Bus Rapid Transit System or BRTS is a bus based rapid transit system. Designed alike a railway system, the BRTS uses dedicated lanes on roads that allow fast movement of buses without being slowed down by other vehicles on the road. This system allows for higher frequency of services, and often longer buses. Wikipedia goes on to say the first BRTS system in the world was built in Canada in 1973, followed by the famous Curitiba BRTS in Brazil, in 1974. The most used BRTS system in the world is believed to be the one in the Colombian capital city Bogota.
The first BRT System in India was built in Pune, which was never completed - still has large unfinished stretches. The first functional BRT system in India was perhaps the one in Delhi, but the most successful one, perhaps, is the Ahmedabad Janmarg BRTS. User sourced information on Wikipedia claims there are about 14 or so functional BRT systems in India. I've had the fortune to travel in two such BRT systems in India - the Rainbow BRTS in Pune, and the HDBRTS in Hubli-Dharwad.
A BRTS track in PUNE.
My first tryst with the BRT system was a few years ago, at Pune. I could travel again in the Pune BRT system towards the end of 2019. Between these two attempts, not much had changed in the infrastructure of the Pune BRT system. Pune's PMPML (Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited) operates buses on the BRT system, which is called "Rainbow". Majority of the buses operated by PMPML - I used the term "operated" specifically since the operator also uses a substantial number of leased buses - are built with the BRTS configuration - of having two floor level doors on the right side of the bus (which is used when the bus runs on the BRTS lanes) and two doors (one ahead of the front axle, and one behind the rear axle) on the left side of the bus - which are used when the bus operates on non-BRTS routes.
A BRTS Bus in Pune (Old Image)
The BRTS in Pune has dedicated lanes running along the median of the road, with bus stops located on the median - foot over bridges are available at certain places to cross the road, I think I spotted a couple of underpasses as well. These buses run with on-board conductors - so the bus station do not have ticket counters or access controls. The Pune BRTS seemed to be in shambles at places - the platform doors didn't open perfectly. PMPML has also put in a lot of Airconditioned AC buses on the BRTS routes. Except the fact that the buses ran along the median - I couldn't really find anything interesting about the BRTS in Pune.
A BRTS Station in Pune
Some time in mid 2019, I had the opportunity to travel on the Hubli-Dharwad BRTS - from Hubli to Dharwad. This was perhaps the best BRTS I have traveled on. To begin with, their BRTS uses an exclusive fleet of Airconditioned buses - a fleet of UD (a subsidiary of Volvo) buses. These buses have doors on both side - exactly like the Pune buses. These buses operate with only one crew on board - just the driver. All ticketing happens at boarding points - a QR code printed ticket is issued. The access control doors open only after scanning the QR code - this procedure happens while entering the bus station, as well as leaving the bus station. The bus stations are strictly access controlled, and only genuine passengers are allowed inside.
BRTS Ticket in Hubli-Dharwad
Inside a Hubli-Dharwad BRTS bus
HDBRTS operates two kind of services - one is an express service that stops only at selected station, while the other is an ordinary service that stops at every station. I don't recollect if the fares were different, but they had different route numbers. I had boarded from the Old CBS in Hubli - they had kept different lanes for both the routes, and ticket checkers were present to ensure passengers entered the correct lanes. The buses depart as they get filled (not 100%, but over 70% occupancy) - the express bus, which I traveled in, maintained really great pace through the route. Except at a couple of places, the BRTS lane was clearly segregated and there were guards at crossing points to ensure only buses went in. All stops were clearly announced.
Platform screen doors in HDBRTS
Access controlled entrance/exit at HDBRTS
A bus operated in the HDBRTS Line. This is a Volvo-UD bus.
BRTS is a great choice for our country - it costs much much lesser that it would to build a railway line or a metro line. BRTS lanes could be built in high density routes. The biggest advantage is that the bus could be used on other routes as well - so there is optimal utilization of the resources. BRTS buses can also provide great end-mile connectivity as well. Bangalore attempted to build a BRTS system - then tried a dedicated bus lane system - none of which succeeded.
A short video of a HDBRTS bus rushing through a bus station
BRTS must be a standard part of newly built urban agglomerations. They can also be neatly integrated on to ring roads and bypass roads that a lot of cities build. It surely is the way forward to ensure more people use public transit.
Since you must be confined to home these days without travels, please try to write such articles. Hope you remember my request for an article on "History of Volvo/Merc/Scania buses in India" :)