YOUR SPACE: Why scrapping BRTS corridors will cripple public transport in Pune

Convenor of Pedestrians FIRST, an NGO that takes up issues related to pedestrian rights and safety, Prashant Inamdar has written to Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar about the scrapping of BRTS routes to make way for the Pune Metro corridors.

pune Updated: Oct 09, 2017 15:18 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Pune
Ahmednagar road BRTS is one of the routes to be scrapped to give way to the proposed Metro.(RAHUL RAUT/HT PHOTO)

Convenor of Pedestrians FIRST, an NGO that takes up issues related to pedestrian rights and safety, Prashant Inamdar has written to Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar about the scrapping of BRTS routes to make way for the Pune Metro corridors. This was first reported by Hindustan Times on October 3 and followed up with another detailed report on October 4 (City’s BRTS plan takes a hit as PMC focuses on Metro). Following are excerpts from his letter:

It is reported that a number of BRTS corridors are being scrapped to make way for Metro. This, in effect, virtually amounts to trashing the ambitious plan for the BRT network launched in Pune about 12 years ago.

BRT corridors for Pune were planned before the Metro DPR with route plan being submitted by DMRC in March 2009. Two things should have happened in the matter - either the Metro route should have been planned avoiding the BRT corridors or the BRT corridors should have been reworked to avoid overlapping with the Metro corridor.

Three major reasons:

1) It does not make sense to have two mass transit systems running parallel on the same route. This also leads to the wastage of public money.

2) The two mass transit systems would compete with each other affecting the ridership and viability of both.

3) In most cases, BRTS operation in central bus lanes may not be possible with elevated Metro pillars in the centre of the BRT lanes.

This issue was brought to the notice of PMC immediately after the Metro plan was came into effect. However, PMC did nothing about it and continued to spend money for the BRTS corridors despite knowing very well that these have to be scrapped when the Metro work begins. In fact, the entire Nagar road BRTS corridor was constructed and made operational, though it was to be short lived. And now, the PMC unabashedly admits that the Nagar road BRTS corridor will be scrapped because of the Metro.

Several other planned BRTS corridors have also been affected because of Metro including Paud road, Karve road, JM road, Bund garden road, Baner road and Ganeshkhind road. Even the pilot BRTS, on which about Rs 150 crores were spent 10 years ago, and the Katraj-Swargate segment, which is presently under renovation at a cost of Rs 75 crore, could be affected by the new planned Swargate - Katraj extension of Metro.

How does PMC justify this utter waste of public money because of flawed planning of BRTS and Metro corridors despite having prior knowledge about these specific flaws in the plans?

BRTS as a feeder service?

PMC now says that the BRTS corridors would be converted into a feeder service. Basically, the purpose of the feeder service is to connect areas away from mass transit corridors to the stations so that large number of people can access and use the mass transit systems. The feeder routes can also provide last-mile connectivity to the desired destination. Thus, not only Metro, but even BRTS would need a feeder service.

Some basic questions that arise are:

1) How can the BRTS running parallel to the Metro route serve the purpose of a feeder service for the Metro?

2) Feeder routes originating at different places cannot be BRTS in any sense. So how can BRTS be converted into a feeder service?

3) With appropriate adjustments / rationalisation, normal PMPML bus routes reaching the Metro corridors will become feeder services for the Metro. So where does the question of converting planned BRTS corridors to feeder service arise at all?

Thus, there is no logic or practicality in PMC’s plan to convert BRTS into a feeder service. It is only an attempt to save their own skin and mislead people into believing that nothing is lost even if BRTS is getting scrapped and the public money spent on BRTS corridors (for planning, design by consultants, construction etc.) would not go waste.

Finally, whatever way PMC tries to whitewash the blunder, the fact remains that the BRTS network definitely has more utility for people than the Metro. Hence, scrapping the BRTS corridors will be a massive crippling blow to public transport in Pune.

It would adversely affect the mobility of lakhs of commuters and may prompt them to shift to private transport aggravating the already serious traffic congestion and pollution problem that the city is facing. This could also offset whatever benefits Metro is expected to deliver.

Prashant Inamdar

A lot can be done to improve public transport in Pune

Flyovers and grade-seperators are a short term answer. Such projects are implemented only because of “have money, will use” mentality. This desperation is because the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) does not think logically of methods which are visible for increasing the public space band width. The basic deep-rooted reason is monetary and does not have to be spelt out.

Essentially, despite the Comprehensive Mobility Plan, the PMC does not prepare feasibility reports, inclusivity outreach and comprehensive DPRs which will show if there are other methods to make space available. The result is that after projects start, they get mired in land acquisition and aggressive, court cases. Due to this, the cost escalates and so does the project completion deadline.

PMC has the worst public transport system which the public hesitates to use (thanks to the auto cluster which has prevented the growth and establishment of a qualitative public transport)

The PMC has failed to clear at least 30% side margins of any public space, street, road, kerb from encroachments and commercial parking by vehicles which are earning money by doing business.

The PMC is not interested in re-locating hawkers and vendors to their correct designated spaces which will free a majority of public spaces for the smooth movement of vehicles.

There is also a poor record in curbing illegal parking by private taxicabs and jeeps ferrying passengers at major junctions.

The list and reasons are layered and manifold. If both the authorities, PMPML and RTO, apply their mind together to do something good, then we would have a city that we would proudly call ‘Smart’.

Qaneez Sukhrani

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 20:41 IST