BRTS for Western Express Highway (WEH), Mumbai

Case for BRTS – Notes from an evening commute ride on 25th April 2011

My first bus ride on the BEST air conditioned bus Route A77 from the Family Court bus stop in Bandra Kurla Complex to the Hub in Goregaon (E) along the Western Express Highway – Route No. A77 Express operates between Kurla Telephone Stores and Gorai Depot – left me completely re-convinced for a Bus Rapid Transit System on this corridor and a renewed vigour to pursue the matter. (The journey details are in the next section).

I have a short video of the WEH at the Hub in Goregaon (E) and will take some more pictures and video.

MAP OF THE ROUTE

Seeing peak hour traffic jams on the WEH is one of the saddest things in Mumbai and particularly so in the context of making Mumbai a city with enhanced public transport mobility. The road surface is of very high quality, the widths are large and all that you see is a pile up of vehicles moving at a snail’s pace. I was a vocal proponent of BRTS on the WEH as a pilot in early 2005 when some peers would speak of a city wide roll out (which to my mind was ridden with failure). It is a bit confounding that so many hundreds of thousands of people should be choosing to waste their time in traffic everyday in the prime commercial city of the country where time is money and where people appreciate the value of time better than anywhere else and yet not be doing anything about it.

The ride left me as convinced about the WEH as a very successful BRTS corridor as I was in 2005. Why should so many buses with hundreds of commuters cramped in them be stuck in jams when they can be moving at 30 kmph in a dedicated lane? For the cars anyways the whole highway is a dedicated lane today and we can see the results.

There is no doubt in my mind about the financial and operational viability of this corridor even in the context of whatever difficulties are posed by the flyovers. The key problem with the flyovers is that they make the BRTS route pass over the main junctions, which would otherwise be the desirable stops in the BRTS. The presumption here is that by pushing the bus stops before or after the flyovers (they cannot be on top of them) the route would become unattractive or difficult for the passengers. I think the land use and commuter dispersals from the bus stops are diverse enough to override this issue.

Can there be anything more difficult or maddening than spending 30-90 minutes of your life each commute in traffic jams. Would I mind walking an additional 200-500 meters if my bus stop is aligned as per the flyovers, if it means I would have moved very fast on a BRTS corridor? NO! – with as much emphasis. The problems of the old and infirm can be looked into separately. How many of those are there anyways compared to perfectly healthy individuals whom the current traffic conditions reduce to a picture of misery?

If the bus stops are pushed further away from junctions, a very good walking environment can be provided along with it, which makes people in fact look forward to the walk rather than dread it. Mumbaikars are not alien to walking and in a lot of these traffic jams people anyways get down before the stop and walk rather than sit through the jam.

During peak hours buses can be operated with a headway of 60 seconds if not lesser between BKC and Borivili and would still be running full. There can be a combination of AC and non-AC buses on the same corridor.

 

http://www.embarq.org/en/video/cities-focus-curitiba


All plans are ready then why is nothing happening?

 

The interesting thing about a BRTS for this corridor is that the most detailed of drawings regarding the corridor, the width of the lanes, the exact route, the placing of the bus stops, the costs for each feature, the passenger demands for various sections and more is all worked in a Detailed Project Report.

MMRDA has paid a professional consultant (CES) which has in January 2010 submitted its report also. The cost for a 25km BRTS corridor on WEH has been projected at approximately Rs. 500 crores with a project completion time of two years (by 2013 according to the report)

Rs. 500 crores for a 25 km corridor will lead to buses moving at a speed of 30kmph, double their current speed. Busses running at double the speed on a dedicated corridor will mean that passengers journey times will fall by around half. As per my inference around 20000 people will easily use the corridor per hour, which means there will be huge time savings for these people.

Do we have the money for this?

Project Length of the Link Cost Person transported per day
Bandra Worli Sea Link 4.5 kms Rs. 1600 crores
BRTS for WEH 25 kms Rs. 500 crores (indicatively)

 Are people travelling on WEH not important?

Now if everything is ready then why is it that so many commuters in busses on this corridor are EVERYDAY (365 days to a year) going through traffic jams during peak hours – just the time when they also want to move the fastest for work? In a country which is interested in competing with China and becoming and economic super power I think the fundamental concern should be to look into the well being and productivity enhancement of your fundamental economic asset – a productive human being.

This concern cannot be relegated to any other economic parameter under any condition. If 50,000 people are going in buses every day on the WEH corridor (in various permutation combination of stretches) everyday and are suffering an average time overrun of easily avoidable 15 minutes due to traffic jams then we are talking of a loss of 12,500 man hours every day. I presume all mid-ranking to senior officials travel in air conditioned cars which also get priority in traffic for the simple reason that stress free employees contribute better.

I guess nothing can make a difference unless those who suffer the traffic jams daily do not make up their mind and demand a solution. Opinions and detailed project reports can only do as much.

Journey details

I boarded AC bus A77 from Family Court Bus at exactly 6:30 pm on 25th April 2011, thinking of getting down at Goregaon (E) near the hub and proceeding to my residence Oshiwara MHADA in Andheri /Jogeshwari (W). I did the whole journey standing.

