Friday, April 28, 2006

Bangalore Traffic and solution

Bangalore Traffic and solution

This is a mail I wrote to the Bangalore Times Of India’s campaign on the infrastructure issues in Bangalore sometime in october 2004. Ofcourse it never got published nor any reaction from times of india. I guess solution to this issue will reduce subscriptions of this daily tabloid of bangalore.

Anyways, now it is december '05, more than a year and bangalore has only got even worse (I dont have a higher superlative to describe the condition now). Even these columns on TOI's citi pages have become repeated and boring. People are tired of hearing just rhetoric and dream infrastructure like six lane roads, core ring road, metro, etc just on paper. and worst the delays and politics involved in current projects. Just imagine its about 3-4 years since the airport road flyover started and still less than 50% complete. just for a 2 lane 200 M mini flyover. The funniest infrastructure we have is the board indicating the metro station on MG road where there is no metro. Welcome to bangalore, they city of dreams(that never become real), the city of hype, the city of traffic nightmare.

OK. to start with, I have been complaining and advocating several measures with people I know and also doing my own study about why there is so much road and infrastructure related issues here in bangalore. Here are the reasons I think are the issues with Bangalore’s infrastructure.

1) The way the city is planned.

Well! I know that is saying the whole system is wrong. But then if you look at it, you will agree with me.

These are the reasons why I say the city is planned wrongly is

a) There are no junctions, I see only circles every where. This is a night mare for a traffic signal planner as in a junction where there are only 4 roads, here there 6-8 roads meeting at a circle. Hence the number of permutations and combination of traffic flow increases exponentially.
Just imagine, when u ask for directions in bangalore and someone says "seedha hogi, ondhu circleu barathe, alli left hogri"(go straight, u get a circle, take left there), u'll be surprised to find 2 or three roads on the left when you get to the circle. Atleast newly planned areas should not do this mistake.

b) Again from the above point we can see that roads make a star network instead of being parallel. Hence they go in multiple directions cris-crossing the city (and most of these are one ways). Hence the distance to travel from one point to another increases by many folds. In many situations I have noticed that to get to the next road, which can be less that 200m by walk, a vehicle has to go more than a kilometer away and take multiple one way roads to get there. Again increasing the Volume of traffic. These cris-cross roads also make a newcomer loose a sense of direction and find them like a maze, no wonder finding an address in Bangalore is one of the toughest things to do.

c) Narrow roads, especially arterial roads. Arterial roads should be at least 6 lane or more. Here we have Hosur road, airport road, shankey road, kanakpura road, etc which are just 2 lane in most places.

d) Narrow roads have tall buildings. – Why do we have 10 floor or higher buildings in roads that are 30-50 feet wide? There wouldn’t be enough space for parking or even movement of vehicles to and from the buildings. Is there anything called Floor Space Index here.

e) Too many dead end roads – this is unique to Bangalore I guess. Peripheral roads which get access to an area or a lay out become dead ends, forcing people to use only the arterial roads to get from one area to the other. E.g., to get to Koramangala police station from Lashkar Hosur road you can only go through the 80” road opposite the forum mall. There are a couple roads before this road which connect to Koramangala but they end up as dead ends, hence cannot be used as a bypass/short cut. Same is the case if you want to get to Indranagar from airport road. There are many roads which lead to Kodihalli from airport road, but do not lead to Indranagar. Many such examples can be given. Worse many cross roads near Koramangala KHB colony near the Krishna temple are dead ends, because the drains which cut across them are 10ft above the road and hence making it dead end. The very purpose of the “cross roads” are defeated. If only this is fixed by making cross roads connect properly to an area, a lot of shortcuts are available reducing traffic in main roads and cutting travel time and costs.

f) There are no high roads (or they are too narrow to be considered one) which connect one area/suburb to the other again forcing people to use only the arterial roads to connect hence forcing more traffic on these roads which are already narrow. E.g., no direct connectivity from airport to Koramangala, bannergetta road to Bommasandra,

g) Disjoint roads. I have notices many roads in Bangalore, start some where, break and continue at some other part. This is extremely confusing for any one following a particular route. Arterial roads are no exception to this. Not just that, the also become extremely narrow 2lane roads from a 4-6 lane road. Y is such kind of planning done? Cant they make straight same width arterial roads. E.g, 2 Hosur roads inside the city, bannergetta road, the ring road, Kanakpura road, Cunningham road, and in many other layouts.

h) Peripheral roads too narrow. – I have noticed that some areas do have peripheral roads which connect them to the arterial roads. But these are too narrow for even buses to travel in them. I guess this is due to the fact that a village got merged into the city limits but they are still managed like a village.

I have come up with these reasons by comparing Bangalore with other cities I have lived in like Chennai and Dubai, where I have not seen traffic issues due to these reasons.

2) An all in one Central district. MG road/brigade

a. This makes the entire traffic move either from or towards MG road and the surrounding. Many of my visitors believe that Bangalore is only MG road. The city needs to be distributed.

