"In cities in developing countries, where the poor are too busy surviving to participate much in government decisions and often do not even have time to be informed about them, it is the role of government to represent them, to ensure that decisions lead to greater equality and justice and not to the contrary. It is a difficult task, because those benefited are often not conscious of the battles  engaged in for their sake while those affected do take offence. Interest groups are usually better informed and more participative, even vociferous, than society at large. If government is to act in a democratic manner it must assume those battles and their political costs."  Enrique Penalosa  

What is a High Capacity Bus System or Bus Rapid Transit System?

First of all it is important to understand that the HCBS or BRTS is a total system. It is safe, fast, comfortable, and comparatively affordable and makes the best use of the available road space. The road is designed and engineered with dedicated bus lanes on which no other vehicles encroach. Likewise there are separate lanes for cyclists, motorized vehicles and pedestrians. This set-up makes for safety and speed.  These urban buses are low-slung with wide doors.

How is the HCBS brought into being? Who will the players be?

The government will provide a specialized infrastructure: A newly created Public Authority will be in charge of planning, promoting and controlling the system; the other stakeholders in the undertaking will be a private concessionaire who will operate a state-of-the-art fare collection system; and all other operations will be provided by private companies. In planning the HCBS for an entire city, various players will be consulted even at the initial stage; they would involve municipal departments, traffic police, relevant national agencies, non-governmental organizations, transport associations, drivers unions, etc.

How does it compare with other forms of rapid transit systems?

The HCBS is a low-cost, flexible, mass transportation system that costs 50 times less than a Metro system and can serve as much as 100 times the area of a rail-based system. The HCBS project development and planning process is much quicker. The HCBS would cost Rs. 5 to 50 crores ($ 1-10 million) per km, while the metro would cost Rs. 100 to 1000 crores ($20-200 million) per km. Other considerations are: The Metro is rigid and has no flexibility while the HCBS can be altered, added-to, subtracted from and redesigned at low-cost and at short notice; also unlike the Metro, the HCBS can reach every part of every city and make itself accessible to other modes of feeder-transport like cycle rickshaws and three-wheelers scooters. There is a minimal need for staircases in some instances in the BRT System while it is essential in all cases for metro stations. The bus stop does not entail a long walk for the commuter unlike the metro station; these factors make the HCBS user-friendly.

What are the special benefits to the commuter?

The segregated bus lanes make for faster travel of commuters in the HCBS; it improves traffic management in general and as such, improves the driving conditions of all other vehicles on the road as well. The segregated bus lane is designed in such a manner that it claims to reduce injury accidents by 40% and fatalities by 50%.
The urban buses of the HCBS are high speed vehicles, sometimes articulated and always very comfortable with wide doors and low floors, level with the platforms of the bus stops and with a carrying capacity of over a hundred passengers. This system, as a whole, produces a decreased load of pollution. Security, cleanliness, easy access, customer comfort, and minimal stoppage time, all combine to make for increased efficiency. Prominent and clear displays of arrival and departure timings create added value and minimize waiting anxiety. Such real-time information displays and clear signages generate a sense of customer security. The whole system is disabled-friendly with ramps and platforms and is a boon to the infirm and the old. Time-saving and efficient fare-collection is made possible at the bus station prior to boarding the vehicle.

What is the social impact of the HCBS on society as distinct from other mass rapid transit systems such as the metro and the skybus?

Both the metro and the skybus are capital-intensive and not as context-relevant as the HCBS. We must realize that not only is urbanization here to stay, but that it seems to be the way of the future. Urbanization makes for diversity and heterogenity in socio-economic conditions with multiple economies operating in close proximity to each other. The formal sector can keep on operating only as long as there is an informal sector for it to feed on. The latter is always larger because it serves both, the former and itself. If this is clearly recognized by our city-planners and policy-makers they would handle the challenge of urban travel and transportation with vision and empathy for all. The HCBS is the most suitable system in promoting modal shifts to a more efficient and less polluting form of transportation.
Often, nearly fifty per cent of the inner city's population lives in low income houses (slums or shanty towns). The urban transport system must cater equally to all segments of society. If the transport infrastructure design ignores the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport passengers, the latter will be forced to defy the law, exposing themselves to high risks on the road; motorized vehicles are then forced to operate at sub-optimal levels. To a large extent, from all the choices available to us, it would appear that the HCBS is the one single operating mass transit system that comes close to best addressing all the relevant issues involved.

How was the BRTs project approved?

