October 05, 2008

Ahmedabad Going for a ‘Take the Bus’ Drive

60. press_events-100508_India_The Hindu
A city scene, more buses mean less traffic. (Source: K. Ramesh Babu)

Commuters in Ahmedabad are in for a change in their daily travel routes and modes of transport as the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) tries to woo them to leave their two-wheelers at home and use the public transport system instead.

If the plans of the AMC are anything to go by, the city might just see a transformation in how it perceives and uses its public transport. With a previously announced metro rail project not seeing the light of day yet, the AMC has decided to revamp its entire bus network with the help of private participation.

In conjunction with the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC), Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) and Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), AMC has planned new terminals, new bus routes and state-of-the-art bus stops, to be completed within a time-frame of three years from now.

While GSRTC is building bus terminals to serve inter-city travellers to North Gujarat, BRTS is going to launch 300 buses on a 90-km route within the city.

New buses, terminals

“AMC has formed a Special Purpose Vehicle, Ahmedabad Janmarg Ltd, with a corpus fund of Rs 5 crore to kick-start the project. The total investment for introducing new buses, building bus stops and terminals is about Rs 1,000 crore. We will keep the bus fare on a par with that of existing Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service bus rates and look for other sources of income, such as advertising and parking fees,” says Mr Abhijit Lokre, Architect, Urban Planner, CEPT Research and Development Unit. CEPT, along with LEA Associates, New Delhi, and ITDP, New York, has been hired by AMC to design, supervise and maintain the BRTS project.

There will be 30 bus stops (35 by 3.5 metres each) built in the middle of the road like an island, accessible by BRTS buses from both sides. The buses will have a door on the right side and the floor height of the bus will be level with that of the bus stop. Sensor-fitted doors will automatically open and shut, timed to match the doors of the bus when docked in a particular manner.

Initially there will be a conductor, but gradually ticketing will be off-the-road at the stops with a smart card. There will be turnstiles at both ends of the stop and entry will be through a ramp.

Since this kind of a stop requires wide roads, the route has been chosen accordingly, on road widths between 24 and 60 meters. The route has been fixed after a survey of all the shared autos and AMTS buses, which will be used as feeder services to BRTS, he says. On all the routes, AMC proposes to raise the floor space index (FSI) from 1.8 to 2.5.

“Since we are not present on the heavy demand routes (some of which are narrow), we will have AMTS and small buses under Janmarg to facilitate passengers from their places of destination to BRTS bus stops. Also, the existing routes of AMTS buses have been rationalised, they will not ply on these routes but will be retained for longer routes,” he says.

There will be terminals and interchange stations where people will be able to switch from one bus service to the other on the same ticket or a smart card. Around four workshops are also being built, for the maintenance and parking of BRTS buses, at Chandola Lake, Ranip and CTM. The one at Chandola Lake (60 buses) is under construction on an 18,000 sq.m plot with Chartered Logistics, a private company.

Icing on the cake

Near the main railway station at Kalupur, a four-and-a-half-km elevated corridor will be built exclusively for BRTS buses, nine meters above ground level. The stops will be on top and will be directly connected to the station. The design is being readied now and the tenders will be floated by the end of this year, he says.

Foot over-bridges or skywalks and split flyovers are also a part of the entire infrastructure revamp. In a few places, instead of zebra crossings, the road itself will be elevated with the underpass for pedestrians at the same level as the road. Light emitting diodes (LED) displays, inside buses and at the bus stops, GPS systems, manned centrally, and corporate-sponsored green drives are the icing on the cake in the BRTS plan for the next two years.

BRTS has been adopted by Pune, Guwahati, Jaipur, Delhi, Visakhapatnam, Thiruvananthapuram, Rajkot, Surat and Indore uptil now and it is the right time for Ahmedabad to invest in it, says Mr Lokre.

“In 2005, the Central Government had come up with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, where the Central, State and local governments come together to fund and create better infrastructure for cities. Ahmedabad had planned BRTS much before that, but with the additional funds being announced, we scaled up the plans,” he says.

It is calculated that after the completion of the project, AMTS will carry 7 to 8 lakh passengers per day while BRTS will carry 3 to 4 lakh per day. The total number of registered vehicles in the city in 2006 was recorded at 14 lakh, with an estimate of one lakh being added every year.

Inter-city traffic

The inter-city traffic from Ahmedabad to North Gujarat towns such as Mehsana, Palanpur and Mount Abu Ambaji is heavy. To prevent extra congestion on the already dense roads, GSRTC has proposed terminals in different parts of the city.

This will allow passengers to use buses from their part of the city, without having to travel the length and breadth of the city to reach the terminal. At a total investment of Rs 160 crore (Rs 42 crore for the terminal and Rs 125 crore commercial investment) GSRTC will develop a terminal near Gita Mandir (the main bus terminal in the city) with BRTS.

The terminal at Subhash Bridge (near police headquarters) will be built at a cost of Rs 22 crore for the terminal and Rs 80 crore for commercial purposes. A third terminal will come up at Krishnanagar, in the Eastern part of the city, with Indian Oil Corporation. The three terminals are expected to be ready within 18 months and there will be a time limit of five years to lease it out to commercial enterprises.

Mr Hitesh Parmar, Chief Engineer-Civil, GSRTC, says “We expect that hotels will mushroom in these areas along with an increase in the textile and pharmaceutical-related businesses here.” Since AUDA is also developing terminals, and with BRTS buses, the mode of transport is set to improve for Ahmedabadis.

Parmar says that upon completion of the project, 740 buses will ply daily from Subhash Bridge and 1,800 buses from Gita Mandir. GSRTC reported a turnover of Rs 1,640 crore last year and a working profit of Rs 10 crore.

“We had a loss of Rs 60 crore due to introduction of new buses and administration costs, but this year we are planning to bring down the staff per bus ratio to 7:1 from 7:8,” he says. GSRTC currently runs 8,436 buses, which will be rationalised to 8,500 this year by replacing around 1,000 old ones.

With such rapid changes being planned for the city’s road infrastructure, as more public transport gets added, no- parking zones, one- way routes and restricted freedom to private vehicles will be implemented. This will go a long way in disciplining the traffic, says Mr Lokre.

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Ahmedabad Going for a ‘Take the Bus’ Drive



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