Around the world cities and transit agencies are implementing bus rapid transit (BRT) systems to improve traffic flow and transit options along some of the most congested corridors. While BRT systems have gained popularity in cities across the United States, the approach taken here differs from that taken in other countries.
“Generally speaking, BRT is implemented in a way that is different than the way the U.S. implements it. The general difference is that BRT outside the U.S. tends to be a more network-based strategy,” explains Cliff Henke, senior analyst with Parsons Brinckerhoff. “It’s done with a view in mind that for a total network, now that’s not to say when a BRT is planned in this country we don’t consider those aspects, it’s just that they are not emphasized as heavily as they are outside the United States.”
Janmarg BRT —Ahmedabad, India
Ahmedabad, India is a growing city that was facing congestion problems due to the large number of young professionals who aremaking longer commutes to work and are adding to the number of cars on the road, according toClinton Bench, deputy executive director Massachusetts Department of Transportation Office of Transportation Planning, who traveled to Ahmedabad on a study mission with the International Transit Studies Program (ITSP).
“In Ahmedabad it’s notable that it’s the first sort of ground-up, fully planned BRT system that’s operational. There are BRT elements being used in Delhi and some of the other cities on routes, but this is the first time where they really started from scratch and said OK, here is a city that currently has no rapid transit system at all, the city in the case of Ahmedabad has about 6 million people. It’s very fast-growing and automobile congestion is becoming a major concern,” Bench says.
He adds: “Ahmedabad is sort of being brought down to its knees because of the congestion and they’re a pretty progressive-thinking city and also a pretty wealthy city for India.”
Janmarg BRT opened for operation in October 2009. When Bench and the others on the ITSP mission study visited the line in April 2011, the first corridor was open and covered 12 kilometers. The entire system that was approved for construction will cover 78 kilometers
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corp., the city government, contracted Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT) to oversee all elements of planning, design and construction of the BRT system. Today, CEPT is responsible for operating the system and monitoring the quality of service.
“That was very unusual, the kind of concept of a partnership with an academic institution,” says Bench. “Also what they are planning to do, this is something we started to see throughout India and China, is that once they’ve perfected the concept of instituting rapid transit in a place, in this case it’s bus rapid transit, they’re using theinstitutional model not only as something to replicate in cities throughout India or in other countries, but the institutional model in the original city is kind of becoming entrepreneurial itself.”
Bench says one of the most interesting aspects of the Janmarg BRT layout and features was the incremental approach that was taken in implementing the system.
“They, and this seems like a no-brainer but in a way I don’t think we always use the strategy to its fullest here, they wanted to be able to make the system feel both immediately accessible to the people who otherwise would be used to riding their motorbikes or getting in a rickshaw cab there. So they made sure to use a corridor that they knew could be easily built almost as a pilot project, as a demonstration of how BRT could be successful.”
All the features of BRT were not implemented right away, however. For example, all the buses were not initially air-conditioned. “To make sure they kept it affordable, they kept it feeling like it wasn’t going to be a high-class service; they wanted it to be something that all people could use and feel comfortable with,” says Bench.