The proposal was mooted in 1996. The main motivation behind this proposal was to address the problem of growing accidents and pollution in the city. An international workshop was organized by the Delhi Transport Corporation and IDFC in 2001 to discuss the concept by several International experts. Following this the government set up the committee of sustainable transport chaired by the chief secretary of Delhi. On the recommendation of this committee, RITES was awarded the contract to prepare a detailed feasibility report and plans for implementing HCBS (also known as BRTs in several cities) on five selected corridors in 2003. Extensive consultations were held with all stakeholders which included all concerned departments, utilities, and resident welfare associations along the first corridor. The government was still hesitant and funded an international workshop in December 2005 where experts from all over the world and India were invited to examine the Delhi project in detail. It is only after the finalization of these details that the project was approved. 

Is there a BRTs operating in any of the cities like Tokyo, Beijng, Shanghai, Cairo and Mexico?

BRTs have been successfully operating in 10 cities (Belo Horizonte, Bogota, Campinas, Curtiba, Goiania, Lima, Porto Allegre, Quito, recife, Sao Paulo) in Latin America, 7 cities (Claremont Ferrand, Eindhoven, Essen, Ipswich, Leeds, Nancy, Rouen) in Europe, 6 cities (Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Vancouver) in America, 10 cities (Akita, Fukuka, Gifu, Kanazuwa, Kunming, Miyazaki, Nagaoka, Nagoya, Nigata, Taipie) in Asia and 2 cities (Adelaide, Brisbane) in Australia. As a matter of fact, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Jakarta, Lagos, Hanoi, Beijing and 20 cities in China have started work on BRTs.

Are there any other cities in India where BRTs is proposed?

Yes, under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) which aims to encourage planned development in 63 cities does consider projects in the field of urban, public transport. Safe, versatile, flexible and economic, the BRTs is increasingly being adopted by cities in India.

How does the Metro compare with the BRTs in matters relating to:
a) Cost?
b) Pollution?
c) Time Saving?
d) Tree Cutting?

The cost of construction of BRTS per km, is about 10 to 15 crore rupees. The cost of construction of the metro, per km, is about 120 crore rupees (elevated) and 300 crore rupees (underground).
  Vehicular pollution on the road is dependent on vehicle technology, fuel type & quality and operational conditions on the road. As such, the running of the metro, not being on the road does not affect the degree of pollution on the road. However, exclusive bus lanes and non-motorized vehicle lanes affect driving patterns of all vehicles and is expected to bring down pollution levels on the road.
  Time spent in moving from one place to another is dependentent on access time and in-vehicle time. The access time for the BRTS will always be less than that for the metro because it is on the surface while the metro stations are grade separated. In-vehicle time in metro is shorter for long haul distances. In-vehicle time is shorter in BRTS for short distances.
  Tree cutting in both systems become necessary depending on the specifics of alignment at site. However, in redoing the whole road, the trees felled in the BRTS system are can be replanted, many times over, along the side walks and parallel lanes along the corridor, which is not possible with the construction of the metro.

Why do buses in this system occupy the centre and not the side?

Though not universal, the central lane is the preferred location for the bus in most cities of the world; this is largely because it avoids coming into conflict with left turning traffic; it has increased throughput unlike buses on the curb-side lanes which are forced to stop for other left turning vehicles; it is also safer because the high volume of motorized two-wheelers and three–wheelers do not come into conflict with it.

Why are the bus stops located in the middle of the road and not on the side?

The bus stops are located in the middle of the road where the bus lanes are, because it increases the safety of pedestrians including all commuters; this is because commuters have only half the road to cross at any one time; also, they have a safe waiting space in middle of the road.

What is the lane width for buses, cycles and cars?

The mid-block lane widths of the various lanes (one way) would be:
(One Lane Each Way) 3.1m to 3.5m – for buses
(One Lane Each Way) 1.5m to 2.5m – for cycles
(One Lane Each Way) 1.2m to 2m – for pedestrians
(Two Lanes Each Way) 3m to 3.5m – for motor vehicles
(One Lane Each Way) 3m to 6m – for service lanes
At junctions an extra lane is given to motorized vehicles for turning traffic.

What is the lane configuration at the intersection?

Two motorized vehicle lanes of a combined width of 6.75m. At all junctions this will increase to 3 lanes width of 9m to facilitate turning vehicles.
At each junction there are two parallel bus stops, each having a width of 2.5m in addition to the bus lanes of 3m width each.
2.5m wide lanes for cycles (non-motorized vehicles). Cycles can use the free left turn at signalized intersections.
In the HCBS, traffic at junctions along the corridor will be decongested because of the introduction of additional lanes and turning pockets by more than 25%.

Do we have a separate signaling system for buses?

No. In a normal six phase cycle, all vehicles in all directions can move without coming into conflict with each other.

How do bicycles turn at an intersection?

