India's first ever tryst with what has been found so effective in Latin American countries, some American countries and even Bangladesh and Pakistan, has turned out to be a nightmare for some on Delhi roads. The main victims have been the private vehicle users, including school buses.
The errors in planning are now being blamed on the BRT system itself, which segregates road space for buses to enable quick transport for all vehicles.
If the city planners decide to fold up the initiative, alarmed by media headlines and the traffic mess, then it would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. The system could have been started when schools were closed or in places where traffic was less.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says that while a few hundred buses are added to the transport system annually, at least 400 cars are bought daily in Delhi. And in spite of this increase in private vehicles, buses cater to 60 per cent of the traffic in Delhi alone, says Sunita Narain of CSE. "This is why we need a system that can efficiently move the bulk of the city passengers and even provide options for the rest to move towards bus transport. The BRT provides us this option. Out of the roughly 16 million passenger trips in the city, buses cater to roughly 9 million passenger trips," she says.
The original success story of BRT was from Curitiba in Brazil, which gives 90 per cent approval rating for its BRT system introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. Why did the people of Curitiba approve of the BRT? Not because they don't have fancy cars. In fact, the city has the second highest per capita car ownership in Brazil (one car for every three people). But Curitiba's gasoline usage per capita is 30 per cent below that of eight comparable Brazilian cities.
The Delhi Integrated Multi-modal Transit System (DIMTS) is doing its inaugural run in a stretch of 5.6 km, while Ahmedabad is to have its first BRT stretch ready next year. It is happening and no one can stop it. What needs to be stopped is the madness of having 100 cars at the red light of a junction in peak hours, when three buses can carry the same number of people.
Bhure Lal, chairperson of the Supreme Court appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, raised his hand of approval for the BRT this week amidst protests from car users.
Private vehicle users have to make a choice. Do they want clean air and speed or are they happy treadmilling their way to nowhere early in the morning in endless traffic snarls?