Written by Aboli Vaze
AFTER the accident on November 21 when two brothers were run over by a BRTS bus in Ahmedabad, the state government imposed penalties for trespassing in the BRTS track and announced to place the route under surveillance.
As the BRTS in Ahmedabad completed a year in October, The Indian Express spoke to some regular commuters and found much still needs to be done to ensure safety and last mile connectivity.
Khushali Vyas, a financial advisor at Max Life Insurance who takes the BRTS for her daily commute to work, believes that safety on the buses is an issue. “The government should install more than just two cameras in the bus as many theft instances have taken place, especially between ISRO and Nehru Nagar route, and the culprits have almost never been caught… There needs to be more provision for the safety of women passengers, seat belts and proper zebra-crossings at all BRTS stations,” said Vyas.
A Janmarg official told this paper on condition of anonymity, “In case of theft, if the victim files a complaint and the police demands a CCTV footage, BRTS control centre provides them with necessary footage. The two cameras in the bus are installed in such a way that 100% surveillance is ensured…”
Another frequent passenger, who did not wish to be identified, said that BRTS lacks effective crowd management system. “As soon as the door opens, people rush in or out causing unnecessary chaos in the bus. Many use inappropriate language or physical means to push people out of their way.” He said that government should regulate the number of passengers and also monitor their behaviour in the bus. “I think there needs to be more number of seats reserved for handicapped and pregnant passengers,” he said.
“Some seats are reserved for women and handicapped people. Although, as of now we do not have provisions to monitor misuse of these reserved seats, passengers can always complain to the security guards in case of any inconvenience,” he added.
In response to the complaints raised by BRTS passengers, Janmarg General Manager Vishal Khanama said, “We’ll ensure that more security guards are stationed for crowd management.”
Juhi Pandya (24), a social worker, however, believes that people need to act responsibly before demanding services from the government. Pointing out that many passengers often travel without tickets and do not get caught, she said, “If we do our bit properly, only then can we expect the government to reciprocate and do their work properly.” “We’ve ticket checkers at all the stations and in addition to this, we’ve a special ticket checking BRTS team which patrols stations and the buses. We charge a penalty of Rs 84 to Rs 100 from defaulters,” the official said.
“After the accidents, we’ve not only charged a heavy penalty from the bus operators concerned, but also trained the drivers in presence of traffic police. Drivers are now banned from using phones while driving and we’ll definitely look into the concerns raised by our passengers to resolve their issues,” Khanama said. Notably, the accused driver – Chirag Prajapati – of the bus that killed the two men at Panjrapol, was found to have had violated traffic signals up to 18 times on November 20, a day before the accident.
A Janmarg official said, “In order to limit the speed of the buses, we’ve installed electronically controlled units in our news buses, whereas our old buses already have speed governors.” At the 55th board meeting of Ahmedabad Janmarg Ltd, which operates the BRTS, it was decided to expand the network to 650 electric AC buses in the next six to eight months.
In a bid to improve last-mile connectivity to BRTS stops, on December 9, the first permits of Public Bicycle Sharing (PBS) were also issued in Ahmedabad by Smart City Ahmedabad Development Limited (SCADL) which has tied up with multiple bicycle sharing operators to provide last-mile connectivity.
In another initiative, RFID gates are being installed at BRTS stops so as to allow only BRTS buses.
The BRTS network spans over 101 km, and has achieved a daily ridership of 1.5 lakh with 255 (all air-conditioned) buses.”We’re planning on extending the network. We’ll conduct a passenger survey to find out where more buses are needed and will procure electrical buses.” Khanama said.