Editor’s note: We at Oorvani Foundation believe that it is important to give voice to all sides of a debate to make informed debates possible. Hence we provide space for multiple views, but the Foundation does not have any view of its own on any of the topics covered.
As someone who wrote an article here on Citizen Matters supporting the Hebbal-Chalukya flyover, I wish to reply to this article by Prakash Belawadi and Naresh Narasimhan. To begin with, all the arguments I made on why civil society in Bengaluru should in fact be supporting the Steel Flyover are applicable to elevated corridors too!
Now, my replies to the authors.
Claim: Conflict of interest
R K Misra himself says a pre-feasibility study for Bengaluru Elevated Corridor project was conducted by his organisation Center for Smart Cities. That is better than saying it’s just an idea. It shows some homework has been done. Even Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) has conducted a pre-feasibility study on one of the elevated corridors.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and later, the Karnataka government found merit in the elevated corridors proposal and ordered a Detailed Feasibility Report (DFR) to be prepared by AECOM. That company is currently conducting soil tests on the proposed routes. They are a well-known organisation who even designed solutions for the London Olympics. They might even say that the project is not feasible. So where is the question of conflict of interest here?
Claim: No involvement of mobility experts
Nothing is preventing the BDA, Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited or the BBMP Technical Advisory Committee from hiring mobility experts. However, the fact remains that DPRs are prepared by professional companies (like RITES, STUP etc) who are expected to have or consult mobility experts. If the authors believe none of these organisations have Urban Mobility experts, they can raise this issue, of course.
A lot of opposition to BDA / BBMP engineers and praise for a few urban mobility experts is misplaced. Many mobility experts in the city are also self-learned experts and no one is questioning their credentials for want of a college degree. There is no need to discourage people from various walks of life to come forward and propose solutions.
Claim: Decreasing lane width on surface
>> “Where’s any evidence of this? The reality is that a minimum of one lane will be lost everywhere on all existing roads and more at junctions.”
Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept that one lane will be lost, so what? When TenderSURE started in core Bengaluru areas, there was widespread criticism that motorable space is being reduced. Ravichandar Venkataraman, an urbanist who supports TenderSURE, even explained on Citizen Matters, why that was in fact a good thing. After allowing for equi-wide motor lanes, whatever extra space available was being made available to pedestrians and cyclists.
The same argument applies here. Even if only two lanes are left on the surface after providing for footpaths and cycle lanes, let us demand that one of those two lanes be made into a bus lane. Let private vehicles use elevated lanes or use a single lane on the surface, stopping at all the pedestrian crossings. Why are the authors worried about the speed of private vehicles on the surface lanes?
>> And, who made the assessment on environmental impact? How many trees will be cut?
This demand makes no sense. Do the authors expect rough estimates? Environmental impact and the number of trees that need to be cut will be known, only when the Detailed Project Report (DPR) is prepared. There is still a lot of time for that. We are currently only in the Feasibility study stage. As happened in the Steel Flyover project, there might even be a need for an independent Environmental impact study by SEIAA. Infact, such studies should be the norm and we can rightfully demand that BDA or KRDCL do not try to avoid such independent assessment.
Claim: Noncompliance with National Urban Transport Policy-2014
Elevated corridors meet all the objectives ofNational Urban Transport Policy – NUTP. Lets see how.
1. Incorporating urban transportation as an important parameter at the urban planning stage rather than being a consequential requirement.
National Highways emerging out of the city are not just urban transportation. These elevated corridors should also be seen in the context of National Highway projects. Peripheral Ring Road is a by-pass road project, which will complete the circle that includes NICE Road. Vehicles bound for Bengaluru from National Highways still need a way to reach the city.
The Elevated Corridor project should of course be a part of the Bengaluru Master Plan, under the transport planning section. However, Bengaluru is already developed in the inner area – and not in the early stages of development, so it’s obviously a consequential requirement, which cannot be undone now. However connectivity via elevated corridors, metro or suburban rail should necessarily be a part of new BDA layouts.
2. Bringing about a more equitable allocation of road space with people, rather than vehicles, as its main focus
This was the crux of the article on Steel Flyover. Only elevated roads can do any justice to pedestrians and cyclists. As long as surface roads are congested, they’ll remain a nightmare for pedestrians. Only by moving faster traffic to elevated lanes, can we make the surface lanes pedestrian-friendly, with cycle lanes, wide footpaths, bus bays and pedestrian crossings.
3. Public Transport should be citywide, safe, seamless, user friendly, reliable and should provide good ambience with well-behaved drivers and conductors.
This elevated road corridors project is citywide. They’ll ensure surface lanes are safe, seamless, user-friendly, reliable and even provide great ambience under the elevated lanes, as shown by the Ugly Indians group in Bengaluru.