Cycles do not use a separate signal system and ideally all junctions should have signalized left turns. In a normal six phase signal cycle, bicycles can make a right turn without coming into conflict with other vehicles.

Why are there vendors and hawkers at the bus stops?

Vendors and hawkers are not situated at the bus stops. They are situated in the service lane alongside the bus stops. Commuters waiting to cross the road can comfortably access them.

Will traffic signals be violated?

The traffic signals all along the corridor are optimized for both, cars and pedestrians; therefore the chances of violation of traffic signals are considerably reduced.

Was a Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared?

Detailed designs were prepared based on new (2003-2004) traffic surveys at all 33 junctions along the corridor. The detailed topographical survey included the exact locations of all services and trees along the entire length of the carriageway where the HCBS was to be introduced.

What is the ideal material for the construction of such bus lanes (concrete or bitumen)?

Concrete pavements are stronger and have a longer life. Since buses, in a dedicated lane, move along the same space, concrete paving is preferred to avoid rutting. Bitumen is adopted where concrete construction is not possible due to technical constraints of site and time.

Will the system increase congestion?

Since the system design provides dedicated lanes for cars, buses and bicycles, the congestion is bound to reduce initially. However if the vehicles in the motorized vehicle lanes continue to increase, it would eventually lead to congestion. This will not affect traffic in the bus lanes.

Is the divider separating the dedicated bus lanes as per international standards?

The divider separating the dedicated bus lanes are as per international standards and reflect a sensitivity to local needs; the divider consists of a 0.75m wide band of diagonally (at 45 degree angle to the bus lane) oriented rumble strips, in concrete – curving in profile with a 125m width and 25mm height. The parallel gap between the rumble strips should be 0.6m.

Will the exclusive bus lane remain unused most of the time?

Buses already run at a frequency of 5 to 10 minutes on all routes. At peak hours, buses move in a platoon of 10 to 12 buses. Therefore the dedicated bus lane will not remain unused most of the time.

Have the stakeholders been involved in the planning process of the project? Is the project people centric?

Extensive consultations were held with all stakeholders, which included all concerned departments, utilities, Resident Welfare Associations along the proposed corridor. The progress of the work along the corridor is being closely monitored by the EPCA (Environmental Pollution Control Authority). The project may be aptly said to be people centric.

What was the factual position in the controversy about the ITO flyover and the BRTs?

The PWD proposed a flyover along Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg intending to reroute traffic alongside Pragati Maidan in order to make the ITO crossing signal-free. Bus stops were proposed to be relocated away from the junction; this implied longer walking distances for commuters changing buses. Oneway traffic in front of Pragati Maidan would result in a 200% increase in traffic on Bhagwandas Road and Tilak Marg junctions. Commuters using the buses would be adversely affected. Therefore it was decided to complete the HCBS corridor prior to the construction of the flyover at the ITO crossing.

What are the parking facilities for cars and motorized two wheelers along the BRTs Corridor?

There are parking facilities for cars and motorized two wheelers along the corridor on parallel service roads. In addition to this, other parking lots are being identified by the government.

What do we do in the case of a breakdown on a dedicated bus lane?

The High Capacity Bus System will provide foolproof safety to the commuters. Any such unfortunate incident like a breakdown will be addressed immediately and effectively without inconveniencing the others on the road because the median separating the two bus lanes is a mountable rumble strip of 25mm in height as per international standards.

Have any specifics been firmed up on the quality of buses that would run along this corridor, the fare structure, the numbers of buses required to be procured for efficient functioning of such a system, a matrix of driver caliber and other indices required to facilitate such a project?

The government will, in concert with DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transport System), look into the specifics of bus quality, driver caliber, bus numbers, etc. for the efficient functioning of the system.

Along the corridor, opposite GK – I is a school called the Indian School, where parents of wards and school buses pick up children off the road causing a huge jam. Will the schools be shifted, or another area be provided to it for a lighting and boarding school buses and private vehicles of parents, wards etc after the HCBS (BRTs) is operational?

For all schools along the corridor, detailed plans have been drawn up to ensure the safe and smooth bussing of children to and from the schools, without any hindrance to the traffic.

In various presentations on the HCBS (BRTs) system worldwide the emphasis is on its being a total system. Clearly this was not implemented in the case of Delhi which is doing this in relay fashion and one length will have to wait for all others before the ‘system’ emerges. Why?

Internationally, as in India, the HCBS (BRTs) has been implemented in a phased manner.

It is repeatedly stressed that being a system, the HCBS will require an autonomous body to run it, unless of course you propose the DTC to run it. What body is this, has it been constituted or not – basically who will run the HCBS, if and when it is ready?

The organization or body that will be running the HCBS is the DIMTS: Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transport System.