drivers’ rash driving and their involvement in traffic accidents has reached alarming proportion. The increasing number of thefts on the buses is also a matter of concern, as is crowd management at popular BRTS bus stops.
Commuters’ suggestions for improving BRT services ranges from discount rates for students, senior citizens, and women to introducing a monthly pass system. Other suggestions include limits on the number of passengers travelling in a BRTS bus, and better traffic control mechanisms for BRTS buses, especially near traffic cross junctions.
Making BRTS Bus Stops More Pedestrian and Cycle Accessible
Sixty-five percent of BRTS users in Ahmedabad are walking to BRTS bus stops despite the poor pedestrian facilities in the city. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation authorities need to take pedestrian concerns as a top priority to address the growing chaos on city streets. BRTS bus stops should be integrated with better and safer walkways, and cycle corridors to gain more regular bus commuters.
Innovation and Information is Key for the Growth of Ahmedabad BRTS
In the last four years of its operation, the system has received national and international awards for bringing a paradigm shift in the way city moves. BRTS is a great departure from rickety buses running on the roads where passengers can barely hold on, struggling to board or alight from the bus, fighting their way out to reach to bus conductors for tickets, along with the spewing toxic smoke.
But for BRTS to reach the next level and attract car users, BRTS requires a constant innovation in its services and an extensive outreach plan with consistent improvement in infrastructure for pedestrians & cyclists. Social Media needs to be leveraged well by introducing unique campaigns to attract youths to use BRTS. The BRTS authorities have to work on a holistic approach to make the system more popular and acceptable.