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Just months into operations, the Rainbow BRT in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, India is moving a whopping 67,000 commuters per day and receiving widespread attention. The high ridership is proof of the comfort of the system, and surveys show that passengers find taking the bus very convenient. On November 28, 2015, a new 8km, 14 station stretch of Rainbow BRT opened in Pimpri-Chinchwad, broadening access to the network. The dramatic success of Rainbow is part of why the system was recently awarded “Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Mobility” at the Volvo Sustainable Mobility Awards 2015.
Since the launch of the first Rainbow BRT corridor in Pune on 30th August 2015, thousands of commuters have enjoyed high quality bus rides like never before. For the first time, citizens experienced the ease of use that comes with the system’s closed stations with sliding doors, level boarding, informative displays and transit maps. For passengers, the biggest incentive has been travel time savings. Dedicated bus lanes allow Rainbow buses to travel more quickly, ensuring that commuters reach their destinations 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual.
Thanks to the BRT’s high degree of reliability and convenience, a commuter shift was natural. Surveys carried out by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) showed that 12 percent of Rainbow users switched from using other modes of transport besides bus, including two wheelers, para-transit, and even cars. Now, instead of taking personal vehicles, which contribute more to congestion and pollution, these commuters take public transit. These benefits speak to the achievement of the system, and validate the challenges it had to overcome to reach operations.
Rainbow BRT serves the neighbouring cities of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The two cities, with two different municipal governments, installed the BRT infrastructure with different funding sources. The processes, timelines, and aspirations of these two cities were different, and presented many planning challenges that needed to be coordinated to give users a seamless BRT experience.
For example, Pune attempted a pilot BRT system in 2006, and the new system planned to use the designs and practices of the pilot project, where possible. In contrast, Pimpri-Chinchwad was starting on a clean slate, and designing the entire system afresh. The differences in approach led to several design challenges— most notably, the choice of station design. While the Pune BRT pilot had used split stations, with platforms on both sides of the bus lanes, the Pimpri-Chinchwad BRT opted for median-aligned stations, as recommended by the BRT Standard. After many meetings and discussions with officials and media, Pune too was convinced to adopt median stations, a decision that was crucial for the success of Rainbow BRT.
The other big challenge in designing the system was ensuring good bus frequency and a reliable schedule. To help this process, ITDP undertook a massive exercise to analyze the pre-BRT ridership of all bus routes in the two cities at multiple times, and along different sections of each route. Based on the study, ITDP recommended that the PMPML, the system bus operator, curtail, extend and/or merge some routes, resulting in all existing trips being supported with fewer routes and higher frequency. Load factor was improved where it was low and feeder routes were introduced to serve fringe areas. This improved reliability, a key factor in attracting high use of the bus system, and in helping riders reach home sooner.
On November 25, Rainbow received acclaim on the national stage for its success. At the Volvo Sustainable Mobility Awards, Rainbow was awarded for its ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Mobility’, in recognition of Rainbow’s role in reducing reliance on personal motorized vehicles and offering a true mass rapid transit system that provides high quality, rapid, predictable and reliable, safe and attractive public transport to the masses. Instituted in 2011 by Volvo Buses India, the Volvo Sustainable Mobility Awards aim to recognize outstanding efforts in the broad area of sustainable mobility.
Just three months after Rainbow opened, a new 8km stretch in Pimpri-Chichwad debuted November 28th. Since the recently opened corridors form only a fraction of the eventual 147 km network, the success of the system thus far will help ensure speedy implementation of the rest of the network, and more convenience for all.
“What more could I ask for!”
That was the reaction from one of the riders on India’s newest Bus Rapid Transit system, Rainbow, the first corridor of which was launched this weekend in Pune. The sleek new BRT system will serve the neighboring cities of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad in western India and will give residents the benefits of a strong mass rapid transit system.
The two cities are facing problems that challenge many municipalities in rapidly urbanizing countries. Increasing use of personal motorized vehicles, fuelled by the growing purchasing power of the middle class, is leading to excessive congestion and air pollution. The lack of reliable public transport has made matters worse. After years of these concerns mounting, the Rainbow system comes as a glimmer of hope for the region, offering a viable alternative to private car use.
The first corridor of Rainbow opened in Pune on 30 August and will offer free rides for a month to seek feedback from commuters. The Pimpri-Chinchwad corridor joins the network on September 5. Both corridors run through residential and commercial areas, connecting people with schools, offices and hospitals. From day one, the corridors are expected to carry 60,000 commuters daily. Rainbow will not only transport riders reliably and quickly, but also with increased comfort and ease thanks to the system’s BRT features, including dedicated lanes, closed stations with sliding doors, transit maps, informative displays and level boarding.
However, it has not been a smooth ride for BRT in Pune. In 2006, Pune experimented with a BRT system. The 13 km pilot corridor was the first in the country. However, the system failed to implement many standard BRT features and met only moderate success. Today, those routes are largely served by traditional bus service again.
Learning from this experience, and from the successful BRTs later commissioned in India and around the world, leaders were determined to get the system right. The Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipalities implemented the infrastructure, while PMPML, the two cities’ public transport service provider, will manage operations. ITDP provided technical guidance for the design and implementation of Rainbow. For PMPML, a significant challenge was how to retrofit a BRT system on an existing bus system. ITDP made that task simpler though a massive route rationalization effort, resulting in more frequent service and a more effective use of the system’s buses.
