Bengaluru has transformed from a city which was known as the “city of gardens” to the “Silicon Valley of India” because of the major IT boom it has witnessed since the 1990s. This transformation has, however, come at a major cost of widespread damage to the city’s vegetation cover, increasing pollution and concretisation of land.
A problem that has crippled the city the most is the increasing traffic congestion. While most of the major roads in Bengaluru are plagued by traffic congestion, Hosur road is one of the worst affected. A 9 km-long elevated expressway was constructed on Hosur road from Silk Board to Electronics City to smoothen the flow of traffic for commuters traveling to Electronics City for work. However, it has hardly brought any respite for people traveling on Hosur road. The traffic at different junctions on the road is perpetually chaotic.
A traffic study by Jana Urban Space Foundation (JUSF) claims that commuters are often forced to face long traffic queues at critical junctions. While driving is a nightmare on the road, walking is impossible as there are no footpaths or pedestrian underpasses forcing people to walk on the main road at their own peril. According to a city traffic police study, Madiwala and Electronics City – both on Hosur Road, are two of the ten “black spots” in the city where most pedestrians get killed.
According to a TOI report, the number of private vehicles in Bengaluru urban district has reached 76.2 lakhs. An ET report indicates that between 1976-2017, the number of vehicles in Bengaluru increased by 6099%. The corresponding increase in road length and public transport of the city has been less than commensurate. This has led to massive traffic congestion at various points in the city especially during peak hours.
The consequence is that it takes 162% more time than off-peak hours to travel the same distance during peak hours. In fact, the public transport of the city has also suffered because of traffic congestion. As of August 2018, each BMTC bus was able to cover only 202 km everyday compared to 221 km in 2012-13. The problem is further compounded by the reduction in speed to 12 km per hour and increasing cancellation of trips by drivers as they are not able to complete trips. This has led to underutilisation of fleet and revenue losses for BMTC.
To make matters worse, since the beginning of this year BMRCL has started metro construction on the road for its phase 2 expansion to Electronics City. The construction work has aggravated an already miserable situation. The service road on the side which goes from Electronics City to Bengaluru city has been completely clogged with metro construction. The space for traffic movement has been restricted which has severely affected mobility for vehicles. At many points the service lane has been blocked by metro construction forcing people to travel longer distances on Hosur road to cover short distances.
For instance, to travel from Manipal County road to Basapura main road, instead of just travelling a distance of 750 meters on the service lane, one will have to take a U-turn from Kudlu Gate red light and then from Hosa road red light making it a distance of 4.78 km. To avoid wasting time and to save petrol, vehicles often take the wrong way on the highway to traverse these short distances. Additionally, the kutcha path on the side of the service lane which provided some space for pedestrian movement has been completed blocked by the construction debris forcing the pedestrians to walk on the main road. The dust from the construction also pollutes the air with dust particles further adding to the misery of anyone who tries to walk on the road. The narrowing of service lane has also increased the number of bottlenecks beyond just the red lights on the road as a number of vehicles including trucks and buses try to take narrow U-turns to enter the service lane which further causes a traffic jam on the road.
The situation is even worse for residents. The residents of Basapura witness major traffic congestion every morning as they try to enter Hosur road. The junction connecting Basapura main road to Hosur road is extremely small and has vehicles coming from multiple directions creating a mayhem. Often there is just one metro guard trying to handle the traffic. Moreover, walking is next to impossible as there are no footpaths on the narrow stretch of Basapura main road which is also used by heavy vehicles forcing people to make use of private vehicles. Many internal roads in Basapura are completely kutcha which causes dust to fly into the face of the pedestrians. Additionally, when it rains, the path becomes so slippery that one cannot walk without falling down.
An unanticipated consequence of the transformation has been the explosion in population and population density of the city which has put massive pressure on its dismal infrastructure. The situation of traffic on Hosur road captures the issues with urban planning in Bengaluru in a microcosm. The city never braced itself for the kind of population explosion it has witnessed. The biggest sufferers of this unplanned development are the citizens of the city who have to everyday face humongous traffic jams on the road. The construction of metro on Hosur road seems to be an extension of the unplanned development. Again, the citizens living close to it have to bear the consequences of the construction. The metro is easily going to take a few more years to finish and there is no guarantee that it will remedy the traffic situation on the road. Are the citizens supposed to bear the consequences of it till then everyday?
Arjun Malhotra is a researcher at a think tank. This article is written as part of the AIC community media project at Co Media Lab, in partnership with Deakin University and IdeoSync, supported by the Australia India Council (AIC), first published on Co Media Lab, republished here with required permissions.