A real estate absurdity called BRTS

As citizens of Ahmedabad are rejoicing that their city is the first in India to have a metro rail, a BRTS (Bus Rapid Transport System) and local AMTS (Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service), I am tempted to request all of you to wait for one critical number to prove that it is worth celebrating arrival of metro rail in the city.

To really adjudge success/failure of a public transport system one has to study how it impacts private vehicle sale numbers in the city, and the bitter truth is, the last such adventure in public transport, the BRTS has failed on this count.

Ahmedabad has almost one private vehicle to two persons with two wheelers outnumbering four wheelers by ten to one.

Regardless of public transport modes added to the city, vehicle sell, especially of two wheelers has grown constantly every year suggesting that people have not moved to BRTS to make it a viable option vis-à-vis real estate it occupies.

If we apply climate-based logic, there is a simple explanation for this.

In a city where mercury soars above 40 C for nearly three months of a year, walking can never be a round-the-year last-mile-connectivity option. So, people are bound to prefer a point-to-point transport provided by a two wheeler over a public transport journey even if it requires only a short walk to a station.

We are not Europe and hence we are unlikely to see a shift.

While I seriously hope that we use new mobile App based aggregating technologies and integrate all forms of public transport to take the last-mile connectivity to a level where walking in really reduced, the truth is, it is a difficult challenge for a city like Ahmedabad to make public transport as convenient as a two wheeler.

I sincerely wish that our policy-makers accept this reality and also start looking at smoothening two-wheeler based mobility instead of day-dreaming about public transport replacing them.

If we look at our transportation planning, two wheelers hardly find any special mention, but reality is that they drive the city and contribute to not just traffic but traffic problems at a scale far larger than all the stake-holders put together.

As two wheelers are real movers and shakers, they also contribute to traffic jams, more so because they are really mobile. As they can break lanes and traffic rules with ease, two wheelers prevent orderly lane-driven traffic movement across Ahmedabad, making commuting using any medium a nightmare that is getting worse by each day.

But I look at the vehicle statistics, a very interesting thought hits me hard.

If we look at transportation capability, a BRTS bus is actually partially solving problem that approximately 30/40 two-wheelers solve completely with ease, but if we look at road space utilised by BRTS bus to do so, it really starts looking completely absurd.

Every time I drive past the empty BRTS lane, I can imagine the astronomical number of two wheelers that could have occupied the same amount of premium real estate and transported hundreds of times more citizens.

As we now have metro and hence a system than can connect distant places really rapidly, it is about time we reconsider BRTS as it has failed to justify the space it occupies.

I really feel that, even as a one day experiment, city administration should consider reserving BRTS lanes only for two-wheeler movement (and may be parking too) and see how it impacts the movement flow across the city.

We need to realise that traffic problem is not static and it will grow exponentially if more and more private vehicles are added to the roads. We need to think of something radical if we want to prevent a transportation collapse in the city.

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

6 comments on “A real estate absurdity called BRTS

  1. Anonymous

    This i believe is the dumbest thing i have read in a while, and in todays day and age, its not very difficult to be reading dumb stuff on the net.
    Kudos to winning that battle


  2. Anonymous

    All of us in the end are arm-chair analysts and fortunately for us, one doesn’t need to do a lot to make thier opinions heard. However, any person writing in public domain should definately do atleast a quick 5 minute research and atleast aim to get overall perspective in place.

    Dear Sir, had you done this research you would have realised that solution you are saying is not the overall solution. If we keep them more space, the 2-wheelers will continue to rise ( even after metro system is in place in ahmedabad). The solution, lies in a behaviour change with right infrastructure in place and there is enough precendence in the world to back my statement. Yes, we are not Europe and it is difficult to walk in 40 degree celsius. Infact in europe people are walking and cycling in -10 degree celsius. Hence, if they in the worse conditions can consider these modes, we a nation who has been walking and cycling for decades should not have a problem in shifting at all. The solution lies in right attitude and willingness from political parties and Bureaucrats to adopt these solutions. It took Copenhagen, 30 years of continuous planning and dedicated efforts to make it the most bicycle friendly city in the world. Show me one person who is willing to put in this effort and I gurantee you, there will be no 2-wheelers on the streets of Ahemedabad and BRTS and AMTS bus services will be running at full capacity.


  3. Anonymous

    I appreciate the honesty sir ” all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful” the blogpost truly takes this statement to heart.


  4. Anonymous

    Appreciate your honesty sir “all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful”


  5. You have a point because BRTS runs on reserved lanes. BRTS is good for the people who use it. Ask them. Ask the user and the end customer what are the pros and cons of anything. I fundamentally disagree with any system or statement which “decides” for a greater good. In the end only economics matter and other things are irrelevant. However if BRTS is relying on too much subsidies or making loss then it does raise a valid economic yellow flag. I still have to wrap my head around the economics of public funds and subsidies. It is a catch 22. Things like dams and roads and power plants and railways and public transport and universities and airlines and defence equipment have a huge capital investment and the rate of return is not suitable for any private investor unless they are ready to amortize over 80-100 years. So while I believe that only and only private economics (combined with social equal opportunity) is sustainable and creates balance, how to build projects which require huge capital upfront and the returns are very delayed and risks of cost overruns are very high. Also some returns are in form of reduced CO2 emissions and greener environment and security and safety. How do we capture the monetary value for that ?


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