Bus lanes hit roadblock again
The state government’s proposed Rs34,000 crore plan to create a garland expressway around Mumbai will benefit city’s 2.7% vehicle-owning population. However, a relatively cheaper Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) project, which if implemented would ease travel woes of more than 4.5 million people who travel in buses daily, has found no takers.mumbai Updated: Apr 25, 2011 01:16 IST
The state government’s proposed Rs34,000 crore plan to create a garland expressway around Mumbai will benefit city’s 2.7% vehicle-owning population. However, a relatively cheaper Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) project, which if implemented would ease travel woes of more than 4.5 million people who travel in buses daily, has found no takers.
Even the proposed ring of 302-km, six to eight lane roads around the city, a bulk of which will be tolled, doesn’t have provisions for the BRTS. On the other hand, a bulk of the proposed ring road will be tolled, and be off limits for the general public.
The BRTS, which involves marking a special lane for buses on city’s roads to improve bus services, was first proposed in eight years ago, but has been stuck in bureaucratic red tape since its inception.
“The project is still being evaluated. We are checking if it would be feasible in Mumbai,” said chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
To be run by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking with Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Area (MMRDA) help, a feasibility study was undertaken in 2003, following which BRTS project, worth Rs1,300 crore was proposed.
Though the BRTS project has seen success in other cities, Mumbai does not seem to be naturally suitable for it, with officials blaming it on congestion. “As of now there is no plan of having dedicated bus lanes in the garland expressway but we are keeping our options open,” he said.
Transport activist differ. They claim that BRTS is the need of the hour and avoiding it could be detrimental for the city.
Transport expert Sudhir Badami, who has been diligently pursuing the cause of the BRTS, says this project would be a lot cheaper and efficient than big-ticket transport projects such as the Metro or monorail. The BRTS is at least 10 times less expensive than a Metro, say transport activists. “A 200-km BRTS system can be built in Rs3,000 crore in three-five years. Other projects, which the government is planning, will cost us over Rs60,000 crore and will take 20 years to complete,” he said.
Many others believe that the government is unwilling to bet its money on improving public transport systems. The BEST undertaking serves nearly 4.5 million Mumbaiites, through its fleet of 3,400 buses. However, the rate at which BEST buses ply, having to jostle with other vehicles on city’s overcrowded roads, means a commuter would rather avoid taking a bus, and instead opt to commute by his private vehicle.
“The government seems to be making all the wrong choices. Instead of strengthening public transport system through projects such as the BRTS, its policies are forcing more private vehicles on the road,” transport expert Ashok Datar said.