Malaysia, Indonesia, Tanzania among others study the city’s bus rapid transport system.
Despite a four-wheeler and a couple of two-wheelers parked at his residence, Manubhai Dhruva prefers to take the public transport. Ask him the reason and the 78-year-old retired English lecturer answers with a smile, “It takes me a good 10-15 minutes less to travel by bus than my own vehicle.”
The public transport in question is the Ahmedabad Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).
IP Gautam, municipal commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and chairman, Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL), a special purpose vehicle set up for BRTS, said, “To tap the success of the project after almost 10 months, we recently interviewed a group of doctors at Civil Hospital who used to commute by cars. The results were quite encouraging. Ever since they began commuting on BRTS and the feeder buses, they have been able to save 70 per cent time and 50 per cent conveyance cost.”
“We gradually intend to move from the lesser congested areas in Ahmedabad where we have been highly successful to highly congested areas in some of the eastern parts of the city. Moreover, the aim behind the project is to reduce the use of private vehicles, reduce congestion and increase use of public transport.”
Such has been the success of the Ahmedabad BRTS that the project has caught the fancy of not just the local commuters but of several nations. Representatives of countries, including Tanzania, Lagos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Dar es Salaam, have visited the city to study and adopt the system.
Today, Ahmedabad BRTS, officially known as ‘Janmarg’, offers commuters an average speed of 27 km per hour — one of the highest among public road transport in the country. Its dedicated corridor and bus stations running through the middle of the road offers commuters easy access to both sides of the road.
“Not just did we win some global awards like the Best Sustainable Transport Award and Best Mass Rapid Transit System but also caught the attention of other countries who now want to study and adopt the success of Janmarg. The project's success has put Ahmedabad and Gujarat on the global map,” said Shivanand Swamy, associate professor, CEPT University and team leader of the BRTS project.
The Ahmedabad BRTS has also been successful in tapping private vehicles owners and users. When its services were launched in October 2009, Janmarg saw about 22 per cent, 21 per cent and zero per cent of two wheeler, three wheeler and four wheeler users respectively move from these private vehicles to the new public transport. After almost 10 months, this shift has risen to 24.5 per cent, 23.5 per cent and two per cent, respectively. Also, of the total 18,000-odd passengers per day on Janmarg, 57 per cent were previously using AMTS which has come down to 50 per cent for a whopping 65,000 passengers per day.
"We have already provided parking facilities at major BRTS bus stations and traffic junctions to encourage people to park their two wheelers and four wheelers and opt for BRTS for faster commuting," adds Gautam. What's more. AJL is planning to build at least four major parking zones at areas including Bopal and Narol to encourage two-wheeler and four-wheeler users to shun their vehicles for BRTS.
While Janmarg's phase one was completed on June 2009, the project was commercially launched only in October 14, 2009. Backed by a detailed project report (DPR) prepared by CEPT University, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), led by municipal commissioner IP Gautam, took the initiative to follow the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) guidelines on urban mobility and announced the BRTS project in 2005-06. With the project being approved in November 2006 at an investment of Rs 981.45 crore, the work on BRTS commenced in 2007 for the first phase of 12.5 km from RTO to Pirana, wherein around Rs 492.39 crore has been spent, through a special purpose vehicle (SPV) called Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL).
To boost its popularity, authorities offered free rides to commuters for the first three months. Moreover, special rides for prominent businessmen, doctors, students, politician, religious leaders, and senior citizens were organised.
But with other cities like New Delhi and Pune building dedicated corridor for such BRT, what makes the Ahmedabad BRTS stand apart? "The launch of such systems in other countries as well as other cities in India allowed us not to repeat some of their mistakes. The project also saw a leadership in the state and local government that was more professional and eager to implement sans the bureaucracy hurdles. Add to that, people involved in the project saw it as their own initiative rather than the government's. Not just other countries but also other BRT projects like Pune and Indore intend to now adopt the Ahmedabad Janmarg model since the 900 mm high floor diesel buses from Tata and bus stations in the middle of the corridor offer a walk-in-walk-out experience.," opines Swamy.
Meanwhile, according to Akhil Brahmbhatt, DGM Operations, AJL, at an average ticket of Rs 5 (from a minimum of Rs 2 to maximum of Rs 11), the project currently earns a daily revenue of Rs 3.5 lakh on a 30 km-odd stretch comprising 43 bus stations. While about 41 buses, operational contract for which has been awarded to Chartered Speed Pvt Ltd (CSPL), are plying on the corridor, AJL has ordered for another 680 buses from Tata Motors as well as Ashok Leyland. Of these, about 20 air-conditioned buses costing Rs 30 lakh and 35 non air-conditioned buses costing Rs 24 lakh will be handed over to CSPL for BRTS, rest costing Rs 23 lakh will be handed over to AMTS to be operated as feeder buses for connecting other routes to BRTS corridor.
In next couple of months, AJL intends to add another 12-13 km to take BRTS from RTO to Naroda, thereby completing the second phase of the project. By then, Janmarg is expected to generate a daily revenue of Rs 6-6.5 lakh from about 120,000-130,000 passengers per day. By March 2012, AJL hopes to take the total length of BRTS corridor to 88 km, covering areas like SG Highway, Sola, Gomptipur, Odhav, and Danapith, apart from an elevated route to Kalupur Railway Station.