PUNE: City politicians will have to change their stand on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and cycle tracks if they want Pune to be a part of the Union government's 'smart city' plan, which makes it mandatory for cities to have a robust transport system and encroachment-free cycle tracks and footpaths.
All parties, especially the local BJP unit, have repeatedly opposed the BRTS saying that it has reduced width of roads, causing more congestion and accidents. In fact, BRTS was one issue that united all parties during the state assembly elections. Candidates promised the voters that they will put pressure on the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the government to scrap the system.
However, the Modi government's 'smart city' scheme has come out with a plan to encourage public transport system like BRT and has insisted that cities must have non-motorised transport in place if they want to participate in the scheme. This has put elected representatives in a tight spot.
"Ease of being able to move from one place to another is at the core of the smart city plan. Seoul, Singapore, Yokohama and Barcelona (all considered smart cities) have a sound transport system as the core of their "smartness". The transport system emphasizes on walking, cycling and public transport as primary means for mobility with personal motor vehicles being actively discouraged. In fact, smart cities lay considerable emphasis on walkability in cities. The pedestrian is given a place of prominence as every trip has a leg that involves walking," states the Union government's note on smart city scheme.
The note adds that Indian cities are facing rapid motorization which has led to severe congestion, deteriorating air quality and increasing incidence of road accidents.
"Walking and cycling have been rendered unsafe due to poor infrastructure and public transport is inadequate. So far, urban transport planning has emphasized providing for personal motor vehicle. Public transport systems have been planned in isolation with the result that a well-integrated multi-modal system has not come up. This has resulted in high-cost facilities not giving the outcomes that were sought," the note states. The government has issued a mobility approach and benchmark for cities (see box) which want to be part of the scheme.
As Pune is vying with other cities to be part of the scheme, politicians need to support PMC's BRT and cycle tracks, said a PMC official, who added that the civic administration was going to call an all-party meeting to discuss this issue.
City MP and BJP's city president Anil Shirole said that his party was not against BRT or cycle tracks, but against its "shabby" implementation.
"We are all in support of public transport. But the PMC has not implemented BRT in a scientific manner. We have requested the Union government to include Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad in its scheme and I am sure that the city will have a good public transport in future," said Shirole.