In a historic U-turn, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), decided to scrap the BRTS in the city to make way to the regular traffic. A study conducted by Shastri & Shastri Sisters suggested, based on regular observation, that vehicles have seen to move faster in BRTS lanes than the normal lanes.
While the lanes, currently, are exclusively for BRTS buses, in many areas of the walled city like Kalupur and Astodia, it was frequent for vehicles to ignore the BRTS ONLY lanes signboard and drive through the BRTS lanes. Especially for poor rickshaw drivers, it helps them uplift financially as:
- Driving in BRTS lanes increased their average speed to destination
- It allowed them more trips per day
- It increasing the total passengers they transport per day
- This helped in increasing their per day income
“Unfortunately, during day time, traffic policemen are on duty. Hence, these poor people are not able to drive through BRTS lanes freely. If these lanes are made available to the general traffic, de jure, it will significantly help in reducing poverty in the city” – Shastri & Shastri Sisters said. Taking cognizance of the matter, AMC acted accordingly.
“Since, it is corporation’s primary responsibility to think about welfare of the poor in the city, decisions should be made accordingly. We identified the pain an “aam-aadmi” goes through with a reduced lane for his/her private vehicles, that is dedicated to the “privileged” ones traveling in AC buses. We do not support such division of society which is neither religion based, nor caste based. We sympathize with the ones who contribute to the nation by spending more on petrol and diesel; thus, helping our navratna petroleum companies earn significant revenue.” – AMC spokesperson said.
Some anti-development, corrupt, communal and violent bhakts argued that it is important to encourage public transit systems like BRTS are the need of the hour with exploding population and increasing urbanization. Such rapid transit system transports hundreds of passengers within minutes from one part to the other and helped in saving the environment as they run on CNG.
On this, AMC counter-argued, that auto rickshaws in Ahmedabad also run on CNG. There are thousands of auto rickshaws in the city and it is important to give them the priority because:
- Rickshaws are run by poor drivers who should be allowed to earn more
- As highlighted by the study, there is one BRTS reaching a station every two minutes and stops for 15 seconds, on an average. Therefore, it is utilized only for 15 seconds out of every 135 seconds. Hence, 89% of the time the space is unutilized, which is huge underutilization in a space crunched city.
- Replacing this with autorickshaws, that also run on CNG, will help uplift many poor people.
- With more trips per day for autorickshaws, they will consume more CNG which will help Badani CNG, leading CNG corporation in Gujarat, earn more revenue and uplift millions of workers working in various Badani factories.
However, in a surprize reaction, the autorickshaw drivers and other private vehicles owners frequently using BRTS ONLY lanes expressed disappointment over the rule. An auto driver, Chandu, reacted strongly, “Our pride has been hurt. Now, we don’t have any prohibited lane to break. Driving in any lane is legitimate”.
One of the resident and owner of a car who works at a private firm in Ahmedabad said, “I used to beat my neighbour, who works in the same company and strictly follows the lane system, everyday by overtaking him through BRTS lane. Now I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
A committee has also been formed to investigate how such a project received clearance and who was behind it. AAP Gujarat has launched its own investigation to collect enough stories to help them in the 2017 general assembly elections of Gujarat.