Bus Rapid Transit Under Fire in Delhi, India

As a new class of automobile owners floods the streets of India with cheap cars, the city of Delhi is trying to stem the tide with a new Bus Rapid Transit program. Unfortunately, along with the cars has come the requisite sense of entitlement and modal prejudice, as EMBARQ reports:

This last week Delhi began a trial run for its first bus rapid transit corridor, a 5.8 kilometer stretch in the southern part of the city. To put it mildly, the start has been anything but stellar: a Google News search for "brt delhi" comes up with over 70 news articles from the last week, almost all of them sensationally pessimistic. Here are a few of the headlines: "BRT nightmare for school kids on way home," "Kids bear the brunt of BRT mess," "Delhi bus corridor: Fiasco continues," "BRT corridor chaos worse than ever."

From what I’ve heard from our experts in Mumbai, the project has had several hiccups like lack of signage, signal systems not working properly, bus breakdowns, and motorcycles and bicycles entering the bus lanes. But overall these are problems that can be fixed with time and bus operations can be improved.

What seems to be a bigger problem than the hitches and hiccups of the system itself is the destructive roll that the media has played, unfairly skewing the coverage of the trial run to make the problem seem worse than it actually is.

In the video, for example, you can see footage of cars, rickshaws and motorbikes snared in traffic alongside the bus lane. What you can also see, however, is that in every shot with a passing bus, the bus is jammed packed with people. It’s a clear indication that the system is popular among people who are using it.

When you watch the news footage though, you will notice that the journalist never interviews a single bus passenger to see what their satisfaction is with the system. All they show is disgruntled car owners who fume about what the bus rapid transit corridor has done to car traffic.

We haven’t heard of widespread opposition to BRT in New York, but with the first corridor set to make its debut next month, Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman David Gantt, a Democrat from Rochester who has long opposed the use of red light cameras, has signaled that he, for one, is skeptical of using automated enforcement to keep cars out of the bus lanes — a key component of the city’s plans.

  • sonny

    if you think the sense of entitlement is bad in nyc, you’d be disguisted with attitudes in india

  • jmc

    That’s terrible, not one interview with a bus passenger!

  • jmc

    There’s no way mass car ownership will work out well in India. They don’t have enough money to build enough roads, there’s not enough gasoline left, and the vast vast majority of people there will be too poor to ever own cars, even if they have phenomenal economic growth for the next 100 years!

  • Mark Walker

    “When you watch the news footage though, you will notice that the journalist never interviews a single bus passenger to see what their satisfaction is with the system. All they show is disgruntled car owners who fume about what the bus rapid transit corridor has done to car traffic.”

    This is exactly the same way TV newscasts covered congestion pricing in NYC. The reporter would stick a microphone into the window of car after car, then the program would cut to an SUV ad, and finally the news team would get into their cars and drive home to the suburbs.

  • “the vast vast majority of people there will be too poor to ever own cars, even if they have phenomenal economic growth for the next 100 years!”

    You underrate the impact of growth. India’s economy is growing at 8% or 9% per year. A growth rate of 7% is a doubling time of 10 years, so if India’s economy grows at 7% for the next 100 years, it will double 10 times, increasing more than 1000 fold.

    Actually, India and China will both reach America’s current standard of living some time this century if their current growth rates continue. If I remember my projection, China would reach this level in the 2040s.

    That is the frightening fact about growth – and that is why current growth rates can’t continue.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I wonder if the Indian cast system has any role to this sense of entitlement; the upper casts in their cars while the lower ones take the bus.

    It’s not like we don’t have some unwritten system here in the US. Any body who rides a bike in the US knows what I mean but I’m seriously curious about India.

  • Gaurav

    This channel is after this project well before launch. Unfortunately criticizing a project is easy way to boost TRP of the channel.
    99% is a funny figure. I know whole bunch of people who are happy with the BRT system. Over 60% of Delhi population travels by buses and they are very happy with the system. Travel time by buses have reduced by whopping 2/3rd. Every single expert is saying this project is most appropriate for Delhi but these so called journalist experts think differently. Shame on India media. He doesnt let the person speak who wanted to speak in favor of BRT.

  • I am surprised they even call this a news show. it looks like a commentary on the reporters personal views. My favorite, “IF we were to do a poll 99% of people in Delhi would be oppossed.” So, I guess there is no need to do a poll since he knows the answer already. and the other one from the professor expert who says, “there is no answer to this congestion cause our road wasn’t built for it.”

  • Despite the initial operational problems it is important to recognize the benefits of the Delhi busway. As a concept, the busway is a great improvement over the previous conditions for the majority of people using the corridor: the bus riders.
    This starts to be recognized in comments and surveys: see
    http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20080048558 (a real poll showing the great Delhi divide, great benefits to bus users and drivers, negative impacts to the minority of car users)

    Now “Transport officials satisfied with BRT progress so far” http://www.ibnlive.com/news/transport-officials-satisfied-with-brt-progress-so-far/65223-3.html

    The bus corridor can and should be improved, hopefully through the introduction of BRT concepts not considered in the pilot implementation: controlled operation of the buses, level access, pre-payment, improved user information systems.

    It is too early to call the pilot corridor a failure. Most implementations in developing countries have problems at the beginning, and all have resolved the issues over time. See http://www.embarq.org/documentupload/Hidalgo_TT%20BRT%20in%2011%20Cities.pdf

  • asj

    I am writing with regards BRT projects as implemented in two Indian cities. Despite being a campaigner for improving Pune’s bus public transport system, I have not managed to share the optimism over BRT projects in Pune (and perhaps Delhi) for various reasons. Unfortunately a number of factors are being over looked in the ongoing debates. Concepts such as cost effectiveness and opportunity costs remain forgotten. Equally to run after a dream called BRT without having basic pre-requisites in place is nothing but foolish. For more details on my views with 15 embedded links please read my article by clicking here http://better.pune.googlepages.com/WhyBRTinIndiadoesnotexciteme.htm

  • Roy

    Whether BRT is good or bad, it is for sure that this ‘news’ programme was heavily biased and the two reporters are big idiots! They pronounce 99% people would say BRT is a bad idea — oh yeah??? Do they know how many people would say they don’t deserve to be journalists?

  • Ayesha

    Would it be possible to get access to this video, please? You can email me at ayesha.vemuri@gmail.com.

  • Suchitra

    BRT is nice innovative way to reduce the time of buses. It is separate way for city buses. But in some cities like Pune, Indore i observed every vehicle use this track. Two wheelers, auto rickshaws, city taxis etc running on this track then question arise in my mind why govt construct the BRT tracks? So it is need to restrict other vehicle on BRT tracks. Allow only city buses.

  • In spite of the underlying operational issues it is critical to perceive the advantages of the Delhi bus way. As an idea, the bus way is an awesome change over the past conditions for the larger part of individuals utilizing the hallway: the transport riders.



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