No key to this gridlock

No key to this gridlock

No key to this gridlock

There is almost always just one solution to the problems of traffic in any metropolitan city in India: Improve public transport and use it. While the said adage has become just that in most cities, in Bangalore, a part of the perceived solution is also resulting in some problems - blockage of traffic.

Unscientific infrastructure, unruly drivers, increasing private vehicles, the number of instances that the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and private buses become traffic hurdles are things commuters frown upon regularly.

That the Metro rail project is far from complete, leaving the City’s dream of having a mass transit system of any worth unfulfilled, is another issue.

It is 8.23 pm. Rajendra Mudaliar, 43, stands a few metres away from all the “three bus stops” on Ambedkar Veedhi. Most BMTC buses do not stop at the designated stop. Some just do not stop at all.
That there are three bus stops on a stretch shorter than 150 metres on this road is something planners have not realised. By 8.45 pm, a BMTC bus (G-10) moves in his direction and Rajendra begins to move a bit farther.

As the bus comes to halt, there are two other buses coming to the same spot and one of the drivers parks the bus parallel to G-10, causing a road block. Rajendra misses the bus.
“This is not the only bus stop where this happens. People who take the bus every day know the problems.

These drivers never stop where they are supposed to. Some of them, despite being able to see there is a bus and people are trying to get in, come and park it beside the stationary bus, making it impossible for us to get into the bus,” he said.

About five kilometres away, near Adarsha theatre in Ulsoor, the bus stop is virtually on the corner of the road, causing a huge block every time a bus halts there as people trying to enter the main road, on the one side, have to negotiate the buses and on the other, they have to take a turn, blinded by the big buses.

If this is the problem near smaller bus stops, roads around major bus stands like Shantinagar, Majestic and Shivajinagar are no different. At Majestic, for example, a bus either enters or leaves the station every four seconds, but the roads are just not adequate to take the load, causing a traffic problem.

Shiva Kumar, a resident of RT Nagar working in Malleswaram, says: “They do not allow buses on the BDA flyover near Cauvery theatre till 10 in the morning, which causes huge traffic almost up to Mekhri Circle as all these buses are plying on not-so-broad roads.”
The latest decision to permit public buses to refuel at local petrol bunks has only added to the problem faced by other commuters. Add to this, the menace that private buses cause at select locations, with intra-city services having been banned for them, and Bangalore’s roads look narrower. The problem near Anand Rao Circle or Jain Temple in Jayanagar are just examples of over-crowding of big buses creating chaos.

The complaints can go on and on in a city whose vehicular population is growing at a steady 10 per cent despite inflation, slowdown and all the problems.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic and Security) M A Saleem said: “The number of vehicles in the City will touch 47 lakhs by the end of this year.”

He explains that while BMTC buses, which cause considerable trauma to his men (constables) on a daily basis, are seen as hurdles on the road, people must understand that the problem is not so much as these buses as much as inadequate roads.

“We must understand that Bangalore is yet to have a mass transit system that is functional and the only option is BMTC, really. In a city with a massive private vehicle population, the buses are crammed for space on the road,” Saleem said.

In 1980, the total number of private vehicles was 1.68 lakh; 6.28 lakh in 1990, which went up to 13.37 lakh in 2000 and at the end of March 2011, it was 37.91 lakh.

A BMTC bus driver, who did not want to be named, said: “Yes, we are always in a hurry and park buses parallel to other buses at the stops to avoid losing time. You must understand that this is because we have fixed schedules and are expected to report at the depots, or major bus stops, at a particular time. There is nobody worrying about all this, but they just want us to take the blame.”

Then, what are the solutions for a City mired in slow-moving traffic and vehicular population growing fast?

According to M N Sreehari, advisor to the Government of Karnataka on Traffic, Transport and Infrastructure, one of the solutions is to have dedicated bus lanes.

“Obviously, it is not possible to have such lanes across the City as most roads are narrow. But if such a system is put in place wherever possible, like Maharani College Road, New and Old Airport roads, Race Course Road and so on, it reduces the congestion there and free-flowing traffic will ensure that there is lesser problem in the connecting roads,” Sreehari said.

Further, he said that the bigger problem is the lack of a mass transit system.
“With Metro being a big disappointment, there needs to be a futuristic outlook on how to deal with the situation, which won’t subside,” he said.

The solution, as Saleem puts it, lies in limiting the private vehicle population so as to have more space on the roads. But, that in a metropolitan City like Bangalore, is a distant dream.

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