An Open Letter About Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) Bhopal

Author - Anil Chawla


Shri Jaivardhan Singh,

Honourable Cabinet Minister for Urban Development and Housing,

Government of Madhya Pradesh,


Sub.: BRTS in Bhopal and other cities of Madhya Pradesh


I understand from newspapers that you are reviewing the BRTS amid widespread demands to scrap it.

There can be no denying that as it stands, the BRTS n cities of Madhya Pradesh is a waste of public land and money. However, scrapping BRTS will amount to throwing the baby along with the bathwater. As originally conceived, BRTS is a people-friendly concept. However, due to either inexplicable stupidity or due to some vested interests, the concept was distorted in its application leading to the original concept getting completely warped.

BRTS stems from the idea that roads are for people and their utilization should be measured in terms of people going in either direction per minute and not in terms of vehicles per minute. BRTS aims to maximize movement of people per minute on the road. Let me explain.

Typically, let us say average number of persons per private car on a road is 1.5 and twenty cars per minute are going in either direction. In such a case the number of persons moving in either direction is 30 persons per minute. In contrast, the number of persons per bus or public vehicle is much higher, say around 20-50 per vehicle. If only five public vehicles are moving per minute in one direction, the number of persons moving in either direction is around 100-250 persons per minute.

Ideally, BRTS should have at least double the number of persons moving per minute compared to the general lanes. At that level of persons movement, the number of vehicles in BRTS lane will be one fifth or one tenth of vehicles in general lanes. So, the BRTS will act as a facilitator of public movement and there will be incentive for a person to give up his / her private car and use public transport in the BRTS.

BRTS is not merely a physical infrastructure. It needs supporting system of policies and rules that are constantly tinkered to ensure that the BRTS traffic is such that the number of persons on BRTS is double of the general lanes.

Sadly, the original concept of BRTS was modified during the previous government to create a monopoly for a single bus operator. The exclusion of other buses and public vehicles from BRTS created a situation where BRTS has less than one vehicle in ten minutes. Even if a bus is carrying 40 persons, presently the BRTS has movement of less than five persons per minute in either direction. This is obviously much less than the movement of people in general lanes and is hence inviting severe criticism from public at large.

The solution is not in scrapping the BRTS but to scrap the monopoly that was created by the previous government. BRTS should be opened to all public vehicles including school buses, college buses, company buses, mini-buses, long distance buses, ACE Magic, tempos and every vehicle that is used for public transportation and has the capacity to carry more than eight persons. After doing this, the number of vehicles per minute should be monitored. If the number of vehicles per minute is less than one fifth of vehicles on general lane, even private vehicles having more than six persons should be allowed in BRTS. So, if two families are travelling together in an SUV they will be eligible to use the BRTS. This might sound strange to bureaucratic mindset but it is not unusual or strange. Even in the USA, on some highways cars with three or more persons are allowed to use first lane while cars with less persons per car can only use other lanes.

BRTS should encourage people to avoid private cars and either use public transport or pool together to get a common vehicle.

BRTS in combination with the right rules and policies can enhance the capacity of roads to carry people (not vehicles).

I do hope that you will kindly apply due mind to the above points and implement the policies and rules that will truly make BRTS effective for people's welfare and not for furthering the interests of an artificially created monopoly.

Thanks and regards,

Anil Chawla

30 December 2018

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer (B.Tech. (Mech. Engg.), IIT Bombay) and a lawyer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and an advocate, insolvency professional and strategic consultant by profession.
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