India needs a world-class BRT system

Cities like Ahmedabad, Indore and Bhopal have successfully implemented BRT corridors.

Most densely populated cities of India are faced with the serious problem of traffic congestion. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system was introduced in many cities (including Delhi) to ease the problem. But faulty implementation and lack of foresight by the previous Congress-led UPA Government led to its failure.

The BRT system was introduced in the last decade as an initiative to help ease traffic congestion, encourage public transport system and curb air pollution. In BRT, there is a dedicated lane for fast movement of buses. But due to large number of private vehicles, the remaining traffic jostles for space in the remaining two lanes. This is why this concept is opposed by those who commute in private cars.

Cities like Ahmedabad, Indore and Bhopal have successfully implemented BRT corridors but they failed to bear similar fruit in more populated cities like Delhi due to a huge number of private vehicles being added every year to the traffic. These vehicles enhance the burden on the system available to manage it.

Underlining the importance of BRT in improving the traffic management system in October 2012, Delhi High Court had said, “A developed country is not one where the poor own cars but one where the rich use public transport.”

Highlighting the significance of this system, World Bank president Jim Young Kim said that India can save more than 27,000 lives and create over 128,000 jobs if it builds 1,000 km of new BRT lanes in the next 20 years.

Speaking at the release of a report ‘Climate-Smart Development’, according to which $3-4 billion is needed to develop 1,000 km of BRT corridors in about 20 cities across India within 6 to 12 years, Kim said India could also reduce “greenhouse gas emissions by about 42 million tons” by taking this path.

One of the main reasons for BRT’s failure in Delhi has been its unplanned implementation. The Government was required to focus on strengthening the public transport system by increasing the number of DTC buses and ensuring their smooth movement in the national capital while at the same time it was also required to dissuade the use of private vehicles as a mode of commutation.

The first and foremost issue is to keep the population of a city under check so that it should not grow disproportionately vis-a-vis available resources. The huge inflow of people to cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore from other parts of the country has been so huge that it can cause any scheme to fail to provide civic amenities to the residents of these cities.

Let us take the example of Delhi which has a population of 17,838,842. According to the 2001 Census, Delhi had a population of 13,782,976 which in 2011 rose to 16,753,235. That’s a 30 lakh increase in the span of a decade.


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