Smooth Ride: Expansions, improvements and digital innovations in bus transit systems

Due to rapid urbanisation, India is currently witnessing significant changes in its public transportation systems. Bus rapid transit systems (BRTSs), which consist of large buses running in dedicated lanes, are emerging as more reliable, convenient and faster alternatives to regular bus services. This is because they are able to avoid the common causes of delay in regular bus services, such as traffic congestion and payment queues. Further, the central government plans to launch an electric bus (e-bus) tender for the procurement of around 3,500 new e-buses for nine cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Che­n­nai, Kolkata, Surat and Pune.

Recent developments

In June 2023, the Yamuna Expressway Indus­trial Development Authority decided to develop a BRT system for smooth travel from Jewar airport to other cities in the National Capital Region (NCR). Along with the BRTS, it will develop dedicated lanes for motorcyclists, pedestrians, cyclists, buses and trams.

Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited runs 150 e-buses in the city. The Eco-Life buses are powered by fast charging lithium-ion batteries and can run for up to 250 km. In June 2023, the authority announced its plans to procure 25 double-decker buses and 10 electric vestibule buses. The Punjab government has also expre­ss­ed interest in extending two BRTS corridors to Sri Guru Ram Das Airport. Meanwhile, in Visa­khapatnam, plans are under way for the launch of air-conditioned buses in the BRTS.

In Pune, while the existing BRT system is limited to the Pune Satara Road due to the rapid expansion of the metro system, the Pune civic body is set to launch a new 5 km BRT systems route from Bo­podi to Wakdewadi at a cost of Rs 870 million and will have 11 stops.

In a recent study, the Institute for Trans­portation and Development Policy highlighted the need to strengthen the Yerawada-Wagholi BRT corridor in Pune. Given the surge in peak hour-peak direction demand, which has increased from 2,000 passengers in 2016 to 4,500 passengers in 2023, Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited now operates approximately 55 buses per hour.

Fare collection

Information and communication technology-based solutions such as cashless ticketing through automatic fare collection systems, safe mobility and real-time monitoring of vehicles using in­telligent vehicle tracking systems are being deployed across transport networks. BRTSs typically employ off-board fare collection with electronic smart cards to improve customer experience and reduce revenue leakage and delays caused by fare collection and payment verification on board.

In a notable development, as of June 2023, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has decided to increase the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) and BRTS fares to streamline routes, and eventually make AMTS and BRT system tickets interchangeable.

Further, the authorities responsible for the Hubballi-Dharwad BRTS are planning to introduce quick response code-based digital cash transactions in addition to the existing contactless transaction service.

The way forward

Many cities in the country are gradually moving towards the deployment of intelligent transportation system (ITS) in the bus transport segment. These ITS solutions include fare collection systems based on internet of things technology, GPS solutions, passenger information systems to provide passengers with real-time bus information, vehicle planning schedule and des­pat­ch systems, and depot management systems. However, the penetration of these solutions is still low 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 rapid urbanisation, the adoption of ITS solutions in the bus transport segment will become imperative to create an efficient and reliable public transportation system.