23 July 2012 - Delhi’s experiment with efficient public road transportation, in the form of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor, has evolved into a court battle that pitches the city’s wealthy, car-owning minority against the majority of road users, and the next step may be the highest court in the land. The Delhi government plans to appeal to India’s Supreme Court to keep the corridor car-free if Delhi’s high court, which is hearing the case now, decides that cars should be allowed in the bus-only lanes.
Delhi’s buses are the most important method of transportation for residents in a city of over 16 million people. Fewer than 20 percent of road users in Delhi travel in private vehicles, including cars and scooters, while about half of all road users in Delhi commute by bus, according to the RITES Delhi Traffic and Forecast Study. The rest use bicycles or three-wheeled auto-rickshaws, or go by foot.
The BRT corridor, modelled after other systems in high-traffic cities like Bogota, Columbia, was designed to make bus and bicycle travel safer and faster, and encourage travel that does not involve cars. It features a bicycle-only lane and a centre lane just for buses.
Whether the corridor, which was completed in April 2008, has been a success depends on which camp you ask. It has saved lives, but it has also increased the travel time for car drivers, while cutting bus travel times. Drivers and their advocates are so upset that they have filed a flurry of court petitions, demanding that the corridor be shut.
Soon, Delhi’s roads won’t be able to handle the traffic, transportation experts say with over 1,300 vehicles added to Delhi’s roads every day in 2011, making the introduction of systems like the BRT necessary. "The capacity of roads in Delhi will be exceeded by 2021 on most major roads and junctions," said Ms. Tiwari, one of the authors of the report "Delhi on the Move: 2005", which proposed the BRT concept.
Despite the pending legal dispute, the Press Trust of India quoted Sheila Dikshit, Delhi’s chief minister, last month as saying that her government "will commission more BRT routes in the city as a means to promote public transport, as a bulk of passengers were 'happy' with the existing facility".