Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Is It Time For Pune To Pull The Plug On BRTS?

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on December 16, 2012

Six years and crores of rupees later, the ‘famed’ BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) Project in Pune has achieved nothing … well to be more precise – it has definitely made things a lot worse for all types of traffic.

I think Pune was the first city in India to start the BRTS Project – and what a pathetic role model it has created for others, that are interested in replicating this! Note – I am not against the BRTS concept…the key is proper planning & execution and ongoing implementation. And it here, where things seem to have gone horribly wrong.

This weekend, I was driving to Hadapsar (thankfully, I don’t drive there often) and again witnessed the utter chaos and anarchy surrounding the BRTS. There are no clear lane markings for where the dedicated BRTS lanes start/end. The lanes are not properly marked and barricaded at many spots. I could see absolutely no enforcement on who can and cannot go through the BRTS lanes. As a result – total traffic anarchy persists – many 2/4 wheelers were merrily going through the BRTS – some by intent, and some by the misfortune of not figuring out where the lane started. But there was no one to prosecute them.

Many buses were not using the BRTS lanes. And then there were those poor pedestrians – stuck in the middle, near those BRTS Bus-Stops! They had no proper way to get to and fro, from these bus stops (which are also pretty poorly designed). If you thought the anarchy couldn’t get worse, it does – at the signals! Again, no vehicles seem to have a clear idea of when/where/how to turn. And this scenario gets even more scary at night – with no proper reflectors, signs, etc. I can go on and on about this horrible scene, but I think most Punekars get the picture and have experienced it first hand.

How did we land up in this total mess? I am not an expert, but even a layman can attribute the current state of affairs to bad planning, terrible execution and atrocious ongoing implementation.

The scary thing is that now, PMC wants to expand this bad mistake to other routes. Soon Solapur Road and Satara Road will share their pain and misery with Alandi Road and Nagar Road. And there are plans for the PCMC areas as well.

It (and has been since much before 2007), is amply clear that Pune’s Bus Transport – PMPML is in a poor state. The buses are in a bad state of maintenance. Passenger comfort seems to be least of the concerns. There are frequent breakdowns. The number of routes and buses are grossly inadequate.

Pune is one of the fastest growing metros in the country and has one of the highest number of 2/4 wheelers per person. (higher than Mumbai as well). The need for good public transportation is extremely crucial. What is needed for Pune Public Transportation is: more buses, better bus maintenance, better passenger comfort, better routes, better frequencies, better bus stops and supporting infrastructure. Those many crores that have been poured into the BRTS could have achieved some progress, towards pursuing these simple and basic PMPML needs. Another area where substantial investment is needed is manpower and other resources for Pune Traffic Police.

Given what we have seen over the past 5 years – I think it is time for Punekars to demand some real tough decisions and actions. This mess has to be fixed. First, the expansion of BRTS needs to stop. Second – if in a realistic time frame (say 6 months), the current BRTS implementation is not fixed – then, the entire current BRTS implementation should also be scrapped. Let those badly planned lanes be opened up for the general traffic (including buses). Let us invest whatever budget that is earmarked for BRTS into improving PMPML!



24 Responses

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  1. ruSh.Me said, on December 17, 2012 at 10:44 am

    IMO, the people of Pune are more to be blamed for this anarchy than the implementators. In any public venture, the responsibility for the entire set-up belongs to the customer and provider, 50:50. I agree, the effort of PMPML should have been more than just to set-up the BRTS lanes/bus-stops. So they gave 25% of their 50. But what about public? They have till now given 0% out of their requisite 50.

