All you need to know about Bengaluru’s new Bus Priority Lane plan for ORR

BUS PRIORITY LANES

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Test run of the bus priority lane project in Marathahalli. The bus lane is segregated by bollards. Pic: Pravir Bagrodia

You’ve probably heard about BMTC’s ‘bus priority lane’ pilot project in ORR (Outer Ring Road) by now. Officials are working full-time to set up infrastructure for the project, and are conducting test runs.

Speaking to Citizen Matters, KR Puram Traffic Police Inspector Lokesha says they have been asked to deploy police personnel to ensure only buses ply in the priority lanes. “BMTC will gives us details after the pilot runs are completed. We will then deploy personnel depending on the number and frequency of buses,” he says.

Here are some quick details about this pilot :

  • Starting November 1st, the left lane in the main carriageway between Silk Board and KR Puram will be dedicated for BMTC buses, separated physically by steel bollards.
  • Forty five new bus services will be started exclusively for this corridor.
  • Ambulances will be allowed on these lanes.
  • Initial goal is to increase the average speed of buses on this route from about 10 kmph to 18-20 kmph
  • BBMP, BMTC, BTP (Bengaluru Traffic Police) and DULT (Directorate of Urban Land Transport) are working closely on this.
Map of the bus lane project to be implemented in ORR. Source: BMTC

BMTC is extremely keen to make the pilot work, and organised a public consultation with interested citizens and organisations last week. BMTC MD Shikha IAS and Director Anupam Agarwal IPS chaired the meeting, with many senior BMTC officials in attendance.

Though it was a weekday, many participants showed up, and the meeting had to be shifted to a larger space to accommodate everyone! Several commuters, civic activists, urban planners, architects and researchers were present. Representatives from tech parks also joined.

First things first

  1. The bus priority lane project is set to be launched on November 1st.
  2. The left lane will be dedicated to buses. Ambulances will be allowed. They are contemplating whether to allow other high-occupancy vehicles in the same lane; decision not yet made.
  3. The project will be delivered in phases, on 12 high-density roads in the city. The idea is to execute, learn and improve.
  4. The first phase is in the Outer Ring Road, between Silk Board and KR Puram. They are contemplating extending it till Baiyyappanahalli, but this is not decided.
  5. This route is also entirely signal-free, which makes the project relatively easy to execute.
  6. Officers from BBMP, BMTC, BTP and DULT are working round the clock in close coordination, and making daily site visits to launch the project on time. Trial runs are to begin on October 20th.
  7. City Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao is also keen to make the project a success.
  8. There are proposals at highest levels to consider congestion tax (a charge for using private vehicles in high-density corridors) for car users on this road.
  9. There are no plans to reduce bus fares as part of this project.

How will the project be executed?

  1. The left lane will be marked for bus only. Buses can go in other lanes too.
  2. They will install barriers to demarcate bus lane and ensure other vehicles do not enter.
  3. The ORR corridor already has many buses – almost 10 percent of all BMTC buses, covering 6596 trips, ply here daily. They will add around 45 buses exclusively for this corridor. These buses will only ply between Silk Board and KR Puram.
  4. Currently, the average occupancy rate of buses is around 65 percent in this corridor. They want to increase it to around 90 percent.
  5. All the bus stops along the way are being improved with better signage etc.
  6. At select points, service lanes will be blocked from accessing bus lanes, to ensure smooth bus transit.
  7. Enforcement will be done using technology, and with less human intervention. They are considering CCTVs on buses also, to capture license plates of motorists who barge into bus lanes.

Voice of the people

At the meeting, more than 30 citizens voiced their opinions and concerns, and asked questions. These ranged from global learnings to local realities. Officers patiently heard every person, answered many questions and promised to follow up on the rest.

See this excellent thread by the forum BBPV (Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike) that captured most of the comments and discussions as they happened.

Huge support, many questions and ideas

The plan has received huge support and encouragement from Bengalureans online. Citizens have been demanding dedicated spaces for public transport for long, and the project has has come at a time when nobody was expecting it.

Most believe this could be a game-changer for public transport in the city. Even during the consultation, many expressed their support for the project and impressed upon the BMTC to persist with the pilot even as problems are identified and solutions found in the early days.

Large sections of Bengalureans are supporting the project.

Concerns

There were many concerns around implementation though. The Facebook post by Srinivas Alavilli of CfB (Citizens for Bengaluru) already captures a few raised at the consultation. Some others were raised online. Below are some of the concerns:

  • Timeline

Is the project going live too soon? We have waited for this a long time and now we seem to be moving a little too fast. CfB has made a strong case for more public consultations at various locations, involving other departments. 

  • Last mile connectivity 

Pedestrian infrastructure including footpaths, grade crossings and skywalks are critical. Unless pedestrian facilities also improve dramatically, bus priority lanes will lead to many unhappy and scared pedestrians. We didn’t hear much about this, perhaps because that work is under BBMP’s jurisdiction.

Local feeder buses are required to get to ORR before people can get onto the bus. Not much thought seems to have gone into this.

