At one glance, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) did not look any different at 11.30 am. The queue of vehicles in the motor vehicle lane was long and increasing. The bus lane had just three buses and a police van and pedestrians were almost running to cross the huge traffic junction.
The scene changed as soon as the signal turned green. The stream of cars, bikes and auto-rickshaws smoothly moved along the road and in less than a minute the intersection was almost empty.
Two years since the Delhi government opened the first BRT corridor, the 5.8-kilometre stretch from Ambedkar Nagar to Moolchand Hospital, for trial run, things seem to have improved quite a bit. Though traffic intersections still witness long queues of vehicles, especially during the peak hours when the tail extends up to 200-300 metres, traffic clears up fast and smooth. Instead of honking madly at the vehicle ahead, motorists prefer turning off their vehicles and waiting.
In an attempt to promote public transport system in Delhi and make people leave their private vehicles to travel by buses, the Delhi government constructed a 5.8-kilometre BRT as a pilot project. It opened the corridor for trial run on April 20, 2008. However, the chaos that ensued and the criticism it received from all quarters, forced the Delhi government to not only give up the idea of formally opening the first BRT stretch but also abandon its plan to develop more BRT corridors.
“I think we chose the wrong corridor to introduce a new concept. But we have learnt from our mistakes. In all future projects we would construct an additional lane for buses,” said a senior transport department official.
According to transport department officials, a lot of measures were taken to improve traffic movement on the 5.8-km BRT stretch. “We made several changes in the geometric design of the Chirag Dilli intersection to ensure faster discharge of vehicles. A separate lane has been constructed for vehicles coming from Ambedkar Nagar and taking a left to IIT Gate at Chirag Dilli,” he added.
“Not only has the speed of vehicles increased on this road, now the number of passengers travelling by buses and two-wheelers have also increased,” the official added.
However, the three foot over bridges (FOBs) a new road between Press Enclave and Outer Ring Road that the government had promised, have yet to come up. While the said road is still stuck at the tendering stage, two of the three FOBs are still being constructed.
Delhi transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely, however, said things have improved on the stretch. “This road used to be an accident-prone road. The number of accidents has come down. The number of bus passengers has increased as commuters know that they get fast passage by bus,” Lovely said.
“We have built BRT out of compulsion. Otherwise it will be difficult to drive in Delhi in next few years. For the future of Delhi, BRT is a must,” he added.