Through this article, I would like to counter a previous article by Nitin Seshadri, a resident of Koramangala, that recommends elevated roads as a solution to our traffic jams. Here are my points:
1.The debate is based on unreliable data.
We do not have the accurate road capacity data, and the OD matrix. Apparently Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) has carried out some transportation forecasting, but it was never shared in public. So the entire debate is based on questionable data. Before any elevated roads are proposed, the relevant data must be shared in public domain.
2.The elevated roads are neither sufficient nor inclusive
An elevated road will just double the capacity, at best. But many of our roads are already overloaded by a factor of 4-5. So the elevated roads won’t solve the problem for those roads.
Bangalore has vast interior areas (due to urban sprawl), especially in peripheral areas (outside ORR). Most of them have very narrow streets. These streets are further blocked by the on-street parking of the local residents.
3.Elevating the roads may increase long-distance trips, without solving problem for short trips
According to study, most of the trips in Bangalore are within 12 km. So having high speed long links will encourage people to travel longer. But the local people will not have easier time making their trips.
4. Conversion to bus transit should have the first priority, not elevated roads.
An elevated road only doubles the capacity of a particular road. In contrast, a bus reduces the traffic by a factor of 24. (How: A bus carries 48 people, against 1-2 people carried by a car, and yet it occupies the road space of two cars.)
If we manage to add just one bus trip, it would make the roads free of 24 car trips! Our priority should be to convert the car trips to bus trips, not to add road surface.
5. The extra space will be immediately taken over by additional cars
If we create more space, more cars will immediately take over the extra space. This principle is known as induced traffic demand. Bengaluru is still expanding at a rapid pace, and people have good purchasing power. The economy does not have a negative sentiment. These factors will lead to an explosion in car population.
6. Despite the doubling of road surface, the speed across it will be the same.
When road capacity is expanded, travel speed increases. This brings back the previously deterred potential traffic. Thus the routes become as congested as they were before. This is known as the fundamental law of highway congestion. If you cannot reach your workplace or home faster, what’s the point??
7. BMTC does not try to woo the public!
Conversion to public transport can reduce the traffic 24-fold. Therefore we must first popularize the public transport, which is not that difficult. And BMTC is the only public transport mode that is already available, across the city.
So many of us do NOT take BMTC buses, and for good reason: There is no timetable, the buses don’t run on time, there are no direct routes, the waiting period is too long, no seating.
BMTC has bought an expensive ITS (Intelligent Transport System) to achieve exactly this. So why is it not working?
- BMTC has not started collaboration with software parks to run OD-based trips. Instead, BMTC plies empty Volvos for Software Parks that are already on the main Volvo routes.
They do not allow other passengers in these buses. This results in crushing crowds in the remaining Volvos.
- By the time contracted bus return to normal duty, the rush period is over. Running Volvos during this is time means no passengers, which means huge losses.
- BMTC makes no attempt to address the last mile connectivity. No one likes to walk long distances (especially night time, during the rains, etc).
- BMTC volvos are designed to carry wheelchairs, which most people do not use. We do have many bikers who could use their bikes for their last-mile connectivity. But the BMTC Volvos do not carry bikes.
With a little intelligent management, BMTC can turn the tables.
8. We must respect the existing road/rail assets
While we debate the cost of elevated roads, we neglect the cost of our existing roads and rail assets. BBMP fudges its spending data to hide how much a road costs in making and annual maintenance. We have fallen in that trap. The roads are taken for granted, and written off as having no value. This article highlights the same problem for our under-utilised rail assets.
And THIS is the root of all problem!
- Our road density is worst to begin with, and quickly degrades even further in NEW areas. Why did BDA and BBMP not plan for these roads?
- A new building needs seven NOCs. None of them ask for assessment of impact on traffic, and mitigation plans. For example, they allowed 30 IT parks, malls, schools, colleges on just one road (ORR). There is no road grid to ease off the pressure.
- When large plots are developed, BBMP/BDA is supposed to get 25% of it as public roads. But the developers encroach to create “gated communities”. Thus vital thoroughfare roads are lost.
- The true carrying capacity of the roads is only a fraction of its rated capacity. Reason: Potholes, water puddles, vehicles illegally parked on road, hawkers, beggars, etc. If we are serious, let the public report traffic violations through “Public Eye” and get 50% of the fine.
- We have not planned for enough off-street parking for all vehicles in the city. So many of them are parked on-road, which steals the road capacity. Here, note that a typical private car remains parked for the whole day, except for 2 trips-a-day.
But a BMTC bus keeps moving through the city the whole day. That means it does not reduce the capacity of the road.
- Let us start with proper data.
- Let us count our existing assets and make it sweat.
- Let us make all effort to remove pain points from public transport. It will automatically become popular.