Monday, December 4

Probably this time...

In another effort to upgrade the traffic conditions in Pune, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was recently introduced on the Hadapsar-Swargate-Katraj route. BRT requires that the buses have a right-of-the-way lane. Separate dedicated lanes are meant to ensure punctuality, even during peak traffic hours. The ticket system is electronic, as in Pune’s case, to decrease the time of ticketing. It could also be pre-boarding ticketing for the same reasons. This is what an ideal BRT would include.

BRT is an ambitious project and might ease the traffic situation in Pune, which has deteriorated drastically over the last decade. The rapid growth of the city lead to increased residents and parallel growth in number of personal use vehicles. The public transport system which was hardly commendable was neglected further and still struggles to find its footing. The narrow roads in the city could not keep up with the increase in traffic and excessive vehicular pressure led to deteriorating road conditions. Over the last couple of years there have been consistent demands to alleviate the situation but almost nothing seems to have worked. N number of projects were promised, introduced, inaugurated and died their own death. Most of them tried to attract commuters to public transport and away from private vehicle usage to ease the burden on the roads. Projects like “Janata bus” (you wave out to the bus and it would stop almost anywhere you want it to, and the fares were also minimal), induction of new superior quality buses, plans to merge the PMT and PCMT, sky-bus etc. are just a few recent examples. The progressively deteriorating condition of the roads, the constant poor quality asphalting, potholes with the first rains and increased accidents have all made most of the citizens skeptical about any new programs that the PMC introduces to ease out things.

The timing of the BRT is also no better. It is less then four months before the PMC elections. The haste with which an approximate Rs.64 crore project is being implemented cannot be expected to create confidence and excitement among commuters. To many it came as a surprise pre-election do-good project. It seems more to be another of the Kalmadi projects. Pawar on the other hand is pushing for a metro system for Pune on the lines of Delhi.

As someone who is well aquatinted with the traffic conditions in Pune, I am not optimistic about the project. One, the BRT takes off an entire lane to itself on roads which are hardly three complete lanes. Most of the roads in Pune are extremely narrow to fit even the existing traffic, and banning maximum vehicles from one entire lane would make matters no better. The current stretch of the pilot project includes Swargate. On any given day Swargate is choked. Being an important ST and PMT bus junction, it bring along rickshaws, road hawkers, ‘tapirs’, restaurants, lodges, chaos, accidents, pollution…you name it. In such an unruly situation taking away vehicular space from others might just aggravate matters. The traffic in Pune is also not disciplined. Commuters hardly ever stand at a bus-stop. You will always find them out on the road, waiting, fidgeting impatiently for the buses. Now taking the bus track and the bus stop towards the divider side of the road seems like a dangerous proposition. Other vehicles which might want to cross or make a U-turn at places will be left waiting for an opportunity in the second lane. Generally those turning right are supposed to be towards the extreme right lane i.e towards the divider side which the BRT will now take up. The buses (each costing around Rs.70 lakhs) are said to be low rise volvo buses. Given the number of potholes and bumps I do not know how low rise buses would survive.

Of course it does not mean that the project is totally hopeless. It might actually help bring lane discipline and overall traffic manners to the otherwise notorious Pune drivers. If the buses do run fast, frequent and on time, personal vehicle usage at least among some section of the commuters can be expected to decrease. The transport authority could probably hope of a no profit no loss situation, instead of the current deficit. As the new buses are said to have a better technology we can assume that they might be safer than the antique buses that currently run on the roads. Also as they would have closed doors, incidents of accidents due to hanging at the doors could go down.

We will have to wait and watch over the pilot period if it actually benefits the public. Unless elections kill it.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Ahmedabad is also having its share of road upgradation and all.. though I am not sure how it will happen..

Anonymous said...

By just implementing BRT system on one of the roads is not going to solve Pune's traffic problems. One fails to understand why such a simple thing cannot be understood by Kalmadi and his coterie

Anonymous said...

I long for the Pune of the yore. It was such a great place in 1989-1991; almost magical. There was never too much traffic except Budhwar peth and those areas. The air was clean, and the winters were chilly and beautiful. Sigh.

Saying that, the biggest problem Pune faces is probably that it does not have the plains like Bombay or bangalore to grow around; hence more and more ppl keep getting cramped up in the same amnt of place. Its rather unfortunate.


Manasi said...

basanti: instead of making that cup sign, cross of fingers.

anonymous: because electoral politics so much more important and complicated that it exhausts them of their grey resources.

suyog: yea. i know what u say. It was wonderful till like 10 years ago. then the big it boom and things went downhill. And what you say is right, there are hardly any plains to grow. ANd that's why they actually climb up the hills and its become a major problem. Tekdi groups and all flourish in Pune these days.

