Open letter to Chief Minister of Karnataka: Elevated Beda, Suburban Train, BRT, LastMile Beku

PEOPLE OF BENGALURU SAY NO TO ELEVATED ROADS

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Proposed elevated corridor network. Source: R K Misra

Dear Chief Minister of Karnataka,

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With great urgency, in your very first budget, you have announced an undebated ‘Elevated Corridor’ project that has not had public consultation, and followed no due process. Another project is an untested technology called ‘Pod Taxi’, again not following any due process or transparency! These are listed neither in the master plan for Bengaluru, nor in any integrated mobility plan for the city.

These will impact the 1.2 crore residents of the city in many ways. The Elevated Corridors project will cost the exchequer Rs. 34,000 crores, 151 acres of land, and almost 4000 trees. That’s a shocking public cost to be approved without public consent. This will turn our city into an eternal construction site, and reduce the quality of life in Bengaluru, beyond imagination!

What you also haven’t factored in is that the entire plan is premised on a faulty logic: You plan to create highways across the sky, but where will the cars go after they get off the elevated highway? They will land straight into traffic jams created by the bottlenecks at every exit. So, the city will be filled with new traffic jams, of even higher intensity. Eventually, they will end up being traffic jams in the sky, just as the Electronic City elevated corridor has ended up being. Do we need such a disaster?

So, eventually, it will take away our trees, money and land, further destroy our city’s aesthetics, and create more pollution and congestion in our city, but will not save us anything. So, why are you selling us this lie? Who is the government working for? What is the sanctity of the institution of government? This is a serious matter of propriety and of due process.

When legitimate experts are recommending sustainable solutions in an integrated manner, instead why is the government listening to self-proclaimed experts and lobbyists, who are ‘batting’ for a short-sighted, ‘designed to fail’ project?

The reputed Indian Institute of Science has generated a report that clearly spells out what the city requires. It is here for all to see:

IISc report on what Mobility Plan Bengaluru requires.

Vested interests and lobbies seem to be hijacking the city’s governance in a bid to corner the city’s resources, with scant respect to the consequences on the residents, the city, and disrespect to democracy, rule of law and due diligence.

It is vital that the government do something on a warfooting to reduce congestion and provide solutions that work for all Bengalureans. So, here are some demands and questions to the Chief Minister of Karnataka:

1) Suburban Train Beku : Where have you shown urgency in executing the Suburban Rail? It will take hardly any money to set up the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). It will take very little money to get the local commuter rail operational, all it takes is upgrading to automatic signalling, and stations at short distances. The bigger suburban rail network can come later, but local trains can certainly run every 15 mins or half hour, on the existing infrastructure within months, spending very little money.

Why is this project stuck in fights over petty cost sharing issues? Why doesn’t the state shoulder the entire budget, if it has such a huge benefit to cost ratio to the city? When we have a project worth Rs 35,000 crores, fund surely aren’t a problem.

Bangalore can have a 180 km Local Commuter Rail in months!!

2) Bus Priority Beku: The existing roads are chocked with private vehicles, reducing the efficiency with which the buses ply. They are also stuck in the same traffic jams, even though they shoulder the burden of more than 50 lakh rides per day. The majority of the citizens of the city have to wait in traffic jams, because of the others who use private transport. With relatively low investment, you could convert the entire road network into a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) Network, or at least have Bus Priority Lanes on all roads. You just need to demarcate ‘Separate Bus Lanes’ on the existing arterial roads, fence them, integrate the signalling, have pelican signals at all bus stops for pedestrians to cross. This will improve the efficiency of buses a 1000 fold, and encourage those who depend on private transport to shift to public transport, reducing congestion and pollution.

While you do this, you could also rationalise the routes, creating an arterial (trunk) network and feeder networks. The feeder networks of buses could be common for BRT, Suburban Rail, and Metro, moving in little circles making short rides between the closest stations.
All our arterial roads have a lane to dedicate in one direction to exclusive bus lane!
3) Pedestrian Priority beku / Cycle priority beku : The greatest contributors to the city are the ones who walk and cycle, as they do not produce any pollution, and take up least space.

Its high time we reversed priority, first pedestrian footpaths, then cycling lanes, then trees, and only the remaining space should be allocated to roads!

