Saturday, October 06, 2012

BRTS Thoughts

The idea behind BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit Corridors) is a nice one. The whole idea is to provide dedicated lanes for buses so that their progress is not delayed due to the other traffic. This results in better average speeds. Atleast in principle. Bangalore is on the cusp of experimenting with a BRTS system on the Outer Ring Road – according to the reports I have read There is however a slight disconnect in the way it has been planned right now.

Disclaimer: I don’t know how it will pan out when the entire planning for the project is done, but this is a general observation of how it works in its state today. Though unless something miraculous has been planned, the state wont change.

The entire outer ring road will have a signal free corridor for about 21 kilometers. The BRTS is planned on this road. How this works is that there are flyovers over all the signal points, but the BRTS lanes are not on the flyover. They are under the flyover and hence, BRTS and bus passengers have to suffer all the intersections. Agreed, that with much of the traffic going over, the times at the signals will be less, but Bangalores intersections are mad (yes, there is no better word for it). If the signal free corridor makes it ‘easier’ for people to drive, why would people take buses? And if cars have a signal free corridor, why cant buses use it as well?  I am sure the powers that be have an answer for it, but take a look at the Agara intersection today.

Case in point: The Agara intersection has lifted two directions of traffic while the buses take the path below the flyover. Unfortunately, this intersection is a busy intersection with atleast 3 more directions of traffic – resulting in a bottleneck for – you guessed it – only the buses – especially the ones coming in from the Silk Board side. Ideally, one of more of those intersecting traffic lines should not be allowed to cross over and provided some sort of an alternate path. If this is a future BRTS system, buses will be slowed down and cars will go over, enjoying the signal free intersections. This defeats the idea of the BRTS – the buses should also get the benefit of signal free intersections – which the present system doesn’t.

Now this is not a isolated example – at the HSR BDA junction the next one after Agara, right now, buses go over the flyover since the roads below are not yet opened for the buses. When the roads below do open, it is no secret that this is another busy intersection. No point explaining, those who use the road know how or why it is so. And the buses inevitably, will wait for the traffic to clear. And this will be the story at all other intersections, give or take a few. But in totality, it will add more time to a bus journey than it should if the corridor were signal free for the buses as well. One can very well argue that the overall time will go down and all that, but think why would a car owner prefer to take a bus when it stops at every single intersection and bus stop while the cars zoom over?

On the other hand, there are systems built in other parts of the world which take this exact idea of giving the signal free benefit to commuters in buses. (Must read piece, From @aadisht). If and when Bangalore BRTS comes to fruition, this must be considered for it to be successful...

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