All distances calculated using Google Earth

S No Time End points Distance covered   Remarks 
1 6:30 pm Boarding at Family Court, Bandra Kurla Complex-Beginning of Andheri flyover 7023 meters 20 mins I had a wait time and confusion at the stop for 15 mins during which I was evaluating between taking 310 to Bandra station / rickshaw to Bandra Station / wondering if I would have a good direct bus as close as possible to my place.
2 6:50 pm Beginning of Andheri flyover–End of flyover 1615 meters 2 mins There wasn’t much traffic in this section of the route though in a dedicated lane this would have taken me a maximum of 15 mins.
3 6:53 pm7:02 Andheri flyover end–Beginning of Jogeshwari Flyover 2043 meters 9 mins The big traffic hurdle started a bit after this and continued all the way till the alighting.
4 7:02 pm7:14 Beginning of Jogeshwari flyover-Hub 1800 meters 10 mins Compare with Point 1 above;7023 meters in 20 mints and then 1800 meters in 10 minutes.
7:14 pm BKC – Hub 10 kms 44 mins Speed                   : 13.5 kmph
From here

  1. I took a rickshaw to Goregaon (E) station costing me Rs. 11
  2. Then crossed to the West via foot over bridge and skywalk.
  3. Then took a rickshaw home which cost me Rs. 26.

Total journey cost Rs. Rs. 77.

Bus cost was Rs. 40

A BRTS Scenario

If the bus would have been on a BRTS lane:

  1. I would have reached Family Court to Jogeshwari in 20 minutes, the time it took me to reach Andheri in current WEH situation, and I don’t mind standing for 20 minutes even in non AC compared to the current scenario which I have outlines below.

 

  1. If the Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR) was connected to Jogeshwari (W) over the railway tracks (and it should be ready by 2013 end) then I would have got down at the beginning of Jogeshwari (E) flyover and taken a rickshaw which would have crossed over and reached my home in another 20 minutes. This would have meant a total journey time of 50 minutes from Family Court, in the scenario from table above, a good portion of which in comfort.
  1. Accounting for standing to be a discomfort, I would have been standing had I taken the train and it would have been non air-conditioned and more packed requiring me to push and shove while getting down.

Had I not taken the AC bus what would I have done?

My usual option from Family Court would have been to come to Bandra station by rick or bus and then take the train to Jogeshwari and then a rick again to my place.

  1. Family court – Bandra (E) – 10 mins
  2. Climb up on the FOB and come to platform one (and suffer the sight of end of humanity in those slums)
  3. Bandra – Jogeshwari – by train 30 mins including wait on platform and inevitable signals along the way
  4. Jogeshwari – Home by Rickshaw 20 mins

Total journey time – 60 mins.

But this would have been definitely more drudging than a cool AC bus ride

Journey Segment Current scenario BRTS Scenario
Family Court – Jogeshwari on Bus 40 mins 20 mins
Jogeshwari – Oshiwara MHADA in rickshaw 25 mins 25 mins
Total Journey time 65 mins 45 mins

What the existing commuters feel

As the bus started crawling over the flyover towards the dip on the Hub side one of the commuters came ahead to get down and got talking with the conductor. Both of them knew each other well because this guy is a daily commuter and they got remarking on how the problems of traffic wouldn’t be solved even if they built another road on top of the current one. The flyover at the Times of India Press in Kandivali, which was supposed to solve the problem of traffic in this part has been completed since some time and there is still no relief from the bumper to bumper traffic in this section during peak hours.

The commuter narrated how last week it took him two and a half hours to travel in the morning from Goregaon Hub to BKC. The conductor mentioned how the total journey end to end can take as much as two and a half hours. Everybody within the bus and those in other buses and vehicles around presented a picture of resignation.

  1. How is it that people who are able to go through this suffering daily and not seek a solution?
  2. Who would not want to be flying at 30 kmph (as compared to a maximum of 15 kmph today) on a BRTS lane which systematically pushes buses on a dedicated bus lane?
  3. Who wouldn’t want to save 30-90 minutes each direction and spend time with friends and family or hobbies?
  4. How many thousands of man hours are being wasted in these traffic jams which choke Western Express Highway?

After getting down at Hub I left my card with the fellow commuter who was stuck in the big traffic jam last week requesting him to be in touch with more reports from the ground if he felt like.

Action points

  1. A video film of the corridor for one hour during the morning and one hour during the evening is important to show the representative conditions. On the basis of the footage it would be good to count the number of buses passing through, and the number of commuters and the amount of man hours that must be getting wasted everyday.
  2. A survey with bus passengers is important to assess what they feel about the current situation and more importantly assess their awareness about mobility issues, things being done to improve mobility and their awareness of BRTS.
  3. More than discussions we need to keep events around BRTS. It would be good to a once a month BRTS awareness ride. The activity would be to keep a ride for people who are aware of BRTS or want to be aware. The route would be BKC to Dahisar and along the ride we can discuss and experience first hand the wastage of time and road space that is currently happening and the advantages from BRTS lanes.

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