NO ROLLBACK FOR BRT IN DELHI, COURT SAYS
An India court declined to roll the back bus rapid transit corridor projects saying the “bitter medicine” of public transport was necessary for India. It was the response to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by an 84-year-old activist filed a lawsuit in the public interest asking an Indian court to scrap a road project in South Delhi that carved out separate space for buses, pedestrians and cyclists.
One of his arguments was that car users are special, therefore deserve to travel faster, and were being hindered by the BRT, as it is known, which includes a dedicated bus lane.
Bus commuters, not being as important, could afford to lose a few minutes here or there, was the argument in the petition of B.B. Sharan who wrote, “No consideration is given to the value of the time of the car users who are generally wealth creators such as managers, directors etc. as they waste extra 20 minutes on travelling on BRT Route”.
As the case was heard, and a traffic institute carried out a trial that involved throwing the bus lane open to other traffic, proponents of public transport grew increasingly concerned. They can now heave a sigh of relief.
The Delhi High Court declared itself unpersuaded by Mr. Sharan’s arguments. But it tried not to frame the discussion solely in terms of class.
“The issue is not of a debate between a car and a bus or an individual car user and an individual bus user,” said Judges Pradeep Nandrajog and Manmohan Singh. “The issue is large: one of urban transport policy.”
The court seemed to agree with public transport experts who warn that with roads, the maxim “if you build it, they will come,” is particularly true of cars, leading new roads to be clogged soon after they’re built.
“In India, Delhi is the only city which has the most extensive road network; at 21% of its geographical area. But it is over saturated being severely choked with vehicles,” said the bench. It noted that the Delhi government has invested in roads and flyovers. “Today the city of Delhi has about 46 flyovers; and yet the carrying capacity of the roads is falling apart,” it said.
The court also noted that air pollution, which dropped dramatically when public vehicles switched to compressed natural gas, had risen sharply in recent years.
The logic behind the bus corridors in India and elsewhere in the world – South Africa and Brazil are among the other major emerging economies adopting them — is that the frequent lane-changing that occurs in mixed traffic substantially slows down movement.
The court said it relied on speed data gathered earlier from GPS instruments fitted onto the buses that found a 50% improvement in speeds for northbound buses and a 40% improvement for southbound buses.
The court ended its discussions with an interesting statement: “These ‘wealth creators,’ we are sure would like to live in a developed country,” said the bench. “A developed country is not one where the poor own cars. It is one where the rich use public transport.”