The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as it is currently planned in
I have for some time now tried to find an answer to the
question. My quest has led me to assess available information on the BRT
projects implemented in
One of the many issues
I have had with prioritising BRT first in Pune has
been due to the lack of respect for the difference between the demographics of
Pune and Bogotá. 80% people did not have personal vehicles and 80% travel to
their Central Business District. Unlike this, in Pune almost every house hold
has a vehicle (when every household is considered to be a 4 member family as
per available stats). BRT was successful in Bogotá because of decades of
planning (unlike 2-3 years in
shows the Bogotá before BRT - note the number of buses vs. the
private vehicles during pre-Bogotá times - all run by mafia - but the fact is
that people were on buses already, the challenge of switching them / winning
them over was never a part of the dynamic. The iconic images of Bogotá are also
very popular, this video
shows just how wide these BRT roads were (are) and hence begs a question
how many of our roads can accommodate this design. Equally the elevated
crossways and median bus stations (at least = 1.5 lanes) are no where near
junctions. Amazingly the video points to missing side walks acting up as
parking lots - very similar to Pune as we all know. Bogotá’s success is more due to social reconstruction and not so much
the buses (which were in use anyway albeit in a disorganized way). The fact
that they neglected roads but invested in creating Latin America’s longest
pedestrian walkway and bicycle track says a lot about the difference in the
vision Bogotá administration has compared with that of Pune or
For a BRT to succeed there are pre-requisites, both
· Historically, Pune’s bus service has been badly managed. Run down buses, lack of rationalised routes, poor frequencies, absence of a long term vision and business model has led to Pune citizens resort to use of private vehicles.
· Pune does not have facilities to park / maintain new buses and pre-paid ticketing system is a distant dream.
· For more details on how poor the Pune Municipal Transport’s basic facilities are, please read my detailed review ‘Pune Caught in a Whirlpool – can a modern public transport system rescue it’
To make matters worse, the BRT plans and
implementation has been sloppy, failing to take in to account numerous factors.
· The high volume of turning traffic interferes with the through movement of bus traffic if the bus uses the same curb-side lane as the turning vehicles.
It is a myth that central or median lanes are conflict free.
Unfortunately it is
not acknowledged that there are clear
advantages as well in using the positives of
Ř Cheaper and quicker to implement
Can be used more
widely, (on any 2 lane road, see
example here) - across the city, we
can end up with much better overall mobility. We all know many roads with 3
lanes (I know at least a dozen in Mumbai and Pune) which would never be
considered for BRT due to lack of width to expand (but are ideal for
Interruptions & conflicts with off-lanes can be
minimised in many ways – introducing red routes (no stopping) and altering
entry/exit points on parallel off-lanes (see
page 4 of this document on principles
of bus lanes). Please see appendix for other links pertaining
to use of Bus Priority Principles in the
Non-segregation offers fair and optimal use of road
Ř In the event of a failure of the scheme, nothing is lost – in contrast, if median segregated bus lanes fail; it will not be easy to reverse the damage (there will be huge costs). Thus I would argue, if you have to pilot, why not pilot the more cost-effective option.
People argue that non-segregated bus lanes are likely to be abused by two wheelers / 3 wheelers etc. The truth is that as we have seen, even the segregated lanes in middle of the road are being abused. This design has not made them immune from abuse as can be evidently seen from the massive number of police deployed to man these lanes. The problem thus is to do with the way we drive and general lack of discipline and respect for law. In fact a quick look at Google earth images will show that our junctions are perpetually clogged and chaotic, the road between junctions is almost empty!! To solve problems of congestion where the root of the problem lies deeply connected with driver behaviour, one would think the solution is better driver training, good road signage, synchronised signals, etc. Trying to solve the above problem with BRT is like treating malaria with anti-cancer drugs. It simply will not work.
As an author of a series of driver education videos, I can demonstrate amply how a respecting a zebra crossing automatically stems and regulates flow of vehicles by spacing them out evenly. It does not take hard to imagine the cost differential between painting the zebra’s correctly vs. implementing BRT, having said, it’s the former that will work far better than the latter in improving overall flow of traffic in the city.
· Buses using the kerb-side lane are forced to stop at every red signal with other vehicles reducing throughput, therefore central bus lanes are preferred.
If they had seen the Bus Priority Resource pack developed by
· Unless we have central lanes, at least 50% pedestrians will need to cross a total of 12 lanes to get to the bus stop on the other side of the road.
A simple solution for this is using a Pedestrian Refuge. In fact by using central bus stops 100% of people will need to cross the roads and at least 6 lanes on each side. Does the current design ensure safety of these pedestrians any better? All reports suggest otherwise.
· Further they support the idea of central lane as it allows bus stops close to traffic light junctions
This is a money saving argument to get away from building crossways or an equally desperate attempt to build BRT on roads without adequate width for incorporating crossways / subways as their design needs wider footpaths (a mouth of a subway itself is typically 5-6 feet wide). In fact by virtue of making pedestrians mingle at the junction, all traffic lights have to incorporate this within the traffic lights cycle and hence reduce speed of travel - effectively taking away the R (Rapid) within the acronym BRT.
