The Chaotic BRT Corridor

If you think that the Delhi government is satisfied by transforming the walled city into a world city then you are highly mistaken. It seems to have embarked on a highly ambitious project of making Delhi a first class world city with the BRT corridor becoming an essential component of the elaborate plans of structuring this city for that purpose. So what if it means replicating international bus transit models inconsistent with the traffic density of our populous city? Ms. Sheila Dixit, our zealous Chief Minister, asserts the feasibility of the plan with oozing confidence. Undoubtedly, the corridor also purports to be a practical solution to the Blueline bus menace as it demarcates the traffic lanes clearly and imposes severe traffic discipline .So then, how can one dismiss such an attempt as waste? Or is it a stage too nascent to give a clear verdict? Is it worth all the pain? Several questions still remain unanswered.

Traffic seems to be an inevitable part of urban lifestyle in India notwithstanding whether it is New Delhi or Mumbai or Bengalooru or Chennai. But what distinguishes New Delhi from the others is that it would host the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The state government, overwhelmed by the success of the metro, is going overboard with the make-over of the city without adequate planning. It picked up the busiest route to experiment with, a route which already faced problems of congestion. Bus Rapid Transit is a system where buses are used to provide a higher quality service than an ordinary bus line would. This includes various improvements like new bus stops, lane rescheduling, and better traffic management. This system runs successfully in several cities from Brisbane to Brazil, from Ottawa to Mexico. Delhi seems to have been inspired by the Bogotá model. But this seems to have been done with very little understanding of the real situation. The Chirag Delhi- Moolchand stretch supports the highest volume of traffic in south Delhi and to use this stretch as a starting point of the project was the first big mistake. The lanes used by cars got narrower and became the main reason for the chaos. What was initially a fifteen minute drive now takes at least an hour more. To top all problems, the system uses complex traffic signals which confuse commuters further. Placing the bus lane in the middle lane has been heavily criticized. Copying an already successful idea is not uncommon in our country but doing it being insensitive to the circumstances and situations clearly creates havoc. The Bogotá model was structured on roads five times wider than this. In India, large number of people use cycles and pedestrians have also suffered their share. Maintaining traffic discipline was already very difficult in Delhi, with new rules it just got worse. Experts have been roped in from everywhere to suggest a solution to this. The plans to expand the corridor beyond this 5.8 km stretch have been shelved until the already operating one works smoothly.

The project has taken almost a year for construction and has created problems for commuters ever since. It is but natural that the people expect the project to be worth all the trouble caused. But too much has been said too soon. Very recently, a Rapid Transit System was introduced Lagos, Nigeria where similar problems were seen but it slowly cleared way for a much more efficient system of transportation than was before. Even after two weeks or so of trial run, it has found some takers who claim that it does make bus drivers more responsible and curtails their erratic behavior. Nevertheless, it does not guarantee a decrease in road accidents as the bus lanes are placed in the middle and bus stops are not ideally located. As of now, the government wishes to move on with it and pursue their desire to make Delhi a first class city. Who knows, probably it may become the next Los Angeles!

Rohini Ram Mohan

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