Ahhh! Dilli meri jaan, I have always been so proud to be living within your boundaries. Your status as the capital city, the cultural heritage, the monuments, the eateries, and everything about you has always made me held my neck high. And then your selection as the host of the Commonwealth Games 2010 reaffirmed my feelings for you. Then it was time for you to be dressed as a bride. Your caretakers tried to adorn you with several jewels, while some highlighted your personality, others served as thorns in a rose.
While many would have guessed here as to what I’m trying to talk about here, for others who didn’t understand the clues in my guessing game; I’m talking about the much controversial BRT corridor. After many changes in the existing infrastructure, vehicles and much scheduling, BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) corridor was born in Delhi. The main purpose was to improve the quality of bus transit and also to push people towards the public transport system. Hence, the once wide roads were ruthlessly slashed into various lanes; the cycle lane, the vehicles lane and the bus lane. Elaborate bus stops were also constructed right in the middle of the busy roads.
Its planners were obviously in some kind of a hurry when they conceptualised this project and finally it still surprises me to see that even such a half baked project could be given a go ahead. Phew! The idea was to push people more towards the public transport but considering the present state of the buses along with their ill timings, that is less likely to happen. Moreover, the number of buses plying on the roads also falls short in front of the demand. So probably more buses should have been launched first, their regularity and timings taken care of and then the roads should have been tampered with. I will not deny the fact here that the government has introduced some high capacity buses and air conditioned buses for the purpose. But again, supply falls short of the demand. Also their fares are quite substantial. For example, a trip for four from Saket to Connaught Place will cost Rs.200 just for the bus fare excluding the autos cost. While the same trip in personal car will be just Rs.100. Was cost effectiveness taken into consideration during this project?
So while buses enjoy the special privilege and zoom past by, other vehicles sweat it out in the narrow lanes. One is likely to find huge traffic jams at BRT corridors at all points of time. The long queues of cars are always waiting to greet you with open arms if you happen to unfortunately step on the forbidden territory. A stretch that previously used to take 20 minutes now easily takes around 2 hours in peak hours. One doesn’t need a strong imagination power to guess the consequences when a vehicle breaks down in these narrow lanes! The story doesn’t end here. Even the school children have to bear the brunt of this wayward dividing of roads. In the mornings and afternoons, the school buses are also queued one after the other proving to be a harrowing experience for the waiting students inside.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on urban transport has also declared this system as a failure in the Capital. According to a report submitted by School of Planning Architecture head Prof P K Sarkar, there are many loopholes in the model. Prof Sarkar has pointed out that one of the major failures of this transport model in Delhi has been to take away seven metres of road width from the already inadequate right of way of the road. According to the report, even movement of pedestrian traffic across the BRT corridor is not well planned and as a result of which the pedestrians have to walk comparatively longer distances to cross the corridor.
Though the philosophy behind this project has been sincere; develop a public transport system and have more and more people use that and which will reduce pollution, traffic and fuel consumption but this project is not proving to be quite successful here (the bus commuters will whole heartedly disagree here as they ride as kings and queens in hassle free lanes). Perhaps the government should have tried to initiate some other measures to dissuade people from using their personal cars before spending crores of money on BRT corridors such as heavy parking or forcing them not to take out their cars on at least one day of the week. For example in Beijing, if the car number ends with a 1 or 6, then it can’t be taken out on Monday; if it ends with a 2 or 7 then it can’t be taken out on a Tuesday and so forth. So while other alternatives were not thought of, we have to live with this nightmare but I sincerely hope that no more roads are divided and all other future BRT projects are shelved in the city. In the meanwhile, spend extra fuel to dodge the BRT if it happens to come across your way!!!
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8754860@N02/2740374539/]