Ten years ago, nobody in India knew what a BRTS was. Today, seven cities operate BRTS, 16-17 more in execution mode and many others are planning for one. Prof HM Shivanand Swamy, Executive Director, Centre of Excellence in Urban Transport, CEPT University, explains to Garima Pant the growth of BRTS system in India.
What urban transport systems are viable for India's ever-growing cities? City size, urban structure and level of development are important determinants of mobility level and pattern in urban areas. At present, public transport provision is not adequate in most large urban areas. In small and medium sized cities public transport is available in very few cities. Hence, comprehensive augmentation of public transport is the need of the hour.
In large cities, no single mode would be adequate to service varying needs of the people. A multimodal system comprising small feeder buses, regular buses, BRTS and metro system would have to be developed as integrated transit system. The role of the regional rail on existing tracks needs to be explored wherever feasible. While multiple modes to suit different segments of the transit market needs to be selected as part of the integrated transit system, too many modes, especially at the top, would make integration (physical, fare and institutional) difficult.
In many of the small cities, auto-rickshaws operate as public transport provided informally. It is to be noted that auto-rickshaws as a mode is designed as 'intermediary public transport mode' with carrying capacity of 3+1. This mode should be encouraged through appropriate measures to perform the role 'intermediary public transport mode' and not informal public transport, which often carry 6-8 people posing potential safety and security risk.
Other options such as mono rail, cable car, PRT etc, may have to be explored depending on geographical constraints.
What policies and regulations will unlock the potential of a better governance and more participative urban transport infrastructure in Indian cities? There are several areas which call for action. Institutional strengthening through (re)allocation of powers, functions and resources would be the key area.
Are the objectives of the NUTP well defined? Do you think a blanket national policy would be more appropriate than a regional variant? The statement 'giving streets back to people' sets the policy direction clearly. National policy sets out the overall direction. At the state level formulating strategies and preparing and implicating action plans, in line with NUTP, would be the way to move forward.
With a number of major urban transportation projects in the pipeline, what direction do you see the urban infrastructure projects taking? Do you see JNNURM projects integrating with NUTP? NUTP, complimented by JNNURM, brought the focus of urban transport to the centre stage of urban development arena in India. Today we have ongoing efforts to undertake integrated land use-transport planning. Bus funding support has enabled to start/augment formal public transport services in over 100 cities of India. BRTS is underway in 14 cities (Ahmedabad, Pune, Indore, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Jaipur, Rajkot, Surat, Bhopal, Vijayawada, Vishakapatnam, Hubli-Dharwad, Nayaraipur, Amritsar and Bhubaneswsar) with JNNURM/SUTP support. Promotion of bicycling and walking is also being taken up. Several capacity building efforts have been initiated. Coverage needs to be expanded and speeding up of the the pace of development is required.BRTS projects in India
What measures do you suggest to make the NUTP more effective in addressing the problems faced by urban dwellers? Empowering Institutions, allocating resources, capacity building and spreading awareness about the rights and responsibilities among people are necessary actions.
Have we got the road map right? Despite all the financial engineering and lofty objectives, many grass-roots planners believe implementation is skewed in favour of the rich, car-owning class. Your views. We have just begun. It, therefore, appears that implementation is still skewed in favour of cars. It will take time to move away from the old paradigm of increasing supply. Ten years ago, nobody in India knew what a BRTS was. Today, seven cities operate BRTS, 16-17 more in execution mode and many others are planning for one. Yes, we are yet to initiate demand management measures to counter private vehicle ownership and usage. Changing taxation systems to encourage public transport and discourage private vehicles, charging for parking and limiting parking supply are the initial steps to start.
What are the factors that make BRTS work in smaller cities and not in the metro cities? There is no evidence to suggest that BRTS does not work in big cities! More often, there are combinations of reasons that determine the success or failure of BRTS. Some of them include the political will to implement it, size of the project and timing of implementation. BRTS development is a low cost option (Rs 10-15 crore per km as opposed 10-20 times higher costs of mono and metro rail) and often is an insert into the existing urban fabric. These make BRTS development, a complicated implementation exercise involving multiple stakeholders and reallocation of use rights of public streets. It is important to note that, Indian cities are high density cities with limited area under road space (15 per cent or less). With economic progress, the pace of motoristaion and consequently the mobility levels would increase. Given the above, if we do not reserve exclusive space for public transport and NMT, in future neither the buses nor the cars (and two wheelers) will have the space to move. Hence, reserving space for bus (BRTS) and NMT is a way to secure future mobility.