India is the second largest country in terms of population with over 1.2 billion people and is continuously growing. Although there are varying modes of transportation including by land, water and air, access to all modes isn’t uniform across the country.
Private vehicles are used by the more affluent community and there are only about 103 million on the road and only 10% of households own a motorcycle. The primary mode of transportation is public transit, the most common being buses.
As a result of high bus usage, the government created an initiative in Delhi, the Indian capital, to reduce traffic congestion by creating an experimental fast lane for buses. This Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor system allows bus users a smoother ride and reduce traffic congestion.
Traffic Congestion in Delhi
Traffic congestion is becoming a challenge to motorists due to growing vehicle numbers, fast growing economy, a lacking public transportation network and outdated infrastructure in numerous parts of the country. In Delhi, private vehicles are rapidly growing with 1,500 to 1,600 vehicles daily registrations and doubling within 10 years to nearly 7 million vehicles.
The BRT initiative is hoping to reduce congestion with a dedicated bus lane. More than 33% of individuals travel by bus to work, about 30% walk, while only about 10% drive to work. Creating efficiencies for the majority could alleviate travel issues for all those that use the transportation network for commuting.
Increasing Road Safety
This could also help make the roads safer. India has one of the highest levels of road fatalities, higher than China who has more people and vehicles on the road. From 2003 to 2008, fatalities increased 40% to 118,000. Some of the reasons for this increase are the influx of vehicles on the road over the past few years, inadequate law enforcement and poor road planning/infrastructure.
Private Vehicles vs. Public Transport
Not everyone is supporting the BRT initiative. Many individuals who commute with private vehicles believe they should receive preferential treatment over those who utilize public transport. Those who are able to afford private vehicles are generally more affluent, are executives and business owners.
As a result of this divide, there have been petitions against the BRT. A study was conducted by The Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) who conducted trial runs and recorded the difference in traffic flow. Their findings concluded that the corridor was “impractical” and its “faulty design” was causing traffic problems. However, several critics of the CRRI report stated the research was taken from the perspective of drivers rather than bus users.
Government Initiatives for Transportation Improvements
The government spent about a decade completing its urban transportation policy, under which resources would be allocated to creating road space to transport more people, not more vehicles. This would give priority to public transportation rather than private vehicles.
After being inspired by the rapid bus transportation corridors being used in Curitiba, Brazil, the government planned to construct 14 BRT corridors in Delhi. This plan was put on hold due to opposition and only one BRT corridor was created, which the Delhi high court authorized private vehicles to temporarily use. In August 2012, the court ruled in favour of dedicated bus lanes during a hearing, and the BRT corridor was reissued for bus-only use. However, in order for the BRT to have a lasting viable future, the government must continue to find and implement solutions to address its problems.
Data Collection in Congested Areas
Collecting traffic data in areas that are as congested as Delhi, India can be quite a challenge and a safety hazard. In order to collect traffic data, many organizations use either road tubes need to be deployed or manual counters on the side of the road.
To deploy road tubes, the road would need to be shut down, traffic diverted or during slow periods. This can be next to impossible and dangerous in areas that are extremely populous. Even having manual counters on the side of the road is dangerous in places such as Delhi, where there have been many reports of injuries and deaths from pedestrians walking next to the road.