In 8 months of
implementing BRT in
In medical research and practice there is a concept of fidelity. If a treatment has to implemented one has to ensure that it is done to with truthfulness to the original treatment concepts core principles. Where fidelity standards are poor, treatment success rates are poor. Hence the western medical practice does not allow cutting corners, its protocol driven. If I as much as raise a dose from 10 to 20 instead of 15, the pharmacist calls me and asks for justification and if unsatisfied will not dispense the medication. Attached is an image of a typical BRT design, it’s a single carriage way design and it is 105meters wide. Bogotá designs if I remember correctly were 104m wide. Basically the reason why we cannot see the wide footpaths and safe crossways is that we do not have the additional 12 feet needed and we seem to be satisfied with the idea of 100 feet being sufficient. Some of you may have seen a best seller called copycat marketing. Its book giving examples of brands that spread world over copying their success script - the core principles are never messed with, the soft touches can be modified. When there has been evidence through out of a compromise in basic principles why not question it. If the planners had been questioned sufficiently and strongly we could have done much better.
1. But there are other planning failures. Busways are warranted as per studies on routes 70-90% saturated. Bus lanes on non-saturated roads do not improve speeds as buses run fast without lanes (as road is not saturated). To best inform if a road is saturated one needs a basic bus-based PT available. Many Indian cities running after BRT have symbolic (rudimentary) bus services. People are thus in personal vehicles and producing a false impression of roads being saturated. A BRT can carry masses, in Bogotá up to 40,000 people are carried per hour. In Pune the total passenger trips across all routes proposed for BRT is 8170 / hour (in fact on some identified BRT routes in Pune the passenger trips per hour is as low as 2000 to 4000 only). By any standard this is a small number. Why then should we bother with a BRT? That 50% of these 8170 passengers are carried by Pune’s dilapidated buses suggests that improving the quality of buses, rationalising routes and frequencies will offer substantial gains. Equally, unlike most successful BRT projects the world over, Pune’s BRT roads are scattered all over, the average length of BRTS routes = 2.8 miles or 4.5 km. Without a good feeder service, how would one get to these BRT routes? BRTS will only add speed on these short stretches, but by how many minutes? If one travels 8km at 30 km per hour it takes 16 minutes or 8 minutes at 60km / hour. Simple maths suggests that for short distances speed never matters. Travelling for 4.5 km by buses at 60 and not 30 will save only 4 minutes. Further BRTS is implemented on wide roads which are far and few in between - this makes people walk significant distances or indeed spend additional time commuting on feeder buses / rickshaws. This and time spent at interchanges effectively may negate any speed gains hoped from such a system. Also, BRTS model may end up with bus stops that are more distant from each other (and hence fewer in numbers) - all to keep buses moving faster. While buses may move more rapidly on BRT routes, this does not guarantee that individual commuter travel times are reduced. A Transport for London document hints at this. I am elaborating this here with a concrete example - It takes 8 minutes to walk 500 meters at a speed of one meter long stride per second (16 if you double it to 1km). BRT and Metro rails are far and few in between and do not save on journey times as people walk several minutes to get to the embarking points. In contrast a London or Mumbai style traditional bus service oft has stops at doorsteps. Bus stops in close proximity to where people live and work save on time. These buses may not go on dedicated median bus routes but drop you as close as possible to ones destination and in doing so keep overall travel time (by reducing time taken to walk) comparable to what BRT and Metro systems offer.
Sadly, our planners do not specify how BRT in it self will
get people to switch from use of personal vehicles to buses? In Pune, it costs the same to travel in a two wheeler as it will to buy
a bus ticket. Further an interested reader may compare the ticket/pass prices of Pune buses versus BEST.
It becomes obvious that a hugely superior BEST is offering value for money
while the more expensive PMT is offering dusty, rusted, broken buses with
poorly trained staff and irrational routes at frequencies of a bus every 30-60
minutes of huge number of routes. Unless
this equation changes, as it has in
When I make points in favour of
We need a comprehensive plan with clearly identified priorities, I suggest one below.
Ř Reform the basic bus service provision (rationalise bus routes, frequencies, adequate number travel worthy buses, garages and depots with possible workforce optimisation to reduce overheads) and ensure the city has footpaths. Below I present links to elucidate this further -
· A document detailing the pathology and flaws in which the Pune Municipal bus transport routes and planned. Despite having a over 1000 buses, the average frequency of the buses is – one bus every 57 minutes.
· The solution to the above pathology and how route and frequency rationalisation is vital in providing comprehensive bus service in a city.
Ř Mobility on roads can be improved through better traffic discipline (needs education, change in licensing procedures) and synchronising signals. We can do a lot by considering use of bus only ways and one-way options along parallel roads (we use these strategies sub-optimally). The zebra as described already is immensely effective too in evenly spacing the traffic and improving traffic flow.
Ř Use simpler alternatives – bus only
Ř Use non-segregated bus lanes where possible, but not before point 1
Ř Use segregated bus lanes where possible but not before point 1. For reasons mentioned, peripheral segregated lanes need considering.
