As a result of rapid urbanisation, India is witnessing transformational changes in public transport across the country. Bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, consisting of large buses that run in dedicated lanes, have the scope to become much more reliable, convenient and faster than regular bus services as they are able to avoid the causes of delay in slow regular bus services, such as being stuck in traffic and queuing to pay on board. The deployment of intelligent transport systems (ITS) is also playing an important role in transforming the country’s urban bus sector that has been witnessing stagnant ridership recently.
The Kumbharia-Kadodora BRT system corridor in Surat was opened in July 2021. With this, Surat has become the city with the longest BRT system network of 108 km. As Covid-19 cases continue to decline, people have started using BRT system and city buses. The city is also set to get a modern metro rail that will integrate all public transport systems. There has been a growing focus on the use of electric buses as they offer sustainable mobility solutions, since they significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air and noise pollution and dependence on fossil fuels. In May 2021, the Ahmedabad BRTS added 50 electric buses to its fleet. The Eco-Life buses are powered by fast charging lithium-ion batteries and can run for up to 250 km. In addition, they will provide real-time passenger information systems, panic buttons for emergency, automatic bus vehicle location systems, CCTV cameras, public address systems and stop-request buttons. The buses are expected to help save 1,000 tonne-equivalent of carbon dioxide and 350,000 litres of diesel over a 10-year period of operation.
In another major development, the Pune Smart City has launched a viable Smart Electric Bus project to improve the city’s transportation. In the first phase of the project, 150 electric buses have been procured – 125 BRT AC electric buses of 12 metres each and 25 non-BRT AC electric buses of 9 metres. The new buses are expected to arrive by December 2021 and will be immediately inducted into the fleet. The civic body has made the charging station at Bhekrainagar operational for the 150 e-buses of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML), wherein 90 buses get charged in Bhekrai Nagar. As of March 2021, in Pune, 156 e-buses, 398 e-four-wheelers, 239 e-three wheelers and 3,264 e-two-wheelers are commuting on the city roads. PMPML authorities will be constructing a dedicated mega charging station at its Manjri-Budruk-Shewalewadi depot to cater to the rising demand of electric buses in the near future. In addition, PMPML is planning to allow private e-vehicles to use charging stations set up in PMPML depots.
In Delhi, there are about 11 corridors with a total length of 540 km, which will be redeveloped like the old BRT stretch. The road redevelopment project was launched by the government in 2019. At the redeveloped BRT stretch between Chirag Delhi and Sheikh Sarai, statues of Bhagat Singh and Rani Lakshmibai have been installed and additionally, two fountains, 10 sandstone benches and one Buddha statue have been put up. The Delhi government has also set up benches, installed additional street lights, created a grass carpet along pavements and set up a selfie point on a foot overbridge. Under the plan, redeveloped and redesigned stretches of roads involve carving out spacious sidewalks, creating bicycle lanes and green belts, planting grass to prevent dust, fixing slopes to end waterlogging and installing street furniture for pedestrians, among others.
The way forward
Many cities in the country are gradually moving towards the deployment of ITS solutions in the bus transport segment. Ahmedabad, for instance, has implemented an ITS project under the Smart Cities Mission to improve the efficiency of the BRT system and city bus services. The solutions deployed include internet of things-driven fare collection, global positioning system-enabled vehicle location, passenger information systems to provide passengers with real-time bus information, a vehicle planning schedule and despatch system and a depot management system. Further, Indore has deployed ITS on its BRT corridors to enhance safety, improve response time in case of accidents and to increase user convenience. While the implementation of ITS in the urban bus sector has increased in the past few years, penetration is still at a nascent stage as most cities continue to rely on manual processes for tasks such as attendance recording, fare collection, route planning, and bus and crew scheduling. In the coming years, with growing population and rapid urbanisation, the use of ITS solutions will become imperative for the country’s bus sector to create an efficient and reliable public transportation system.