Traffic jam on a new flyover in Hyderabad (file photo)
There are 50 lakh vehicles in Greater Hyderabad with about 1 crore population; this means for every two persons, there is a vehicle and every day 1,000 new vehicles join this fleet. Hyderabad has spread enormously in all the four directions and people from 30-40 km away come to work in this mega city.
Except bus, there is no alternative public transport available for them, leading to increasing use of private transport facilities. In addition, development projects are being grounded, focusing on the Outer Ring Road (ORR), which inevitably leads to further spread of the city. What are missing here are plans to develop public transport system in tandem with the economic development plans.
Also, lakhs of people are working in the IT corridor of Kukatpally, and the region of Madapur-Gachibowli, which have a very weak public transport system presently. In view of such gaps and deficiencies in providing public transport systems, people’s orientation has increasingly shifted towards private individual vehicles.
Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) has engaged Lee Associates to prepare a comprehensive transport study. Lee Associates, which has done the study since 2011, has made an important key proposal – Improving public transport, expansion of roads and corridors based on a scientific study should become a priority programme.
The study further says traffic problems are primarily due to lack of sufficient and efficient public transport systems at place and to overcome this, an Integrated Transport Management is necessary. It also emphasises that the awaited new metro alone will not be sufficient, and that the road transport has to be integrated with it; and, in particular, RTC has to play a key role to solve this problem sustainably.
To meet these challenges, urban developments (roads, buildings, corridors, other infrastructure like water, power, telecommunication etc.), suitable to urban densities, special regulatory conditions etc. have to be taken up. This has to be followed by a comprehensive development of public transport system. Currently, the public transport system in Hyderabad is mainly bus-based.
One rail-based system (MMTS) is in place and one more is in the beginning of its realisation (MRTS). It is uniformly agreed that the future public transport system of Hyderabad will still be highly depending on bus services to provide good quality (presently its share is about 45%). This has also been endorsed by the Hon’ble Chief Minister KCR garu in his several reviews to retain and revamp public transport system under TSRTC in Hyderabad.
But what challenges have to be overcome to make these plans successful?
Two major challenges emerged for the scientists and development planners of the Indo-German Sustainable Hyderabad Project, who worked for 5 years to find long-term solutions to the public transport system in Hyderabad: (a) to set up a user-friendly state-of-the-art-planning tool, which supports, especially, the major public transport provider in Hyderabad – TSRTC; and to identify potentials to improve its actual network (e.g. saving of bus operations by reduction of parallel services, identification of additional demand) leading to saving of revenues and operational costs per line and environmental impacts per line (e.g.CO2-Emissions).
This tool also helps to design a bus network with regard to future urban development and future extensions of the metropolitan rail network such as integration of bus services with MMTS and MRTS to ensure a high public transport mode share; and (b) Transport problems along major road corridors connecting suburbs and central city areas. Historically grown road links often cannot cope with continuously growing travel demand, leading to congestions and sinking average travel speeds.
As a consequence, neighborhoods of major corridors in Hyderabad are exposed to massive noise and air pollution. Therefore, extensions of such corridors mainly focused on increasing capacity for motorised private transport modes – as it often happens or planned in Hyderabad – are not desirable. On the contrary, solutions for densely populated areas that are viable for the future require a consistent support for public transport and non-motorised modes.
For the detailed study of the aforementioned two key issues, following planning areas have been selected, studied and the data analysed through the planning tool, Vissim: (a) for the planning tool, area situated in the centre of Hyderabad, between Hussainsagar Lake on the north and Musi river on the south. It has a size of roughly 21sq km, which is almost 1/4th of the TSRTC services zone of Greater Hyderabad.
Three bus depots Mehdipatnam, Barkatpura and Musheerabad are located in the planning area, as also three MMTS stops Kachiguda, Lakdikapool, Nampally. Furthermore, National Highways NH-7, NH-9, and NH-202 are passing through the planning area. For corridor study, one corridor north of Hyderabad old airport was selected. This corridor of 6.3 km is part of an important connection between the sub-centers of Secunderabad and Kukatpally on the east of Hyderabad city area and has a local concentration of 40 different TSRTC bus lines.
Most important of it is east–west relation from Y-Junction (Kukatpally) to Secunderabad, with a frequency of 43 buses per hour and direction. Furthermore, the eastern section of the corridor is part of the National Highway7 (NH7), which is a mainline for regional and interurban traffic from Hyderabad center towards north. For private traffic, highest traffic loads are more than 12,000 vehicles per hour in the western part of the corridor and close to 10,000 vehicles per hour in eastern part of corridor. The main factor for heightening the attractiveness of public transport modes is an increase of their average travel speeds.
The short-term impacts from existing bus network are: additional bus stops, rerouting existing line routes as well as creation of new line routes. By applying this methodology, for example, a study shows that approximately 40,000 people would have better access to public transport with shorter walking distances to stops and another 50,000 people would get a direct connection to Nampally railway station.
Preferential bus system
When restructuring the bus network by implementing main corridors with dedicated bus lanes and cutting the existing line routes at terminals of the preferential bus system, TSRTC can reduce costs as far as number of vehicles, operating kilometers and driver hours are concerned.
According to the transportation model, operating kilometers can be reduced by more than 16,000 per day. The number of ordinary bus vehicles declines by 47, while 16 new articulated buses would be needed additionally. Overall, this will result in a reduction of direct emissions (pollution control) and savings in operation costs as well as benefits for the passengers due to implementing dedicated Bus lanes which will increase travel speed.
The catchment (possible public area to use MRTS) of MRTS stops is larger than that of bus stops: 800 meters. Thus, even more line routes can be cut or cancelled than in the mid-term scenario. According to the transportation model, operating kilometers can be reduced by more than 33,500 km per day. The number of vehicles declines by 112.
In total, more than twice the savings in operation costs per year than in the mid-term scenario can be realised and also GHG emissions reduced. As the operator of the bus network, TSRTC should design and operate an integrated public transport system combining MRTS, MMTS and bus to ensure a high public transport mode share.
Development of corridors
For congested corridors, which are not suitable for rail-based mass transport systems, upgrading of existing bus systems is the only possibility to enlarge the overall transport capacity. And while improving public transport, attractive and safe access of pedestrians to the stations or stops needs to be considered as well, to strengthen the acceptance of the improvement action.
The corridor study shows that a substantial enhancement of average travel speeds for public transport as well as improvement of accessibility of bus stops can be fulfilled. Hence, attractiveness and competiveness of public transport modes compared to private transport can be increased.
Furthermore, the service can be provided more efficiently from the operator’s point of view. The higher investments for this option can be justified as it offers additional development opportunities.
By introduction of exclusive bus lanes, the upgrading of bus stop facilities and the shifting of private transport to bypass roads, pre-conditions for a BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) like operating mode of bus services in the corridor are established.
Finally, the application of the developed tool and corridor studies allows the planners to forecast and compare ecological impacts (eg: reduced fuel consumption, GHG emissions and air pollution), economic impacts (eg: operating-km, operating-times, number of vehicles in use, costs for service provision) and social impacts (eg: area coverage/accessibility) for different network options.
(This article is part of a 5-year scientific study by an Indo-German consortium dealing with transportation problems of Hyderabad where PTV Germany (Dr Tanja Schaefer) and NIT Warangal (Prof CRSK Prasad) took the lead role. For all the results of total project, go to www.sustainable-hyderabad.in. This project is linked to Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS) headed by HMDA. As Chief Coordinator of the Indo-German Sustainable Hyderabad Project, the author, an MLA, has summarised the results and submitted policy options to the Telangana government)