India Experiments with Car Free Sunday Streets & Bus Day to reclaim streets back for people

Get creative on the streets to get heard and noticed. A new wave of people-centric innovative campaigns has reignited the concept of “cities for its people” in India. These new initiatives are supported by citizen groups & nonprofit organizations with able support from media and local government bodies to capture the hearts of the people.

Car free Sunday Streets in Gurgaon

Ciclovia (Car-free Sunday Street) in Bogotá, Colombia, is a hit and a trendsetter in the transformation of that city from a car-centric to people-centric. The Green Living Blog of The Guardian mentions   “Ciclovía a weekly, city-wide, car-free day in Bogotá that puts 76 miles of roads, including La Septima – the city’s main commercial centre – off-limits to cars. It’s been running since 1974”.

In an earnest effort, cities in India are trying to replicate this phenomenon in various forms and styles to bring people, communities and other stakeholders together to witness streets free of speeding private vehicles, no blaring horns and a cleaner environment.

People-level advocacy and indigenous campaigns can help a lot in convincing decision-makers to create infrastructure that encourages the idea of people-centric cities. The three important criteria to make these campaigns succeed are:

  1. engagement (online and offline);
  2. people network;
  3. momentum.

There is a strategic need to embolden policy-level advocacy with strong people-level advocacy on ground level. People need to be the champions of this street renaissance.

Cities in India are bursting at their seams. They are choked with traffic jams, engulfed into toxic air pollutants (like winter smog in Delhi, capital city of India) with ever-increasing numbers of private vehicles on the roads, an insatiable demand for parking spaces, and a rising number of traffic accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.

The mushrooming giant serpentine flyovers are making the cities’ skylines uglier day by day.

According to the Ministry of Road Traffic and Transport, (press release for Road Safety Week January 1- January 7, 2014) “over 100,000 people are killed in traffic in India annually”. This staggering figure translates into 275 people dying an unnatural death on roads in India every day of the year.

The Times of India report suggests there are now 200 times as many motor vehicles (including two-wheelers) as there were 50 years ago (from 0.7 million in 1961 to 142 million in 2011). The worst affected are children who are slowly losing their neighbourhood parks to these cobwebs of car parks.

The 2006 National Urban Transport Policy, a national level policy made by the Ministry of Urban Development, was formulated to address an onslaught of private vehicle dependence and maddening traffic with an emphasis on “moving people and not just vehicles”.

But it has failed miserably in the way it has been envisioned.

Read the Full Article Here : http://bit.ly/18XN993

Advertisements

My Bus, Longest BRTS Corridor in India, Launched in Bhopal

Bhopal, popularly known as the “City of Lakes,” added another feather in its cap with the launch of ‘My Bus,’ the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), a new form of public transport system in India. My Bus was  carefully named to highlight a sense of public ownership of the new improved version of public transport in the city. Bhopal is the capital city of Madhya Pradesh (MP), the Hindi-language heartland of India. My Bus, for the first time in India have added push button features for pedestrians to access the system and has special security measures to ensure women safety.

My Bus was formally launched on September 27, 2013 by state chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Recently, Indore, a sister city of Bhopal, had launched iBus, another BRTS. Now, two of the most prominent cities in Madhya Pradesh have a BRTS in operation. Gujarat is the only state in India to have two BRTS systems running in Ahmedabad & Rajkot, with a third one to be launched in Surat by the end of year 2013.

Bhopal is named after the famous King Raja Bhog, who found the area suitable for his dream water harvesting project, Bhoj reservoir (648 square kilometres) and laid down the foundation of the city. According to the 2011 Census, the city of Bhopal has a population of 18.43 lakhs and the municipal area is spread out in 285 Square kilometres, with 647 Km of urban roads.

The Pilot Corridor of My Bus Is Launched 

Image

The length of the pilot corridor of My Bus is 23.95 kilometres and the width of the corridor is 30 metres and 60 metres. Altogether, there are 82 bus stops from starting from the Misrod Section to the Bairagarh Section on the pilot BRTS corridor, making it the longest BRTS corridor in India. The corridor will have 26 air conditioned buses exclusively running in the corridor. The 24 Km long corridor would take around an hour in the dedicated corridor, with a maximum fare of IRS 26 (0.43 US dollars).

My Bus Boasts of An Intelligent Transport System and Smart Features 

Image

The BRTS buses can be live-tracked for its current location, current speed, and last updated time and status of the vehicle. And the report generation compiles paths the vehicle travelled in the specified time range, with vehicle’s start & end time along with maximum speed, distance, idle time, location details, and speed graphs, among other details. The buses also have passenger access information such as what the next stop to be reached is, and the final destination of the bus.

Travelling Made Easy-Pay by Your Smart Card or Plastic Coins

My Bus bus stations will have automated vending machine with installed fare gates. Also, at the point of sale, smart card issue machines will be installed.

