The city administration recently resolved to implement bus lanes on the 12 high-density corridors identified by the government in 2016. This brings in some pertinent observations by citizens at large, who are very excited about the project but are also concerned if it would be effective on ground.
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What is proposed is not Bus Rapid Transit which is a system with its own dedicated tracks, a separate rolling stock of buses, and separate bus stations (if the ticketing systems are different). The 12 high-density corridors are proposed to have bus priority lanes which use the existing road infrastructure and the same rolling stock as BMTC, but are dedicated lanes to move only buses on priority at signals and junctions.
Globally, bus priority lanes are usually just painted, and not necessarily physically segregated. But in the Indian scenario, if not segregated, these lanes tend to attract encroachments by other vehicles and can put an extra load of enforcement on the police.
But bus priority, if designed and implemented properly, will bring about true savings in time for bus commuters and will see the easing of traffic on these corridors. However, some of the concerns that need to be looked into while implementing this project are:
- Placement of bus lanes away from service roads: Especially in corridors like the ORR, there are many roads for property access, with high volume of traffic movement. This can interrupt the priority movement of buses. Hence the corridor needs to be placed away from the service lanes, and towards the carriageway instead.
- Separate signals for bus lane: At junctions, a separate signal should be set up for the bus priority lane. And these signals should be synchronised, so that buses can move continuously across all junctions. Priority lanes alone will not help if the buses get stuck at signals.
- Movable barrier system: If physical segregation is provided to buses, there should be a moveable barrier system for dynamic opening/closing of the bus lane. This would allow opening of the barrier in case a bus breaks down.
- Modernising ticket issue: Often in Bengaluru, several buses are clumped together around major bus stops. One reason for this is the inability of bus conductors to complete the ticket issue for all passengers before they alight at their stop, especially when the bus is crowded. To avoid this, the ticketing system will have to be modernised and technology used – bus passes, ticket kiosks at major bus stops etc are options. Also, a larger route rationalisation plan needs to be arrived at, to avoid clumping of buses.
- Proper intervals between buses: To ensure high efficiency of the bus lanes, proper headways – that is, the average interval between buses on a route – have to be designed. The movement of buses should also be tracked backend using BMTC’s existing GPS system to ensure several buses do not lag due to one slow-moving bus. Using this system, BMTC should be able to delay the dispatch of a bus when required.
- Committee with citizen representatives: The BMTC, BMRCL, Transport department, DULT, BBMP and BTP need to form a co-ordination committee that also has citizen representatives. A project nodal officer can be appointed to convene the committee meetings. Citizen representatives in the committee can guide planners with relevant details from their neighbourhood. They can also help with outreach in their neighbourhood so that both bus users and motorists adopt bus lanes quickly and more effectively, and motorists become aware of how to behave on the road once the lanes are functional. This will ensure that citizens themselves make the plan successful.
- Budget for continued interventions: Budget allocation for the complete network should be committed by the government to ensure this project is not shelved. The budget should allow for continued interventions to promote the use of buses in the corridor, such as signal synchronisation, building better walking and cycling facilities for last-mile connectivity, and so on. It should not be restricted to funding merely the one-time effort to create lanes.
- Planning transport around the corridors: BMTC has to plan for the 12 different ‘pies’ that will be created in between the 12 high-density corridors. ‘Pie’ is a conceptual zone created by crisscrossing of the corridors. Each zone/pie can be treated as a separate bus district having feeder services to various corners in its neighbourhood. That is, they can be treated as smaller units of the city for which separate bus services are run. Thus, each ‘pie’ would act as a hub that feeds the corridors. This ensures that more people use the dedicated bus lanes, and that one corridor is connected to the other.
- Corridors to be designed as a network: Last but not the least, the administration should have an overall plan that includes the complete network of all 12 corridors, providing various elements such as footpaths, cycle tracks, pedestrian crossings, skywalks if any, signalling, bus stops etc. The corridors should be designed as a network to ensure the continuity and efficiency of bus services at points where the the corridors intersect. This also ensures the continuity of cycle tracks and footpaths, for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.