Bus Karo 2.0 – Case Studies from India

Table of Contents

8.4 Land Planning for Transport Infrastructure

8.4 Land Planning for Transport Infrastructure

Establishing a structured and detailed process for planning land provisions for bus transport infrastructure can expedite operations and maintenance activities. The current development plan process in cities incorporates the basic needs of bus transport. For example, the Bangalore Development Control Regulations (Revised Master Plan 2015 - Bangalore Volume III 2007)specify transportation zones, which consider bus stands, bus shelters, and transport depots. The process followed by some younger or greenfield-development cities, such as Naya Raipur in Chhattisgarh, earmarks space for the right of way of buses. Rather than mandatory requirements, these are guidelines put in place by the Naya Raipur Development Authority. In this case, the agency closely monitors the process to ensure that the guidelines are followed.

Every city adopts a different approach to provide land for bus transport services and infrastructure. There is however, a need to mainstream this process and ensure that it considers some critical factors. Taking the example of bus infrastructure needs, this section discusses how the preparation of the Development Plan (DP), typically undertaken every decade, can facilitate service provision by including detailed planning forecasts of the local transport operator.

With the expansion of transport services, there is an increasingly stronger need to allocate space for infrastructure. Infrastructure such as depots, terminals, interchanges and intermodal hubs are an essential component for the efficient operations of public transport system including city bus services.

  • Terminals: The primary aspect of off-street terminals is the space required for convenient and safe bus turnarounds. 
  • Depots: Depots are used for maintenance purposes, parking and in some cases to also start and terminate routes. The placement of depots at prime locations enhances operations by reducing the rate of dead kilometres and ensuring the quality of maintenance. 
  • Intermodal hubs: Hubs are generally located for the convenient transfer between various transport modes. Two important factors to consider are the convenient location and size of intermodal hubs, to ensure passenger convenience and operability.

It is common practice to overlook transport needs in the DP, which results in hampering efficient operations. While planners acknowledge land requirements, there is a need to consider the characteristics of the land. By using the example of transport depot infrastructure, this section discusses the extent to which these elements are considered in the DP and how this can be strengthened.

Planning for Depot Spaces

Cities typically undergo a general process to reserve land for transport infrastructure in their DPs. During the drafting process, the development authority studies the Comprehensive Transport Study, or CTS, to gain an understanding of the long-term mobility strategy for the city. It then earmarks the city’s transport infrastructural needs in response to the urban and regional vision.

As and when the need for additional space arises, the transport agency submits a request to the development authority. Dialogue between the two authorities helps understand the availability of land in response to transport needs. For example, when land prices in urban centres increase drastically, in reality, this remains a constraint on the availability of land. The authority responds either by reserving land while drafting the DP, earmarking space for the infrastructure, or providing the transport operator with existing land, where feasible. This response largely depends on factors such as the availability / ownership of land and the existing land use.

In Navi Mumbai, for example, the transport agency has a minimal role to play in the allocation of land for its depot. The agency receives land based on availability. Recently, the City and Industrial Development Corporation, or CIDCO, offered the agency a seven-acre plot of land at Ghansoli, where it plans to set up a depot facility catering to around 200 buses (Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport 2014).

Once land is reserved in the DP, however, the transport agency has no guarantee that the land will be available and ready for use. In some cases where the land is earmarked for transport use in the DP, the vagueness of the term ‘transport’ is manipulated and utilised for non-bus transport infrastructure, e.g. to provide housing for transport staff and officials. Further conversation on land acquisition and use for bus transport becomes an issue for the development authority.

In the case of depots, three factors must be considered to ensure adequate land reservation in the DP: a specific and coherent institutional approach, the location, and the size of the land provided.

A Specific and Coherent Institutional Approach

Though the DP process allocates land for support infrastructure, there is a critical gap between what the transport agency requires and what is actually provided. Incorporating the precise needs of the transport agency greatly facilitates transport operations. It is essential to maintain constant dialogue between the transport agency and development authority in order to consider the changing needs of dynamic urban areas. This requires the transport authority to establish sufficient planningof spatial objectives and market trends with a long-term strategy in place.
Once land is earmarked, it is important that the DP recognises it as infrastructure pertaining specifically to bus transport. This is important in preventing any manipulation of the space for transport-related uses, such as residential areas for transport staff. Furthermore, the reservation policy should include a level of flexibility to allow alterations based on future growth patterns of the city.
Another aspect relates to the current restrictions on where support infrastructure can be located. Some DPs prohibit the placement of support infrastructure in residential areas, which would operationally benefit the transport agency. The misconception that bus maintenance activities are industrial in nature is no longer valid with the use of advanced technology. Land use policy should be modified to allow for the construction of support infrastructure in residential areas to facilitate better user access to transport and to reduce wasted kilometres for the operator. 

