Trapped without alternatives
In areas such as Sarjapur Road, Koramangala and HSR Layout, extremely high vehicular density triggers nightmarish traffic gridlocks during peak hours.
Though planned, Namma Metro is at least a decade away and the suburban rail still a non starter.
The two Metro lines under the first phase do not pass anywhere near these localities. Sarjapur Road and surrounding areas could potentially benefit from the Silk Board Junction – Marathahalli line planned along the Outer Ring Road. But this too is several years away.
The Salem railway line is severely limited by its single track. If planned and implemented through multi-agency coordination, a dedicated line for suburban trains could effectively decongest Sarjapur Road. The Carmelaram Railway Station could then be upgraded, serving vast areas currently linked only by road.
But the city traffic police know these alternatives will not happen in a hurry. Faced with snail-paced vehicular speeds, the police have tried minimising U-turns. To decongest the heavy traffic Sarjapur Road – Haralur junction, crossings have been rationalised.
Yet, the problems have only been shifted to another junction. Commuters still complain that a two-kilometre drive takes nearly 30 minutes on Sarjapur Road. As a regular commuter on this stretch recalls, “Till a decade back, this road used to be so free. The mushrooming of apartments and IT firms has led to an explosive growth in vehicle numbers.”
Peak hour woes
For residents of Koramangala and areas nearby, even suburban rail is not an option even in the distant future. The Inner Ring Road linking Indiranagar 100ft Road with Madiwala is a key road connection. Peak hour or otherwise, vehicles on this road grinds to a halt at the Sony World junction. The traffic pile-up on the Ring Road is a recurring nightmare for motorists.
No Metro line will bring relief to residents in areas served by the Old Airport Road in the near future. The 21.31km Marathahalli – Hosakerehalli line proposed under the third phase will take shape only in the next decade or beyond. The Salem line, again, could be an option. But only if a halt station is allowed near Marathahalli.
Extreme congestion is a daily affair on this road at its junctions with Wind Tunnel Road and Suranjan Das Road. For motorists heading towards the City, the traffic pile-up at Wind Tunnel Road junction extends over a kilometre. Will a signal-free corridor resolve this, and at what cost?
Mini BMTC feeder buses
Instead of costly solutions, why not run mini BMTC buses as feeder shuttles to the nearest Metro station or arterial bus network, asks civic evangelist V Ravichander. “People might have to make two to three shifts, but they can reach faster if frequency is high,” he says.
Operating mini buses could be economical for the BMTC. Another option could be to let private players operate such buses under the Stage Carriage Act. But, as Ravichander puts it, if BMTC has a problem allowing private firms, why not outsource the feeder service under its name.
The shift from personal private cars to public transport might look an Utopian ideal now. The blame has always been on BMTC since it has remained stuck on fixed routes, fixed schedules and fixed pick-up and drops. Allowing aggregators under the Stage Carriage Act could add flexibility.
Isn't it time then for BMTC to rationalise its routes through an origin-destination survey? By pushing more buses to areas not served by Metro and reducing routes on Metro stretches, the coverage of the transport corporation's fleet could be boosted by at least 15%.
Feeder buses could potentially link areas without Metro connectivity to distant Metro stations. But there is a challenge: Only a few stations under the first phase have space for inter-modal connectivity. As Ravichander says, malls can wait, mobility cannot.
At least in the second and subsequent phases of Namma Metro, surplus land should be set aside for interchange terminals. The public should be able to seamlessly shift from BMTC feeder buses to the Metro or vice-versa without negotiating the harrowing traffic. But this requires a mindset change. Namma Metro should be seen as a mobility solution, not just an engineering project.