    I was a PMPML commuter for 2 years, the Swargate-Katraj BRTS route. And I was appalled, how an average Pune vehicle driver, insults and abuse the PMPML and BRTS. Despite with clearly marked boards, “BRTS is only for PMPML/ST buses (In Marathi)”, every Tom-Dick-Harry would poke his vehicle into designated lane. And the earlier installed plastic divider would be crushed, mercilessly, by passing, overtaking SUVs/Jeeps,

    I’ve also seen hapless traffic policemen, armed only with a whistle and lathi, almost-pleading people, not to go into the BRTS lane, only to get bikes-car swerve around them, dangerously. And, there wouldn’t be one day, when I haven’t been in a bus, which had to brake suddenly, just because a car-bike, overtook them, cutting them short of the divider, only to race into the BRTS lane.

    Gosh! I’m losing my cool, by just typing all this. Anyway, to wrap it up, people in Pune, don’t even respect an unmanned (sometimes, even manned) traffic light, expecting them to follow BRTS rules, would be a big miracle. But when Metro made dilliwalas, learn how to stand in queues, may be this is also not a far-fetched dream.

  2. Saurabh Kapale (@tatvagyan) said, on December 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Amit, I foresee few key challenges in the BRTS project.

    1.) Our school learning. (Zebra X, basic rules, honesty)
    2.) Revenue model of the PMPML
    3.) Reference model for RTS
    4.) BRTS Ideology in Pune
    5.) Police & political support

    1.) I remember old days in school my teacher use to emphasize on rules to be followed:
    Road Rules : (Class 2nd, Somalwar High School, 1994)
    Use the zebra crossing, dont jump signals. red yellow and green signal significance, rash driving can kill. and other that I might have missed.

    Boom 2013′, we have forgotten all of them. i see people crossing roads whenever and wherever they want.. They believe that there must be zebra crossing everywhere and wherever they want.

    On Zebra crossing : They erode in a 15- 16 days span. most of them dont even get repainted. I havent seen one at Viman Nagar since last 5 years. The babus/contractors eat the paint. If a zebra crossing done by Armed Forces near Airport remains intact and radiating for 2 years. why cant the one of PMC and PCMC stay ? Lack of such infrastructure, many people try and cross at will.

    Crores of money spent on underpass is mostly used for loo. No clean public loos makes it easy for them to enjoy road underpass. If we build road underpass which are well illuminated, it starts getting used as gambling den. again because people dont use it.

    RTI are not very effective to get out these details. I have spent more time on RTI applications than on my laptop in last two years. At times I am scared of my job (rozi roti), and my family when I file these applications.

    Big Data companies can solve these easily. We just need to integrate Telco, Google, Persistent, IBM, Pune Police and Open Governance Architecture.

    We need openness. Economics of local bodies has to be open.

    2.) revenue model of PMPML should also consider the facts of Multiplex/single screen at times of dabang. More popular routes, more good advertisements. Companies like Pubmatic can do wonders to their advt auction. PMPML have the mass, and can be a focus advt group. but poor execution kills everything.
    File a RTi to know about the advt inventory with PMPML, they donot have any such record which advt, which bus, how many places.
    If the revenue models of PMPML is better, they can sustain, stop at bus stop only model and can avoid lots of ciaos that is caused to pick that single passenger on the leftmost side of the road by halting the traffic moving parallel.
    They spend hefty on tyre’s. That can be reduced using better fleet management solutions equivalent to one used at Amsterdam Airport.

    3.) BRTS Architecture is a powerful method of mass transport, but the model is symmetric and Pune geometry and population distribution is asymmetric and concentrated to 3-4 hotspots. The Hotspots need to be distributed evenly and that would require Pune Metro to come up in 2010. And we are looking at it to be functional in 2019. 9 years the hotspot would be exponential and can lead to failure of BRTS and Metro both. Million dollors of public money down the drain. The city in 2019 would be poly assymmetrical with big data being called biggest data and analytics tools might fail.
    In ancient times, whenever kings/empires faced problems with governance, they did data wearhousing in their kingdom and isolated the problem areas and broke them into peices to address it better, in modern times, there are technologies to do it. But our government seldom use it. Or avoid using it for personal gains.

    4.) BRTS in Pune is trying to address the hotspot with waterfall model which can ideally be addressed by open handle distributed agile dev.
    If you happen to find time, try and play age of empires 2 by Microsoft. It can solve most of our modern day problems.