How are we going to get well-behaved drivers and conductors if BMTC buses are moving at 8 km/hr in never-ending traffic jams? We need to decongest roads with elevated corridors, for the health and wellbeing of people, drivers/conductors, cab/auto drivers and traffic police.
4. Walk and cycle should become safe modes of Urban Transport.
There is one obvious way to make pedestrians and cyclists safe on the roads. By moving fast moving traffic to elevated roads and using surface lanes for neighbourhood traffic.
Claim: Public opinion needs to be taken before, not after the DPR
This demand makes no sense. Meaningful consultations can happen when the DPR is available for people to study. Elevated corridors should of course be discussed at fora like BBMP Council, Karnataka Assembly, Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee, Bengaluru Blue Print Action Group (BBPAG) etc. But why protest when there is only a feasibility study being done? Can’t our elected government even have the discretion of ordering a feasibility study? What kind of democracy do we imagine ours to be?
Claim: Out of sync with global imagination
This isn’t true. We need to be realistic and not go by imaginations. Paris and London have the largest metro networks in the world. Paris metro’s first line opened on 19 July 1900. London Underground started in 1863. We have barely started with Namma Metro. Why are we comparing ourselves with such cities? Bengaluru cannot even be compared to Mumbai and Chennai which have had 4+ track suburban rail network for several decades. Chennai Suburban Rail opened on 11th May 1931.
Comparison should be with cities which are facing similar transportation problems now, those that are predominantly served by road-based transport. To name a few,
Delhi – which quickly built metro with Union government’s support, but also has huge elevated corridors like DND Flyway.
Phoenix, Arizona – which has I10 and I17 passing through the middle of the city, along with loop 101 and 202. See the Phoenix freeway network.
Kuala Lumpur – which has a network of freeways.
Bogotá – which has a gigantic freeway running through the city – Autopista Norte – that has been continually built since the1950s.
The comparison with Mumbai on vehicle ownership is not very useful. Mumbai is a city of inequalities, with millions of people living in the squalor of slums while a minority lives in 27- storey houses. If the average Mumbaikar can afford, there will be a lot more vehicles in Mumbai. In contrast, Bengaluru is a transformational city where income is more reasonably distributed among people.
Most cars in Bengaluru are owned by first generation car owners. Number of cars registered in the city is not necessarily the problem. The number of vehicles on the road for daily commute is the problem.
However, I agree with the authors that X (road capacity) and Y (number of vehicles) need to be addressed. X, road capacity, must be increased with elevated road corridors and peripheral ring road. Y, the number of vehicles, can be decreased by promoting public transport.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are authors’ own.
Stop building elevated corridors in the city!
Elevated corridors – out of date, out of joint
Elevated corridors will facilitate public transport: R K Misra
BBMP plans to merge Silk Board elevated road with Metro line
Crossing Sony World signal to be made easier soon with elevated road
Here’s an alternative to Chalukya Circle elevated highway
We must congratulate Citizen Matters for organizing such a debate where the state government failed abysmally. It is important to discuss the pros and cons of each proposal and weigh their merits in the public eye. The government on the other hand picked up one arm of the Octopus that Mr Misra proposed and claimed that would be a solution to all of their problems. I welcome this article and the effort that went into writing it – it is truly a service to the city whether we agree with it fully or not.
Now coming to this article and debate, the author is mostly taking the help of exaggerations to dismiss any counter arguments. Some examples –
1. London and Paris started building metros 100 years ago and Bangalore just started, so we cannot compare our situation to theirs. This is akin to saying we should not use technologies such as smartphones and advanced communications networks but first start with landlines for ten years and then consider mobile phones. Indian cities have the advantage of leap-frogging over ideas that have been tried and failed before. Perhaps flyovers are one such idea. London has moved to congestion charging to reduce the temptation to use private vehicles over public transport. Why should Bangalore not aspire to be a great city?
2. That we should not compare with Bombay, because most people live in slums and some live in 27 storey apartments. Is this not a severe stereotype and using an exaggeration to dismiss a point? One family lives in such a building and a fraction lives in slums. How about the middle class majority who live in dense urban accomodations, a trend towards which Bangalore is moving? Why should we not borrow the good ideas from Mumbai or Chennai especially regarding suburban trains.
Now coming to the idea of elevated roads – we can argue that this idea is now losing its allure with more people accepting mass transit over personal transport. When you can quote Phoenix, AZ or Kuala Lumpur or even Delhi which have no similarity in demographics to Bangalore, Why not quote the examples of Boston or South Korea which junked old elevated corridors and made them into public spaces?