While both Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad received financial support for implementing the Rainbow BRT from the Government of India under the JNNURM scheme, Pimpri-Chinchwad was also assisted by the World Bank under the Sustainable Urban Transport Program (SUTP). Citizens hope that this network will bring a mass transit system closer to their homes and provide relief from traffic congestion.
Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad are just getting started. The new corridors are the beginning of a plan for a 140km BRT network, projected to carry nearly 900,000 passengers daily. This will be one of the largest planned networks in India. With a strong system in place and big plans ahead, the residents of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad have a bright future.
Pimpri-Chinchwad, the robust industrial city in central Maharashtra state, is making exciting progress on its BRT network, with construction on the first station near completion and work on corridors one and two forging ahead. The BRT in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad is an ambitious vision for a network of 40 kilometers and 90 stations connecting two municipalities and reaching nearly a million residents. Now the pace of progress is picking up, and both cities are refocusing energy on turning the plans for a strong transit network into reality.
Dapodi Station, in Pimpri-Chinchwad, is the first station in the network to be completed, and workers have made strong progress on the dedicated lanes, with approximately 60% of the corridor complete. In addition, in Pune, the regional BRT operator Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) recently put out a tender to develop business and operational plans for their BRT system. As plans are fine-tuned and finalized, ITDP has worked to support the process and to improve pedestrian access and non-motorized transit around stations. Most recently, a workshop examined the Govind Garden intersection and as a result, the city implemented stronger crosswalks, sidewalks, and clearer lane divisions (See images below). These important steps demonstrate both cities’ commitment to running a strong, high-quality BRT system.
The Pune-Pimpri-Chinchwad BRT is an extensive network that will offer new transit options within both Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, as well as connections between the two cities. Though the infrastructure is being implemented by each municipality separately, strong coordination will allow the two systems to be fully integrated. ITDP has worked closely on the project, and with the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) at each stage of the process.
Learning lessons from previous pilots with BRT in the region, the Pune-Pimpri-Chinchwad BRT has been designed to meet international high-quality BRT standards as well as the area’s unique needs. The operational plan, developed in partnership with ITDP, calls for a hybrid BRT system, where buses run inside dedicated lane for the majority of the route, with some buses traveling beyond the corridor to serve as a traditional bus service and extend the system’s reach. As a result, buses will have doors on both sides: at-level BRT doors on the right, and traditional bus steps down on the left. The corridor will incorporate segregated bus lanes, level-boarding within the corridor, and GPS vehicle tracking for station display and fleet coordination.
When complete, the BRT network will deliver significant benefits to bus riders and city residents alike. The Pune Metropolitan Area, which encompasses both Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, already has over 5 million residents and is growing rapidly. For commuters, the result will be a reduction in average overall waiting time by 50%. More than 85% of passengers will wait less than 10 minutes for a bus- a monumental improvement on the current system, where 50% of riders wait longer than 10 minutes, and many much longer.
The new system will provide more coverage with fewer, less convoluted routes than those currently running. Efficient fleet use and reduced vehicle miles will save the city money, and reduce costs for riders. By making room for smarter transport and reducing the focus on personal vehicles Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad together are making a strong statement that BRT is the right choice for their citizens, and will keep the cities moving.
by Sam Mohamad-Khany
Pimpri Chinchwad is a city of 1.7 million in the state of Maharashtra, India. On January 5, ITDP conducted a full-day workshop on the BRT Standard, which was attended by over 25 officials from the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), public transport operator Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML), and consultants Creations Pvt Ltd, S. N. Bhobe, and C. V. Kand, who are preparing detailed designs for new bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors.
Pimpri Chinchwad’s BRT network includes four corridors and spans a total length of 40 km. The goal of the workshop was to inform the BRT planning process by identifying gaps and opportunities for improvement in the current plans for new corridors. Commissioner Shrikar Pardeshi of PCMC opened the session, followed by presentations by ITDP staff on the BRT Standard and salient system features of the Janmarg BRT system in Ahmedabad. Mr Ramkrishna from UMTC, who has been appointed as a project management consultant for the region’s BRT, presented the details of the plan and design. As a warm-up, attendees formed groups and rated the Ahmedabad system using the BRT Standard. In the afternoon, the groups rated the planned BRT lines in their own region. Groups then presented their scores to each other and engaged in lively debate about various opportunities and possible pitfalls of BRT planning and implementation. “We are now aware that what major steps to be taken to upgrade and enhance BRT service in this region,” said Rajan Patil, Joint City Engineer for PCMC.
Workshop participants identified several areas of improvement for the Pimpri Chinchwad BRT corridors, including intersection design, branding and communications, and the provision of adequate pedestrian facilities to enable passengers to reach the future BRT stations. “The workshop conducted by ITDP gave us insight about BRTS element to be incorporated in the design and planning of BRTS for PCMC,” said B. K. Gaikwad, Traffic Engineer, PCMC. “It provided ideas to our engineers, consultants, planners, and operators through discussions in interactive sessions on each of the aspects of the BRTS. Also the importance of pedestrian safety while accessing BRTS has been deliberated during this workshop. Overall, it was very helpful to PCMC.” ITDP will compile recommendations from the groups and follow up with PCMC to facilitate implementation.