Location and Access to Infrastructure

The second critical factor is the location of the land. Strategic distribution of infrastructure spaces across the city can significantly improve system efficiency. A desirable location facilitates transport operations. The proximity to existing demand / proposed route structure (i.e. locating a support infrastructure closer to the area of operation) facilitates two benefits: quick response to breakdowns / schedule alterations, and reduction in dead kilometerage. The distribution of support infrastructure is helpful in reducing ineffective kilometres due to mid-day stabling. Intermodal integration, reduction in cycle times for turn round, easy access and night-time parking are other benefits. Additionally, the reduced ineffective kilometres also optimise costs.

Table 34 shows data on five factors that indicate how transport agencies fare in locating their bus depots. In the case of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, the dead kilometre count is non-indicative since most of their routes are intended to start from depots.

Table 34 Comparison of number of depots to dead kilometerage for agencies

In the case of Delhi, afternoon stabling of buses requires drivers to return to the depot, further adding to the dead kilometerage count. To address the inefficient use of fuel, time, and costs to return to the depot, DTC decided to allow buses to refuel at the depot nearest to the operated route (Bhasin 2011). With a large network of depots spread across the city, Delhi is able to benefit from this operational adjustment.

Adequate Space for Depots

As indicated in Table 35, depot plans typically consider space for:

  • number of buses to be parked
  • maintenance requirements (stores, pits, fuel pumps, etc.)
  • administrative buildings
  • staff amenities

Table 35 Space Allocation in depots in Thane (Mumbai suburbs) and Delhi

To accommodate 100 buses, a depot is roughly 5.5 acres in size (Singh 2014). The Report on Indian Urban Infrastructure and Services (The high Powered Expert Committee (HPEC) for Estimating the Investment Requirements for Urban Infrastructure Services 2011) specifies that a depot is required for every 70 buses. When submitting a request for land requirements, the transport agency must determine the needs for future operations. The size of the depot is directly proportional to the size of operations; hence, it determines the ability of the agency to expand operations in the future. For example, depot sizes in Mumbai are between 5.5 and 6 acres for 175 to 200 buses. As the city’s demand for transport constantly increases, the space inadequacy is a critical factor that restricts the introduction of new services. As a result, even high-frequency routes become overcrowded. In London for example, the most important factor to contesting for service contracts is the access to depots.

Under the cluster model, initiated by the Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System (DIMTS), the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) expected private operators for each of the 17 clusters. However, operations for only one cluster were initiated. While the DTC has requested the allocation of space for depots in each cluster, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is yet to adhere. The unavailability of land has led authorities to deliberate over one large depot or two smaller depots (Banerjee 2014). As a result, operations remain largely inactive. An increasing difficulty to provide for land within city limits and close to demand and operations is a problem that many cities face today. 

A key decision to be undertaken at this point is who will provide the space for infrastructure – the agency or the contractor. If the private operator were to invest in long-term assets such as land for infrastructure, challenges considering the ownership of the asset post the contract period must also be addressed.

An approach to facilitating the land provision, presently being considered in Delhi, is the use of smaller land parcels at various locations. The main purpose of a depot is bus maintenance, parking and other daily functions such as fuelling, washing, etc.; these functions are not co-dependent and hence can be undertaken independently. With an increase in space deficiency in many cities, a more creative approach may be required to accommodate the need for depots. In this case, smaller depot sizes or the use of terminal space for overnight bus parking can be helpful for agencies.
Some transport agencies lack operational depots for parking and maintenance works to be undertaken. The unavailability of land and the lack of funding to acquire land are key impediments to adequate maintenance measures. Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation’s Transport wing (MBMT) manages local bus transport with a fleet of 55 buses. While operations and maintenance are outsourced through contracts, the absence of depot facilities results in parking and maintenance occurring on roads or below flyovers (see Figure 109). As a consequence, 10 percent of bus schedules are cancelled every month, hampering operations (Mira-Bhayander Municipal Transport 2014).

At present, Mira-Bhayander is putting efforts towards designing a new depot space near Bhayander Station to provide for the existing fleet and new fleet being procured under JnNURM funding.

Case Study: Land Planning for Transport Infrastructure in Bangalore

Ever since the Information Technology (IT) boom in the 1990s, Bangalore city has continuously expanded to absorb the surrounding villages at its periphery. In prospect of the city’s growth, the transport authority - Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) - bought parcels of land in these peripheral areas, with the expectation of significant transport demand in the future. As the city grew and the perimeter became populated, the corresponding demand for mobility services also grew.

With 4,500 buses and 6,500 buses, in Mumbai and Delhi, transport agencies have been restricted from expanding fleet use due to the lack of support infrastructure. Meanwhile, BMTC has doubled its ridership from 2.5 million to 5 million passengers, with a fleet expansion from 3,500 to 6,500 in the last decade. BMTC presently has 38 depots and 50 bus terminals that were developed through a long-term land banking strategy (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation 2014).

As BMTC began operations in these parts of the city, the land was utilised for depot facilities. A long-term strategy and vision with a planning horizon of around 10 years helped the agency to predict the transport requirements in conjunction with the expansion of the city. The planning allowed BMTC to ensure ownership of land in prime areas.

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