NEW DELHI: In its desperation to save its ill-conceived and poorly executed BRT project, Delhi government is now shooting the messenger. It has not only questioned the study conducted by the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) but also launched a scathing attack on the institute itself.
Falling back on its worn-out argument of a rich-poor divide, it called car owners "arrogant" and accused those who conducted the study of ignoring bus commuters.
But berating car owners will in no way make the public transport system any better – for that governance has to improve — just as launching a tirade against CRRI will not make a dent in the organisation's reputation. CRRI director, Dr S Gangopadhyay, told TOI: "CRRI has been researching on road and transport solutions for decades. If anyone has questions about the methodology used for the study, we will be happy to answer. Our report has used international norms employed in such studies."
Gangopadhyay's reaction comes in the wake of the government getting stung by CRRI's finding that "no BRT" was the best option. It has been promptly dubbed "anti-poor" by the government. It may help to recall that the agency had been hired by Delhi government on the suggestion of the court, which had rejected the transport department's plan to hire RITES for the study. Incidentally, RITES in a 2004 study of transport solutions for Delhi had recommended 34 BRT corridors. Preparation of the CRRI report, which is based not only on a week-long experimental trial run but also on a series of field surveys, culminated with a simulation exercise. The simulation was of the traffic scenario on the 5.8km stretch in 2015 with and without BRT, keeping the existing traffic volume as the base, factoring in an annual increase in traffic of 5-7%.
The study found that doing away with BRT would result in a decrease of 48% in travel time, and a substantial 61% decrease in delay on the stretch. Compare this to the option of continuing with BRT, which would result in a further increase in travel time of 13% in 2015 as well as an increase of 15% in delays on the corridor.
Sources said the surveys undertaken — including user perception, occupancy studies, pedestrian studies, passenger flows and saturation flow studies — show that BRT is not working at its optimum at present. Said a transport department official, "There is no denying that there are traffic issues on the stretch. Unlike the Ahmedabad BRT, the Delhi BRT is after all an open corridor."
It's a point that the CRRI report has also underlined. It observes that the proportion of cars is almost 1.5 times that of Ahmedabad on the motor vehicle lane of Delhi BRT, which contributes to the lower journey speeds. This, says the report, is because the "width of the available MV lane is only 7-8m in either direction of travel". This width is less than the 10m width available for each direction of travel before BRT was conceived.
The report adds: "Since the Ahmedabad BRTS is a closed system, the commercial travel speeds are much higher. The bus composition is about 3% of total traffic in both cases. The observed average speed of buses on Ahmedabad BRT section varies between 22-25kmph (CEPT Ahmedabad) which is much higher than that of Delhi BRTS – 13-15kmph)."
The last fact seems to have been completely overlooked by Delhi government, which has been citing the success of the Ahmedabad BRT to continue with its floundering experiment.