Ř Bus transport needs enhancing by
having smart cards, single fare strategy, wide double doors for quick
Ř Implement ways of getting people to switch to buses. Educate people; we need campaigns the size of Pulse polio. Public Consultation during the planning phase it self offers this opportunity. Talk to the real experts, the ones who live on the streets of the given project or who travel on it (in contrast 3 public workshops were done in Pune, each attended by same group of people / citizens / NGOs – majority with their own biased views on the matter).
Ř Manage demand and capacity – this is a vital piece of jigsaw neglected by PMC planners. To consider offering increased FSI and expand geographical limits of a city is not the solution conducive with sustained long term growth. If anything lack of simultaneous increase in public transport facilities, affordable healthcare, affordable quality education, sanitation, water and electricity makes such increase in demand unexplainable and unjustified. When we have a city where footpaths remain occupied by garbage skips, pigsties and public lavatories, there can be no reason to raise FSI. The city needs a whole systems approach as demonstrated in this document.
Bad planning and implementation often means waste of money on useless projects. Pune has spent 50 crores on a pilot BRT route when the money should have been spent on getting the basics correct. This is a well known principle of ‘opportunity costs’. This basic principle has also been neglected by our BRT planners.
Instead of looking elsewhere
(Western models) Pune and
Dr Adhiraj Joglekar
As people in Mumbai have queried about what may help Mumbai, a separate note is offered below
I have written to the AGM Amdekar (BEST) about this in past,
there is much to gain from following
One only needs to look at
It is hence obvious that Mumbai can make huge progress in offering a better BEST in the 21st century by following simple and relatively non-expensive bus priority measures listed below –
1. BEST needs to expand on its smart ticketing quickly
2. Introduce more and eventually replace old buses with low floor buses with automated double doors for fast entry / exit (this speeds up travel significantly). The low floor buses used currently are again used sub-optimally as the rear double doors are not always in use.
ACT governing BEST requires conductors on board, this adds to huge overheads
for any organisation, affecting improvements to the service. By going the smart
tickets route, the conductors would not be needed. Using
4. Mr Mehta has in past suggested that conductors offer security - but do they really? It did not stop a bus getting blown outside Century Bazar in 1992, there are no conductors in Mumbai Locals (12 coaches packed with people) and if anything arguments (including fist fights) between passengers - conductor over small change is the commonest form of aggression on Mumbai buses.
5. By above I do not suggest redundancies or job losses. In fact to use humans as ticket vendors in 21st century is the worst insult possible. Its time these conductors are re-trained for driving more buses, doing customer satisfaction surveys, manning help lines, etc (this offers better value for money spent on their salaries than the way they are currently deployed).
6. Mumbai will have to take tough measures –
Ř Implement peripheral peak time non-segregated bus lanes
Ř The best routes to start such lanes
are on roads such as
Ř Implement congestion charging
Ř Implement strict paid parking policies
Ř Single ticketing across the city
Ř Change the public image regarding buses – public campaigns are a must, click here to excerpts from London buses free magazine
An appendix with links to all referenced documents is given below
I clearly favour non-segregated
peripheral bus lanes used only during non-peak time. The documents listed below
connect with correct implementation of this strategy. People argue that because
law enforcement is poor in
1. My document principles of bus lanes show two things – page 3 shows how a badly planned peripheral bus lane can go wrong (an actual real life case example is explained). Importantly page 4 shows how conflict with off lanes can be reduced.
real life case example of peripheral bus lanes, smart signals, land use
use policies are vital for prioritising buses. In
4. I am also offering a link comparing different bus transport models in London/Mumbai and Pune. Click here to read this comparison.
5. Change the public image regarding buses – public campaigns are a must, click here to excerpts from London buses free magazine
7. Case example of land use policy – a road converted in to a thriving space for pedestrians.
8. I have made reference to improving traffic flow and mobility. The Pune Municipal Corporation is in receipt from me several documents that may help them achieve this, these are listed below –
Dr Adhiraj Joglekar
Last Updated 23 Sept 2008
A note on: How one defines success of BRTS?
One may find number of pictures of crowded BRT buses in
This link http://flickr.com/photos/8754860@N02 with a number of pics was sent to me by someone hoping to excite me about Delhi BRT. But how is one to define success of such ventures? Were the buses not crowded before the BRT on this stretch? The success to me should be defined by how many switch to buses - The question asked should, have the number of personal vehicles in use gone down? When one sees the pictures (in the above link) of Delhi BRT - it is sad to see the narrow width of footpaths (in fact pedestrians are being forced on to cycle paths) and an absolute lack of well designed pedestrian refuges. One will hope that if the vision is to succeed with the BRT and get people out of their personal vehicles, thus expecting even larger numbers of people on foot, the walkways would have been double the size one finds currently. It seems the compromise has been to pave way for Win-Win-Lose solution and all effort has been made to not hamper personal vehicles - the ultimate winners thus are a showcase BRT and the personal motorised vehicles lobby while the pedestrians are as usual the loser’s.