For Ramu B P, who has been driving a BMTC bus between Central Silk Board and KR Puram for many years, the Bus Priority Lane – in effect from November 1, 2019 – came as a relief. “Earlier, it used to take about 75 minutes. In the last three months, it has come down to 45-50 minutes,” he says. He also believes things can be improved further. “If the BPL is fully implemented, then it would help us in reducing more time.”
For Sanjappa, another driver on the same route, the BPL has provided mental relief. “We used to get stressed due to haphazard traffic pattern. But the dedicated path for us makes it easier,” he notes.
While he is happy to point out the benefits of the exclusive lane for public transport buses, he says not all road users are respecting the idea. “Although the public is not fully cooperative in this matter, the dedicated lane for us has given relief mentally. The average journey time has decreased and passengers have also increased now,” he says.
The BMTC is clearly benefiting from the move. Rajesh, BMTC’s Chief Manager of Traffic (Operations), points out that the average monthly ridership on the route increased by 3,727 in December. “We operate about 837 buses along this corridor in which the average number of passengers in a month is 88,000,” he says.
About the journey’s duration, Rajesh says, “Earlier, 80 minutes was the average travel-time between K R Puram and Silk Board, but now it shows 65 minutes, cutting 15 minutes.”
The officer believes that the travel-time can be shaved off by another 15 minutes once the BBMP sets up all the infrastructure to define the BPL.
Bus driver Sharanu agrees that installing bollards is the way forward. “The implementation part is where the authorities need to look. Once bollards are installed, speed will increase,” he says.
A bus ride on this high-density 22-km route reveals two things: 1) Not all road users are aware of it and 2) There is little or no enforcement along the route.
Several private vehicles weave into the BPL when vehicle movement in the general lane slows down. Although the BBMP claims to have deployed marshals, there are hardly any enforcing this three-month-old rule.
Interestingly, an autorickshaw ride from one end to the other took 56 minutes.
Marathahalli resident and member of the Bus Prayanikara Vedike, Shaheen Shasa, says that all the benefits of the BPL will come to nought if it is not enforced strictly. “Enforcement is the major problem. But I have observed that although the violations are visible, there are few complaints about it. If the police is not deployed, even those commuters who are respecting the initiative will eventually end up violating the rule.”
The BBMP is spending Rs 15 Cr for the BPL work between K R Puram and Silk Board, a length of 22 km, at Rs 65 lakh per km. It is yet to install about 44,000 bollards – each one a metre apart — to demarcate the lanes.
On its part, the BBMP has so far completed lane marking, concrete stamping (pigmented colour) and installation of cat-eye reflectors. The installation of bollards and barricades could take at least 45-50 days more as the approval from the Urban Development Department (UDD) is pending.
The BBMP says that barricades will be installed to prevent the entry of private vehicles from service roads, and the provision for the private vehicles from service road will be allowed only along selected points.
|Three more roads to get BPL
Plans to demarcate BPLs along three other stretches totalling 30 km are afoot. They are KR Puram-Hebbal (8 km), Central Silk Board-Electronic City (10 km) and Nayandahalli-Tumkur Road along ORR (12 km). The BBMP has sought Rs 19.5 crore to implement this.
Basavaraj Kabade, BBMP’s Superintendent Engineer, Road Infrastructure, says: “During recent meetings with BMTC, they have requested us to construct BPL along three other major stretches where traffic volume is high. Although the stretch between Silk Board and Electronic City comes under National Highways, we will take up the work. However we still have to prepare a detailed report for these.”
Lax Enforcement could defeat the purpose
On the absence of enforcement along the priority lane, BBMP Commissioner, B H Anil Kumar says, “We are not responsible for the enforcement. Marshals are deployed along the existing BPL on a temporary basis. Traffic cops should be enforcing it so that it can run smoothly.”
Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Ravikanthe Gowda agrees. “Yes, we are the ones who have to enforce the rule there. Although we have not enforced it in a full-fledged manner, we have deployed 22 police personnel on shift basis. The infrastructure part by BBMP is not completed yet. Once that is done, we will enforce the rule fully,” he says.
Urban transport expert Pawan Mulukutla, observes that no matter what method of enforcement the police employ — manual or technology — it should be sustainable in the long run. “If it is not sustainable, it will defeat the entire purpose of this initiative,” he points out.