3) City not managed like a metro. These are things I have seen in the metros I have lived in or been to or heard of and not in Bangalore

a. School timings much earlier than office timings, distributing peak hours

b. Services like cleaning, garbage collection, road laying should not be done during peak hours.

c. Central Bus depot and the main markets must be moved outside the city( I know this helped Chennai decongest a lot by moving markets and bus stand outside the city, de-centralizing the city and also expanding the city)

d. local train service needed to develop satellite townships

e. Unlike the metros Bangalore is restricted to the central districts. Not many suburbs and govt and private sector doesn’t do anything to promote them(accessibility, facilities). Hence high density of population in central districts.

f. Buffalos, sheep herds, animals, tractors, bullock carts etc on the city roads. What more can I say. I can only laugh when I see these in a city which claims to be a metro.

g. Trucks/Lorry/carrier/tempo vehicles traffic inside the city. This must be banned during peak hours. lorries/trucks must be allowed only between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am only on arterial roads.

The above are just some examples. There are a lot more.

4) Too many intersections on arterial roads. This causes traffic to stop every half a KM or less(every 200m on the 3 hosur roads). Creates more chaotic traffic. Some unimportant intersections must be blocked.

5) Hosur road after silk board is big enough to handle the traffic. It is due to the anarchic traffic that it has been a nightmare. There is no need for a road over road on Hosur road. Trust me it will not solve the issue, except give more hardships during the construction. Instead the road needs to be made a nonstop road. No intersection signal every 1km. Identify select intersections and construct exit ways (or flyovers) to peripheral roads and pedestrian cross over. This can be done much faster than the road on stilts plan and also less expensive. I guess the acceptance of road on stilts plan was accepted by the govt. just to please industry leaders (and NM who gave this idea) and have not done a proper study of which is the best solution by professionals in this field.

6) Attitude of local people - this exists in every city. But I see this is much more in Bangalore especially where villages come across expressways, arterial roads, people just don’t respect that the road is for vehicles. Political issues arise and people break off medians and other road facilities to ease traffic, so that they can continue to live their traditional way. Well! This is a toughie to manage. But then we need to educate them and make them respect the roads. They also need these roads anyways. This will avoid a lot of accident deaths on the expressways and reduce a lot of chaos and trouble for the drivers.

7) Lane traffic, differentiate slow/fast moving traffic, heavy/medium vehicles, , bus lanes, 2-3 wheelers and 4wheelers. At least the lanes, medians and deadzones should be properly marked. When there are no lanes marked, how can one even follow lane traffic?

8) Expand roads. I see many arterial roads which get clogged due to lack of space and these roads have platforms which are wider than the road itself. Platforms don’t need to be more than 5-6 feet wide and the drainage should be closed under the platform space. This way most arterial road can be expanded to have 6 lanes. In places where this is not possible land should be acquired, encroached land recovered and anything which comes on the way needs to be broken to expand the road. This has been done in many cities like Chennai and Mumbai to expand roads. But I see a reluctance in the govt here to break encroachments on roads. The stretch of Hosur road between Koramangala ring road and silk board flyover is a perfect candidate for this.

9) only Potholes no roads. Just good flat roads will make most of the traffic jams clear and help vehicles move faster. trust me, 20kmph is the fastest I have travelled in the city in nonpeak hours. avg speed i measured in hours/km an not KMPH in bangalore.

10) The over head electric lines give Bangalore the look of a small town and not a modern city. This needs to go under ground. It will also save a lot of lives due to electrocution.

11) Synchronized signaling with decent timings. Synchronized signaling is not quite possible considering the zigzag style roads here and the circles. But there could be some arterial routes where this could be done. But I see that most other signaling is also done very poorly. Signals give a go for 20 seconds and a red for the next 3 minutes. It is almost impossible for a vehicle even in the second row to cross the signal is 10-20 seconds for which green is given. Many times I get to stay in the same signal for 3-5 consecutive red. That’s 5*3=15 mins in the same signal. This is ridiculous.

12)roads have 90degree turns. Is this france? I thought we follow british road systems. almost every road in bangalore has turnings at 90 degrees and there is no curve for left turns. another point which increases traffic build up as it tough for cars(forget busses, they block traffic for a minute just to make a left turn) to manuever this and get into the left most lane.

13) perpendicular parking. many places have perpendicular parking to make more parkign space available. good. but what about road space. roads are ment for driving and not parking.
recently this change was implemented by BMC, thankfully.

14) Last but not the least. “AUTORICKSHAWS” they need to be banned. Need I say more? They are noisy, polluting, has lethal maneuvering capabilities. And the drivers have an extremely bad attitude towards people and driving. This is true for any city not just Bangalore. There are other alternatives for common transport which can be arranged for the same cost as auto rickshaws. This has to be done in a phased manner, and which ever form of taxi we will replace them with.

I might not have articulated properly all the ideas I had about the issues Bangalore has and improving the scenario, without giving crazy ideas like building flyovers at every junction. I have highlighted some points in bold face which are key to fixing the issues immidiately. Just fixing these will get Bangalore on par with most other cities in India. Apart from traffic I have also high lighted other places where the city needs to improve.

And one last opinion about Bangalore as someone who has settled here from more than a 4 years, still part of the floating population, is that Bangalore should stop creating unnecessary hype about itself and raise the hopes of people and get more realistic in addressing issues. Every one who gives into the "hype" that Bangalore is and comes to live in Bangalore from a another city or abroad, is not just disappointed, but also frustrated about everything here. We even lack basic living conditions here, then y talk about being a high-tech, futuristic city( I call it the future city as it doesn’t exist now).

Just my 0.2$.

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