This is what all the fuss is about (you twit)

I came across this article, at a particulary despicable site

Much has been written about the awful BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) project that the Delhi Government has foisted on a poor, impotent public. And now I add to that mass of words (with a fisking, of course).

The author of the offending article is obviously somebody who has never ever driven on the streets of Delhi. I’m going to assume this person is somebody who has a lot of unearned wealth, feels guilty about it, and therefore decides to turn into a Communist Fanatic. Or not. What can definitely be said is that the man has blindfolds on 24/7.

Anyway, (*rolls up sleeves*) let’s get cracking:

Broadly speaking, the BRTS is based on the empirically established principle that the differing relative speeds of mixed-mode traffic is a significant cause of road congestion and accidents. Simply put, the differing speeds and stopping frequencies of buses, bicycles, cars and motorcycles leads to bottlenecks and traffic chaos.

Partially correct. Another bunch of reasons include:

  1. Lack of general road sense and lane driving
  2. Manual transmission in cars (this will be a whole post some day).
  3. Lack of roads, due to potholes, manholes, and assholes.

Then,

The BRTS seeks to widen existing roads and divided them into four physically divided sections: reserving the two left-most lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists, the middle lanes for cars, motorcycles and auto-rickshaws, and the central corridor for buses, ambulances, fire engines and emergency services. Thus, each lane is reserved for traffic with similar speeds, resulting in a more streamlined flow for all traffic.

Yes, in theory, a wonderful idea, with gigantic flaws. First let us note, the above statement says nothing about trucks. It also fails to mention, that the central (bus) lane can also be used by VIP traffic, so that it doesn’t have to suffer like the rest of us.

The next flaw in that section is that motorbikes and cars do not travel at similar speeds. Neither do auto-rickshaws. While they can all reach a speed of 50 km/h, they do so with dramatic variations in acceleration, due to different gear ratios. But, since I’ve already established our author has never driven in his entire life, he wouldn’t know this.

It is, in theory, a remarkably simple concept, but in practice requires a radical transformation of traffic behaviour. “Shifting buses from the extreme left to the extreme right is a large shift,” admits Tiwari, “but once the system settles down, traffic flow shall improve.”

Yes, it does require radical transformation in traffic behaviour, but what that transformation is, you have completely failed to see.

  • Is there any system set up to ensure that in the 2 miserly lanes left over for cars/bikes/autos/trucks, the traffic actually sticks to its 2 lanes, or instead decides to squeeze it into 3?
  • Is there a regular patrol checking to see if any car/auto-rickshaw/truck has broken down on this miserly 2-lane stretch which could block traffic for hours, and then being ready to tow it away? Considering the BRT stretch is not that big, how difficult would it be, to employ a tow truck?
  • After segregating the traffic, is anybody enforcing it? If bicycles are still spilling out onto the main road, and not using the part segregated for them, then the whole idea is a failure, isn’t it?
  • Do pedestrians actually cross at the parts designated for them, as theory suggests, or do they cross just about anywhere, leaving their lives, as always, in the hands of the Traffic God (otherwise known as the poor schlub behind the wheel). Is there any enforcement, or at the very least guidance, of where pedestrians should cross?
  • What does one do about the numerous cars who break this segregation and use the bus lane, simply because there is no fine for doing so?

By completely ignoring the 101 supporting and surrounding issues the Delhi Govt. foists a Good Idea on us, because, hey, it worked in Bogota.

Also, the last quip is amusing. The reason traffic flow on that stretch has improved (if it has), is because unless you absolutely have to use it, you will avoid the BRT. Speak to anybody who used to use JB Tito Marg (on which the BRT has been implemented) and they will all tell you they all try to find alternative routes to it – so yes, I am sure the flow has ‘improved’.

At the time of print, sustained media pressure had forced the Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta to offer a compromise solution, stalling the expansion of the project pursuant to further studies of alternative models. While the fate of project is uncertain, the hysterical response of certain sections of the project’s opponents appears to be the latest attempt of an elitist media to impose a gentrified, car-centric, upper- middle-class vision of a global metropolis on a city comprised primarily of working class inhabitants.

Ah yes, of course ‘hysterical’. I mean there couldn’t possibly be any rationality for why the people who actually do drive on the streets would be angry. After all, they are just greedy, exploitative capitalist pigs. I mean god forbid that these could be people who are just trying to get to work on time, to earn some money and feed their kids. What an outrageous suggestion. Those people can only be poor. Us & Them. Very good, let’s take a bad idea, force it on people, and then turn it into a class issue. Well done.

Broadly speaking, the opposition to the BRTS is on the grounds that the system increases congestion and commuter inconvenience and reduces road safety- making it a complete failure as a mode of transport. However, a perusal of reports accessed by Frontline suggests that the mainstream press might not be telling its readers the truth.

One of the reports accessed by Frontline, has been fisked here. Note the last line, about the mainstream press not telling its readers the truth. Why do I ask you to note it. Well… first our beloved author writes:

At peak traffic hours, between 5 PM and 8 PM, average traffic speeds of car traffic along the BRTS Corridors range between 8 and 35 km/hr. In comparison, traffic speeds along August Kranti Marg – a parallel road with no traffic segregation – range between 8 and 15 km/hr.