Now taking the local example of the Hosur road elevated flyover (BETL) – it only solved the problem of continuous carping of IT executives who lived in Koramangala and wanted to make their way smoothly to Electronic City. They even mangled the Silk Board intersection badly – choosing to make the entry into the BETL easy, while asking everybody else to go screw themselves. The lower level of the Hosur road is a horror show – extreme pollution and haze, too many accidents involving pedestrians and two wheelers, badly designed/managed intersections and ugly as hell. The BETL only creates a pathway for the toll paying car goers to fly above all the chaos on the ground.
Now imagine if instead of the BETL, Bangalore had chosen to build a metro rail on that median. The sheer capacity of even a standard gauge metro set is a multiple more than that of a six lane elevated road. We could have had a large population who work in Electronic city use this fast method of commuting from the core city. It takes a fraction of the concrete, uses a fraction of the time and causes a fraction of the pollution.
The core idea we are all discussing is of allocation of public resources. The (colored) opinions are drowning out facts and real data. Consider if the same Rs 2100 Crores for the elevated Chalukya corridor, were to be replaced by a metro line – the capacity would be a multiple (six times according the Sarjapur ORR BMRC DPR) of the people that can be moved along. Even this author would agree that many more vehicles would be taken off the road, thereby reducing the traffic at the ground level. Further the Metro cost would be less than that of the elevated roadway. You transport a multiple of the people, at a lower initial cost and at lesser pollution to the neighboring communities. Surely someone (BMRCL?) can articulate that to the wider audience?
Khader Syed has a point:
TN has urbanised with cities other than Chennai also showing growth. With Bangalore, there are very few opportunities outside Bangalore. Given the lack of amenities outside of the core Bangalore area, it might be a good thing to give people the option of living in their cities or closer to their villages. Might not be just CBL or DBL, places like Hubli-Dharwad or Bhadravathi-Shivamogga should also get a bigger share of jobs/opportunities – and not just in tech sectors.
Its very difficult to spend long hours in traffic and its a threat to society because of speeding vehicles i understand but the solution to speeding traffic and its noise is curbed only when u don’t have or less vehicles on road. In our system u provide better infrastructure the more the vehicles is seen on road this is because the ease of affording vehicles,to curb this govt (bureaucracy) should,
1. educate the people by pros of using public transport,
2. levy huge road tax
3. bring odd and even car formula
4. bring in congestion pricing
5. bring in different colours of number plate for weekdays and weekend
6. better infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians
7.End mile connectivity by bicycles
the list goes on and on. if we don’t emphasise in building our city towards sustainable city we should not fear another Delhi in our country. so better we as a people and govt should join hands in building our city.
need a mobility vision for the city, and thereby the need for UMTA
Thanks Khader Syed for the comment. Please find my replies below.
>> The premise that elevated corridors/Flyovers will solve decongestion problem is flawed to start with. Show me one example where it has worked or seen a success?
Elevated Corridors and flyovers are two different solutions. We have 4 elevated corridors in Bengaluru.
1. Airport elevated road – this is undoubtedly successful. Travel time from Devanahalli to Hebbal has reduced drastically. Besides the neighborhoods below (Yelahanka, Kogilu etc) are lot safer and peaceful now. Do you remember how much terror speeding vehicles used to cause to local people before the corridor was constructed?
2. ORR to NICE Road corridor on Tumkur road – this is again a success. It has decongested a very critical entry point into Bengaluru. Especially important because of industrial truck traffic that has benefitted from the decongestion.
3. Mysuru road elevated corridor – This has immensely benefitted the traders in K R Market area. It is only because of this corridor, the below road is less congested and good carriers are easily able to make turns and reach their shops.
4. Hosur road elevated corridor – This has been less successful, because of the traffic jams at Silk Board and a fatal flaw in its design. It should have been seemlessly connected to NICE Road. However, from an economic point of view, this is indeed a success. It supports commutes to E-city.
>> Since you have no plans to stop adding more new vehicles on road, its population will keep increasing.
This is not true. I support public transport. I just don’t support forcing it on people. The best mode of public transport are cabs, because they take from point to point (last mile connectivity) and are much faster than buses. Metro is a close second option, but is expensive to build. As I have pointed out in the article above, Bengaluru will need several decades to have a large metro network. Other cities have had metros for more than 100 years, when it was lot easier to cut the roads open and lay metro tracks.
Anyway, I myself promote an idea called Liberal Hour (http://liberalhour.org) which involves citizens themselves coming with a solution to traffic congestion. I plan to write about it and more such solutions in another article soon.
>> UMTA – Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority, More and more layers of bureaucracy is not going to help with anything. BMTC and Indian Railways are just two govt monopoly companies. Treating them as ‘authorities’ is what has created lot of problems.