GuNs said...

Hey good to see your blog again. I had lost track of it since I came to the UK.

I had been hearing about the BRT and the PMT-PCMT merger for so many years now that I thought it would never take off. I spent most of the 3 years of my graduation travelling on the Nigdi-Hadapsar route which had the worst buses in the entire city !

There were so many funny incidents like smoke billowing out of the radiator and the driver getting down to get a bucket of water from someone bathing in his slum and pour it down. Another time, the entire gear shaft (the twisted into various shapes piece of rod that connects the driver's hand to the gearbox) broke and the driver sheepishly smiled and showed it around the bus like a trophy of some kind, asking us to get off !!

I SO hope Pune doesnt grow into just-another-Bombay and I hope the situation improves.

All you guys still living in Pune, PLEASE vote for Arun Bhatia if he stands for the elections next time.


Manasi said...

guns: nice to see you back too :)
Nigdi-Hadapsar travel is a pain! But then BRT business seems to be no better. Within the first 10 days it already has had 2 accidents on the Satara Road stretch. Once the bus climbed up the road divider and the second involved a motorist being hit!
God knows when we are going to get someone sane looking at the roads!

amod said...

well you would like to add that there has already been a fatal accident due to a not BRT bus entering the BRT lane

Manasi said...

Amod: hey hi! nice to see you here :)

I heard that piece of news from my brother. Its really sad! Doesnt really make me optimistic about this project.

Anonymous said...

Hi ..

I listen there is some bus service, what abt this ??

Btw, wish you all d best for 2007!!

Cheers ..

Manasi said...

Roy: Happy new year to you too!

JUDA said...

WOW BRT System and what the heck is it supposed to solve? Create another lane ? hahaha That means we already have one lane on each road in pune, is it? Watch news and look at roads in IRAQ! They are like heaven compared to Pune's roads. Pune roads look as if WAR ON TERROR is fought on them. For the entire world.!! Believe me the government can take advise from those guys oh wait a minute Saddam is already dead what a shame that last hope is also lost :( Okay one question what happened to the escalator that was bought at a freaking premium rate for the Pune Station I dont think it was ever started. It is still rotting I guess! Well, each pot hole has corruption written all over it I mean in it. So I guess we can still drive around jumping on our car seats and keep paying INCOME TAX, VAT Tax, Service Tax etc and politicians can have multi crore careers, I think our politicians are one big industry. They should be recognised and Taxed. People say we the citizens just bark and no one stands up and fights an election hahaha they must be joking you think "elections" really matter in India.

Manasi said...

Juda: I don't think things are as pessimistic as your reply seems to convey. True that politicians are rarely doing anything worthwhile and it is a multi-crore career for them. But our economy is growing, exposure through media and internet to better governance is generating atleast some awareness and I think sooner or later this awareness and growth would force us to straigthen up our acts to be able to sustain and compete.

Supremus said...

Happy New Year!

Yeh Kya - no new year post??


Manasi said...

Suyog: Thanks! Happy new year to you too!
There was so much to write about in the new year that I didn't know where to start. And then, its holidays and laziness is too contagious. :)

Ashutosh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashutosh said...

Here's one of the theories I have heard for the introduction of the BRT: Kalmadi and co. know that most people who actually drive on Pune's roads are so mad at him that they won't give him votes. Then how does one get votes from the people travelling by bus (of which there is a substantial number)? Solution: BRT! No matter how bad the system actually works in practice, at least create in front of them the illusion that you are doing something special for them. Yet another victory for Kalmadi and co.

Manasi said...

Ashutosh: Ja, I had heard about it too. Infact there were two projects in the fray, one by Kalamadi and the other by Pawar (it was some train project it I remember correctly). And with roads/traffice being one of the greatest concern of many of the voters, this was but just another win for Kalamadi. Of course considering its short history before the elections, I wouldn't be surprised if it ended being a loss. BTW since you were there recently, they haven't tampered with either FC or JM road, have they?

Ashutosh said...

Not yet, but there are plans to do it on Karve Road. That would be the end of whatever peaceful existence we had living there until now. The problem is, Pune (and many other cities in India) have NOT been planned with the foresight of the next twenty or fifty years in mind. There is no provision and space for real future expansion. So all that can be done is to reorganize as sloppily as possible, the existing infrastructure, to somehow squeeze in the new. It will never work unless there is a basic reinvention of many parts of the city, which would be almost impossible in its own right.