May 16, 2008

Experts from US, UK find faults with BRT

51. DelhiBRT_May16_mailtoday

A TEAM of three experts on public transport from the US and the UK said the Capital’s Bus Rapid Transit ( BRT) system was faulty. Walter Hook, Christopher Kost and Simon Bishop — in town since Wednesday — also suggested some immediate changes. The experts said there were “ glaring gaps” in BRT’s design and it couldn’t succeed with the “ current design concept”. They also thought that moving the bus lanes to the sides of the corridor, as being planned for Part- B of the project ( Moolchand- Delhi Gate) was “ as good as scrapping” the project. After they visited the BRT stretch ( Ambedkar Nagar- Delhi Gate), the team pointed out some operational problems in the already functional Part- A ( Ambedkar Nagar- Moolchand) of the stretch as well as Part- B, under construction. They also raised concerns at a meet here on Thursday organised by Initiation for Transportation and Development Policies ( ITDP). Hook, the executive director of ITDP and visiting faculty at University of Columbia in New York, said: “ I think the main problem with the BRT corrdior till Moolchand lies in its bus lane. Bus stops have not been located properly and are close to intersections, adding to congestion.” According to him, bus stops in a BRT should be around 70 metres away from the signal. But in Delhi, they are almost at the intersections, such as the Chirag Delhi stop. 

‘ Current design has glaring gaps’
Hook said the current sixphase signals should be avoided at busy intersections: “ Two phases are ideal. You can manage to have not more than four phases at a single intersection.” According to Kost, “ Bus routes also need to be rationalised to optimise the use of public transport.” He is ITDP’s technical director and currently working with Ahmedabad’s BRT project. “ At the Chirag Delhi signal, there are buses which have to turn right and this need one phase of signals. Authorities can try doing away with the rightturn and ask passengers to walk for a distance and catch buses for their respective routes or provide them with complimentary routes,” said Kost. Hook said one phase of signals could also have been saved had the bus stops been located a little behind where they have been placed now. The proximity of the bus stops to the signals also leave pedestrians with less time to board the buses. “ I am really concerned about the recent announcements about testing the Part- B stretch by keeping bus lanes on the side,” he added. “ This will not help and will be more dangerous. Scores of service- lanes throughout the corrdidor will increase chances of collission between buses and vehicles emerging from the lanes,” said Kost. “ The central lane will negate all benefits and invite conflicts.” According to Hook, “ Two hundred buses at a given time will increase congestion. So trunks, and feeder buses should be used. An operational control system is also needed to help marshals coordinate during traffic pile- ups.” 

‘ Car users should be taxed more’
The team also agreed to Indian experts who have said more people should use public transport as the mixed lane suffers the most on BRT stretches. “ The authorities should follow norms as practiced in other countries such as imposing greater tax on car users and trying to shift more people towards public transport,” Kost said. According to Hook, the average speed at the corrdior was quite slow. Instead of the ideal 25 km- per- hour average speed, the speed at Delhi’s BRT was around 13 kmph — quite slow for a BRT corridor. UK- based Bishop, a transport planner and visiting research fellow at TERI, advocated separate lanes for two- wheelers and the use of close- circuit television cameras to catch offenders. He added that overbridges should be used as a last resort, something that the Delhi government is already considering after receiving flak from all quarters during the chaotic trial run.

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