Tackling Bengaluru’s traffic doesn’t need more capacity than what’s already planned

REDUCING TRAFFIC ON BENGALURU'S ROADS

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Outer Ring Road traffic on a usual weekday. Picture Courtesy: Mayur Channagere

Transport is the only development sector that worsens as incomes rise. While sanitation, health, education and employment tend to improve through economic development, traffic congestion tends to worsen as pro-growth forces tend to demand and influence policies.

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Transport is not a technical problem,

It is not an infrastructure problem,

It is not even a financial problem,

Most often, it is a political problem.

The proponents for elevated freeways planned to be built cutting across the city claim many benefits, but the theory behind these has gaping loopholes. Let me analyse them one by one, objectively.

City has just 1,500 km of bus-worthy arterial /sub-arterial road network that cannot be widened

This assumption is true, but it raises questions that need to be asked:

  • Will a mere 95km of elevated roads speed up buses on 1500km of buses on arterial /sub-arterial roads?
  • How will gridlocks be removed on the remaining 1405 km (94%) of “bus-worthy” roads?
  • How can dedicated bus lanes be provided on these 1405 km of bus routes, even assuming its possible to provide them below elevated routes?

There are no other viable long-term alternatives. Mass rail transits (Metro phases 3 and 4) and suburban rail will have carrying capacity of only 40-50 lakhs people per day totally by 2030;

This is entirely wrong and an uninformed premise. Metro ridership projections from its DPR estimates are as follows:

  • Phase 1: 16.10 lakhs (33 km, no data on 9.3km phase 1 extension);
  • Phase 2: 18.17 lakhs (Extensions of the lines in Phase-1);
  • Phase 2: 04.55 lakhs (RV Road-Bommasandra line);
  • Phase 2: 05.58 lakhs (Gottigere-Nagawara line;
  • Phase 2A: 04.59 lakhs (KR Puram-Silkboard line);
  • Phase 2B: 01.50 lakhs (Nagawara-Airport via Yelahanka line).

Total: 50.49 lakhs (for length: 42.3+72.5+17.0+29.0 = 160.8km).

There is no data is available on Phase 3 that is likely to add about 100km more.

Going by average projected capacities as above, per km capacity is on average about 31,400 per day. The corresponding figure with actual ridership-per-km of Hong Kong metro is 27,712 (in 2017). There are systems with far higher ridership-per-km numbers (Tokyo, Cairo, Budapest, Sao paulo, Mumbai metro etc).

Assuming BMRC adds 100km in Phase 3, metro’s capacity would rise by about 31,400 x 100 = 31.4 lakhs, making it a total of about 82 lakhs.

Assuming just 70% capacity utilisation, ridership would be close to 57.4 lakhs. In addition, suburban rail may cater to about 9 lakhs (could be higher if developed well and frequencies increased, last mile accesses are sorted out etc). Thus, rail systems can cater to about 66.4 lakhs at the end of phase 3 at just 70% utilisation (Metro’s phase-4 hasn’t been considered above).

Thus, it is abundantly clear that off-street rail systems can easily cater to over 35% of daily trips.

The target mode shares can then be as follows:

  • 32% – Metro (57.6 lakhs);
  • 05% – SubRail (09.0 lakhs); (Suburban rail may add more capacity).
  • 30% – BMTC (54.0 lakhs);
  • 15% – NMT (27.0 lakhs);
  • 15% – Private (27.0 lakhs);
  • 03% – IPT (05.4 lakhs).

Total: 180 lakhs.

Current number of private trips is on the high side (52% or 52 lakhs).

Notes

In the above assumptions:

  • BMTC’s share is assumed to have increased by just 9 lakhs!
  • Private trips has drastically reduced & almost halved from 52 lakhs to 27 lakhs!
  • Metro utilisation is at just 70% and suburban rail ridership is assumed as just 9 lakhs.
  • IPT trips are assumed to be just 5.4 lakhs (3%) though we have 1,20,000 taxis & over 70,000 auto-rickshaws on city streets as of now.

Yet, city is easily able to cater to 180 lakh trips !!

BMTC that carries about 45 lakhs today, will need to carry 1.2-1.3 crore people per day in 2030 on the same roads as today. i.e. 20,000 buses would all be moving too slowly in the grid-locked traffic;

BMTC does not need to carry 1.2-1.3 crore people per day by 2030, as outlined above. As off-street rail systems (especially metro) begin to expand, BMTC’s role as prime mover will begin to diminish though it will continue as the ‘work horse’ of the transport system.

However, it may never need to have 20,000 buses. Its share as summarised above may be close to about 30% or 54 lakhs, which is a rise by 9 lakhs, or 20%.

