Optimistic Outlook: BRT projects pick up pace

BRT projects pick up pace

The urban bus rapid transit (BRT) segment has made good progress in the past year. As the segment looks to ramp up capacity, there is a growing demand for improved infrastructure and better technology. BRT operators talk about the achievements in the past one year, and the specific issues and requirements…

What has been the progress in the urban BRT segment in the past one year?

Mukesh Kumar Bansal

The past one year has been quite eventful for Naya Raipur’s BRT segment, with the launch of the system on November 1, 2016. The main objective of the Naya Raipur BRT system (BRTS), which has been named TATPAR, is to provide fast, comfortable, punctual and safe connectivity between Raipur and Naya Raipur. In May 2017, the BRTS commenced full operations, after route rationalisation and frequency synchronisation with the city buses which are being operated by Raipur Nagar Nigam Transport Limited.

Chhavi Bhardwaj

The urban BRT segment has progressed well over the past year. The execution of new projects with improved technologies and the introduction of new buses to cover unserved routes have given an impetus to India’s urban transit systems. In Bhopal, ridership has been significantly augmented from 65,000 to 155,000 passengers per day over the past few years, after the launch of 225 low-floor AC and non-AC buses. These buses are presently plying on 14 approved routes, including the BRT route via the “My Bus” mobile application. There has been an increasing shift towards the use of public transport in the city, which can be attributed to the integration of city bus operations with the BRTS.

Further, new midibuses have been introduced for providing connectivity to uncovered areas of Bhopal. At present, 52 midibuses are operating on five different routes under Phase I of the project. These buses also provide additional revenues to the civic agency through advertising and the use of smart passes by commuters. The radio frequency identification-based smart bus passes let commuters take unlimited trips during the validity period, and also provide special concessions to senior citizens, women and differently abled passengers.

Further, automated fare gates and ticket-vending machines have been installed on BRT bus stops. The civic agency has also launched automatic vehicle location systems which are equipped with global positioning system (GPS). The system enables the agency to monitor vehicle moments in real time and provide solutions for enhancing bus frequencies. As a part of the intelligent transport system, management information system has also been introduced to record, archive and generate reports.

What have been the key policy developments over the past few years?

Mukesh Kumar Bansal

The National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP), supported by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Global Environment Facility-United Nations Development Programme-World Bank assisted Sustainable Urban Transport Project of the Ministry of Urban Development brought a paradigm change in the policies of state as well as city governments.

Earlier, public transport in urban areas was virtually in the hands of private operators and the city and state governments had no obligation to provide for urban transportation. Initiatives taken in pursuance of the NUTP changed the mindset of officials, impressing upon them that a good urban transport service is an essential parameter of development, without which cities cannot function properly. Now, every city and its elected representatives are conscious of the challenges of urban transport and support the policies and systems for resolving the issues.

Chhavi Bhardwaj

Under the NUTP, the Government of India supports cities in planning a citywide integrated multimodal public transport network comprising all three modes of public transportation along with first- and last-mile connectivity for easy access. Each city is required to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with stakeholders. Bhopal City Link Limited is an SPV created to provide organised public bus transportation services in the city of Bhopal. The entire public bus system in Bhopal is regulated, monitored and operated by Bhopal City Link Limited.

Further, the city government is also in the process of forming a dedicated Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Policy. An urban metropolitan transport authority is also being constituted by the city government. The authority will comprise experts and professionals for city planning, traffic management and promoting TOD within and outside city limits.

What are the key challenges that remain unaddressed?

Mukesh Kumar Bansal

As Naya Raipur is still a developing city, it faces the challenge of enhancing ridership in the BRT segment, which is directly related to the development of employment centres in the city, which is expected to trigger an increase in the core population as well as supporting population. Another issue which requires attention is the provision of last-mile connectivity to commuters who use TATPAR buses. The Naya Raipur Development Authority is working seriously towards finding solutions to these issues.

Chhavi Bhardwaj

Even though the sector is making progress, there are numerous challenges that need to be addressed. For instance, various challenges arise during the construction of a BRTS, such as delays in the release of funds, the encroachment of public spaces, the need to relocate public monuments, and technical issues in ensuring consistency of the width of roads throughout the corridor. Besides this, inadequate coordination with multiple agencies for obtaining approvals can also impede the execution of the project.

Meanwhile, several issues are also faced during the operation of a BRTS. For instance, on-street parking along the BRTS corridors, the non-availability of a comprehensive parking policy, and the overlapping of private feeder services with the BRTS can pose hindrances in running the system. In addition, the lack of private participation plagues the sector. To encourage private participation, Bhopal has launched luxury intercity bus services which will be operated by private agencies on specified routes, connecting Bhopal to other major cities such as Indore, Jabalpur and Sagar.

The financial viability of public transportation projects is always a key concern. In a bid to address this and to improve the BRTS’s financial efficiency, Bhopal has launched revenue management systems. These systems help in managing the revenue generated at different point of sales through daily revenue reports. However, much more needs to be done to address such issues.

What is the sector outlook for the next one-two years?

Mukesh Kumar Bansal

I believe that the next couple of years will be very important for us and that the TATPAR bus service supported by the Public Bike Sharing Scheme and e-rickshaws will be able to provide fluid mobility for the people.

Chhavi Bhardwaj

The sector is growing rapidly and various measures are being taken to augment growth in the years to come. Indian cities are expected to lay more emphasis on providing better bus transport facilities. To augment the BRTS, fleet sizes will be increased, more bus stops will be constructed, and connectivity to unserved areas within cities will be enhanced. In Bhopal, midi buses for 10 new approved routes are being planned and another 50 midibuses will be soon added to the city’s fleet under Phase II of the ongoing project. With the introduction of such buses, connectivity to smaller towns, which lie within a distance of 100 km from Bhopal, will be significantly improved.

Besides, urban local bodies are also looking at providing non-motorised transport services, such as cycles on rent, as a green mobility solution to the problem of last-mile connectivity. Besides, luxury intercity buses are also being encouraged to enhance connectivity. These buses provide free pick-up and drop-off and online ticketing services, and are GPS enabled to ensure passenger safety.

“Initiatives taken in pursuance of the NUTP changed the mindset of officials. Now, every city and its elected representatives are conscious of the challenges of urban transport and support the policies and systems for resolving them.”

Mukesh Kumar Bansal, Chief Executive Officer, Naya Raipur Development Authority

 

 

“Indian cities are expected to lay more focus on providing better bus transport
infrastructure facilities. To augment the BRTS, fleet sizes will be increased, more bus stops will be constructed, and connectivity to unserved areas within cities will be provided.”

Chhavi Bhardwaj, Managing Director, Bhopal City Link Limited