As residents of Bangalore, many of us know that the transport situation in the city is far from ideal. And considering the status of progress of various transport initiatives, the road to an efficient urban transportation strategy is fraught with obstacles. The process is bound to be messy and appears to be expensive in terms of time, money and the effort it will demand. However, the cost of not doing the integration is far higher than that of avoidng it.
Radha Chanchani, an urban planner working with the Indian Institute of Science, said, "Urban planners consider transportation as an important parameter in the city infrastructure. But Bangalore’s growth has been so fast that a possible review had seemed impossible at the time and taking remedial measures looks like the only solution now." It is also essential to carry out integrated land use transportation planning. Mass rapid transport system stations had been proposed as a test measure. But such measures required a major policy change and its feasibility and implications have to be studied in depth.
Transport planning in the last two decades in Bangalore has been oriented towards developing a mix of public transport, but funds have always been a constraint. Despite the fact that Phase 2 of the Namma Metro project will stretch to 43 kilometers, and the bus transport networks have been providing more and more services, which is obvious from the growth of the fleet and increase in passenger trips. And there is no space for walkers and cyclists.
Bus Rapid Transit System: a possibility?
According to a comprehensive transportation and traffic plan prepared by RITES Ltd. for the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC), the percentage of pedestrians and cyclists in Bangalore is very low. And this percentage is further decreasing. Apart from the lack of cycle tracks on roads, increased trip lengths for almost all purposes may have caused this fall. The current transport policy is oriented towards roads. India’s fast-growing economy and higher per capita income has resulted in high vehicle ownership and usage. The roads in the core areas are therefore seen getting congested. The increase in the cost of urban land has encouraged peripheral growth, thus increasing urban sprawl. This has further resulted in lengths of trips increasing, for all purposes. The way forward is for bus rapid transit services as they tend to provide a higher quality bus service by reducing journey time and being reliable. Contrary to the usual belief, a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) may or may not need huge, separate lanes for buses to travel. Not all Indian cities that have adopted the system have six-way lanes in all parts of the city.
Ravi Trivedi, an IT engineer working in Pune, said: "Traffic in Pune is really bad. Unlike other metropolitan cities in India, we do not have many air conditioned Volvo buses. We have BRTS, but there are no separate lanes for the buses. I have not seen it being very active here". Dharam Mandavat, a management student in Jaipur, shared, "I have lived in Jaipur for more than five years and I have seen its traffic going from bad to worse. And I have also seen the BRTS making the city traffic bearable. The situation still not great, but if the (bus rapid transport) system is sincerely implemented, I believe it will make things better". The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) had prepared a comprehensive report in 2007 to implement BRTS in Bangalore. When asked about the current status of the plan, Assistant Executive Engineer, BDA, Ferozuddin Khan said, "BMTC is in charge of the plan, and we are yet to receive any notification from them. However, discussions about a BRTS route along the Outer Ring Road in Bangalore have been held".
KUIDFC reports say that a capacity of around 8,000 peak hour peak direction traffic (PHPDT) can be achieved with only a single lane. This capacity can be increased to 20,000 PHPDT through measures like provision of additional lanes, overtaking lanes and grade separation at junctions. Usage of compressed natural gas buses can help in reducing petrol emissions. Chanchani said, "When compared with the metro, everyone knows that a BRTS would cost a fraction of it. The cost of constructing metro Phase 1 and Phase 2 exceeded Rs. 40,000 crores (nearly Rs. 400 billion or $7.4 billion). The BRTS also has better accessibility than the metro and would be more affordable to people."
The road map of Bangalore shows that at present, all the buses, whether intercity, interstate or intracity, originate and terminate at the Central Station in the Majestic area. This not only creates congestion and heavy traffic density on all the routes coming into the core of Bangalore city, but also results in substantial delay to passengers who have to take the buses to far flung areas. A multimodal public transport network has been proposed to be developed to meet expected travel needs of commuters and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation is contemplating an intercity bus terminal-cum-integrated multimodal transit center at Peenya, a well known industrial area in Bangalore. But according to the KUIDFC, at least four such stations are required in all parts of the city to reduce traffic congestion. The main objective of an integrated transport system is to offer maximum advantage from economic, traffic and planning considerations, and it is vital for a cheap and viable transport system. "A fully integrated model that has all the factors namely, buses, trains, auto and pulled rickshaws, along with cyclists and pedestrians, properly synchronized, would make an ideal transport model for Bangalore", Chanchani said.