According to My Bus officials, passengers have the option to purchase a travel card and keep recharging it at the bus terminus or selected stops. Travel card users will receive other benefits. Passengers without smart cards can purchase a plastic coin in the bus stop before boarding. Passengers swipe it during entry via the rear doors, and swipes his card again, or drops the plastic coin, in the exit in the front doors. Passengers can still pay in cash to the driver who will carry an electronic ticketing machine.

My Bus’s Innovative Special  Branding & Outreach Exercise

A special mention for My Bus’s branding and outreach: Officials have put a lot of heart & soul in the marketing strategy to popularise the system. Public transport systems in the country rarely invest time, energy, or money in publicity. It will be a game changer to reach out to the targeted audience, and will play a major role in influencing commuter choice to use BRTS. First, they began with an open competition for a system name, hired professionals to maintain online platforms like the My Bus official website and its social media marketing platforms. Second, they came up with unique advertisements with catchy one-liners which were broadcast on TV and local radio channels before and during the launch of the BRTS.  And in the future, they will be intensifying their outreach exercise with more public engagement through an essay competition and photo journey, among other innovative marketing strategies.

From initially negative reporting in local newspapers, the system is now getting positive buzz. This perceptible change is due to the sharing of information between My Bus authorities and media personals on the development of the project.

One of the interesting outreach methods was releasing newspaper-styled booklets in Hindi, with a free bus pass for the day, highlighting the importance of the BRTS to the city. See it on its official website:My Bus Newspaper booklet.

Special Measures for a Special Public Transport System

However, for its successful implementation, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) took several strong measures to ensure a smooth BRTS ride. BMC hired 150 traffic wardens to man the corridor as special police officers. Officials received legal orders to fine drivers entering the dedicated bus lane.  Roadside parking was banned, and vending along the road in pedestrian pathways was stopped by the authorities to maintain ttraffic flow.

Controversy Courting My Bus BRTS in Bhopal

The controversy over the width of BRTS lanes, lack of footpaths over bridges, and accident related issues forced the state government of Madhya Pradesh to form a State assembly estimates committee, which inspected the BRTS corridor in Bhopal under the chairmanship of Mr. Omprakash Saklecha.

According to a Hindustan Times article quoting the report of the committee, “First, for the safety of the passengers, at least 20 foot bridges need to be built across the corridor so that passengers can use them to reach the central corridor. Second, at the main crossing, there is need to build flyovers, otherwise the journey on the BRTS corridor will get slow. Third, side lanes for two wheelers need to be built on both sides. The corridor is not just about the buses plying in the central lane. You have to also take care of people using private vehicles.”

However,  the same article quoted Bhopal Municipal Corporation authorities denying the objections raised by the committee. The article can be found here:  Three Things Missing from Bhopal BRTS

Paradigm Shift in Public Transport in City of Bhopal 

Image

Bhopal is infamous for its old minibuses, which run in an erratic way and in a very disorganized fashion. Most of the minibuses are in decrepit condition. These buses run with no fixed routes. According to the report Optimization of Public Transport Demand: A Case Study of Bhopal by Ar Anuj Jaiswal, Dr. Ashutosh Sharma, “the shift from private to public transportation has numerous advantages for city of Bhopal, such as:

1. Ensures Safety: Public transportation can be one of the safest modes of travel in Bhopal.

2. Saves Money: Money is saved greatly in transportation costs for both highway and public transportation users.

3. Eases Traffic Congestion: Nearly half of all residents of the city believe traffic is a serious problem where they live, especially the people living in the space-constrained Old City area.

4. Improves Air Quality: Public transportation helps promote cleaner air by reducing automobile use, which can exacerbate smog and public health problems. For each kilometer travelled, fewer pollutants are emitted by transit vehicles than by a single-passenger automobile.

5. Reduces Energy Consumption: Public transportation can significantly reduce dependency on petrol, reducing auto fuel consumption by 1.5 billion gallons annually.

6. Fosters More Livable Communities: Public transportation facilities and corridors are natural focal points for economic and social activities. These activities can help to create strong neighborhood centers that are more economically stable, safe, and productive. Studies have shown that the ability to travel in an area conveniently, without a car, is an important component of a community’s livability.

New Lifeline for Bhopal 

The My Bus BRTS is slated to become the new and reliable lifeline for commuters in Bhopal and provides opportunity, access, a viable transit option, and less congested roads, all of which contribute to an improved quality of life in Bhopal.

Picture Credit:

Mr. Chandramauli Shukla, Chief Executive Officer, Bhopal City Link Limited. Bhopal Municipal Corporation

Sources: 

Official Facbook Page: My Bus Bhopal

Official Website: My Bus Bhopal

*** The article originally get published on Sustainable Cities Collective.

 

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