HomeSpotlightBus depot designing may throw new opportunities for architects

Bus depot designing may throw new opportunities for architects

In most of the cities in India Public Mass Transit systems is the most neglected public services. Lack of knowledge about their significance, poor condition and lack of funds with local governments – all have contributed to the poor quality of services. That being the case, one cannot expect well designed and passenger friendly bus depots in our cities.

With commuters preferring to use private vehicles as their mode of transport, passenger transport is becoming more and more emission intensive. Promoting the use of public transport is a key strategy for reducing emissions from passenger transport, decreasing motorization and improving the quality of urban life.

Public transport is important

Despite its weaknesses, a major share of the mobility surge is currently being catered by road-based transport of which a substantial component is met by buses. It is estimated that there are close to seven lakh buses operating in the country. Of these, approximately 1,50,000 are operated by the public sector through more than fifty State Transport Undertakings (STU) and Transport Corporations. These buses operate around 12.1 billion kilometres annually and carry more than 70 million passenger trips per-day. This is nearly three times the passengers carried by Indian railways.

While the need for upgradation and development of bus depots is recognised as a priority area by the STUs, they are hampered by their limited technical and financial capacity to develop modern bus depots.

An essential requirement of a good quality bus system is the availability of adequate supporting infrastructure like bus terminals and depots. However, most Indian cities do not have adequate supporting infrastructure. This reduces the passenger capacity offered by bus systems, inducing passengers to shift to high carbon modes like private vehicles. Therefore, there is a need to upgrade existing bus terminals and maintenance depots and develop new ones to ensure better bus services. But there is  very limited guidance that exists on Bus Depots for India’s city-buses.

There is requirement for a comprehensive guidance on conceptualization, site selection, development, design and construction of depot. The concepts of Green Building, Security and Safety measures are rarely incorporated while designing the depot. Depot design should be based on the workflow i.e., movement of bus, material and personnel. Need becomes even more urgent as several states have taken steps to switch over to electric vehicles.

Challenges faced by designers:

Inappropriate and insufficient briefing about the project makes the task of designers even more difficult. Also, designers don’t have any say in deciding the area of the depot and also its location. This is a major problem in all cities as the availability of the space is a major constraint. Further, operational guidelines are rarely followed by the client’s staff post-completion of the project.

With the introduction of EVs public transport system becoming imminent, redesign of the existing depots to accommodate charging and storing of batteries are becoming a necessity and also an opportunity for the architects. Some of the state transport corporations have already issued tenders for bus depot designing. However, insufficient space of charging and addressing security and safety concerns are the main challenges in front of designers.

Designers must understand the movement of the various element such as bus, material, personnel – drivers and conductors, maintenance staff, admin staff and visitors to design a better depot.

Modern bus depots have to be provided with charging stations instead of fuelling stations. What makes the task onerous is the fact that it takes more time for charging than conventional fuelling while space available in depot remains the same under both the systems. For example, a DC charging station (very high voltage and current; maximum continuous input power 240 kW) supplies current directly to the vehicle battery and typically provides about 125 km of electric range per 30-minute charge while the conventional refuelling much lesser time.

In case of EVs, plug-in charging units are provided at-bay, allowing simultaneous charging of buses, without pulling out from the designated parking bay. Though individual at-bay charging (or fuelling) saves space and is operationally efficient, it requires high capital investment. Thus, the operating experience for such an option in the Indian context, is limited.

Further bus depots present lot of scope to go green. Solar power plants, and water harvesting and recycling plants are among the prominent means of developing self-sufficient depot infrastructure i.e., one which utilises energy from renewable sources. The solar panels can be accommodated on built up areas of the depot, like the roof of the operational block, maintenance facility etc. Also, depots consume lot of water for bus cleaning, etc which calls for water recycling and use of  roof water or storm water. Evidently, bus depots can achieve significant water savings through rainwater harvesting. In fact, bus depots can become self-sustaining in both electricity and water consumption by adapting green techniques.

Thus, bus depot redevelopment/development not only provide new opportunity to architects and urban planners, but also will contribute in making bus transport more attractive and will help us achieve our long-term vision of sustainable mobility in the country.

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