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BRT trial runs into error

Traffic snarls, vehicles in wrong lanes, cars jumping lanes, jaywalking and traffic signals that were not working - it was chaos and confusion from the word go, reports Sidhartha Roy.
Hindustan Times | By Sidhartha Roy, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 21, 2008 02:47 AM IST

Traffic snarls, vehicles in wrong lanes, cars jumping lanes, jaywalking and traffic signals that were not working - it was chaos and confusion from the word go on the Bus Rapid Transit Corridor where trial run began on Sunday morning.

There was no dearth of enforcement authorities on the corridor on Monday — traffic policemen, officials of transport department's enforcement wing, private traffic marshals and even senior transport officials. Every one had a 'hands on' approach on Sunday and were literally pushing cyclists and pedestrians to their lanes and shouting their lungs out at bus drivers and motorists for not using the lanes meant for them. There were heated altercations and even scuffles between marshals and road users due to confusion on how to use the corridor.

However, as the authorities were deliberately avoiding prosecuting the offenders, the enforcement overkill didn't have much impact. Cars were driving in the bus corridor, two-wheelers could be seen on cycle tracks and cyclists were ambling on motor vehicle lanes. And then there were jaywalkers, risking their lives to cross the road or reach the bus bays in the middle of the road without using the zebra crossing.

"It's a compliance problem, bus drivers and pedestrians need to have discipline," said S.N. Sahai, Managing Director of the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd. (DIMTS), which is supervising the project. "We will barricade the whole stretch to discourage jaywalking," he said.

"The drive on the corridor is smooth but two-wheelers driving on the same lane are a big problem and so are the pedestrians who suddenly appear from nowhere," said Rajesh, driver of a bus on the 522 route. "I had to apply brakes frequently and each time it led to a pile up as buses behind me too had to halt abruptly," he said.

"It was only trial run and we are educating people instead of prosecuting them now," said a senior traffic official. "The signal system is not working properly and needs modifications," he said. There were 70 private traffic marshals and 35 traffic cops on duty at the corridor on Sunday.

The first-of-its-kind traffic signal system in Delhi at the BRT corridor, with different signal cycles for buses, cars, cycles and pedestrians, failed to take off. The trial started at 7 a.m. but the signal were switched on only at 9.30 a.m.

"The lights were not working in the morning and we had to ask traffic police to switch them on. There are some deficiencies in the sub systems that require improvement," Sahai said. He said teething problems would be ironed out. He said researchers from IIT-Delhi were working on the traffic signal system.

The signal system saw major problems with lights not turning green for long intervals, leading to frequent pileups. The lack of coordination was apparent when IIT-Delhi's Geetam Tiwari, the brainchild behind the corridor, didn't pick Sahai's and other senior DIMTS officials phone calls. Attempts by HT to contact her turned futile.

The segregation of traffic led to traffic snarls on the Chirag Dilli intersection that snaked up to the next intersection near Sheikh Sarai. The long wait is only expected to increase on Monday.

Bus users too weren't happy with bus bays in the middle of the road as they found out that bus stops only catered to buses going to a particular direction. For taking a bus for the other direction, they had to cross the intersection and reach the bus bay on the other side.

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