  • Route rationalisation 

One of the pressing problems with BMTC is bunching and the lack of route rationalisation. It is clear that BMTC officials are well aware of this issue, but it isn’t clear what they plan to do about it.

  • Design

1) Is a single dedicated lane enough?

Tara Krishnaswamy, based on data, contended that 150-200 trips per hour could lead to intermittent choking. Hence a passing lane (overtaking lane), at least at the bus stops, would be useful.

Others said that the entire corridor should have two lanes on each side. 

2) Left or right?

There was many a question raised about using the left-most lane for the project. The service road has entry and exit points into the main carriageway that would intersect with the bus lane, and people were anxious about the choke points this might create. The ORR was in fact designed to be BRTS-ready and hence the centre lane could be used for smoother flow, many opined. 

BMTC, during the discussion, mentioned they were cognisant of this. They had chosen left lane for the pilot, considering that the higher costs for a full-fledged BRTS-like system would lead to longer decision-making and funding cycles.

In the absence of more comprehensive infrastructure, using the left lane would be easier, and safer for passengers, in their view. They assured that some intersection design and management was being planned, after numerous studies and trips along the corridor made by senior officials. 

3) Why just the ORR?

This is a pilot; bus lanes are planned in 12 corridors overall. The design and implementation in the remaining corridors would be based on the success and learnings from this pilot.

4) Safety, and the choice of steel bollards

The exact implementation of the lane was a matter of much discussion. Some thought no physical barricades were needed, and that fines and strict enforcement would suffice. Others pointed out that the black steel bollards would pose a threat to motorists at night. 

On the issue of the safety of the bollards, the BBMP Commissioner came out with an online update assuring they were resolving the issue! “I would like to assure citizens that last night itself BBMP has fixed reflectors on bus lane bollards to warn motorists. There is no cause for concern as the bollard work was in progress yesterday & reflective sheets were placed the same day after work was completed,” the Commissioner’s Facebook post said.

Reflectors fixed on bus lane bollards. Pic: BBMP Commissioner’s Facebook post

Government seems keen and responsive

The BMTC, BBMP and the BTP all seem very involved and keen to see this work progress well. Senior officers from all three departments have made trips along the planned corridor, and work on the lanes has already started! BMTC has also promised continued communication with the citizens for updates and feedback.

[Srinivas Alavilli of CfB, and Kedar Koushik contributed to this article]


Sameer Shisodia
About Sameer Shisodia 2 Articles
Sameer Shisodia is an entrepreneur and resident of Bellandur

29 Comments

  1. Use two center lanes, with buses running in opposite ditection so that bus doors are towards the median. This will avoid problems of crossings at intersections.

  2. Hope they improve bus condition on thos route, as it is very common to see few broken down buses every few kilometers. And with bollards it will be very difficult to clear the dedicated bus lane

    • Adding more buses will help in reducing some traffic problems. Out of 2-3 lanes if one lane cannot be used by office buses and other vehicles it will worsen the situation. If there are not enough buses running in separate lane then that road space will be under utilizes and it is a waste. Half of the traffic problem is due to BMTC buses, they should have separate bus bays at bus stops, when there are 2-3 buses stopped at bus stops they don’t wait before the previous bus moves and try to overtake and slow down the other traffic, many buses stop at many bus stops, some stops should be removed for buses that travel a long distance. Many bus stops are at places where they shouldn’t have a busstop (just after a turn, just after a signal), these kind of busstops should be moved little away so that they don’t cause jams.

  3. very good initiative, as well going forward we should have total 3 lanes. 1) not only for BMTC as well for Mini buses along with Heavy load vehicles. 2) small vehicles like cars and Cabs 3)for 2 wheeler. it’s already implemented small countries.

  4. Congrats for all the departments working together for the success.
    Required to educate the IT people and let them start using public transport which is good for them and also for the society.
    Quick and fast mode of transport will help many people to shift from own vehicle to Public transport.

  5. Don’t be fooled This BUS scheme is all aimed at cancelling the planned metro between SilkBoard and KR puram

  6. Police personnel should be deployed to check that BMTC buses strictly stick to their lane and not for checking if others are using the bus lanes. It’s more often the BMTC buses which lack Road discipline, they stop in the middle of the road instead of the dedicated bus stop by overtaking other buses and blocking traffic movement. Also change lanes like a two wheeler. They should be heavily fined if they don’t stick to their lanes.

  7. I appreciate the interest from the government jointly working with daily commuters and the residing citizens to bring relief. For the narrow roads in Bangalore the option of having lane system at left is a right choice, for my friends who has opinion to have it at middle of the road is quite right but then let me tell them this project will be further delayed, coz station has to be made at middle of the road,
    further contesting at either sides and let us not add to more frustration and follow as keeping it at left.. Commuters or vehicles from service road going to main road has to follow the traffic/lane discipline.
    In addition I urge BMTC and support team educate the bus drivers that their religion is stopping stick to lanes allocated and whatever the time they are plying. As a citizen support to ensure our silicon city gets another name traffic discipline city.

