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.
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.
Rajkot Rajapth Limited: http://www.rajkotrajpath.com
Photo Credit: Rajkot Rajpath Limited