Highrises as traffic trigger

Highrises as traffic trigger

Space-starved Bengaluru is riding a massive vertical rush. But as those towering highrises mushroom across the city, a big problem is cropping up. These huge multi-storeyed buildings are adding thousands of cars and SUVs to the already congested city roads, triggering unprecedented traffic management issues.

Highrises, both residential and commercial, have dramatically altered Bengaluru’s skyline in recent years. But on the ground, the impact of the additional vehicular load has put road-users, the traffic police and pedestrians in a chaotic twister.

Lalbagh highrise

In the inner city areas, where the traffic congestion had crossed sustainable limits years ago, new highrises have a particularly telling impact. On Lalbagh Fort Road, a 25-storied residential apartment cluster by a prominent builder is all set for a March 2019 launch. Once completed, the flashy complex will have parking space for an estimated 500 cars..

Peak-hour traffic on Lalbagh Fort Road is already high. The apartment cluster has two gates opening onto this road, and another on to Siddhaiah Road. Commuters, traffic police and shopkeepers in the vicinity say the constant entry and exit of cars will only add to the commotion.

Lalbagh Road, leading to the botanical gardens’ main gate is hyper-busy even during non-peak hours. Traffic jams are a daily affair with every available inch packed with vehicles. Any addition to the vehicular traffic here could spell utter chaos. The intersections at the Lalbagh gate and at the Lalbagh Road-Siddhaiah Road junction are huge choke points already.

How are such structures allowed by the BBMP and other civic agencies to come up in such congested locations? Insiders point to a well-oiled machinery of corrupt bureaucrats, elected representatives and businessmen willing to shell out big money to smoothen the otherwise complex approval process.

Seasoned urban planners say this mad rush to cash in on the real estate boom will continue, and the nexus will only get stronger. In the process, the correlation between the road width and number of floors is compromised, violations of building bye-laws are glossed over, and rules are diluted.

Two-lane entry, exit

The apartment builders have indicated that they will follow a two-lane exit and entry system to ease congestion on the roads. Besides, the residential property will be targeting buyers, businessmen from the Chickpet, J C Road and surrounding areas. This way, commute times between home and workplaces will be reduced, thus reducing the traffic load. 

Multi-storied commercial buildings have also sprung up on congested roads across the City. On Sarjapur Road, this unregulated development has triggered absolute chaos. Since there is no Metro or a dependable public transport option, thousands of employees heading in and out of these commercial buildings rely on their private, personal vehicles. 

Chaos around ORR

Hundreds of highrises have come up along the narrow roads branching out of the Outer Ring Road near Bellandur, Kadubeesanahalli and Varthur. On the 40ft wide road connecting Varthur Road and ORR, construction trucks heading in and out of such massive buildings kick up dust and debris. Motorists dread to think of the traffic that will be generated once these buildings turn into office and housing blocks.

Why do the civic agencies permit such buildings to come up if the road width and capacity are already overstretched? No traffic impact assessment is done before approvals are given, notes Sathya Sankaran from Citizens For Sustainability (CiFoS).

“Neither the BBMP nor the traffic police have no traffic or transport planning mechanism. They have admitted that they have no planning engineers,” Sankaran explains.

No ‘parking maximum’

There is also no concept of ‘parking maximum’ that limits the number of parking spaces an apartment can be allowed. A traffic impact assessment with qualified traffic planners will show how many spaces can be allowed depending on the road width, capacity and existing vehicular movements. “Five hundred cars or 100 cars will have to be based on how much the road can take,” says Sankaran.

The road width and the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) are other key considerations. FAR is the ratio of total land area and the total built-up area. For a road with width below 12 m, FAR can be 1.75. In the case of a road with a width of 30 m, the plot size can be about 4,000 to 20,000 sq m and it can be built on multiple floors.

Occupancy Certificates

But, the number of floors should strictly adhere to a set of norms fixed by the Town Planning Department of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) based on the width of the road. Palike officials admit that many builders build beyond the permitted limit.

“We do not give them Occupancy Certificates (OCs) for those floors which have been built beyond the specified norm,” says BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad.

How rampant is this violation? Out of the 16,000 odd applications that had come to BBMP office in 2017, only 110 were given OCs. All others were found to have flouted the building bye-laws. Shakeel Ahmed, chairman of standing committee of Town Planning, BBMP says the Palike had proposed to undertake a drive to crackdown on all the building plan violators in the city. “It has been postponed due to the polls now,” he says.

Hasty plan approvals

Building plans should be approved only if the road capacity currently ‘exists’ at the location, not at a future date, contends urbanist V Ravichander. “On paper, the Master Plans (of the Bangalore Development Authority) would show a road is to be widened. Building plans are sanctioned assuming the road will be widened,” he points out.

In most cases, the widening never happens. Traffic pressure from the building eventually reaches unsustainable limits. “For instance, a big mall has come up at the intersection of ORR and Bannerghatta Road. It is a terrible place for a mall. That intersection has now become a huge choking point.”

(DH Illustration Prakash / DH PHOTOS / Shivakumar B H)

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