4) Janarige Soulabhya maadi, Gaadigalige alla! : The focus of the government, if it’s intentions are genuine, has to be ‘to move people, not vehicles’. To do this there are various other ways, that wouldn’t require the government to scar and “RIP” the city with a cross, of elevated corridors. There are multiple ways of meeting the requirements such as Suburban Rail, Metro, Trams, Monorails, etc., The laws need to be changed to allow reliable last mile connect to all the above means. The carriage act needs amendment to allow participation of other players such as shared rickshaws, mini buses, etc., using new crowdsourced technologies, to support and augment public transport, so that residents would never need to own a vehicle of their own. Where is the will to do all this, and to introduce legislation to upgrade the transport framework for a modern Bengaluru?

5) Holistic Strategy Beku : The fundamental flaw with this ad hoc decision is that you are supporting more cars and private vehicles which pollute, use more resources and destroy the living conditions of the city, instead of promoting cyclists and pedestrians and public transit users, who will reduce use of resources, pollution and the burden on the state. Where is the high level strategy on this decision?

6) Democracy Beku : You are elected to represent the views of the citizens. So, then, where is the public consultation with citizens, before you take such a huge decision, on our commons, resources and tax exchequer? Instead, why are you listening to lobbies and vested interests?

7) Capacity Building Beku : There is scant effort to build expertise and responsibility into governance. The Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) and the Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA), both of which have legitimate roles in planning an integrated Transport Framework for the city, are not set up or empowered. Please do this quickly, so that we can have qualified Urban Planners planning the city.

8) Integration beku: Please set up the Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) quickly so that all transport entities and properties can come under one authority and regulator, and let all funding for transport projects flow through this body. This will ensure that there is integrated planning and there is proper integration and inter-connection between all modes of transport. And the buck can stop at someone responsible! At present every single operator is working in 0ne’s own bubble, and citizens have to do acrobatics to even switch from one mode of transport to the other.

9) Taxation/Profit Beda: Public transportation, especially monopoly is a service from the state to its citizens, using public infrastructure and funds! There is absolutely no sense in taxing them. Please remove all taxes on public transport, make them attractive to everyone to use. In fact, do not run any of these for profit. We, the citizens are the owners of these entities, how dare they profit from us? If anything, the state should subsidise these. The ideal goal would be to make them free for everyone to use.

10) Transparency Beku : Where is the transparency? We need it to understand what is happening and why.

We have a simple IMMEDIATE solution for you:

‘Public transport beku

First, please implement the public transit options, ie., suburban rail, bus rapid transport system, metro, monorail and last mile connectivity. After these are executed, if there is need for other solutions, we’ll see then!

Right now, can we please focus and prioritise public transport only?

All those chauffeur-driven AC car owning advisors who are batting for these projects, are not your voter base. It’s time you listen to citizens, engage with citizens.

Your government is already hanging on a thread. Do you really require this kind of bad publicity? Please don’t shorten the life of your govt, by diving straight into a controversy of this magnitude.

One thing you can absolutely be certain of, we citizens will not rest, till illegal and illogical projects are shelved, and legitimate projects are taken up!

To conclude, we citizens are asking for very simple things. Spend all the money you wish to, but spend it on a complete solution! If you need help, we have summarised all of this here, in a Citizens’ Agenda for Transportation: http://bit.ly/CA4Transportation

Sincerely,

Citizens of Bengaluru.


About Sandeep Anirudhan 1 Article
Sandeep Anirudhan is a Serial Entrepreneur turned Serial Activist and sustainability proponent, putting all his corporate and entrepreneurial skills to use for Good! He is both founder and participant in many local and national voluntary citizen movements in sustainability, citizen awareness and engagement, activism, education, natural farming, etc., He founded 'Aikyam Community for Sustainable Living', with the aim of bringing discussions on sustainability into the mainstream; he founded 'Citizens Agenda for Bengaluru', a think tank that works on citizens' asks for a better Bengaluru; another community he has formed is 'Urban Community Farming' to create edible food forests in the city. He leads the 'Save Pattandur Agrahara Lake' campaign, which grabbed national headlines, and forced the Govt to intervene and renew efforts to reclaim and revive the lake. The other communities he is active in are: Zero Budget Natural Farming, Citizens for Bengaluru, Learning Societies Unconference, GM Free Karnataka, Friends of Lakes, and many others....

