Poor show in Delhi may have earned the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system the tag of an alien concept for India. But thanks to smart planning and implementation, the system in Ahmedabad has earned accolades from commuters as well as experts from India and abroad.Janmarg, Ahmedabad’s BRT system, began with a mere 12.5-km stretch in October 2009. Two years later, it now is 45km long, with buses running on four routes catering to about 1,25,000 passengers every day. "The first section of the BRT was built on the principle of easy to build and easy to showcase. The road we chose didn’t even exist in 2001," said Professor HM Sivanand Swamy, executive director, Centre of Excellence in Urban Transport, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) University and the brain behind Janmarg. By the end of 2012, 40km are likely to be added to the network while another 40-km route is in the planning stage.
“Janmarg connects some important destinations — the Regional Transport Office, where an inter-state bus terminal is coming up, the old and new IIM campus, commercial hub of Shivranjini and industrial areas such as Narol, Naroda and Vatva. Almost 80% of it runs through middle and lower middle-class neighbourhood,” said Shreya Gadepalli, Regional Director-India, Institute for Transport and Development Policy, which provides technical, transport and planning expertise to local authorities in cities around the world.
When the BRT systems in Pune and Delhi were struggling to match expectations, the municipal corporation of Ahmedabad and CEPT kept a close eye on them. They then ensured those flaws did not creep into their system.
“We deliberately chose low density areas. Our aim: Connect busy places, avoid busy roads. Instead of taking away road width, we added road capacity. We constructed bus stations away from junctions to give vehicles more space,” Swamy said.
And before forcing the system on the residents, they opened it for trial run and let people travel free on it to develop a sense of ownership. Group rides were organised for professionals who may have never travelled on buses before or may never do so after that trip.
“Besides the quality technical nature, the team also did an exemplary job of marketing the system,” said Lloyd Wright, senior transport specialist with Asian Development Bank, based in Manila, Philippines.