TOD as a solution for last-mile connectivity concerns

An upgraded, swift and reliable public transport system has been the need of the hour as the city continues to expand and grow, drawing masses from across the country.  Representative image/Pixabay

Poor last-mile connectivity has plagued Bengaluru city for years. As the planners propose a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) strategy, here’s a look at how the last-mile gaps have constantly affected the growth of public transport.

An upgraded, swift and reliable public transport system has been the need of the hour as the city continues to expand and grow, drawing masses from across the country. Public transport is one of the most essential components of economic growth as it is directly linked to the emancipation of people, irrespective of their income group.

For a skill-rich city like Bengaluru, infamous for its traffic situation, a comprehensive mobility plan could potentially boost the efficiency of the privileged, but it can also enable the not-so-privileged to overcome social exclusion and access jobs and services. However, in reality, for the working poor in the city, commuting is still an exorbitant affair, and last-mile connectivity remains a clog in the wheels.

As she waits at the bus stop on M G Road, Varsha, a college student in her early twenties is visibly impatient. “The buses are usually delayed by 15-20 minutes, and the frequency is also low.” Varsha lives in Hoskote and the everyday commute to her college is hampered by the tardy and infrequent bus system from her place.

The autorickshaws refuse to ferry according to the fares set by the Regional Transport Authority. Most drivers demand a minimum of Rs 50, or an additional Rs 20 over the meter fare. The fares are doubled or tripled at night, making the commute extremely expensive.

Akhil, a senior executive who works for an MNC commutes from Bellandur to Koramangala says, “I end up spending more on the auto fare than the bus fare just for my last mile, i.e., from the bus-stop to my house.”

The opulent comfort of private cabs is limited only to the middle and higher classes, which form less than a third of the city’s population. There is a gap in demand and supply in the private cab services too as the average wait time for the cabs is around 10-15 minutes. Higher refusal rates happen to be another inconvenience.

Siddhant Pratap, a computer engineer who lives in Marathahalli and travels to HSR Layout for his work says, “I chose to invest in a two-wheeler instead of taking public transport. Since there is no Metro in my route, taking a bus is the only available option.”

“I can’t afford to be late to work in the morning. Therefore relying on buses, which tends to take more time owing to traffic and delays, is not my first preference. Lane discipline and poor traffic sense amongst people defeats the whole point of bus priority lanes, especially during the peak hours,” Siddhant elaborates.

Amrita, a lawyer working for a startup says, “If I have to travel across the city, between Marathahalli and Church Street, I generally don’t bother taking the bus because the nearest bus stop from my house is almost a kilometre away. Walking that stretch while going to work or a social commitment would mean inhaling a whole lot of dust and ending up grimy and sweat-stained when I reach my destination.”

On the rare occasions when she takes a bus, “crossing the Outer Ring Road to reach the bus stop is a matter of life and death as there are no red signals, or an overbridge, or a zebra-crossing and the vehicles do not slow down for pedestrians.”

This is what Sanjana J Satish, who works for a law firm, has to say: “I usually take the Shivajinagar bus (13, 13A/B/C etc) or the Metro to MG road or Indiranagar. My major issue is overcrowding of buses and Metros to a point where you can’t move and sometimes can’t even breathe properly.”

She feels the government needs to increase the frequency of buses on certain routes. “Besides, the Green Line often runs only three-coach trains, which leads to overcrowding.”

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