18 Comments

  1. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information.
    I am happy that you simply shared this helpful information with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Bengaluru Growth Saku! I say again Saaakuuu…

    Bangalore has already grown out of proportion in terms of population, Industries, traffic, vehicles, garbage, pollution, commercialisation etc.

    Now it’s high time to say Saku and measure the cities development in terms of happiness index. The need of the hour is to build all new planned cites far away from existing metros. There’s no point making huge investments trying to rectify mistakes in existing cities. Rather you spend half that money on building a new city it will make more good than bad.

    Our country with a population of more than a billion requires at least 500 cities of Bengaluru kind. Administering governance on small new cities will be far easier with lots of happy citizens. Currently, most issues with big cities like Bengaluru is that they have outgrown beyond limits which only deteriorates the quality of living.

    Let’s stop BEKU.. & demand SAKU..

  3. Absolutely right. First pedestrians, then cyclists, then public transport. Last private vehicles. The Government’s plans are totally lopsided, it will only increase pollution and traffic congestion.

  4. To say elevated highway in Hosur road is a jam in the sky is ignorant, I use it almost every single day and I remember how long it used to take before it was built, It saves almost 30m every single day one way, on an off day there could be a jam but overall it works just fine. Without wide roads, it is not possible to run buses efficiently, you cannot dedicate or prioritize a lane to bus if there is only 2 lanes. These infrastructure should not be implemented in isolation I agree, it should be coupled with public transport projects like the metro which is going fine.
    When metro was planned, I remember a bunch ‘experts’ who said it is a waste of money and we can buy cycles instead and these ‘experts’ said cycles are better than metro. The same people are now started the beda group that just stops any improvement that can be done to the city.
    Look at any city around the world, good road infrastructure is critical to handle the traffic, and that helps reduce pollution, some hard measures like cutting trees and putting up with construction mess needs to be done. Look at NICE road, for all its faults it has removed a load of traffic out of Bangalore city.

    BETL is a prime example why the elevated project is required along with metro construction which is already at decent pace. Buses can run in elevated expressway and remove a lot of cars from the road.

    At last, people who are asking for commuter rails are pretty clueless on how this works in other cities like Chennai and Mumbai and the likes, they have dedicated corridors for operating sub urban trains they don’t share tracks with long distance trains, Bangalore does not have dedicated tracks. As it is trains that come into the city wait on an average of 30 min for entering the city (I know cause I am used to waiting on the trains) it is because many of the tracks are not even 2 way for long distance. These tracks just don’t have the capacity. Even the 2 suburban like trains that run from banaswadi to hosur can’t operate at peak times because of capacity issues. So IR will need to invest heavily on track infra to get the commuter trains going like other cities, this cannot be done in a month as the author thinks. Also, all commuter trains are managed by Indian railways which is a central govt entity, the state government cannot do much..let them at least do the elevated flyover and give Bangalore the relief it deserves. This is a much needed project late by 10+ years.. Bangalore and its citizens need to understand that whether they like it or not the city has grown very big and we need to really up our pace in which the infrastructure was built.
    If you want greenery lets fight for it, but in that name lets not make the city more polluted..Places like Singapore have figured out a way to have great infra and green cover through the effort of the govt, let’s do that.

    • Elevated roads & unrestricted road expansion in general are not long term solutions. Suburban rail & Metro rail are the only long-term solutions. As you say, some inconveniences have to be borne by people if solutions are to be put in place, but for what outcomes?
      More elevated roads that will provide temporary relief? Urban expressways like NICE road that will fill up within a few years? Sorry, but such measures encourage further motorization & choke up every descending /ascending ramp as it invites more traffic & the count keeps increasing as people keep opting out from public transport.

      https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/number-of-vehicles-in-bengaluru-more-than-doubles-to-70-lakh-in-10-years/articleshow/60445747.cms

      As per the news item linked above, city’s vehicle population has more than doubled in ten years – from 30.10L to 70.28L (i.e. an addition of 40.18L or over 133%).
      Any guesses why? It’s amply clear that this was due to reckless road expansion & poor attention to public transport. Population increased by only about 46% in ten years. So, vehicle population is clearly winning the race by a huge margin as people “step off” from public transport.

