Photos by Meena Kadri
People's Way: Urban Mobility in Ahmedabad
It's been more than a generation since the Brazilian city of Curitiba pioneered Bus Rapid Transit. Since then this cost-effective and flexible transit system — which repurposes existing roadways into bus routes rather than constructing capital-intensive new railways — has become a worldwide model for urban mobility in both affluent and developing nations. A new addition to the BRT network was recently launched in India. Last year the northwestern city of Ahmedabad opened the first phase of the Janmarg — the People's Way. Though still in its infancy, the system has already attracted favorable attention: early this year the U.S.-based Institute for Transportation & Development Policy awarded Janmarg its Sustainable Transport Award.......
Focusing on socio-economic needs, the planners developed priorities: to provide poorer citizens good access to employment and education centers; to create a multimodal system of main and feeder lines that would serve both densely settled districts and more dispersed areas; and to safely accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. “We devised routes based on connections to key railway stations, industrial estates, recreational areas and colleges, with the goal of providing access for all Ahmedabadis," recounts Swamy. "We approached NGO’s for their guidance on access and inclusivity for the disabled and disadvantaged.” Swamy notes that the proposed 55-mile BRT network was organized to integrate with conventional buses and rail lines and also with automobiles, so citizens could use the different modes for various legs of intercity journeys. The planners also incorporated cycle lanes and footpaths — far from ubiquitous in India — and these have been extensively landscaped to provide shade. "We opted for full BRT mode, including predominantly dedicated corridors for buses, rather than mixed-use lanes, as in some cities," says Swamy. "Dedicated lanes are the key to making a bus system smooth and speedy — a real alternative to private vehicles."