This increase is likely to take place largely on the outskirts in new developments (the ring between ORR and NICE Road /PRR). Many long-haul routes may be cut short or diverted to cater to feed rail systems that will start being preferred for longer trips due to time savings by exclusive track systems that have unobstructed right of ways.

Elevated roads will get more people to give up private vehicles and favor public transport (i.e. buses and metro) as they can move faster in public transport;

Road proponents are claiming that elevated roads are going to get more people to give up private vehicles, favor public transport and street-based public transport would begin to move faster.

Nowhere in the world have such experiments succeeded. In fact, road additions of any form have always resulted in unmanageable traffic increases. Cities like San Francisco, Milwaukee, New York, Portland, Toronto, Seoul etc have actually benefited by destroying roadways.

Can these road proponents quote one example of a growing city that has resorted to road expansions, especially urban expressways that have conquered congestion? Cities in Asia (Bangkok, Beijing, Delhi, Jakarta, Manila etc) have all worsened street congestion and pollution with such road expansions.

Road-over-road would shift traffic /goods transport to elevated sections while providing dedicated bus lanes on roads below with good quality footpaths/cycle lanes to ensure buses are easily accessible and move faster.

Shifting traffic to elevated roads is just a wild, theoretical imagination. Besides, goods vehicles must be channeled out of the city core (on to PRR) instead of getting them to pass through citycentre as they add heavily to pollution.

Are dedicated bus lanes really possible on Bangalore’s roads? If so, why have these road proponents not studied that aspect in detail and included bus lanes as part of their grand plans to enable buses to move faster?

Why do they claim that it is possible without checking first? Just to push through these elevated roads?

As someone who had worked on Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) for Bangalore long ago, I can say with certainty that it’s an extremely difficult task if not impossible, given the nature of roads with so many intersections, junctions, turn offs, variable widths and lack of enough straight sections of roads etc (barring ORR /IRR).

Clearly, Bangalore needs to restrict roads and traffic, not increase them with road-centric projects to meet imaginary shortfall of capacity to meet demand!

Experience is the ability to recognize a mistake when you make it again.


About Captain Naveen Chandra 1 Article
Captain Naveen Chandra is a resident of Bengaluru, member of 'Praja' and a seasoned mariner.

13 Comments

  1. Everyone is saying that there is no solution for Bangalore traffic, I totally disagree with them. Only need is willpower. We can resolve this problem in one year, some suggestions are:
    1. Circular Local Trains
    2. Connectivity thru metro/mono rail to circular trains
    3. Shuttle buses to feed metro stations from offices and residences
    4. No entry for heavy vehicles during School bus and office timings
    5 Car pooling
    6. No parking zones
    7. Lane Traffic
    8. Usages of Signalling
    9. no checking of two wheeler by traffic police
    10.Stop registration of new car or vehicle
    11. Timings for Water Tankers
    12. No bus stop immediate after signal

  2. There’s something fundamentally wrong about comparing the future capacity of Metro, while taking present capacity of a poorly implemented Suburban rail. If you are taking future capacity of Metro, then list the future capacity of the Suburban rail, which is 75 lacs rides per day! It will be the biggest carrier in the city! You need to change these figures in your article.. its misrepresentative!

    • Sandeep, can you clarify how you state 75L as future Suburban rail capacity? Based on Mumbai’s trains? Its incorrect to assume same for Bangalore as that city is linear while Bangalore is circular, spread out in all directions.

      The target ridership quoted were based on known capacity creation + guesstimated based on the 2011 RITES Suburban Rail report that highlights three routes that currently have good potential.

      Also for reference, lengths & ridership of fully functional Suburban Rail systems in two other cities that have been in operation from long ago:
      Kolkata: 1,172km, 31L (largest network);
      Chennai: 670km, 20L.

      RITES report on suburban rail has estimated possible ridership as follows:
      ——-
      (1) 06.03L – 10% of PT trips (Low scenario);
      (2) 13.85L – 20% of PT trips (Medium scenario);
      (3) 20.34L – 30% of PT trips (High scenario).

      2011 ridership on suburban routes (quoted on RITES report):
      ——-
      BYPL-Bangarpet: 0.59L;
      YPR-Tumkur: 0.46L;
      SBC-Mandya: 0.47L
      (Total: 1.52L out of 2.03L).

      The three routes above account for almost 75% of the total demand. The other eight routes account for the remaining 25%. Thus, regular services (like with frequency of every 20min) are likely to be introduced on these three routes.

      Further, some important salient points from the report are as follows:
      ——-
      (a) Demand /catchment in city core area will be less due to competing modes like Metro;
      (b) Trip lengths that can attract CRS are normally beyond about 10 to 15 Kms;
      (c) Commuter systems are falling short of projections: Hyderabad MMTS projected to carry 3L has 1.6L.

