Bengaluru buses fight traffic pain

Bengaluru buses fight traffic pain

Passengers in city Bus, in Bengaluru. Photo by S K Dinesh

More than a decade after it was first proposed, bus priority lane has remained an abstract idea as the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the government have chosen to ignore its key role in easing the city’s transportation woes.

The city’s iteration of dedicated bus lanes can be first found in a presentation made to the World Bank on Bangalore Mass Rapid Transit Limited in 2003. About 15 years later, not only the idea of priority lane been abandoned but the responsibility of ‘mass rapid transit’ has been handed over to Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL).

In 2007, consultant firm, RITES had proposed 291.5 km of bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors, including on some of the congested stretches such as the 33-km road between Hebbal and Bannerghatta Road, most of which traversed through the Eastern crescent of Outer Ring Road (ORR).

Urban transport activists say lack of foresightedness and patchwork approach have pushed Bengaluru’s traffic condition to the brink. Successive governments have ignored simple solutions and are banking on more road infrastructure, such as the elevated flyovers, as solution to move people from one place to another.

Activist Sanjeev Dyamannavar notes that bus lanes could still be implemented on the Hebbal-Byappanahalli and Silk Board-KR Puram-Byappanahalli segments of ORR, which will be effective in reducing vehicular congestion.

Several citizen groups, including Bengaluru Bus Brayanikara Vedike and Citizens for Bengaluru, have pointed out the connection between poor public transportation and exploding vehicle population from 50.5 lakh in 2014 to nearly 80 lakh. During the same period, the BMTC ridership came down from 51 lakh (2014-15) to 40 lakh.

Srinivas Alavilli of CfB says the government should dedicate one lane on each side of the ORR for buses, government and private alike. “For someone using private transport and getting stuck in the traffic jam, the smooth running bus dedicated lane will be definitely an attractive option. This is evident in people who prefer the Metro than a car. They are essentially abandoning comfort because of the speedy commute offered by the Metro,” he contends.

Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has postponed tenders for the ORR Metro line civil work by three months. Alavilli says the government should implement the dedicated bus lanes during this period as an experiment.

“BMTC buses are expensive compared to two-wheelers. But even they (bikers) will shift to buses when they are promised that there will be no traffic jams. The result will be obvious in three months. This simple solution does not involve the Rs 25,000 crore required for the elevated corridor,” he adds.

BMTC Managing Director N V Prasad says he will take up the issues with the departments concerned. “Dedicated lanes for buses will go a long way in improving BMTC’s efficiency. It will help us to reach more places and on time. I will discuss the issue internally and with seniors from other directorates,” he says.