  8. I have been using bus from past 1 yr and my experience says:-
    1. Bus should install a smart ticketing solution which should be at the entry gate because the bus slows from one stop to other because conductor is not able to given tickets to all the guys those boarded and can charge reasonably.
    2. This article says 65% occupancy of buses, have they traveled the buses in office hrs it is 200% more occupied. :- Partial Solution… IT companies from a tech parks should come up with a solution so that anyone can board any companies buses because most of them go empty in office hrs. And this is not that difficult to do.
    3. Left lane solution has to be smart enough because you can’t block cars or bikes coming from service lane else there will be clogging of cars either on service road or on middle lane cars trying to exit. install CCTV on the road to monitor the behavior of drivers and then train them. WHY ALWAYS THE SOLUTION IS TO PUT MORE TAX, in this case CONGESTION TAX.
    4. This is most important point that the people at the highest level in bureaucracy should frequently use public transport to understand the real issue and not just sit in ac rooms while thinking about solutions. No problem can be solved without understanding the real issues. This is a common problem of everybody in the city and bureaucracy can start programs to identify de congestion project with the help of smart solutions (like one in point 2) before going to old-age solutions of dedicated lane etc which will give birth to a lot of other traffic problems. I hope someone from the decision making authority read this.

    • Typo:- “and can charge reasonably” at the end of point no 1 should be at the end of point no 2 in above post.

    • Dude you seem to have done some good research, you should join the public services and start contributing to make a difference. We need educated people to be part of BBMP because its proving itself to be a failing organization which failing our beautiful city.

    • The occupancy is just the average, I think. Because BMTC runs those buses all day long with many trips in the lean periods having just a handful of passengers.

  9. Hi sir the first point was mentioned that it’s a seperate lane only for buses and (buses can go in other lane tooo) then there’s no point of making this rule.

    Pls check on lane discipline. Went to Bangkok the traffic is far bad compare to banglore with same small roads but it runs smoothly only bcoz they follow traffic lane ever car 🚗 🚗 🚗 just like this behind each other with good distance between each other discipline can make things right… I request to the authority of banglore to do something about footpath riding bikes pls do something about this.. Put some spikes so the bike should get punctured then n there.. They do all this to save time and by doing this way this will pull out there time and they will not do this…

    Thanking you

  10. Have BBMP run any analysis on the impact the changes proposed ?
    It seems like a forced plan that they just want to execute. Rather than educating their bus drivers which is far less costly and effective than decreasing drivable road on already choked traffic corridor, they have slapped the city with a laughable plan of BRT.
    This kind of project has already failed in Pune. Take a learning from there and stop acting childish.

    • agreed this model cannot work in every city. While it failed in Pune it did success in Ahmedabad. The difference was that in Ahmedabad it was developed as an integrated transport system and roads where modified to support the dedicated lane. Also last mile connectivity is a real and important issue. Many people like me are forced bot to use public buses despite them being air conditioned and a better option than self driving because there is no walking space from my home to the bus stop. During rains the under pas floods and one cannot cross it on foot. BBMP needs to focus on developing basic infrastructure like pedestrian footpaths, proper crossing foot over bridges and making roads drive able before venturing out into advanced solutions like dedicated corridors. This just looks like a blind decision and if true learnings are recorded I am sure the one I mentioned would come out of this pilot as a major learning. This is going to be a nightmare for motorists on the ORR.

  11. THIS IDIOTIC PLAN SEEMS TO HAVE FORGOTTEN WE POOR CYCLISTS 😠.👎
    PLEASE GIVE A THOUGHT TO US ALSO 🙏

    • Agreed, there is no basic infra like pedestrian walkways and cycle lanes, without such things it makes no sense to have such a dedicated corridor. It seems like just a sham to prove that BBMP cares and is making efforts, albeit in all the wrong directions.

  12. Good initiative. All the best for its success.
    We have to be persistent as initially there could be hiccups which should not deter or scare away the initiative.
    Gradually improve footpath and pedestrian infrastructure around bus stops.

  13. The fact that buses will be allowed to ply on non dedicated lanes kills the whole purpose. Bus drivers, with there racing car driver like manuring skills will again eat up entire roads the moment they see a bloakade on dedicated lane making life of non BMTC drivers miserable. As they are installing the bollards we are already seeing huge traffic pile up near and around Marathalli Junction, imagine if the BMTC line is blocked and all the BMTC buses end up on the other 2 lanes!
    Nightmare!

  14. I always thought that the rightmost lane on ORR is designed to be a bus lane. Is that not correct? If yes, why make the left most lane the dedicated bus lane, where traffic will be moving in and out. All sort of people will now stop in middle lane of the road. Hopefully this works. And hopefully govt improves infrastructure for peds.

    • They don’t have infrastructure (Foot over bridge) for bus passengers to move them from middle lane to left or right side of the road safely and without interrupting the traffic. They should have constructed proper FOBs first and then should have made centre lane as bus corridors.

  15. Those Bollards are so close, if an ambulance wants to get out of that lane, it won’t be possible with ease

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