Monday, January 19, 2015




Bhopal BRTS corridor
The state government is reported to be considering a proposal of the Regional Transport Officer to allow school buses into the BRTS corridor on the plea that it is these buses which cause traffic jams – a feature in the city which has become virtually a regular affair.

Earlier, the BRTS in Indore was virtually reduced to a mixed traffic corridor as private cars were allowed into it. The matter had gone up to the local bench of the High Court which, too, gave its clearance. The inevitable result was reducing to nought of a well-conceived government plan to not only reduce the number of cars on the roads and thus make available to other commuters space for cycling or walking but also to reduce vehicular emissions. Two other advantages foreseen were, one, of providing the common man a faster and cheaper mode of motorised transport and, two, reduce consumption of polluting fuel oils bringing down their imports and helping in reducing the almost perpetual current account deficit.

By introducing four-wheelers into the corridor the local authorities at Indore killed the very concept which had been adopted the world over for promoting public transport. It was implemented with great success in Ahmedabad where the BRTS reportedly “wowed the world”. Not only the Asian countries contemplating introduction of the system made it to Ahmedabad to study its successful version, it also won the World Sustainable Transport Award in 2009 awarded by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policies, the organisation that spawned BRTS. New York was given the same award a year earlier and last year it was Buenos Aires, putting Ahmedabad in an illustrious league of cities.

If one looks at the whole question legally, there is indeed no bar on allowing vehicles other than BRTS buses into the earmarked corridor. Even the write-up of Devendra Tiwari, Additional CEO of Bhopal City Link that runs the BRTS admits that other buses could also be let into the corridor thus integrating the entire public transport system of the city. But the question is whether the objectives of the BRTS would be fulfilled if that were to be done. Wouldn’t the corridor be choked with buses, whether those of the city services or of schools, holding up the BRTS coaches thus defeating its very objective?, Besides idling of bus engines would increase the emissions. Perhaps it is too early to cry foul and tinker with the corridor. True, even after two years there are not enough buses in the system and hence the corridor does look empty. Perhaps, the company that runs the services is, ill-advisedly, extending the bus routes. One thought, saturating the corridor with adequate number of buses would not have provoked the kind of proposals that are under consideration. While the buses are being spread out thinly all over this expanding city, the corridor itself does give the impression of being empty and that the frequency of buses is not quite adequate making the system somewhat unpopular.

In many ways the corridor was not properly planned. It has taken almost five years in building and yet it is not ready till today. One wonders whether the detailed project report was adhered to and works on it started in good time. The route through the older part of the city is still not ready as its widening and removal of encroachments from it are still to be carried out. Besides, a vital flyover and an important railway over-bridge are yet to be completed. Then the feeder services with parking lots at important junctions are nowhere in sight. One doubts whether feeder services were really thought of at the initial stage and were ever integrated with the plan of running buses in the corridor.

Then, most importantly, proper traffic management was never enforced. It was a given that on creation of the corridor the mixed traffic lanes would have thinner slices of roads and the burgeoning vehicle population of two and four wheelers would choke up the passages unless properly managed. The planners knew that the local motorised commuters are an undisciplined and impatient lot, each trying to get ahead of the vehicle in front breaking all traffic rules. Management of traffic and disciplining the traffic is something which has not been paid attention to till today. Only the
A Bhopal traffic jam
other day there was a report that BRTS corridor was swamped by vehicles of politicians and their supporters who had gone to the collectorate to file nominations for the municipal elections. Politicians too are an undisciplined lot; they far too often have their SUVs parked in the corridor and the traffic police have no guts to haul them up. If they were to do so, probably, the Inspector General himself would be hauled up by the politicians in power. That is why the traffic police are very alert in so far as VIP movements are concerned but they are indifferent to management of critical areas that are prone to regular jams.

Hence, it would not be quite right to blame the BRT System. It was conceived for popularising public transport so that, inter alia, the pressure of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is eased up a bit in a bid to temper down warming of the earth’s atmosphere that is poised at a critical level threatening the very future of the planet. Precisely for that reason the advanced countries with better management of traffic, more disciplined commuters and more aware people have also opted for it. A report "Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America's Biggest Cities," said in 2013 that a study found reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in America's most populous urbanized areas. The study also finds a greater use of public transit and biking in most cities. One of the most vital findings was that the proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle—either alone or in a carpool—declined in 99 out of 100 of America's most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period averaged in U.S. Census data.
 If the Bhopal and Delhi BRTS have failed it is because both were not planned properly, both were not implemented properly and politicians did not have the will to intervene and set right matters as and when required. Particularly in Bhopal, the politicians are more prone to breach the discipline with its catastrophic cascading effects down to the common people. Besides, at the outset they had left it to an incompetent Municipal Corporation to build it that did not have adequate human resources either in numbers or in quality. It never occurred to the local government to take a leaf out of the book of Ahmedabad BRTS. Perhaps they just do not care.

If school or other city buses are allowed the use of the corridor, it would be the government and the municipal corporation that will have to be held responsible for wrecking the System after having spent enormous amounts of tax-payers’ money and causing inconvenience to the entire population of the city for the last 5 years.

photos from the Internet

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