Media reports have stated that the state government and BBMP plan to introduce dedicated bus lanes on 12 high-density corridors in Bengaluru. The Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV) welcomes this initiative as it is essential for sustainable and equitable mobility in the city. This has been a long standing demand from BBPV and other civil society groups, and we are happy to work with the government to make this a success.
Why dedicated bus lanes are important
Road space is a limited public resource. Bus-based public transport makes the most efficient use of road space for moving people. As the primary provider of public transport, BMTC has been the backbone of mobility in Bengaluru.
Despite its falling ridership, BMTC transports 36 lakh people everyday. However, a disproportionate share of the road space is occupied by the lakhs of private vehicles, especially cars and two-wheelers, which serve a much smaller number of people. Recent research by IISc has shown that during peak hours in Bengaluru, cars occupy eight times more road space than buses, but transports nine times fewer people.
Having to jostle with slow-moving traffic in mixed lanes, BMTC has been struggling to provide reliable and efficient service to the city. According to media reports based on BMTC’s recent annual report, the total number of kilometres cancelled by BMTC, mainly due to traffic congestion, has increased almost 200 percent over four years, from 241.6 lakh km in 2013-14 to 717.9 lakh km in 2017-18.
Such drop in service and increase in time taken for trips has made BMTC unattractive to many, and added to congestion in the city as more people take to private transport. Dedicated bus lanes will reverse this imbalance as they will help buses move faster, and thereby improve their efficiency. Effective design and implementation, and public buy-in is key to the success of the project.
Many cities in India, like Ahmedabad, Pune, Delhi and Indore have been piloting bus lanes with an array of designs and varying degrees of success. Its important that Bengaluru studies these initiatives and their successes and failures, to ensure it does not repeat the same mistakes and incorporates positive ideas from other cities.
From the experience of other cities, the following are key to the success of the initiative:
- Choice of lanes and placement of bus stops (median/kerb or left lane)
- Safe pedestrian access to bus lanes and bus stops
- Design of intersections and signals in a manner that gives priority to buses
- Methods to keep other vehicles out of bus lanes
- Adequate fleet and efficient operations plan to maximise utilisation of bus lanes, especially during peak hours
- Effective communication with general public
Additionally, transport solutions work most effectively at a network level, and the high-density corridors are part of a larger mobility network. Unless network-wide solutions are implemented to ensure improved connectivity and access to and from high-density corridors, the benefit from bus lanes will be limited.
Bengaluru roads have varying widths at different sections; appropriate designs are required to ensure priority for buses across differing road widths. The government and BMTC should also focus on improving the overall quality and efficiency of bus services by improving BMTC’s route network, rationalising routes, providing adequate good-quality fleet, and making BMTC affordable for all sections of society.
Most importantly, the government should the public along in this initiative. It is crucial that the government reaches out to the larger public to share information, address any concern, and build a consensus among all road users on the importance of this initiative and why its success is beneficial for the city as a whole. Government must proactively hold public discussions across the city and through social media to build this consensus.
This is an opportune moment for Bengaluru to learn from experiences world over and in other Indian cities, and to demonstrate that political will, context-specific design and effective implementation can make bus lanes an effective solution for sustainable and equitable mobility in Indian cities. BBPV is happy to partner with the govt and other civil society groups to make this initiative a success in Bengaluru.
Some resources on BRTS projects:
- Learnings from Pune’s Pilot BRT Project: https://rainbowbrtpune.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/learnings-from-pune-pilot-brt-project_may-2015-1.pdf
- Learnings from a BRT project in Hadapsar-Katraj: https://rainbowbrtpune.wordpress.com/hadapsar-katraj-pilot/
- More on Pune’s BRT system: https://rainbowbrtpune.wordpress.com/reports-of-the-promotions-and-outreach-projects/