  3. But RTO is going after smart apps which enable car pooling to protect their beloved crony (BMTC) saying pooling is illegal.Ironically taffic police still advertices car pooling. RTO also shutdown the smart bus aggregation service (Ola shuttles and Zipgo s of the world). I seriously think that we do not even need metros. we just need to allow ondemand bus aggregation service and that is all. They will put in 20000 buses and 50000 tempo travellers (which currently do only one trip and run almost empty) to the most optimal use at a very convenient way and at competitive rates and private vehicle usage can be bought down. Ofcourse a bit of nudge in the form of congestion charge of surcharge roadtax etc to discourage private vehicle ownership/usage.

  4. Buses running on outer ring road especially in the mornings towards Tin factory, ITPL are half filled which clearly show that the buses are over numbered. As already mentioned, buses stopping haphazardly for pick up/drop is also leading to a pile up. If the start time of the buses from depo is strictly maintained it will be of great help. Uniform distribution of buses across the city would also help in a way. On top of this pooling, use of public transport wherever feasible/possible, smart traffic light controllers and every individual following rules are the only way forward.

  5. 1. Tech park based Shuttle Services is must, instead of individual company maintained
    transport services

    2. Private Cab (Ola/Uber etc) numbers must the controlled.

    3. Employee must use public transport / common transport if it is available on
    convenience.

    Note : Private Cars are on road for 2- 3 hrs in a day, that is not the case with
    24×7 taxi services.

  6. Nice write up by the author. Has provide detailed analysis of the road traffic condition. To decongest the city, few best practices that can be followed by the traffic police department are:
    1. All the traffic control lights need to be timer based and not manually operated. So that traffic on all crossings can move smoothly.
    2. All the private cabs near tech-parks and main localities are illegally parked on one side of the road which needs to be avoided.
    3. Busses need not overtake each other and they need to stop near the bus stop not whereever they find a spot.
    4. They need to plan proper foot-over bridge on all major localities so that pedestrians can cross smoothly.

    It is good to plan lot of infrastructure projects but before that these basic steps if followed, daily traffic condition will improve.

  7. If you stand at any junction for 2 hours and observe like at ramamurhty nagar. You will notice that it will jam and traffic piles upto 1 km in each entry road. When you loom closely you will notice it is because a BMTC has stopped to drop or pick a person up in the turning where there is no bus stop or an auto/bike or car has driven on wrong side to avoid standing in queue in the traffic.

    Firstly we need to strictly follow traffic rules stop look and proceed give way, if traffic still piles up then sure its because people are not using public transport or walking short distance (<1 km).

  8. Almost in every city, administration considers adding more roads or separate roads for Rapid Public transport. These steps infact adding additional traffic as many people started owning cars and this trend is increasing and government cannot really restrict this behaviour as it impacts several industry sectors. What administration should seriously think about is concepts like Local Trains, Metros, RO-RO and feeder services than long haul bus routes.If i restrict long haul city bus routes alone and convert them as a feeder services to Mass Transit systems, that will meet the required demand as of now and can be planned efficiently for future requirements. If Mass Transit system is good and frequent, majority of the people will start shifting to outside the city and commute which significant portion of vehicles on road. In Chennai and Mumbai there are people who travels 80 to 120 km each day for work in local trains which needs to analysed and implemented in a best way for Bangalore.

  9. At the first place, people should stop traveling alone in a car. Either they should start taking public or shared transportation. Let’s consider if 100 people travel alone in their cars, this alone adds up a huge traffic. If people start being bit sensible towards the nature, it would a great do. Maybe government should act on this.

    • Alas, how can they show there professional status if dont travel in SUVs and big cars, even if they took hefty loan. A car alone can take space for 2-3 bikes forget about chaos they cause while not following lane discipline.

    • People who drive alone in a car always complain about huge traffic, but they don’t realize that it is caused by themselves who is not contributing about road sharing, if road transport department could ban driving alone inside city traffic at certain period of time especially during peak hours could easily avoid major traffic throughout the city.

      • What an arrogant argument by the “Bikers”. If 3 or 4 bikes take place of a car, they also cause 4 to 16 times more indiscipline, no follwing lane, no giving signal, no stopping for crossing, no regard for any road sign, utterly arrogant, scratching everywhere. These bikers will overtake where there is no space left even on wrong side. If a big bus is coming from the front, they will bend sideway and signal that there is enough space for the big vehicle to pass, slowing down everyone else who was in lane, without having smallest of the brains to understand that the bigger vehicles and traffic slowed down because of them and their incorrect lane. They are always in a hurry, more than cars or anyone else, even when they can maneuver they still need priority over everyone else. And god forbid if someone says anything, theese are the first people to start a fight..

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