      Look at the vehicle numbers from the news item: Delhi-101.00L; Bengaluru-70.28L; Hyderabad-48.70L; Chennai-47.57L; Mumbai-30.69L.

      Why is Bengaluru at No.2 spot when its population is probably 5th (after Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata & chennai)?? And why is Mumbai at 5th spot when its population is at No.1 spot? This is because of excessive attention to road solutions & neglect of rail options.

      If govt is serious, they would go all out for metro & suburban rail like Mumbai is doing instead of again chasing road solutions that have clearly not worked in the past & never will as worldwide experiences have already proven.

      If state govt had any sense, they would not have axed the planned metro routes of phase-3 (Hosakerehalli-Varthur & the Yelahanka-Karmelaram routes) just to position their elevated roads & pod taxis. They would accord high priority to rail options (metro & suburban rail). But then we have useless govts in Karnataka.

      Suburban rail hasn’t moved by much only because every govt has been tardy & not chased up railways to double /treble or quadruple tracks as necessary.

  5. Suburban train is a MUST. IT parks should be distributed and not limited to 2-3 areas only. BMTC should be made accountable and not run empty buses in IT corridors only. Public money should not be laundered in BMTC, Pod Taxi or any imaginative projects to fund next years election. Construction vehicles, trucks should be prohibited in outer ring road office areas during work hours.

  6. we need clean and green city, not polluted city with vehicles and buildings. I hope suggestions given in above article will be considered and followed. thank you

  7. Absolutely…. Bangalore city already have more than 30 railway stations inside the city…No need to construct stations also..With very limited infrastructure the biggest traffic problem can be solved. It will be helpful for people commuting from Whitefield,Marathalli,Bellandur and many other parts of city which already have Railway station. When cities which are smaller than Bangalore like Hyderabad & Chennai can have suburban rails why not Bangalore… Is it local BMTC,Auto,Taxi maphia..??

  8. Good ideas. Apart from the letter’s focus on public transport infrastructure, creating and maintaining traffic discipline should be one of the focal point for Government. There is literally no consequence for a BMTC bus that stops at a 60 degree angle at the bus stop choking the traffic for a minute, which gets piled up at every similarly, we don’t have lane discipline at all. The traffic cops are busy penalizing drivers without helmet, which, I am not arguing is not important. However, creating & maintaining strict traffic laws is of utmost priority. I think , we , as Indians need to be Traffic literate.

  9. The fact that the implementation of these changes has been consistently delayed shows how money-hungry and corrupt the ministers in Bangalore are. The BRT,suburban train, and dedicated cycle lane are more than enough to improve the state of transportation in Bangalore. I wish they’d implement this faster before Bangalore collapses from a natural or man made disaster.

  10. Excellent compilation! Few more:

    1) Unrestricted road expansion without having a basic public transport network goes against National Urban Transport Policy, 2006 (NUTP-2006). NUTP-2006 requires cities to discourage mobility with private vehicles & encourage public transport. NUTP-2006 also requires an UMTA for million plus cities.
    BMTC bus services, being entirely street-based, are at the mercy of unrestrained competition from individual motor vehicles, are bound to have limitations. Off-street rail systems are the only long term solution.

    2) These elevated roads & pod taxis are recommended no where. RMP-2031 recommends a target of 70% for public transport share & to seriously consider spends on metro /BRT /Monorails & push for Commuter rail. Thus, RMP-2031 recommendations are well aligned with NUTP-2006.

    Problems with BRT & Monorail:
    ———-
    For Bangalore, BRT is going to be very difficult if not impossible due to road width restrictions, frequent intersections & the generally diffuse nature of roads with few wide & continuous road sections. Violations are going to be impossible to deal with (as already experienced in Ahmadabad, Surat etc that have far lesser dependence on private transport vehicles).
    A possibility for BRT on ORR wasn’t used despite creation of space at grade between left & right flyover ramps (or underpasses). Now, loads on ORR are so huge that BRT will anyway not suffice. A metro line is currently being planned for ORR which may take care of long term needs.