>> 1. Stop growing Bengaluru City. Stop all constructions.
Bengaluru is not just ours. It is Karnataka’s capital and India’s 3rd largest city. We have a duty to grow. It is lot easier to provide quality education and healthcare to people in cities than in small towns and villages. Tokyo, Mexico City, New York, Beijing, Mumbai – In many countries, a significant population lives in cities. Remember, Indus Civilization itself was urban with large (for that time) cities like Harappa, Dholavira and Kalibangan.
>> 2. Develop surrounding towns of RMGM, TUMKUR, DBPur, CBPur, Anekal, Malur, Bangarpet.3. Make them the new growth centers so that industry, business is attracted there. 4. Help them build civic infrastructure to make them sustainable in power, water, health, education and other civic amenities. 5. Connect these towns to Bengaluru with Suburban Rail with existing railway lines that passes through these towns.
This is possible only if we build elevated corridors. Sure, train and later Metro can connect such towns to city. But they also lie on national highways and will always have significant road traffic.
I do not believe Suburban Rail is feasible in Bengaluru. For suburban rail, we need separate tracks for EMUs and Mainline trains. Mumbai and Chennai have minimum of four tracks within city. Chennai Suburban rails started in 1931. Bengaluru has long missed the train on this. It is now not possible to lay more tracks. Land acquisition costs will be too expensive.
The 3 mainlines, (towards Madras, Yeshwantpur, to Mysuru) are saturated within the city. That is why State govt proposed running MEMUs (Mainline EMUs and not EMUs like in Mumbai/Chennai) from suburbs to Metro end points. Even here, Railways has said, Yeshwantpur line is too busy and is going ahead only from Whitefield to Baiyappanahalli and from Mandya to Kengeri.
Other lines like from 1. Hosur to Baiyappanahalli via Bellandur 2. Baiyappanahalli to Airport via Yelahanka 3. Baiyappanhalli to Doddaballapur via Hebbal … are single lines and already mostly free. Nothing prevents Railways from running trains on them. If they can spend on Bullet trains why not for EMUs in India’s 3rd largest city. But my guess is Railways knows that EMUs on such lines are not feasible and no one will use them. The passenger trains that run already don’t have much demand.
Anyway, running suburban trains is not the job of state govt. All tracks belong to Union govt and Union Minister Suresh Prabhu is spending 8 lakh crore of LIC loans in interior design of trains! To add insult to the injury, they want to run bullet trains between Mumbai and Ahmedabad which are heavily connected by airplanes.
I spent 4 years of my life commuting to college on Chennai suburban trains. We practically lived our college life in suburban trains (college was an hour away). I do not believe Suburban trains are possible in Bengaluru.
The premise that elevated corridors/Flyovers will solve decongestion problem is flawed to start with. Show me one example where it has worked or seen a success? Look at ORR, BETL? Are they free of congestion?
Unless urban mobility is seen holistically, you will end up building one flyover here, one flyover there. On top of it our credibility in building large infrastructure is known to every Bengalurian. Look at the ever going on Namma Metro works. Elevated corridor might ease the situation for some months or 2-3 years. Since you have no plans to stop adding more new vehicles on road, its population will keep increasing. Sure in 4-5 years, even the elevated corridor will congest. Next what? Build one more elevated Corridor on top of it?
What Bengaluru Needs is unified authority like UMTA – Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority, empowered and responsible for building urban mobility infrastructure. It should be tasked to build the infrastructure that fits the city’s required modal share for next 30-50 years —> Bus 30%, Walk – 15 %, Cycle – 15%, Metro – 20%, Suburban Rail – 20%.
For a healthy, Sustainable city, we should plan its mobility in such a way that ,
5-15 Kms –> Bus
5-45 Kms –> Metro/Suburban Rail
Opposition to Elevated corridor is also about can the 28000 Crorers be well spent in other alternatives that are more sustainable than Elevated Corridors? There are alternatives and here they are,
1. Stop growing Bengaluru City. Stop all constructions.
2. Develop surrounding towns of RMGM, TUMKUR, DBPur, CBPur, Anekal, Malur, Bangarpet.
3. Make them the new growth centers so that industry, business is attracted there.
4. Help them build civic infrastructure to make them sustainable in power, water, health, education and other civic amenities.
5. Connect these towns to Bengaluru with Suburban Rail with existing railway lines that passes through these towns.
6. Make PT in Bengaluru to have the 1st priority on city roads.
7. Run BRTS/BPS wherever it is possible.
8. Rehaul BMTC services and rationalize its routes.
9. Make new vehicles more expensive to buy and park in the city.
All these requires meticulous planning, no short cuts. This is a hard work. That’s why nobody gets interested in it.