    Even if we change it to agile today, the breakeven will take time, 1year 3 months to be precise.

    5.) Our election system is weak and when I say this I am too contributing to this weekness, Most of the population in Pune rather the traditional Pune of 1992 is migrant who do not vote because they dont reside on the same territory for more than 3 years. And I can go on and on over the how elections are not by people but for people.

    Migrant population has been studied enough by scientist.

    Problems are opportunities. Technology can solve most of the problems we face and we can see better cities.

    — Saurabh Kapale
    (my views are independent of that of IBM, and IBM do not take any ownership or responsibility of my thoughts)

    Vande Mataram.

  3. Amit Paranjape said, on December 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Saurabh – Thanks for your detailed comments.

  4. Arun Kadekodi said, on December 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I absolutely agree with you Amit. BRTS has been done haphazardly and in a complete unplanned manner where absolutely no thought has been spared for the people – the main users. Instead of magnifying the mistake, as you rightly say, further investment should be stopped.

  5. Nimesh Desai said, on December 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I truly agree with your assessment of BRTS in Pune. But there are better implementation of the same (like Ahmedabad) which suggests that as a concept this is not a bad idea.

    During my last visit to Gujarat, I saw the working of BRTS there and few things can easily be pointed out

    – Clear boundaries for BRTS
    – Metro-like air-conditioned buses with automatic door opening/closing facility
    – Route guides at all stops
    – Pre-paid systems
    – Big maps to highlight various routes and bus lines
    – Proper crossing for the people to reach BRTS stops from footpaths
    – Vehicle parking facility near all major stops

    because of this, many regular commuters started preferring BRTS over 2/4 wheeler drives despite not staying very near to one of the stops.

    In Pune, it looks like there was a lack of though behind the fundamental question ‘What is the ultimate goal of such a scheme?’. Any scheme for public transport should be aimed to reduce 2/4 wheeler traffic on the road, and that is only possible if there is a better service available. In this respect, many corporate have done better jobs of providing comfortable private bus services and a lot of employees do use them.

    Thus, there is still a scope for the improvement and make BRTS functional provided we start looking for better inspirations and do not repeat mistakes of the past.

  6. Aditya Athalye said, on December 18, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I actually fear Satara road. It’s a live case study on how _not_ to design roads. I try to avoid it at all costs.

    I’d love it if Pune’s bus system got better. I was pleasantly surprised by Bangalore’s bus transport on a recent visit there. (It’s even very well documented within Google maps – not the common man’s use case, I know, but still). However, I suppose the “kickback potential” of buying and upgrading mere buses, pales in comparison to that of superfluous infrastructure projects – like Metros and BRTSs. And so we will – one way or the other – receive solutions that maximize private gain. Avidya, avidya.

  7. Kautubh Bhadbhade said, on December 18, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I agree on the mess and the way out could be different. WE are to be blamed for being passive and gullible to say the least. An example – the water cut and the tankers. We dont insist PMC for equitable water distribution. Further cant we manage with the availble water!!!

  8. Amit Paranjape said, on December 18, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Nimesh, Thanks for your comments.

  9. Amit Paranjape said, on December 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Aditya, Thanks for the comments.

  10. Abhay Shivgounda Patil said, on December 19, 2012 at 4:50 am

    Amit – we are going to repeat the same mistake with exponentially more cost and damage – yes that’s Metro! Saving grace for BRTS is that now that all money has come in and appropriately (!) used, one can always dump the so-called BRTS and have business as usual. The monstrous Metro construction (above ground, along busy roads) will take years jeopardizing traffic BIG time, the huge Metro stations on busy roads will not only be eye sores but will endanger buildings nearby (no fire fighting access etc) and the high FSI along metro routes will add to the traffic. All of this is going to IRREVERSIBLE!

