Stop the bus, hop and catch a train

Rail-bus connectivity

To help every commuter make that seamless switch from the train to a BMTC bus and back, there is a solution that is not rocket science: Multi-modal connectivity. Yet, many railway stations in the city are too far away from bus stops. Should every commuter depend on expensive cabs to connect that last mile?

At the Banaswadi station, this poor rail-bus connectivity has now trapped thousands of passengers in deep trouble. The decision of the South Western Railways to shift the origin of a few long-distance trains from Yeswanthpura Terminal to Banaswadi has deepened the commute woes.

Located in the interiors of Banaswadi, the station is nearly a kilometre away from the nearest bus stop. Only cabs and autorickshaws can negotiate the narrow roads leading to the station, which has grown significantly in importance in recent years.

Banaswadi woes

Yeswanthpura residents now spend over two to three hours in heavy peak-hour traffic to reach Banaswadi, but their only commute options are cabs and autorickshaws. “Bus is totally ruled out. Even if we change two buses, we still have to take an auto to cover the last one kilometre. And the drivers charge in excess of Rs 50,” notes Mohammed Sameer, a frequent traveller.

But even at stations where bus stops are near, exit locations are a big problem. For instance, at the K R Puram station – where dozens of long distance trains halt -, the pedestrian overbridge lands right at the mouth of the only underpass below the cable-stayed bridge.

To cross the road, hundreds of passengers, carrying heavy luggage compete with the entire Outer Ring Road traffic that passes under the bridge. The bus stop across the road has no shelter, and the entire area gets chaotic every time a train unloads passengers in hordes.

KR Puram troubles

Extending the foot overbridge to the other side of the road was suggested as a possible solution. But this has remained on paper for years. The connectivity issue is likely to remain unresolved even after the Metro station on the Phase-2 line gets operationalised.

Bus connectivity should imply easy accessibility from both sides of the railway station, contends urban rail analyst, Sanjeev Dyamannavar. “Nayandahalli station has accessibility for buses only from the Mysuru Road side, not from the Vijayanagar side. This is a problem with Jnanabharathi and Kengeri stations too,” he points out.

Poor connectivity issues also plague the Bellandur Road station off Outer Ring Road (ORR). Many IT professionals who take the skeletal suburban rail service from this station complain about this critical gap. “The approach road is too narrow. If they can work out a way, BMTC can introduce mini buses to ferry commuters between the station and IT Parks along ORR,” Dyamannavar notes.

Carmelaram model

A model currently exists at the Carmelaram station, where a recently introduced shuttle bus service takes employees to their offices on Sarjapur Road and surroundings.

In the first week of March, BMTC had launched three new bus routes along the IT corridor, linking Electronic City Wipro Campus, Kasavanahalli, Doddakannalli, Haralur and HSR Layout. The third route now operates in a loop to Carmelaram railway station, connecting Doddakannalli, Kadubisanahalli, Bellandur Gate and Kaikondanahalli.

Heelalige’s potential

This service could also work perfectly at the Heelalige station, located barely six kilometres away from Electronics City. The station is currently served by a lone BMTC bus. But some employees working in Biocon, Narayana Hrudayalaya, Wipro and other companies have pooled money to arrange a shuttle service informally. Many feel this job can be done by BMTC.

A dedicated Heelalige – Electronic City bus link could dramatically decongest Hosur Road and all the junctions underneath the elevated road once the Hosur line is double-tracked and more trains introduced. The load on Silk Board Junction and Madiwala could also reduce, feel regular commuters.

Regular train travellers are ready to walk up to 500 metres to reach the nearest bus stop. But this mandates that the footpaths are well lit and safe. At the Lottegollahalli station, the half kilometre walk is a taxing one for commuters. There is no proper footpath or lighting.

Commuter innovations

Frustrated by the apathy of both railways and the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), many commuters have devised their own ways to connect the last mile. At the Hebbal railway station, shared autorickshaws have emerged as a favourite option to connect to Manyata Tech Park off Outer Ring Road.

Suburban rail activists say these connectivity gaps will have to be bridged to ensure that the efficiency of a full-fledged commuter rail network is maximised. Several new railway stations have been proposed along the proposed network’s four corridors. The railways and BMTC, they say, will have to work together to ensure accessible bus stops at each of these stations.

Namma Metro dimension

The completion of Namma Metro’s second phase will add another dimension to the connectivity problems. Many Metro stations under the first phase are without bus bays. This serious design flaw should be addressed at least in the second phase, expected to be operationalised within the next two years.

A few models to emulate have emerged. The Baiyappanahalli Metro terminal, for instance, has a seamless link to the Byappanahalli railway station. BMTC buses pick up passengers from the Old Madras Road entrance to nearby destinations.

The pedestrian bridge linking the City Railway Metro station with the KSR City station has an exit towards Magadi Road. BMTC buses headed towards Magadi Road and surrounding areas could pick up passengers from this point if stops are allowed.

Fast-tracking a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA), as commuters and experts alike point out, can address connectivity issues with a holistic approach. The Railways, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) and the BMTC should have no reason to complain and pass the buck thereafter.

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