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Media and Car Owners Take on BRT in Delhi

delhi-brt.jpg

This last week Delhi began a trial run for its first bus rapid transit corridor, a 5.8 kilometer stretch in the southern part of the city. To put it mildly, the start has been anything but stellar: a Google News search for “brt delhi” comes up with over 70 news articles from the last week, almost all of them sensationally pessimistic. Here are a few of the headlines: BRT nightmare for school kids on way home, Kids bear the brunt of BRT mess, Delhi bus corridor: Fiasco continues, BRT corridor chaos worse than ever.

From what I’ve heard from our experts in Mumbai, the project has had several hiccups like lack of signage, signal systems not working properly, bus breakdowns, and motorcycles and bicycles entering the bus lanes. But overall these are problems that can be fixed with time and bus operations can be improved.

What seems to be a bigger problem than the hitches and hiccups of the system itself is the destructive roll that the media has played, unfairly skewing the coverage of the trial run to make the problem seem worse than it actually is.

In the video below, for example, you can see footage of cars, rickshaws and motorbikes snared in traffic alongside the bus lane. What you can also see, however, is that in every shot with a passing bus, the bus is jammed packed with people. It’s a clear indication that the system is popular among people who are using it.


Headlines Today on Delhi BRT from EMBARQ Network on Vimeo.

When you watch the news footage though, you will notice that the journalist never interviews a single bus passenger to see what their satisfaction is with the system. All they show is disgruntled car owners who fume about what the bus rapid transit corridor has done to car traffic.

Madhav Pai, a blogger on TheCityFix and a transport engineer for EMBARQ, is featured as an expert in this footage, being put in the difficult position of defending the concept of bus rapid transit against a hostile intervier. Overall, I would say that he does quite a good job given the circumstances.

Since Madhav didn’t have props at his disposal I want to include a few visuals in this post to back up his argument.


This is a nice poster from Ciudad Humana, a Colombian non-governmental organization focused on creating healthy and sustainable cities. The message it conveys is straight forward: a bus moves more people more efficiently, using less street space and fewer motorized vehicles.

Here’s an info graphic that conveys the same point:

designed-for-people.jpg

As other Indian cities look to improve the traffic congestion that plagues their streets, these images might help policy makers take buses more seriously. It would help too if the media stopped cheer leading for cars and began taking mass transit seriously.

See Mumbai Matters for more analysis.

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  • sre

    sadly enough, most of the main stream media have their heart in the wrong place. Main stream media have reduced themselves to nothing but celebrity reporting, and sensationalism. So there handling of brt was not surprising. Hardly anyone takes up issues that matter, issues that will shape the future. thank goodness there are blogs

  • Excellent post, puts things in perspective. Thanks very much for the mention.

  • Sumanta Ghosh

    I am extremely surprised with the negative aspects communicated. I know that the central lane will create lots of confusion and conflicts, but remember the project objective… sustained public transport system.. and we got the success. I think the utilization of the bus lane will attract private institutions to invest more in the Bus system. Once people get used to it, I hope there will not be any problem. But we need the quality of bus and enhanced accessibility. Delhi has the tradition of big roads but no buses….. this needs to be changed.. Other steps, reduce the motor vehicle coaching institutions, limited licencing (this may be great step).
    Sumanta, Basingstoke

  • Thanks for comment Sujit. One of the most important things to remember about promoting environmentally friendly transport – ie mass transit, walking, cycling – is that you cant just have infrastructure, but you also need to win the hearts and the minds, that is, convince people that cars, while great for certain things, are not the solution for moving lots of people around large cities. In this media saturated environment, there’s got to be a PR battle. Car makers understand this. They spend hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars every year on marketing. But do cities that are promoting mass transit understand this?

  • Sujit Patwardhan

    Excellent work, Thanks for posting the TV report. Our media made a far bigger MESS than the BRT itself. These graphics above are excellent Thanks