Many of the readers, especially those away from Delhi, might wonder what is the BRT in the first place? Well... BRT stands for Bus Rapid Transport system. It’s an effort by the Delhi government to have a separate bus transport corridor in Delhi. So what it has essentially done is that a divider has been constructed in between certain existing roads, wherein half or one third of that road has been reserved only for bus movement. Subsequently, at some places the roads have been widened a little; and at others, the roads have been simply divided into two undemarcated lanes. What has actually irritated the Delhi rich (because they are the ones driving cars – since Tata’s Nano is not yet on the roads) is that now they have less of wide roads to manipulate their cars in. Of course, there is a point here. Delhi was known for its freewheeling wide roads, and suddenly, narrower roads for cars do look irritating. Thus, but obviously, the BRT has come under heavy criticism with a lot of people even wanting the Delhi Chief Minister to quit due to this so called ‘disastrous experiment’ of hers. But to really gauge the success or failure of a BRT type of system, one needs to go behind its philosophy.
And the philosophy, like in every developed nation, is very clear. For the better future of the world, countries necessarily need to encourage the development of a public transport system and have more and more people using that and saving the earth from more pollution, fuel consumption, traffic, etc. And BRT is Delhi’s answer to that! With the BRT in place now, the buses are moving rapidly in the corridors which are traffic free; and bus commuters feel like kings and queens, while car owners, being more in numbers, are waiting in relatively much longer queues to reach each traffic signal and go beyond... Most of the bus-stops are near traffic signals; so, though the bus corridor is between the roads, people are using the zebra crossing regularly to reach the bus stop. And on the other front, car owners are being forced to stop before the zebra crossings instead of on it, as the habit is in India.
With the BRT, I can actually also imagine now a lot of two-wheeler owners and even part-time car passengers hopping on to a bus, because a bus now looks really ‘rapid’ and attractive (there’s an attractive new fleet on the roads, which look quite classy; though I think the colour combination on them could have been better). I also think it’s very important for any city to give more respect to the mass transport system and those who travel by it. That’s the only way more and more people will start using it, and thereby save the earth from a lot of negatives. Coupled with the upcoming metro system (which actually has caused more chaos on roads), Delhi is all set to have a world class mass transport system, which is the backbone of any progressive city’s transport system. And I won’t be very surprised if in a couple of years, many of Delhi’s senior level corporate executives too start using it, just like in London or even in Mumbai, where one finds tonnes of senior level corporate executives using the local train. And if that happens, we will actually have lesser cars on roads; and even those on the road would move faster. In fact, even now things have become quite systematic, and cars don’t have to wait too long – though it is longer than earlier. But given a choice between who should have the first right to faster transport on road, a car with one or two passengers or a bus with 60 passengers, my vote will go for the bus. And that’s what the BRT is about.
As for the car owner’s irritation, I personally think it can be finished (of course, only as the mass transport system achieves real world class) by forcing them to switch sides and making them use the mass transport system by taxing them heavily for owning and driving cars, taxing them heavily for parking, and forcing them to not drive their cars on at least one day between Monday to Friday every week. Hong Kong taxes car owners so much for everything around their cars that they use public transport all the time. In London, people are scared to take their cars downtown because of the incredibly high parking fees. And in Beijing, if your car number ends with a 1 or 6, you can’t drive it on Monday; if it ends with a 2 or 7, you can’t drive on a Tuesday; and so on. Such initiatives in Delhi, I believe, will make those in cars see the right perspective, instead of cribbing and increasing road rage. And of course, added to such initiatives should be the added severe strictness of being checked at every other point for drunken driving with enormous fines to put an end to that ill (Mumbai has been fairly successful in that) that’s claiming lives every night and day and ruining families. Finally, two more things. Firstly I don’t have the figures with me but (despite some accidents which have happened in recent past) logically, now people being killed by buses are definitely bound to reduce, or should have already reduced month on month – because, on the BRT, you don’t have bicycles and motorcyclists creating the chaos. And lastly, I love driving to work often and it’s a personal pleasure for me to see while driving how the common man in Delhi looks like, how he dresses up, how his expressions of stress and strain are… because with the bus corridor now right at the centre of the road (and next to the driver’s seat on the right), you just can’t throw the common man away into one shady corner in an undescriptive bus stop anymore. They are now sitting in modern bus stops traveling in modern buses. The BRT has brought them back to our collective consciousness and put them right in the place they should belong – in the centre of things. Hope all policies in India too start keeping the common man as the focal point soon.
- 18 November 2008 |