Wednesday, April 23

What the Metro did right....

....and the BRT got it wrong.

Saubhik Chakrabarti has written a good critique of what went wrong with the BRT. Having use the Metro regularly for almost a year I had some observations on why the Metro has shaped up as a good alternative while the BRT seems to be grinding to a halt.

1. Know your customer - When the Metro started it was decided that the initial phase would connect the north, east and west of the city. Conventional wisdom pointed out that most of the bus users were NOT in South Delhi. South Delhi today has two or more cars per family. They are least likely to use a public transport system initially. Could they not have first tried the BRT in another place like Dwarka?

2. Build proper infrastructure. Yes the Metro was expensive compared to buses but look at the sea change in traveling experience both in terms of comfort and safety. In the case of the BRT all you have is a dividing of roads. No space was created for bus travelers to cross the road. The bus stops look like a shade better than earlier ones but how does one get there?

3. Do not change traffic practices suddenly- it creates confusion . This was easy for the Metro. The trains do not interfere much with traffic and in some cases the changes in roads have actually helped smoothen traffic flow. But the BRT is a bus system. Many years ago the courts had decided (although it was the job of the administration) to create dedicated bus lanes on the extreme left of the road. In the BRT system the buses have to travel in the central part. How can we use a new system when the rest of the city is still on another system? Within a city how do you expect a car or a bus driver to change lanes when he leaves the BRT area? Will that not lead to more accidents and jams?

4. If you want people to change give them a choice and let them decide. In the case of the Metro initially it was used by bus users and scooter owners. But later even business men having shops in Old Delhi would get themselves driven to metro stations and then take the train. They realized the hassles of parking their Honda Civics and decided that those cars are better at home.

5. Stick to a deadline but more importantly launch the service only when you are ready. The public expects results and in the case of a Metro line they do see the benefit after many years of traffic congestion due to construction activity. However in the case of BRT, it seems like many of the elements were not in place. Now the public opinion is turning against it with each passing day. If the system was not ready why launch it ?

Lastly never launch a public transport system in summer. If it is good, people will not notice it - they will be complaining about the weather. If it fails they will get angry and demand that it should be scrapped !

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