Caught in the construction jam

Caught in the construction jam

Flyover_elevated corridor_traffic jam

Repair of a dilapidated flyover throws traffic into a tizzy, another ‘accidental’ gas leak sparks a massive gridlock, the Namma Metro work reduces vehicular speeds to a crawl… Should a city with absolutely no regulatory control over its exploding vehicular numbers be left with no visible plan to manage these recurring nightmares?

For proof of this glaring lacuna, one look at the peak-hour chaos triggered by the Sirsi Circle flyover repair, or the daily grind on all road stretches leading to ITPL, Whitefield, would suffice. Ongoing maintenance work has put commuters in an inglorious mess on the Hosur Road Elevated Expressway, with a daily vehicular load of about 60,000.

This has obviously put a big question mark over inter-agency coordination, and the apparent lack of detailed, advance planning and preparation. Friday’s GAIL gas pipeline leak on Sarjapur Road due to drainage work by the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has injected a sense of urgency.

Metro work as trigger

Already in a traffic mess, the roads leading from R V Road towards the Central Silk Board Junction will be caught in a twister soon. Here’s why: The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has begun erecting pillars to build its Metro line. Restoring a semblance of order on the road will depend a lot on what conversation BMRCL has had with the city traffic police.

Commuter woes will only aggravate once the much-delayed demolition of the Jayadeva flyover begins. BMRCL is set to raze the structure in a phased manner to make way for a multi-level interchange. The 18.82 km R V Road - Bommasandra line and the 21.25 km Gottigere-Nagawara line will cross here.

Traffic diversions

To avoid vehicular congestion in the area, the police have brought certain traffic diversions. “As the Metro line’s preliminary work has begun, the traffic police have blocked the left turn on Jayadeva flyover for commuters moving from Central Silk Board junction and heading to Bannerghatta road,” informs a resident welfare association member from BTM Layout.

Motorists from Silk Board Junction have been directed to take a left turn at 16thmain and turn right at 7th cross. Pillars for the Metro stretch from Marenahalli to Silk Board and from Gottigere to Nagawara are now being erected in the area.

Whitefield troubles

In Whitefield, work on the Metro line extension from the Baiyappanahalli terminal has reduced vehicular speeds to a crawl for several months now. The Metro barricades have considerably reduced the width of the already narrow roads. Hope Farm Junction, ITPL Road, and the Phoenix Mall area in Mahadevapura have been bearing the brunt of this congestion.

Notes Zibi Jamal, a member of the citizen’s collective, Whitefield Rising: “The roads narrow at multiple points and it is difficult, especially for four-wheelers to commute. Vehicles get stranded for hours together near Phoenix Mall and around Brigade Metropolis, where the road width has been reduced considerably due to the Metro construction.”

Urban mobility analysts say the traffic congestion due to Metro work could have been foreseen years before the line extension was planned. Much of the traffic could have been shifted to the suburban rail if dedicated trains with high frequency had been introduced. Currently, only a few skeletal services run between the Baiyappanahalli and Whitefield railway stations.

No planned interventions

Planned interventions to minimise construction-linked traffic chaos are unlikely to materialise as long as civic agencies and transport corporations work in silos. This leads to the fundamental need for a Unified Metropolitan Transport Corporation (UMTA), notes mobility expert and Bengaluru’s first bicycle mayor, Sathya Sankaran.

This Corporation, he explains, can coordinate between different agencies and plan projects and traffic implications well in advance. But to be effective, the body should be well staffed with qualified technical professionals.

In the absence of any long-term planning strategy, adhoc decisions abound. “A professional approach would mean listening to urban planners and traffic planners. This is how cities in the developed world function,” says Sankaran.

Models to emulate

For instance, Transport for London (TfL), a local government body, is responsible for all decisions related to the transport systems in Greater London.

These include the network of principal road routes, the multiple rail networks including the London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and TfL Rail. London’s trams, buses, taxis, cycling provisions and even river services are also part of TfL.

Working on similar lines is the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore. Its tasks include development of the city’s rapid transit system and expansion of the rail network. In 2009, LTA had taken on the role of central bus network planner, working with communities and the bus operators to identify areas for bus improvements.

There are global models aplenty to learn from and emulate. Sadly for Bengaluru, the BBMP, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), the traffic police, BMRCL and BMTC work without a robust mechanism to collaborate, plan and execute projects in tandem, causing minimum inconvenience to the commuters.