Monday, December 3, 2012

BRST: A dream turning into a nightmare

If you have ever visited Ahmedabad you are very likely to know about BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System). Its not the first of its kind in the country but it is arguably the only one that still functions properly. It was started to reduce the traffic on the roads. Ahmedabad did not have a good public transport system apart from the city buses. BRTS was envisaged to be a cheap and fast way of transport in the city.

BRTS Ahmedabad has won a lot of national and international awards. It has been successful in reducing pollution by reducing the number of vehicles on the street. Ahmedabad has a population of over 70 lakh and BRTS is the first step in creating a good public transport system.

I traveled on the BRTS bus in the very first week it started. They were amazing. Comfortable seats, cheap tickets, well thought out route and courteous staff. It felt like the city was finally moving in the right direction with regard to traffic management. A lot of people started using the BRTS instead of their personal vehicles. I started using it instead of using an auto rickshaw.

Everything seemed to be working well until BRTS became a victim of its own popularity. It is estimated that more than 60 thousand people travel in the BRTS everyday! That's a lot of traffic for what is, as of now, a limited fleet of buses.

The problems with BRTS right now are:

  • The buses which ply on the route are already started breaking down. I am not sure if its because of the way they are used or because of the quality of the buses from the beginning. Seats have started breaking and the automatic doors don't work properly. 
  • BRTS drivers drive very rashly. The number of accidents that occur on the route every month is a sign of it. I mean, how hard is it to drive a bus in a dedicated lane on the road? 
  • The ticketing system is manual which means that there is a railway station like que at every BRTS station. If you really want to save time and make it convenient for the passengers then I guess automatic ticketing counters, like they have in some of the foreign countries is the way to go. Smart cards have recently been introduced but by and large most people still use the normal ticketing system. It is a waste of time and precious resources. 
  • There is no limit on the number of passengers in one bus. So during peak hours, all the buses are filled way beyond capacity. Its almost like a Mumbai local train. This happens because the number of buses are less compared to the number of passengers. 
So, what can be done?
  • Proper training should be given to drivers so that accidents do not occur on the route. They should be held accountable for the accidents that occur due to their error. They should be asked to not speed needlessly and brake suddenly. It causes passengers to fall over one another and injure themselves. 
  • Increase the number of buses and limit the number of people in a bus. It is my rough estimate that the bus has 50-60 seats. Close to 30 people can easily stand in the bus. So, if we limit the number of people in a bus to 100, it would mean that everyone in the bus would be comfortable. I know that it means a lot of people will have to wait for another bus just because the bus that has come has no capacity but I guess we have to do it so that the life of the buses and the roads and the travelling experience of the passengers is improved. An increase in the number of buses will be a big financial investment but if the journey is made more comfortable, a lot more people would take the BRTS than riding their personal vehicle. 
  • Smart cards should be encouraged. They save a lot of man hours and are also very convenient. A small discount on recharge of smart cards could be one of the options.
These are some of the small things which can go a long way in improving the BRTS experience. I traveled in a choc-a-bloc BRTS bus yesterday and heard a lot of people complain about the quality of the service. They said that this was the last time they were using BRTS. I would also not take it willingly if the situation does not improve. 

Also, I should add that people in the city do not have the simple courtesy to stand in a line to get into the bus. Whenever a bus comes to the stop everyone starts acting like the world is ending and the bus is the only place which is safe. Also, I will never understand the obsession that some people have with standing right in front of the door when their stop is 30 minutes away. Not to forget the die hard romantics who think it is mandatory to write their lovers name in all public places. Sadly, public transport in India doesn't mean it belong to everyone, it means it belong to no one. Its the people's mentality towards public assets that hurts the development of the country.
Coming back to the point, a public transport system should be something that the people of the city are proud of. This will make it more effective and help it serve its purpose. If I know that BRTS is a comfortable and efficient way to travel across the city, I will ask others to use it. The entire purpose of a public transport is defeated if the public which is meant to use it, does not think it works well. 

If the government does not do anything to improve the BRTS, this dream will definitely turn into a nightmare. 



  1. Bhai....I've been waiting for your next post. Perhaps, you were busy all this while romanticizing the rain. LOL. Really admire your writing style which has an objective approach towards the subject and a certain bluntness throughout. Keep writing. Don't keep your loyal readers on tenterhooks.

    1. Haha. Thanks. I will try to write more often :)


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