The last few weeks, Bengaluru’s netizens have been having intense discussion about the proposed Elevated Corridors (EC). Having gone through all the available material, I have decided to join the protest group.
I took the decision based on the following reasons:
- The organisers have clearly enunciated the demand: to cancel the tender, and then go for public consultation. The demand does NOT reject the EC, as some people are claiming.
- The organisers have given first-cut reasons to justify this demand. This is perfectly legal, and in good democratic spirit. I cannot see any ulterior motive (so far).
- The mega-buck project has the following problems:
- While designing road network, a four-step process must be followed. (Refer to Module#2 of the Transportation Engineering course at IIT-Bombay)
- Legally, public consultation was required before tenders are invited. This process was violated.
- Many prominent experts have raised detailed objections. These were not addressed. On the contrary, the experts were ridiculed on flimsy grounds.
- The tender was floated in a hurry, without a validated Detailed Project Report. In an election year, this raises doubts in an observer’s mind.
- Many inexplicable design issues (link).
Besides, the Government of Karnataka has not shown any interest in alleviating the traffic situation. So the sudden interest in this mega-buck project and the hustling become noteworthy.
Many people feel bad that if the EC project is bogged down in disputes, we will lose a chance to address our long-neglected traffic issues once again.
Well, they need not despair at all! Here’s a list of things we can do without waiting for the magic EC:
1. Fine-tune the signal timings at all junctions.
Badly designed signal timing create traffic jams. Optimised timing allows flow of traffic at far higher speed.
2. Develop Bus Terminals for them on the outskirts.
Hundreds of intercity buses clog up centre of the city (Majestic, Kalasipalya). Not only do these buses travel till the heart of the city, but also park for half a day. This creates a huge traffic jams on the roads and in the core city area. Therefore, prevent outstation buses from entering the city.
3. Stop city buses from heading to Majestic.
Most city buses are not meant to go to Majestic. They go there only because the onward connection is available from there.These routes must be rationalised and made direct.
4. Stop BMTC routes that are excessively long.
Many bus routes are typically 20+ km long. They take 2-3 hours to complete a one-way trip!The problem with this is that the peak hours starts and ends while they are still enroute. This is why BMTC cannot deploy more buses during the peak hour, and less buses afterward.
To solve this, identify major stations along the long routes, and then introduce high-frequency shuttles between these major stations. Any through passenger can board the next connecting bus without much waiting time, with the same ticket. When the traffic rises and falls in a segment, BMTC can match the bus frequency of that segment easily.
4. Stop running empty Volvos for software parks.
The days are long gone when BMTC had to promote Volvo bus with Bus Day.
Now it has become a commodity without which people cannot manage.So there is no need to let a small number of software companies hire the Volvo buses and run them nearly empty.
5. All routes must have ordinary buses too.
Many commuters including staff of software parks from low-income background (drivers, janitors, security, etc.) cannot afford to use a Volvo. Unfortunately if any route has Volvo service on it, BMTC cuts down the frequency of ordinary buses on it. Thus the low-income public suffers, and is exploited by private operators.
6. For interior areas, introduce midi buses and even smaller vehicles
People do not adopt to BMTC because there is no last-mile connectivity. But it is not viable to run large buses in interiors, as they won’t have good occupancy rates. And at low occupancy rates, BMTC cannot recover even the salaries of drivers and conductors.Therefore we need smaller vehicles that can play in narrow lanes easily. Being small, their occupancy rate can be maintained more easily.
To be effective, they must ply in the area throughout the day, at high frequency. This sector can even be privatised (albeit with safety checks and regulations)
7. Introduce pay-and-park for all streets in Bangalore.
Many buildings have no provision for car parking. And yet the residents have purchased multiple cars, which they park on the road. This on-road parking blocks the public roads, and reduce their capacity.This must be controlled by introducing pay-and-park on all public roads. This must include overnight on-road (illegal) parking.
8. Introduce a daily congestion charges for all congested zones.
In London, if you want to enter the CBD area, you have to pay a congestion charge. This is equivalent to 9 litres of petrol (for Bangalore, it would be 800 Rs/day).We could adopt this idea for all our congested areas. All public transport vehicles, taxis and HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicles) should be exempted from the charge.
This can be defined in many ways:
(a) per-day basis (multiple entries, all zones) — Say 300 Rs/day
(b) per-trip basis (like toll road)
Users can make the payment with RFID (Fastags are now compulsory in newer car models), so that no one has to wait. You just zip past the sensor, and the charge is deducted automatically.
9. Acknowledge that taxis are Public Transport assets
BBMP must make separate dedicated parking slots for them, where normal cars cannot park. Only then can they move people in any part of the city.
10. Let buses carry bikes.
BMTC ignores the biker community.Mount bicycle racks in front of all buses (this is available in several countries). Carry bikes for free. The bikers can use their own bikes for the last mile.
11. Let private operators handle the issuing of parking tickets.
The traffic police is overwhelmed. Most of its numbers are used up in VIP bandobast. The remaining few are deployed in catching traffic violation. But they are so ineffective that we can see rampant traffic violations everywhere.
– Driving on footpath or wrong side of the road
– Parking on footpath (two-wheelers, food trucks)
– Parking at bus shelter (during rains)
– Parking in underpass (during rains)
The easy solution is to privatise the traffic ticketing. This is just like how PUC booths are also managed by private operators. The operator can book a vehicle using the Public Eye app, and earn a commission.
This move will increase vigilance to such an extent that any violation will be eradicated rapidly. It will make the roads and footpaths much safer.
12. Make bus service more reliable by revamping the BMTC app
Currently the public cannot know when the next bus will arrive. Not only that, but whether it has any space to sit. Without such facility, the public does not have confidence in BMTC service. The BMTC app needs to be revamped to provide such information to them and also for better trip-planning.
This list can be expanded easily with public contribution. All these are relatively easy to do (compared to the Elevator Corridor).