  11. Goutam Bandyopadhyay said, on December 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Considering the view of every body & bad condition of roads all should protest the fresh BRTS implementation & asked the Pune Municipality to scrap the existing projects and give a better, bigger & smoother road to every body rather than bifurcating the road unnecessary to Bus lane, two-wheeler lane, bi-cycle lane, walk way etc. and make good roads narrow for everybody and create inconvenience for all except the Municipality who is ultimately going to spend the valuable money of Public by some or other means and show their efficiency.

  12. Parag Karandikar said, on December 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I am writing on PMT and BRT for many years. My observations about the failure of BRT is 1) Its faulty design – Till date I am unable to understand the cycle track concept on Satara and Hadapsar road. Actually no one will dare to use cycle on these roads. Its not practicle also. If at all you want to use cycle on this roads there are many alternative roads where heavy vehicle do not commute. So the safety quotient is far more. Bur not a single commissioner or councilor shows the guts to say cycle track is not required on this roads. I am not against the concept of cycle track, but we must rethink of the policy to club it with BRT. 2) People who drive two wheeler or their own vehicles for certain period of time loose their patience to wait for public transport. Also they are reluctant to walk upto the public transport. They become habitual to point to point vehicle use. Because of this they get annoyed with concepts like BRT. They do have feeling that somebody is taking their comfort or their space on the roads. In Ahmadabad the basic reason for the success of BRT is that they have kept three lanes for two and four wheelers. So nobody feels that their space on road is compromised. I still feels that if we leave the obsession of cycle track on BRT routes, BRT will be a successful model of public transportation. Then only people who are using private vehicle may think to use this option.

  13. Ranjit Gadgil said, on December 20, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Your reaction to BRTS is exactly what Bonala, Kharwadkar and Co. want. They never wanted a proper BRT to be implemented; the idea of taking space away from car users and providing dedicated lanes for buses, improving the quality of a bus commute, making cycle tracks and good footpaths – would all spell disaster for vested interest groups, to whom they are answerable. They implemented the BRT badly, still people in Pune said, we are not against the idea of BRT, fix this. So they started making flyovers on top of the BRT lanes, and buggered up what little did exist.
    They have changed nothing with respect to the new BRT. Disjointed planning, incomplete designs, ad hoc decisions, and a total lack of commitment to the idea of BRT and sustainable transport.
    So what should our reaction be? After having spent the 1000 crores that were sanctioned under JnNURM for what we Punekars should have got, which is 100 km of a well-planned BRT network, should we just say, okay, please spare us and don’t make BRT any more OR should we keep fighting to get what we should have gotten in the first place. If Bonala and Kharwadkar are inept officers who cannot deliver, let’s demand their ouster. But what you are saying is playing right into their hands and after 1000 crores of OUR money has been spent, we’ll be left with nothing. Sorry, I totally disagree!

  14. Amit Paranjape said, on December 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Parag – Thanks for your comments. I think we all agree we that the current implementation is faulty. I agree that the 2/4 wheeler mindset in Pune needs to change – but a better alternative should be available to them before that! I will reiterate my point – let’s at least stop the expansion before the authorities can show that they can fix the current mess.


  15. Amit Paranjape said, on December 20, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Ranjit – Thanks for your comments. I don’t want to play into anyone’s point is very simple – everyone agrees that we have a faulty design and implementation of the current BRTS. In that case, why perpetuate the problem?? What I am saying is NO to any further expansion (and further mess) before the authorities can show that they can fix the current BRTS (Hadapsar Road and Satara Road).

    I am all for a time bound solution (with some clear deadline) to fix the current the mess – I think I agree with you on that. If you are suggesting that in the mean time the expansion work (Nagar Road, Alandi Road, Hinjavdi Road) should also continue, Sorry, I totally disagree with you on that!


  16. Ranjit Gadgil said, on December 20, 2012 at 10:27 am

    So it’s clear what you are against.

    What are you for?

    Leave the roads as they are, forget about BRT and . . .?

    Return JnNURM money? Or write off like a bad debt . . .?

