After 10 years of the introduction of first Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in India, the concept is still struggling to gain wider acceptance. Barring a few cities such as Ahmedabad and Pimpri Chinchwad, where BRTS has achieved success to some extent, it is still struggling in the initial stage in other cities. As of now, it has failed to become a mass movement in India as it is being seen as intermediate solution to the public transport need of the heavily populated Indian cities. The Metro rail project is seen as the ultimate solution to address this complicated issue.
Because of this, many cities are opting for metro projects. But, considering the cost involved in Metro projects, it is likely to remain an illusion for the masses. As our masses are still struggling to get basic things such as pure drinking water, sanitation and housing, projects like metro rail can prove as missed priorities.
The cost of the metro project is Rs 600 to 700 crore per kilometre for underground and Rs 300 to 400 crore for elevated rail. Considering the high cost of the project, fares for metro remain very high. For instance, where the PMPML bus fare is
Rs 30 for the distance between Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad, it is likely to be more than Rs 100 for metro rail. For making metro commercially viable, the fares need to be increased. Unless and until the government does not cross subsidise these projects, they are likely to remain beyond the reach of masses. The issue of increasing fares of Delhi metro has already reached the court as commuters have opposed a fare hike. Commuters in Mumbai are also opposing a fare hike of metro.
Considering these issues, our policymakers need to put emphasis on BRTS system. The cost of per kilometre of BRTS is just Rs 3 to 4 crore.
As the civic bodies need to construct roads in any case, the expenses for developing BRTS infrastructure are negligible as compared to metro projects. If the planning authorities invest in the BRTS system and make efforts for improving services and facilities of the bus service like those are being provided in the metro, the BRTS could attract more commuters.
The obsession of private vehicles is going to remain a major challenge for India. The experts who attended the recent national BRTS round table conference in Pimpri Chinchwad expressed concern over this phenomenon. The registration of vehicles is increasing day by day in all Indian cities. Therefore, the government needs to make policies for discouraging the use of personal vehicles and needs to invest more money in public transport vehicles.
As the auto industry has remained a major source of employment generation in India, it has become a tricky issue. Therefore, there is need to gradually shift towards bringing more buses on city roads instead of investing in cars and two-wheelers.
According to experts in urban planning, the traffic congestion on the roads of big cities in India cannot be solved merely making wide roads. Even if current width of the roads is doubled, it is going to be face congestion in a few years. Hence, there is ardent need of shifting this focus drastically.
Another big issue that India is facing in urban transport is, there are very few institutions who are studying complex issues of urban transportation. First, the Centre of Excellence in Urban Transport (CETP) was established in 2009 in Gujarat. It is an initiative of the ministry of urban development (MoUD) of Government of India and is supported by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. This institution has proved beneficial for the Janmarg BRTS in Ahmedabad. In 2009, a new phase of high quality, Bus Rapid Transit System in India started with the implementation of Janmarg in Ahmedabad. From its initial operational length of 12.5 km, the system was expanded to an 88 km network in 2014, providing connectivity across the city. The success of Janmarg inspired similar BRTS efforts like Rajmarg (Rajkot) in 2012, iBus (Indore) in 2013 and Citilink (Surat) in 2014. In 2015, a successful BRT system, known as Rainbow BRTS - was implemented in the twin cities of Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad.
Since Indian cities are heavily populated as compare to western cities, the problems of Indian cities are different. To address these problems, India specific solutions need to be developed. Institutions like CETP are going to play a vital role in this. There is need of creation of more such centres of excellence. Professional management and technological intervention are keys to the success of BRTS projects. A time has come to think about introduction of electrical buses on city roads and city planners must think in this direction, said experts in national BRTS round table meet.