Hyderabad Public Transit Research
Post by Ritika Sebastian. Ritika is a student of Urban Policy and Governance at TISS, Mumbai and is currently interning with Hyderabad Urban Lab.
According to press reports here and here, Last week, a fast track court in Hyderabad sentenced two cab drivers to twenty years of imprisonment for the rape of a young software professional in the Hi-Tech City area of the city in October last year. The incident had highlighted the inadequacy of public transport in the Hi-tech city area (see map below). There are large stretches of the city that remain un-served by high frequency buses or completely excluded from the bus network. In such a situation one’s mobility is restricted. The rape last year occurred when the victim took a cab to return to her hostel. There is a strong sentiment that a good public transport system will deter such incidents.
In Hyderabad, public transportation is run by APSRTC, which happens to be the world’s largest passenger transport undertaking (as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records) . It runs intra city buses in Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada also; intercity routes between Hyderabad and many south Indian cities as well and boasts of the Pallevelugu services that connect rural areas with the nearest urban centre. Within Hyderabad it has buses running on 1300 bus routes through 2800 bus stops.
Harsha Devulapalli who has been working on mobility at the lab, notes that while it might appear that the twin cities has sufficient access to transport, a closer look is necessary to gauge the safety, efficiency and reliability of the available service. “A fundamental problem with the planning and execution of public transport policies is that it does not have public transport users in decision making positions. Those in decision making positions own and use private vehicles. Consequently in practice, transport privilege motorists by and large.” says Harsha.
To private motorists in a city, the speed of transit is more important. It is therefore desirable have roads free of congestion to allow for smooth traffic flows. This then leads to demands for road widening and more flyovers. On the other hand those who have to wait at bus stops require frequency rather than speed in the public transport system. Looking at forty nine High Frequency Bus Routes (which operate every ten minutes or less in peak hours and between ten and twenty minutes during non peak hours) of APSRTC and the 80 odd Moderate Frequency Bus Routes (which operate every ten to twenty minutes in peak hours and twenty to thirty minutes in non peak hours) and several hundred infrequent bus routes, offers several interesting insights about the way people travel in Hyderabad.
Hyderabad Transit Frequency Map made by Harsha Devulapalli using APSRTC Brochure. Click here if you would like to download the map
While the old city areas are well serviced by an extensive bus network, Secunderabad is less so with an absence of High Frequency Buses. It is exclusively serviced by moderate Frequency Bus Routes. Within the core city all major and semi major roads have high and moderate frequency buses passing through them. A few areas such as Dhoolpet, Karwan and areas around Charminar do not have direct access to high frequency routes. One also notices that the western parts of the city that developed after the IT boom and has more affluent settlers in the localities of Banjara Hills, Jubliee Hills and Film Nagar have lesser number of high frequency routes.
It is also important for a transit network to make the necessary information available to the public so that they may navigate the city smoothly. This must include not just information on routes and bus tops but also their frequency at different hours. The information that Google offers also privileges motorists, as it provides the width of roads but not the frequency of city buses between point A and B. Furthermore, since the transport department does not update or revise its data the only source of information that travelers on any route have are other travelers frequenting the same routes.
In such a scenario availability of maps and map literacy can go a long way in making public transport more user friendly. Maps can offer a wide range of mobility related information over and above route numbers and timings. They can provide important leads and multiple connections. This can help people understand details about different regions in the city and how they function. It becomes easy to interpret the historicity of the city, its current densities, lifestyle choices and income levels. One learns about where people live and work and how activities differ at different points in the day.
An extensive and intensive understanding of this kind among a substantial segment of the city’s population can help fill in the existing gaps in the transit system in cities.