    Take action against officers responsible, or again forget about it and move on . . .?

    Go back to business as usual or some other course of action . . .?

    What would / should be the (realistic) deadlines for the alternative course of action that you are recommending?

  17. Amit Paranjape said, on December 20, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Ranjit, My responses to your questions below (following >>)

    What are you for?

    Leave the roads as they are, forget about BRT and . . .?

    >> Forget about BRTS expansion until the old one can be fixed in a realistic time frame (6-12 months). Fix the roads that have been partially messed up during the BRTS expansion project – not asking for any expensive resurfacing – just clear lane markings.

    Return JnNURM money? Or write off like a bad debt . . .?

    >> Not until the existing mess is fixed. Make the call after that. If possible (I am sure it is very tough), lobby for some of that money to be diverted to purchasing more buses.

    Take action against officers responsible, or again forget about it and move on . . .?

    >> Yes. Absolutely. Action has to be taken against those responsible.

    Go back to business as usual or some other course of action . . .?

    >> As I have said, for the next year – till the old BRTS is fixed .. spend money on improving PMPML (as I said in my blog) – more buses, better maintenance, better routes, better frequencies, better passenger comfort. That too me is a much higher priority than a few dedicated BRTS corridors that will serve a small % of the commuters. Take the example of Deccan – Aundh .. a very busy corridor. Frequency during most of the day is 1 hour!

    What would / should be the (realistic) deadlines for the alternative course of action that you are recommending?

    >> Improving overall PMPML deadline? – no clear idea at this point – but can be done relatively quickly, than big infrastructure projects – if there is a will!

  18. Amit Paranjape said, on December 21, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Abhay – Agree and share your concerns about the Metro! Could potentially be a much bigger mess 😦 … if we don’t learn (and fix) things from the BRTS experience.

  19. Abhijit Athavaleale said, on December 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    BRTS on Vishrantwadi rd is going to be an unmitigated disaster. They are taking up 4 lanes for the stations and pathways out of 6. PMC, please think before you act and not the other way round.

  20. Amit Paranjape said, on December 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Agree Abhijit! Vishrantwadi (and Nagar Road) may end up even worse (if there is such a thing!) than the earlier BRTS implementation.

  21. […] the existing BRTS needs to be fixed for all its problems before implementing any expanded version (my thoughts here)  Even in the long term, when we have the Metro/BRTS/etc, given the circular geography and cross […]

  22. Mohan Phadnis said, on February 19, 2013 at 1:04 am

    If brts is bus rapid transport system, why not allow all buses to use these lanes?
    They can be like high occupancy lanes in other countries, and actually be used a bit more, because PMPML does not have any buses to run on these BRTS routes anyway.
    Is JNNURM paid for by my tax rupee for PMPML’s benefit? Or for making cities better to live?
    Allow company buses to use BRTS lanes if they are 52 seaters or more. That way we actually increase the usage of this lane as well.

    People may shift to company bus transport if they see it reaching faster.

    Plus most buses move at same pace, which means it will be nice and linear traffic flow.
    Of course knowing PMPML, half their buses would be broken down on this lane.

    BRTS is a stupid concept for pune, where we do not have enough buses to move all these people.

    But it would be great in a city like bangalore, where BMTC actually has buses that run and has lots of them.

    For me JNNURM is a JURM because it has not improved my life, but has just made it worse.

  23. Saroj said, on February 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    In a dedicated BRTS lane there is need of public transport in every five minutes during peak hours ie. 9-11 and 5-7. PMPML does not have that much buses. Even if they are made available, what about 40% road space dedicated for 15-20% people travelling in those buses. One can clearly see the impact at Hyatt crossings during peak hours. Moreover, the quality of work must be supervised. Afterall JNURM is also funded by we the tax payers.

  24. Amit Paranjape said, on February 21, 2013 at 11:39 am

    MOhan, Thanks for the comments. I agree – the dedicated BRTS lanes should be used by other buses as well.

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