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Contrary to World Bank claims, Ahmedabad survey finds BRTS has "no space" for the urban poor, cyclists

A typical BRTS station
Counterview Desk
While a recent World Bank report (click HERE) is all praise for the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) of Ahmedabad for its ability to “shift” nearly 22 per cent of the motorbike users to the transport facility in Gujarat’s business capital, created in 2007, a spot study – carried out on the basis of primary survey about two years ago – has said it has failed to give a helping hand to the poor.
The study, “Low-Carbon Mobility in India and the Challenges of Social Inclusion: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Case Studies in India” by Ahmedabad’s CEPT University professors Darshini Mahadevia and Rutul Joshi, has said, the place where BRTS became a big success, Bogota, had a “big component” cycling in the entire scheme of things, “which actually led to the betterment of the city’s public transport scenario.”
But, it regrets, “In the case of Ahmedabad, planners did not meet the claims made in their own Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) about creating facilities for walking and cycling.”
While pointing out that half of those who used BRTS walked to get the bus, and 76 per cent of them lived within half a kilometre of the BRTS station, and another 23 per cent lived within half to one kilometre of the BRTS station, the study says, the primary survey found that “no one is cycling to the BRTS station”.
Open gutter on cycle lane next along BRTS 
People do not cycle “not for any other reason than the non-availability of cycle-parking facilities”, the study says. “In the surveyed stretches, bicycle tracks were provided only on 26.2 per cent of the BRTS track and footpaths were provided on 83.7 per cent of the BRTS track.”
Even these tracks, it says, nothing was not obstruction free. Of the available bicycle tracks, “35 per cent were obstructed due to various reasons like unauthorised parking, open manholes, rainwater drainage, electricity poles, etc.” And at one spot, next to the high profile Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) campus, “the excuse of ‘lack of space’ and ‘security concerns” led to cancellation of the bicycle track.
As for the footpaths, the study says, about 52.5 per cent of them are “obstructed” due to “various reasons like signboards, light posts, trees, post boxes, telephone boxes, entrances to buildings, and unauthorised two-wheeler parking.”
As for facilities for the physically challenged, the study says, “Although the bus stops have been designed in a way that they are wheel chair-friendly, access to bus stops is gated by concrete pillars, which makes it impossible for the blind, people with crutches and wheelchairs to reach the bus stations.”
Further: “Entry and exit into a BRTS station is difficult for everyone and discipline along the zebra crossings is not enforced.”
The study also points to the fact that of the total BRTS users, just 13.7 per cent belong to household incomes of up to Rs 5,000 (2009-10 price), but on the other hand, “62.2 per cent of users had monthly household incomes of more than Rs 10,000.” In fact, it adds, “About 30 per cent of the BRTS trips are for purposes related to social, recreational and shopping trips”, suggesting, BRTS has only “made long-distance recreational facilities more accessible for the middle class from western Ahmedabad and has created new demand for transport.”
Slum areas and BRTS
The study says, “Prior to the BRTS, a large proportion (47 per cent) of the current users were taking AMTS (municipal) buses, and because the AMTS services were discontinued on the BRTS corridors they shifted to the BRTS”, and “this group can be termed as the ‘captive users’.” It adds, “Only 12 per cent of commuters have shifted from the private motorized transport (PMT).”
Pointing out that because of its high costs, the BRTS is not being used by the lower income groups, the survey shows that 48 to 50 per cent of the slum-dwellers walk down to their work, 14 to 17 per cent use cycles (mostly males), nine to 12 per cent use the traditional municipal buses (AMTS) because they are cheaper, 14 to 16 per cent use shared auto-rickshaws, just less than 1 per cent use BRTS.
The study says, this is even true of the slum three settlements “Santoshinagar na Chhapara (north, near Naroda), Hanumannagar (east, near CTM) and Sanjaynagar (west, near Sola housing), located within a 200 metres walking distance from a BRTS bus stop.”

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