In Ahmedabad, a city with a population of more than 5.5 million, commuting options were limited. Commuters could either drive, take the municipal bus (which was over crowded) or auto rickshaws. An affordable public transport network that would enable people to reach their destinations in the shortest possible time, in the easiest possible manner, was required. The Ahmedabad bus rapid transport system (BRTS) is that system.
Going by the name 'Janmarg' or 'the people's ways', the BRTS began operation in October 2009, and has grown from 12 kilometres of route to 45 kilometres and growing. Passenger numbers have also grown, from 18,000 at the start to nearly 130,000 today.
Janmarg is designed as a strategic intervention, to attract latent transit demand, improve air quality and help the city remain compact. Its salient features are: a closed BRT system with median bus stations; specially designed buses with right hand side doors and bus floor and bus station platform heights matching; a complete revamp of the right of way to include cycle tracks and pedestrian facilities; a commercial speed of 25 kp/h enabling faster commuting; and off board fare collection. Janmarg has made several innovations in the planning and designing of the system including a fully 'pedestrian and transit' only street section at one location and a one-way bus lane to manage narrow right of way. At a larger level, Janmarg has demonstrated that BRT system can work in India. The activity has become the backbone of public transportation in the city. Janmarg looked at other BRTS in cities around the world and adapted their best practices in the context of Ahmedabad.
Mitigation / Adaptation
Ahmedabad is reaping benefits in the form of faster and safer commuting, mitigation in impact of air pollution and creating an overall positive impact on urban development.
The BRT system has already shown several mitigation impacts. For example, 20 to 22 per cent of the commuters have moved from using their motorcycles to the bus. With an average trip length on the bus of 7km, this translates into a saving of almost 200,000 vehicle kilometres per day (5,000,000 per month).
The monthly surveys also show that 65 per cent of the people who use Janmarg walk to and from the bus station. Typically, these trips are between 0.2km to 1.5km. This also translates into reduction of vehicle travel.
Janmarg now operates over a 45km network. This is expected to increase to 135km over the next two years. The system is expected to carry over 500,000 passengers by the end of 2012 and over 700,000 passengers by the end of 2014. This would translate into vehicle mileage savings of 750,000km by 2012 and 1,000,000km by 2014.
Social and environmental benefits
Janmarg has been a catalyst in the rejuvenation of Ahmedabad. The entire network has been planned in a manner that ensures that almost all destinations are covered. The appeal of the system has reached previously under-served social groups. For example, the afternoon hours, which are the off-peak, have seen a rise in female travelers; almost 40 per cent of commuters in the afternoon are women.
Similarly, the widening of the BRT system with new roads and bridges has helped better connect the city, ans spurring some development. For example, part of the corridor passes through vacant former mill lands that now are being developed. This includes new housing and shopping areas for the urban poor.
A big factor in the success of Janmarg has been the positive role played by citizens. The Ahmedabad Municipal Council (AMC) held regular press briefings; on the planning and designing process, public exhibitions and presentations, responding to all suggestions and recommendations.
Potential for scaling-up and replication
The success of the BRT system has also led to an overall improvement in the service quality of the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS). All old diesel buses with obsolete technology have been replaced with compressed natural gas buses. AMTS has added more than 900 new buses over the last four years. The routes for these buses are now being operated as feeder services for Janmarg.
Janmarg is now part a larger level regional plan for Ahmedabad, where transit corridors have been identified and the system is expected to have a much wider coverage. It will also be integrated with the proposed rail-based transit system.
Since its inception, Janmarg has been a source of learning, and has been visited by representatives from various cities across India and some international cities, which are keen on implementing their own; BRT systems.