    Monorail is too costly at a per person level. Mumbai tested a cheaper urban monorail system by Scomi but clearly, it has serious flaws. Systems from Bombardier or Hitachi are too expensive & will not be suitable due to very high O&M costs. Light rail is an option where loads are not expected to be high over the next several decades.

    Thus, the options that remain for Bangalore are Metro-rail, Commuter rail & Light rail. Of these, Commuter rail is also restricted by wherever its tracks already exist as no new corridors can be built due to very high costs for land. Thus, its utility may have limitations, but can be used wherever routes are available – particularly routes towards Bellandur-Anekal & Baiyyappanahalli-Whitefield.

    Cancelling two vital metro routes (Hoskerehalli-Varthur & Yelahanaka-Karmelaram) in metro’s phase-3 to accommodate these elevated roads & pod taxis is a serious blunder by the govt. These two routes along with the other routes under construction in phase-2 would bring metro closer to most localities & has potential to completely change the way Bangaloreans travel. Govt of Karnataka must pursue this option seriously instead of elevated roads that are bound to increase mode share of private vehicles substantially.

  11. Fantastic letter ! I agree – Local trains, Dedicated Bus lanes and Metro will return Bangalore to what it was 25 yrs ago in terms of traffic and clean air. Making a concrete jungle will not help anyone as you just cannot predict a Bottleneck. I hope these suggestions are acted upon. Thanks.

    • Returning Bangalore back to what it was 25 years ago is like asking the moon to kiss the ocean . Nothing can bring back the good old days of yore.Not even world class infrastructure.
      Stop harbouring such wishful aspirations .

  12. Bangalore is suffering with too many intellects who just throw “Beda” at every policy because of protesting mindset.. Look at Mumbai, Hyderabad and other metro cities who are moving faster on adopting infrastructure projects. Let the govt take some decisions, whether good or bad and take the corrective course afterwards.

    • Mumbai, Hyderabad & all other metro cities have excellent rail network, while Bangalore has only 42km metro & no suburban rail as successive govt.’s have only focussed & prioritized road infra over rail. Hundreds of Flyovers & 5 long elevated roads have already been built in the city for past 2 decades, but the traffic situation has only worsened due to lack of convenient & faster public transport alternatives like metro & suburban rail. Vehicular pollution rose alarmingly & currently accounts for 42% of all pollution in the city. Still the govt. wants to build more roads & promote use of pvt. vehicles while ignoring mass transit. The Beda is preceded by a “Modalu Train Beku” asking the govt. to set its priorities right & build metro & suburban rail on a war footing instead of diverting funds & attention to needless road projects like Elevated corridors.

  13. Very interesting thoughts.Since it is “signed by Citizens of Bengaluru” I should be one of them too. Cut to 1997 SIDA ( Swedish International Development Agency) with the cooperation of BBMP, BWSSB, BESOM, BSNL, PWD, BMTC, and KSRTC conducted a study which lasted over 8 months with every detail deeply analyzed proposed a comprehensive Road, Rail, Metro, Mono Rail transport system with existing infrastructure and support platforms on a strict time schedule.SIDA even took some ministers and IAS babus to witness and study what they did in countries like Brazil Curitiba (similar pattern like India) After the sojourn with a 4 hour PPP and discussions they were told that the then Government will put up a counterproposal. (I am not allowed to disclose the crux of the “proposal”)SIDA also agreed to fund the project partially. The hard copy must be with some “kabadi” and soft copy erased. After 21 years we now wake up and write a letter to a CM whose chair is about to fall. We will not improve or allow anyone to do anything to improve.

    • Yes, the feasibility study was partially funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). It was carried out by Contrans, Sweden and Central Institute of Road Transport, Pune.

      BMTC had commissioned this feasibility study for BRTS that was completed in 1999. It had identified a network of 20 bus routes, composed of Siamese-twin central rings intersected by 8 radial routes. A pilot 12-km line from Jayanagar to Shivajinagar was estimated to cost Rs 39.5 crores (US$ 8.6 million then). This included the corridor, depot infrastructure and 35 special-purpose buses. But no move from the authorities!

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