Ahmedabad’s Janmarg: Changing the Game for BRT Systems in India
Janmarg is the first full BRT system in India. Photo by Madhav Pai.

Janmarg is the first full BRT system in India. Photo by Madhav Pai.

The international public transport community defines bus rapid transit (BRT) as “a flexible, rubber-tired form of rapid transit that combines stations, vehicles, services, running ways and [intelligent transportation systems] elements into an integrated system with strong identity” (TCRP Report 90, “Bus Rapid Transit – Volume 2: Implementation Guidelines,” 2003).

The new Janmarg BRT system, in the process of being completed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, meets most of the highest standards applied internationally. It is already a “best practice” of BRT in South Asia, in sharp contrast to the bus corridors in operation in Delhi and Pune, which are off to a good start but still have much room for improvement.

Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Mr. I.P. Gautam says that Janmarg “focuses on moving people, not traffic,” according to a recent news article. “We believe all people, men and women, young and old, physically challenged, should be able to move around in comfort. Efficiently, affordability, safety and security are central to the plan.”

SYSTEM STRENGTHS

Indeed, Janmarg incorporates several sophisticated features of a high-level BRT system, including:

  • median busways with strong longitudinal segregation and good pavement structure
  • changes in road geometry to accommodate new traffic patterns, including split flyovers, as well as new pedestrian and bicycle facilities
  • real bus stations, located in the median, with prepayment and level access to the buses
  • renewed vehicle fleets with special design, including wide doors on both sides; and;
  • frequent service to improve passenger convenience

The system also includes electronic fare collection, centralized control and user information systems. All these elements are classified as high-end, making Janmarg the first full BRT system in India.

THINGS TO BUILD UPON

In August 2009, the system was still in a pre-operational state, with free services provided during part of the day. At that time, usage was already very high. Some elements to improve include completing several details in the road and especially at the stations. Also, it was observed that the bike tracks along the corridor were not used by most bicyclists, probably due to the presence of debris. Also, pedestrian crossings at the far side of the stations did not have adequate signals, and the signaling system was not integrated, yet.

Special attention to permanent maintenance was evident. For instance, several bollards to control motor vehicles in pedestrian crossings were damaged. Also, fare collection, central control and dispatch, and variable message signs at stations, were not yet operational. However, most of the missing elements were in the process of being completed.

When fully realized, the system is expected to achieve high user acceptance, reduce total travel time for system users, and provide reliable and comfortable services, with very low costs compared to rail alternatives with similar performance. It also brings the opportunity to reduce harmful local and global emissions, increase the safety and security of the corridor, and improve opportunities for orderly urban development.

To realize all these benefits, the implementation needs to be carried out as planned. It is also necessary to set up a quality improvement program, which measures system performance and provides input to continuous improvement. Given the careful planning and implementation, it is expected that the system will be a great success, and a great example for other applications in India and beyond.

ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS

Creating a successful BRT system is the result of strong leadership, in this case, demonstrated by Mr. Gautam of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. It also involves adequate coordination among stakeholders, and good technical planning and careful implementation, achieved with the support from the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

The systems approach, which combines infrastructure, vehicles, operations, technologies and user education, creates a seamless implementation process. Quality assurance through performance monitoring will bring permanent service improvements and is the next step after completing the infrastructure details.

As a result of the systematic and complete consideration of all the dimensions of a full BRT, Janmarg is in the process of becoming “a high quality public transport system, oriented to the user that offers fast, comfortable and low cost urban mobility” (BRT Planning Guide, ITDP/GTZ, 2007.)

Congratulations!

For more information, refer to these additional resources:

Full status report from ITDP (download here)

Ahmedabad BRT “Trial Runs and Driver Assessment” (July 2009) from Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (download here, via CEPT University’s Web site)

Presentation by EMBARQ Senior Transport Engineer Dario Hidalgo at CEPT University:

Video of Ahmedabad BRT intersection by India Transport Engineer Madhav Pai with the Centre for Sustainable Transport in India (CST-India):

Ahmedabad BRT Janmarg from EMBARQ Network on Vimeo.

Also, find photos by Madhav Pai on EMBARQ’s Flickr photostream.

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  • gaurav

    Hi all, greetings.

    This is gaurav (Software Professional). I reside in maninagar and work in sarkhej.

    Yes i have read the whole article and the comments on BRTS, ahmedabad. In fact i have read many articles and comments on this.

    Yes its a great model to implement and we are prospering. The revenue generated by this system is awesome. Like many i am also a supporter of modi sahab. And like all

    even i would say Hats off to him.

    But wait a minute. Before we jump on happily and continue such thanks-giving comments, let me give u a feedback by comparing our own AMTS model and BRTS of Pune(which

    is the first to implement the model even before delhi and common wealth youth games). Unfortunately I did not visit delhi so I could not talk from delhi’s perspective.

    The BRTS spans from one end of the city – Maninagar to another -RTO. That is definitely pretty good to start. But about the busses?
    I read in your article a lot about the busses used in BRTS. Trust me i have traveled only thrice during peek time and have decided not to travel ever on this.

    Now let me list the points quickly.
    1. The access method in our BRTS is a stack oriented- one access point to enter and exit. The one who enters the bus feels very difficult to get out because he has to

    apply the same effort to overcome the crowd to exit.
    Now any smoother and intelligent accessibility always demands a “Queue” like in AMTS and BRTS Pune. Single access points are used in metros and local trains because

    they have many door, but BRTS has only one.
    So what i saw in my trip is huge congestion(crowd) at the gate, polluted with armpit odor(body smell), woman molestation, huge quarrels where every keeps giving

    advices and all such nonsense anti social activities.

    2. The seating and standing arrangements. Please compare with the capacity of both(sit and stand) compared with AMTS, and tell me honestly which is more capable? if u

    say BRTS then u r lying. The seats are more and people standing are distributed well uniformly.
    Now u hav already kept only 35 seats(i dont think so), and people standing face unevenly(due to single access gate). Some people stand facing the front, some back and

    rest to the gate. This creates more and more congestion.
    See the basic idea is if the seating is more, it will be used for long journey trips, n d standing is generally for the short distance commuters, if u keep more people

    standing and less people sitting then u shud not b surprised with a crowded gate.
    And the seats are utterly narrow and uncomfortable. three seats are arranged right behind the engine and the driver’s seat which is hot like a baking oven.
    This is not the case with Volvo 8500 low floor intercity in pune and tata starbus. they are aligned in a better way and the engine is at the rear.

    3. One of the most import point- The exhaust system.
    I read somewhere that ahmedabad BRTS is air conditioned. May be it was temporarily for honorable CM, however i did not find in any of the three bus.
    At 45 degree C dear readers, i took a bath with my sweat and others’ sweat.
    Now the volvo and the tata starbus all have engine out of the passenger’s cabin. in our case the engine is inside the cabin leading to extreme heat. Moreover the

    window is of a sliding pattern which means one among two person will get wind to dry up his sweat. See you are only adding more and more suffocation.

    4. Flexibility.
    The heart of our indian-ness is flexibility. The worst situation I ever overcame- The bus was overloaded and yet it carried a few more crowd from every next station.
    The AMTS and Pune BRTS simply checks if there are no passengers get down the stand then just leave by saving time, fuel and break oil ;) the next bus will carry them

    but not this over-crowded one.
    A very imp point- Every mechanical system has a limitation of capacity. Like a lift(elevator appropriately) says Max 8 person or 540Kg. Well how can a beautiful new

    bus afford to sacrifice this and over head carry more people when it is over-crowded? It is worse than local kolkata buses.

    5. Time.
    Travelers say that BRTS reaches in time better than AMTS. hahaha they are fools who say that. I ride my pulsar 150 at 35-38 kmph and i cover maninagar to thaltej

    16.4km within 20 min.
    While a BRTS runs faster than 50 kmph still it takes 35 min from Helmet cross-roads to maninagar. Amazingly an AMTS takes only 35 mins to cover thaltej-maninagar.
    BRTS is miserably wrong somewhere. Helmet-mainagar is 10-11 kms while by 52/2 route thaltej-maninagar is 16 km. still AMTS is faster.

    6. Traffic cops.
    Thanks to modi sahab that he has given charitable employment to many young people coz there is no need for so many traffic guards really… Coz the BRTS gets stuck the

    most, more than AMTS.

    7. Cost.

    My favourite part. 52/2 charges 8 rs for 16 kms. BRTS charged me 12 rs for this much pain of only 10kms.

    Conclusion: We have blindly put european model in India. Let India be India. But still we could not copy them properly, AMTS bus is far far, and really believe me I am

    an engineer, is far better than BRTS. We should have at least implemented Volvo or starbus low floor buses.
    And yes this is only the start, maintainence is yet to come :D

    And at last tell me for 10 reasons why i should travel in BRTS? with poor implementation(and i say so because i really enjoyed Pune BRTS a lot) and high cost? I dont

    want to waste technology here where simple things can do it in a better way.

    So i am happy that BRTS is generating good revenue because this only one way for many people, but it cud be made better if u can take these points in consideration.

  • http://www.randomspecific.com Meena Kadri

    More images and commentary on Ahmedabad’s transport initiatives on Design Observer. The People’s Way: Urban Mobility in Ahmedabad”

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  • http://www.embarq.org Dario Hidalgo

    CD:
    I strongly believe the success factors in Ahmedabad are a systematic approach to transport reform, good political support at the highest levels (state and municipal), strong leadership of the administrave leaders, and good technical support by CEPT University and the Institute for Transport Development Policy – ITDP. The financial support from the Government of India, through the Jaharawal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission has been also critical.
    Other projects in India (Delhi, Pune) have not been complete projects, so they have acheived incomplete results only. See for instance http://www.embarq.org/en/delhi-bus-corridor-evaluation
    Regarding the institutional set up, it is important to highlight the creation of Janmarg Ltd. as a Special Purpose Vehicle, in charge of managing the project, contracting and proving oversight to the operation (buses, fare collection, station cleaning, user information systems, etc.). As oppose to Delhi and Pune, operations in Ahmedabad are not under a state owned enterprise, but new contractors under very well written contracts. You can find very good information at http://ahmedabadbrts.com/Resources.html

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  • CD

    Hi Dario. Thanks for the analysis of the Ahmedabad BRTS. I am a student, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t in public sector projects in India. I’d be interested to know if you have any insight into why this project seems to have been successful where other similar projects in India have not. I don’t mean in terms of system details, but more on the level of innovations in approach towards the project. This may be beyond the research you did for this post, but do you know if there were any differences in the institutional set up of the agencies that implemented Janmarg? I’d be interested in hearing any thoughts you may have. Cheers.