Bhopal, popularly known as the "City of Lakes," added another feather in its cap with the launch of 'My Bus,' the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), a new form of public transport system in India. My Bus was  carefully named to highlight a sense of public ownership of the new improved version of public transport in the city. Bhopal is the capital city of Madhya Pradesh (MP), the Hindi-language heartland of India. My Bus for the first time in India has added push button features for pedestrians to access the system and has special security measures to ensure women safety. 

My Bus was formally launched on September 27, 2013 by state chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Recently, Indore, a sister city of Bhopal, had launched iBus, another BRTS. Now, two of the most prominent cities in Madhya Pradesh have a BRTS in operation. Gujarat is the only state in India to have two BRTS systems running in Ahmedabad & Rajkot, with a third one to be launched in Surat by the end of year 2013.

Bhopal is named after the famous King Raja Bhog, who found the area suitable for his dream water harvesting project, Bhoj reservoir (648 square kilometres) and laid down the foundation of the city. According to the 2011 Census, the city of Bhopal has a population of 18.43 lakhs and the municipal area is spread out in 285 Square kilometres, with 647 Km of urban roads.

The Pilot Corridor of My Bus Is Launched 

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The length of the pilot corridor of My Bus is 23.95 kilometres and the width of the corridor is 30 metres and 60 metres. Altogether, there are 82 bus stops from starting from the Misrod Section to the Bairagarh Section on the pilot BRTS corridor, making it the longest BRTS corridor in India. The corridor will have 26 air conditioned buses exclusively running in the corridor. The 24 Km long corridor would take around an hour in the dedicated corridor, with a maximum fare of IRS 26 (0.43 US dollars). 

My Bus Boasts of An Intelligent Transport System and Smart Features 

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The BRTS buses can be live-tracked for its current location, current speed, and last updated time and status of the vehicle. And the report generation compiles paths the vehicle travelled in the specified time range, with vehicle's start & end time along with maximum speed, distance, idle time, location details, and speed graphs, among other details. The buses also have passenger access information such as what the next stop to be reached is, and the final destination of the bus.

Travelling Made Easy-Pay by Your Smart Card or Plastic Coins

My Bus bus stations will have automated vending machine with installed fare gates. Also, at the point of sale, smart card issue machines will be installed.

According to My Bus officials, passengers have the option to purchase a travel card and keep recharging it at the bus terminus or selected stops. Travel card users will receive other benefits. Passengers without smart cards can purchase a plastic coin in the bus stop before boarding. Passengers swipe it during entry via the rear doors, and swipes his card again, or drops the plastic coin, in the exit in the front doors. Passengers can still pay in cash to the driver who will carry an electronic ticketing machine.

My Bus's Innovative Special  Branding & Outreach Exercise

A special mention for My Bus's branding and outreach exdercise: Bhopal City Link Limited dfficials have put a lot of heart & soul in the marketing strategy to popularise the system. Public transport systems in the country rarely invest time, energy, or money in publicity.  A sustained communications & marketing stragtegy can be a game changer to reach out to the targeted audience, and will play a major role in influencing commuter choice to use BRTS as a prefered commute option. First, the officials began with an open competition for a system name, hired professionals to maintain online platforms like the My Bus official website and its social media platforms. Second, they came up with unique advertisements with catchy one-liners which were broadcasted on TV and on local radio channels before and during the launch of the BRTS.  And in the future, they will be intensifying their outreach exercise with more public engagement through an essay competition and photo journey, among other innovative marketing strategies.

From initially negative reporting in local newspapers, the system is now getting positive buzz. This perceptible change is due to the sharing of information between My Bus authorities and media personals on the development of the project.

One of the interesting outreach methods was releasing newspaper-styled booklets in Hindi, with a free bus pass for the day, highlighting the importance of the BRTS to the city. See it on its official website: My Bus Newspaper booklet.

Special Measures for a Special Public Transport System

However, for its successful implementation, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) took several strong measures to ensure a smooth BRTS ride. BMC hired 150 traffic wardens to man the corridor as special police officers. Officials received legal orders to fine drivers entering the dedicated bus lane.  Roadside parking was banned, and vending along the road in pedestrian pathways was stopped by the authorities to maintain ttraffic flow.  

Controversy Courting My Bus BRTS in Bhopal

The controversy over the width of BRTS lanes, lack of footpaths over bridges, and accident related issues forced the state government of Madhya Pradesh to form a State assembly estimates committee, which inspected the BRTS corridor in Bhopal under the chairmanship of Mr. Omprakash Saklecha.

According to a Hindustan Times article quoting the report of the committee, “First, for the safety of the passengers, at least 20 foot bridges need to be built across the corridor so that passengers can use them to reach the central corridor. Second, at the main crossing, there is need to build flyovers, otherwise the journey on the BRTS corridor will get slow. Third, side lanes for two wheelers need to be built on both sides. The corridor is not just about the buses plying in the central lane. You have to also take care of people using private vehicles.”

However,  the same article quoted Bhopal Municipal Corporation authorities denying the objections raised by the committee. The article can be found here:  Three Things Missing from Bhopal BRTS

Paradigm Shift in Public Transport in City of Bhopal 

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Bhopal is infamous for its old minibuses, which run in an erratic way and in a very disorganized fashion. Most of the minibuses are in decrepit condition. These buses run with no fixed routes. According to the report Optimization of Public Transport Demand: A Case Study of Bhopal by Ar Anuj Jaiswal, Dr. Ashutosh Sharma, "the shift from private to public transportation has numerous advantages for city of Bhopal, such as:

1. Ensures Safety: Public transportation can be one of the safest modes of travel in Bhopal.

2. Saves Money: Money is saved greatly in transportation costs for both highway and public transportation users.

3. Eases Traffic Congestion: Nearly half of all residents of the city believe traffic is a serious problem where they live, especially the people living in the space-constrained Old City area.

4. Improves Air Quality: Public transportation helps promote cleaner air by reducing automobile use, which can exacerbate smog and public health problems. For each kilometer travelled, fewer pollutants are emitted by transit vehicles than by a single-passenger automobile.

5. Reduces Energy Consumption: Public transportation can significantly reduce dependency on petrol, reducing auto fuel consumption by 1.5 billion gallons annually.

6. Fosters More Livable Communities: Public transportation facilities and corridors are natural focal points for economic and social activities. These activities can help to create strong neighborhood centers that are more economically stable, safe, and productive. Studies have shown that the ability to travel in an area conveniently, without a car, is an important component of a community’s livability.

New Lifeline for Bhopal 

The My Bus BRTS is slated to become the new and reliable lifeline for commuters in Bhopal and provides opportunity, access, a viable transit option, and less congested roads, all of which contribute to an improved quality of life in Bhopal. 

Picture Credit:

Mr. Chandramauli Shukla, Chief Executive Officer, Bhopal City Link Limited. Bhopal Municipal Corporation

Sources: 

Official Facbook Page: My Bus Bhopal

Official Website: My Bus Bhopal