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Five Months of Ahmedabad’s Janmarg: Setting the Standard for BRT in India
Ahmedabad's BRT system, known as Janmarg, is a model for other cities to follow.  Photo by Madhav Pai.

Ahmedabad's BRT system, known as Janmarg, is a model for other cities to follow. Photo by Madhav Pai.

Ahmedabad has set a new standard for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in India. That was the consensus at a recent capacity-building workshop educating other city officials about the planning and implementation of the local BRT. The five-month old system, popularly known as Janmarg, is the first full BRT in the country.

City officials and transport experts gathered in Ahmedabad to discuss the engineering, design, management and regulatory practices which have led to the success of the internationally-acclaimed Janmarg. The system was held up as a model for other BRTs. “Janmarg has given a distinctive image to Ahmedabad for its remarkable running of BRT services in the city,” said Dario Hidalgo, senior transport engineer at EMBARQ, the organization that runs this blog. “Janmarg is a world class service which is in league with modern cities such as Bogotá, Curitiba and others which have BRT as a comfortable and efficient public transport system.”

To provide some insight into the success of BRT in Ahmedabad, Madhav Pai of the Centre for Sustainable Transport in India (CST-India), a member of the EMBARQ Network, published before-and-after reviews of the system on India Together.

In a piece written in 2006, when Ahmedabad’s attention was first turning to BRT, Pai discusses the benefits of segregated bus lanes and analyzes their cost-effectiveness as compared to metro. For instance, he compares Ahmedabad’s BRT to the Delhi and Bangalore metro systems:

The first phase of the Delhi metro is 64 kms…[and] the completion cost was Rs.10,571 crores [approximately $2.3 billion]. That’s a whopping Rs.165 crores [$36 million] per km. The Bangalore metro project, which recently got off the ground, will be similar in cost; its projected cost of Rs.6500 crores [$1.4 billion] at today’s price levels works out to Rs.178 crores [$39 million] per km, even without accounting for the cost escalation. Almost certainly, the completed cost will be higher.

The Ahmedabad BRT project comprises of creating a 150-km long two-way corridor for swanky 70-seat buses…The first tender issued is for the 10-km stretch of road between Naroda and Thakkar Bapanagar in phase-I, at a cost of Rs 75-crore [$16 million]…That’s a mere 7.5 crores [$1.6 million] a km, a tenth of the costs for a Metro…

Higher costs for Metros may be acceptable, if they are accompanied by substantially higher benefits to the transport infrastructure’s current woes. But look at how Delhi’s Metro is functioning. The expected ridership in 2005 was 15 lakh [1.5 million] passenger trips per day. Today, after more than a year of being in service, the system actually gets about 4.5 lakh [450,000] passengers a day.

A few days ago, Pai again reviewed Janmarg after several months of operation. The corridor is now 24.5 kilometers long, and technological improvements, such as smart cards, passenger information systems, and signaling systems, are in place. Ridership has increased to 35,000 passengers per day on weekdays and 40,000 passengers per day on weekends.

Pai describes the elements that make Janmarg the country’s first full BRT:

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 off-board automatic fare collection 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, centralised control and user information systems.

He also outlines hallmarks of the system’s success, including:

  • The strong leadership of I.P. Gautam, the municipal commissioner of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation
  • Effective coordination among stakeholders
  • Good technical planning and careful implementation, achieved with the support from the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
  • A systems approach combining infrastructure, vehicles, operations, technologies and user education

Finally, the article reiterates the system’s relatively low cost. The road infrastructure cost was Rs.8.5 crores ($1.9 million) per kilometer, and the total project cost is Rs.400 crores ($88 million.)

As Pai points out, Ahmedabad has set a high standard for BRT in India. With Janmarg as evidence that investments in bus-based solutions are affordable and quickly converted into value, it is hoped that other city officials throughout India will see the merits of BRT.

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