A look at the Delhi BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) System

By Nicole Kessler

On July 6th, as part of a homework assignment, we decided to check out the Delhi BRT.  According to the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute, BRT is, “an innovative, high capacity, lower cost public transit solution that can significantly improve urban mobility.  This permanent, integrated system uses buses or specialized vehicles on roadways or dedicated lanes to quickly and efficiently transport passengers to their destinations, while offering the flexibility to meet transit demand.  BRT systems can easily be customized to community needs and incorporate state-of-the-art, low-cost technologies that result in more passengers and less congestion.” For more info on BRT characteristics, check out the Victoria Transport Policy Institute’s discussion here.

What we discovered is that Delhi BRT is considered a failure in by local residents.  BRT buses don’t stay just on the BRT corridor, they also travel off the corridor and pick people up at regular bus stops in addition to BRT platforms.  Also, vehicles and motorcycles invade the BRT lane because there is not physical barrier between the BRT lane and the traffic.  Most people we spoke with were unaware of the BRT.  The individuals we spoke with thought the BRT was just a regular bus system and that only the BRT platforms and corridor existed – that there were no actual dedicated BRT buses.

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If the BRT system were to become a full BRT, our group identified a few issues that need to be addressed.

Issue 1: Lack of access to information about BRT.  Makes use of BRT more difficult.

We started off the morning searching online for BRT information – times, routes, stations, etc.  After ten minutes, we were unsuccessful in finding any concrete information on routes and times.  We eventually decided on a station to go to because we had some people from Delhi in our group who knew where to go.

When we reached the BRT station platform, there was no route information available at the station.  We observed electronic signs, but these were non-functioning.  People were asking each other about the bus routes.  We were told that in Delhi people figure out bus information by word of mouth.

To make the BRT more user-friendly, easy to access information about the bus routes and times should be available both online and at the platform stations.

Issue 2:  Location of station platforms.

We were dropped off near the station platform by auto rickshaw.  The station platforms are in the middle of the road.  There was a lot of traffic on the road and crossing safely was not easy. Although there was a crosswalk at the intersection of the road for pedestrians to cross to get to the station, not all vehicles were obeying the lights and crossing was dangerous.  For an improved BRT system, and to help increase ease of ridership, there should be a safe walkway for passengers to get from the sidewalks to the stations.  If additional BRT stations are to be built, placing the boarding stations on the left and right sides of the road, similar to the regular bus stations, should be considered.

Issue 3:  Improvements to be made to station platforms.

In addition to what was mentioned above, (safer pathway to station and route information at the station) an additional improvement that can be made to the BRT is to add the ability to purchase tickets at the station instead of inside the bus.  Currently, everyone purchases tickets once inside the bus, which can clog the entrance and exit areas inside the bus.

Issue 4:  Lack of enforcement of BRT lanes.

While waiting for the bus at the BRT station platform, vehicles other than buses were using the BRT lane to try to avoid traffic.  Once we got into the bus, the bus moved out into regular traffic. There did not appear to be a dedicated bus lane.  For an improved BRT, a dedicated BRT lane and a way to enforce the BRT lane to prevent other vehicles from causing congestion are needed.  Delhi would most likely need to install a physical barrier between the BRT lane and the regular traffic lanes.

Issue 5: Difficult to identify which buses are BRT buses.

One recurring issue we had was identifying which buses were BRT buses versus regular buses.  One person thought the newer green and red buses were BRT buses, other people told us that those were regular buses (because they also picked up at regular bus stops) and that BRT buses didn’t exist.  Another individual at the BRT platform said that a few BRT buses existed, but they only came by every few hours and you would be waiting around for a long time to catch one.

The conclusion was that even the people who use the bus system in Delhi did not know which buses were the BRT buses.  We believe that the newer red and green buses are part of the BRT system, but they also stop at regular bus stops, causing some confusion in identification.  For an improved BRT, BRT buses should be labeled for easy identification.  This can tie into improved route communication from issue 1.

*These are the observations and opinions of students who do not claim to be transportation or BRT experts*

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