Infrastructure in Pune has grown faster than ever in the past 15 years. It looks like yesterday when Pune-Satara road was lush green with shading trees on both sides with manageable traffic flowing in between. But look at it now, as it is difficult to find a shade for a pedestrian or a cyclist.
Rivers were considered as arteries of any civilisation but now roads have taken over the baton. This can now be considered as a mere side effect of any development. With development come new problems and these new problems demand localised solution. Solutions here are guided by various factors like availability of land, politics of the land, designers working on solutions, the execution team etc.
A few years ago, someone came up with an idea of having a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) lane at the centre of the road along with a cycling track and pedestrian walkways. My wild guess is, one of the decision makers might have gone to Europe or America and come up with this fancy idea. On the first look, the idea looked good to me. One thing that I know about myself is, I am always positive about a new idea. So I was very happy that somebody is trying to do something new for the city and I used to argue with people who criticised the idea.
Later I felt that the idea was good but the problem was the way it was implemented.
To list a few major concerns:
1. The width of the road was less and did not cater to vehicle breakdowns. So if a vehicle fails, it would choke the entire traffic. Secondly, if civilian vehicles are forcefully not allowed to enter the BRTS lane, then the width of the remaining road is not sufficient enough to take the volume of the vehicles. The outcome of this is, 2 wheelers are on a cycle track, cycles are on pathways and pedestrians have no place to go.
2. The cross section of the road was not continuous. So if there was an important building with some political influence, then the cycle track and footpath would suddenly disappear. This made lives more difficult to go off-track and then come back on the cycle track. I have done it myself and found it very difficult to handle it.
3. The most important point is that we Indians don’t like too much of details. I think this was the major factor why we failed here. There should have been localised solutions to various issues coming on the way.
4. Lastly, the location of the city bus stop was at the centre of the storm. I think it is criminal to expect school children and elderly people to cross the entire width of the road to board the city bus. Of late we have heard of so many accidents caused because of this design mistake. That’s another problem here in India, we do not take human life seriously.
But one positive outcome that I take from the BRTS lane is that the bus travel is faster than ever as compared to any other mode of transportation, which is good news that somewhere we have passed. So the only issue pertaining to BRTS lane is the location of the bus stop. I have tried to find a solution to point number 4 and see how it can be solved.
Design can work in 3 cases.
a) Forceful implementation, by use of power.
b) Design considering the shortest route.
c) Give only one design solution and close the rest.
In India, it is difficult to execute point “a” because of the high population density and comparatively fewer officials to monitor the situation. It is difficult to keep a watch on each and every citizen on real time basis. Point “b” and “c” are more likely to give a practical solution.
So considering the above criteria, there are two possible solutions we can think of.
1. Going upwards
Make foot over bridges to connect pathways with BRTS lane. This is economical but will take some good effort to go up and then come down. Here people might end up making the same mistake of crossing the road just to avoid the effort. This is what happens at railway stations and then to stop this, they make boundary walls and force people to take the foot over bridge. Secondly, escalators can be used to ascend and descend but the problem will transpire during breakdowns, as climbing 6 meters will be a Herculean task with a riser of around 8 inches.
2. Going below the ground
What I am proposing is, let’s take the buses below the normal road level and give a carriage way for BRTS and the bus stop below the normal carriage way level. Here the effort is more for constructing it but for users, this will be very helpful as either they have to climb up or down and the distance is also considerably reduced. There is no other way to come to the bus stop than to take the steps. There is no crossover of pedestrian and vehicular movement thus making the movement completely safe.
In the end, what matters the most is that while adopting progressive ideas of developed nations we must adapt and modify them to suit our purposes and operate more efficiently. That is how any solution to any problem becomes long lasting.
About the author:
Siddharth Singh, is the principal architect of Green Hat Studio, Pune. Since starting his own practice, he has tasted a fair bit of success since then. Recently he won an award in the prestigious Delhi Architecture Festival Awards 2016.