Riding the iBus
Indore | April 2013 iBus, implemented by the Atal Indore City Transport Service Ltd (AICTSL), is a 11.4 kilometer (7 mile) corridor consisting of 21 median stations and custom-designed buses, and is expected to serve 70,000 passengers daily. AICTSL is India’s first long term public private partnership (PPP).
Beginning April 19th, trial services were opened to the public, free of charge, and have been a success thus far (see story). Initially, trial runs ran for four hours a day, but have now been increased to 11 hours a day in the face of rising demand. The system is expected to be fully operational by July 2013.
Since 2009, EMBARQ India has supported with AICTSL technical expertise. EMBARQ India provided micro and macro inputs on day-to-day management, as well as bus procurement, operational planning, financial modeling, fare-systems integration, communications, and branding support. EMBARQ also helped sensitize key officials by taking them on study tours of Bogota’s TransMilenio, and Ahmedabad’s Janmarg BRT systems to learn best practices in implementing and operating a BRT.
EMBARQ India and AICTSL, have jointly held public presentations on the BRT, explaining the system in detail and answering questions and concerns from the public, beginning in 2012. These public presentations have continued into 2013 and individuals from various walks of life along the corridor were invited to discuss the project at various forums. These forums have been an excellent platform to understand and inform public expectations and introduce the city to a high-quality system that has been used extensively globally. As Sandeep Soni, AICTSL’s CEO said at EMBARQ India’s recent CONNECTKaro 2013 conference, “treating public consultation and outreach as a core activity, rather than an afterthought would result in public understanding, buy-in, and support”.
As part of its project outreach, AICTSL also launched a successful social media campaign on Facebook, where the public can ask questions and comment on project updates.
The back-story Indore is home to more than two million people, and its bus service accounts for a little over four percent of total transport in the city, i.e. more than 100,000 trips daily. Before AICTSL was formed in 2006, there was no organized public transport system. In June 2006, AICTSL, commissioned a detailed project report for the implementation of an 88.4-kilometer (55-mile) bus rapid transit network, to be completed in three phases. By October 2006, funding for the pilot project — an 11.4-kilometer (7-mile) stretch on AB Road — was sought from the central government. Construction began in August 2007.
The project faced many hurdles, beginning with funding. Of the estimated INR 1.73 billion (USD$ 31.6 million) price tag, only INR 0.98 billion (USD$ 17.9 million) was approved by the authorities. There were other challenges such as land acquisition negotiations, illegal encroachments on the corridor, negative media, and public interest litigations. There were further complications in the form of form of parallel infrastructure projects, such as the Narmada Water Supply System project and sewerage installation projects along the same corridor. However, AICTSL carried on, undeterred. In 2009, AICTSL received funding for the purchase of 50 BRT buses via the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) national investment scheme, and signed an agreement to receive a grant for the intelligent transport system technology required for running the BRT system. Additionally, a decision was taken to install indigenously-developed solar-powered, vehicle-actuated, wireless traffic signals, which will be the first of their kind in the country.
It is hoped that iBus will improve the traffic conditions in the city, and provide safe, convenient, comfortable, and efficient public transport for the citizens of Indore.