In his opening remarks at the Conference on Alternative Technologies for Public Transport held in New Delhi, India, from March 21-23, The Hon. S. Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister of Urban Development, stated "There is no escape from Bus Rapid Transit" when authorities at the national and local level are making choices to improve urban transport. The Minister also emphasized the need to reduce private car use.
The workshop included presentations by international experts on a whole range of public transport technology ranging from metro, monorail, and light rail to high capacity bus systems (BRT). In certain, very limited cases where there is a very high capacity requirement, metros might be needed, but in most cases experts indicated that BRT is a more economical option that is both quicker to construct and cheaper to operate. Metros and rail systems typically only serve limited parts of the overall travel demand in a city.
Formal presentations and informal discussions made it clear that Pune, Ahmadebad and Bangalore have taken steps already to the introduction of BRT in their cities, including the allocation of funds from the city budgets. That seems to be a very good indicator that these cities are really committed to the introduction of BRT, in addition to Delhi where detailed design for the first corridor is almost completed.
Emphasis was given to the developmental relevance of BRT which has the potential to provide transport for a much larger share of the urban population than rail based solutions. Participants also expressed their pleasure about the potential of BRT to rejuvenate cities and the quality of life by addressing at the same time the quality of sidewalks, road safety, etc. In cases where subways have been constructed, usually no measures are taken to improve the quality of traffic on the surface on top of the metro.
It will be interesting to see whether this workshop will really result in changing urban transport in India. I have attended a lot of workshops over the last years and I must say that I was very much impressed with the discussions and the direction that developments seem to be taking in India.
In any case the workshop has given us reason to keep a close eye on India. It might be that after the CNG story from Delhi, India might have found a new way to focus the attention of the international community on it over the years to come.
-Guest writer Cornie Huizenga is Head of the Secretariat of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities.