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.

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