I see. August Kranti Marg, is also known as Khel Gaon marg. Please see the image below:

 Unfortunately, I’ve uploaded this image one size too small, but you can always go to Google Maps to see it up close. On the right, I have marked out the BRT stretch, (the bold red line), JB Tito Marg. On the left, the road with the 5 circles on it is ‘August Kranti Marg’, better known as Khel Gaon Marg. Those circles, are important. They represent traffic lights. Let us note the difference in the number of those red circles between the BRT corridor, and Khel Gaon marg. The number of traffic lights on these roads is pre-BRT, i.e. JB Tito Marg always only had those 2 traffic lights. Let me also toss in, just because I am from that despicable Middle Class, the fact that the BRT corridor also has a flyover on one side of the T-junction, allowing a smoother ride for traffic heading north-south (also pre-BRT). Now, above, our author had made a comparison between the BRT, and the August Kranti marg, and talked about how the average speed on August Kranti marg is….less. Does this man use his buttocks for brains? If anything, it manages to show that despite there being 5 traffic lights and no lane segregation, you can still hit a 15 km/h average on Khel Gaon Marg!

The real comparison that needs to be made, is what was the average speed on JB Tito Marg before it was segregated, and what is the speed after. Note that nowhere has this comparison been made. One thing that is alluded to, is that the congestion is less on the BRT now, than when it first began. But no mention of how this congestion compared to what it was like before the BRT. The reason congestion is less now, is because people are using alternative routes, causing congestion elsewhere. Even more amusing, is the next line:

Average Speeds during peak hours along the “signal free” Ring Road – that boasts of 37 new flyovers in the last 8 years – are a lowly 6 to 7 km/hr.

So this man is attempting to make a comparison, again, between a 4 lane road that is the CENTRAL artery, and runs in circular manner, both north-south and east-west, and covers a huge swathe of the city, with… a small 10 km stretch running north south, No differences there. None at all. What an objective comparison. Again, the appropriate comparison would have been – what were the average speeds on ring road before the 37 flyovers as compared to after, to figure out if there has been some improvement due to flyovers. But on that matter, our expert in critical analysis is strangely silent. Anyway, as a side note,  I sincerely doubt the average speed on the Ring road is 7 km/h. I wonder where that statistic comes from.

And then, near the end of this brilliantly written of piece of trash, the author states:

Delhi already has 21 per cent of its land area under roads, compared to only 11.5 per cent under green cover

Of course, what author doesn’t mention is that

  1. Green cover in delhi has increased (source mentioned in the link to ‘Myths about transport’)
  2. the author seems to argue there is competition between green cover and roads, which is completely false
  3. Finally, the author makes NO MENTION of the huge number of trees that were felled to make way for the BRT. Anybody who is familiar with JB Tito Marg, knows that if you were driving / walking down that stretch on a June evening, you would feel a noticiable temperature drop due the many trees which were planted along the central verge and extremities. These trees were knocked down to widen the road, and also to make way for a central bus lane. But no mention of that is made at all. Because trees and beauty are only the concern of the despicable middle class. ‘The Common Man’ matters more than the environment, clearly.

I have a strong feeling that this man must be connected to the stupid fools who mooted the BRT idea in the first place. Maybe they’re best friends, maybe the IIT professors contributed to Aman Sethi’s fund for destitute Naxalites or something, who knows. But the blatant bias, or stupidity, is so astounding, that one wonders how people like this actually get jobs as journalists. This man should be working for the Times of India, as his tabloid skills are excellent.

To sum up, the BRT is great idea, of course, and the citizens of Delhi would have welcomed the project. If:

  • Delhi had traffic which did things like stop at red lights, go on green lights and stuck to its lane – this means keeping in the right lane to turn right, and the left lane to turn left.
  • Delhi had traffic which all kept to the left, and overook from the right, when NOT near an intersection.
  • Delhi had traffic that drove at a constant speed that was actually EQUAL to the speed limit of 60 km/h, instead of the 25 km/h it chooses to drive at
  • Delhi had less variation in its traffic
  • The BRT didn’t involve turning a THREE-lane stretch of road usable by all into a TWO-lane stretch used by 4.5 million vehicles, and one lane given over to the use of only 7500 buses (using the author’s figures here)
  • Pedestrians actually crossed at the designated pedestrian crossings, and not at any old point in the road
  • Cyclists actually used the space dedicated for them, as opposed to the main road, wasting the money of that despicable, tax-paying middle-class.
  • the law enforcers actually enforced the law. This means ticketing/fining/ prosecuting people who violate the segregation (by using the dedicated bus lane, or cycles who don’t stay in their area), jaywalk (yes the pedestrians should be punished as well, SHOCKING!) and also generally tried to impose some road sense like lane driving, and driving at a reasonably fast and constant speed.

But you see, those things actually require one to sit down and think about things, and consist of Hard Work. The easy part, of course, is to buy lots of buses, cut down trees, and stick a divider up between lanes, oh and then have bigoted idiots masquerading as reporters for Frontline write about.

The sad part is that all of the motorists in Delhi SAW THIS COMING. They all knew what would happen, because they actually DO drive on the streets of delhi, unlike Sheila Dikshit, the ivory-tower professors, and the fool behind this article.

Well, at least the damage will easy to undo when the BJP comes power.

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2 comments

  1. Pingback: On dealing with fuss-tration « Kafila

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