Going around in circles

Going around in circles

Hunting for an address in Bangalore? Be prepared to be trapped in a maddening maze of crossroads and main roads, erratic house numbers and duplicated area names. The going gets only tougher in peripheral Bangalore.

Worn out by a tiring, overnight journey, the distraught tourist alighted from the train at the Banaswadi station. Several bargaining rounds later, he deposited his luggage in an autorickshaw and handed the driver an address slip. Byatarayanapura, beamed the autopilot with a wicked smile. Two hours and a hundred turns later, the tourist was still inside the rickshaw, searching the labyrinthine bylanes off Mysore road. His actual destination, Byatarayanapura near the Airport road, lay kilometers away.

Trapped in a maze of roads unmarked, signboards masked, and area names duplicated, thousands of the tourist kind hunt for addresses in vain daily. Caught in a system that respects no house numbering sequence either, the local Bangalorean too joins the daily search. Going around in circles, they wander, ask around, curse the system, and still end up at the wrong place. For the harried wanderers, destination certainty should surely rankle as one cruel joke!

Five years back, a State Government notification held the grand promise of eradicating area and street name duplications. No more will the same name be used more than once within the limits of a City Corporation, the rule said. Yes, the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (naming of roads, circle, junctions, parks and other public places) Rules-2008, notified by the Urban Development Department, made all the right noises.

Arbitrariness in the name game was to be clearly thrown out. The relevant rule read, “While selecting the name, priority will be given to local personalities, who served society in the fields of social service, literature, art, education, sports or persons of historical importance.” Five years later, the rules remain cast in iron. But the duplicated area names flourish, triggering chaos of a grander scale.

Signages in disarray. Name boards utterly neglected. Road signs, particularly in peripheral Bangalore, are out of shape, out of design. Confront the Bruhath Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) with these tell-tale images, and you sense it is obviously not the Palike’s priority. Yet, the Palike’s Deputy Commissioner (Revenue), I Ramakanth holds out a promise: “We have plans to put up the boards within the next six months. Yes, we are yet to concentrate on the newly added areas.”

The plan is to use Geographical Information System (GIS) Mapping and Property Identification Numbers (PIN) to get the house sequences right. The PID is a nine-digit number in three parts, including the numbers of the ward, street and property. If implemented well, this exercise should help residents have a semblance of order and an escape from the maze of old and new numbers often scribbled illegibly in a corner of their doors. 

What about the duplication of area names? “We cannot change the existing names. We will add the ward number to the area to help people differentiate. In any case, our Palike officials do not face any problem of finding a location,” says Rama­kanth. But residents are often caught between multiple Shastrinagars, Narayanapuras, Marutinagar, Jai Marutinagar and Marutisevanagar.

Local pressures had indeed forced the Palike to allot area and street names that were hardly original. The BBMP Standing Committee (Town Planning) chairman, AN Purushottam admits that. “It used to happen before. No longer. Several unauthorised layouts in the City had taken names disregarding duplication. As per the guidelines, we now take the proposed names and invite suggestions and objections from the public, before approval,” he explains.

It is the Palike Engineering Department’s task to maintain the signboards. Ask about its failure, and Ramakanth cites lack of funds. “We need money for this too. Maybe sponsors could help. We are open to private partnership.”

The Rules had entrusted the Corporation Commissioner with the responsibility of fixing the nameplates for public places. They had to be of a uniform colour and size. Those disfiguring the nameplates had to be penalised Rs. 100. Besides, the Commissioner was to act against them under the Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act 1981. Today, sadly it is tough to find a nameplate not disfigured, broken, painted, masked by bills.

Traffic signages, the saving grace

For lakhs of commuters taking the City’s core area roads daily, the bold, green and white signages at many traffic junctions are definitely of much help. Erected under the Bangalore Traffic Improvement Project (B-TRAC), these elevated signages
direct the motorists to take the appropriate turn even before they reach the junctions. Location search is thus made less tougher.

But these structures are a rarity in the peripheral areas. “We have about 29,000 traffic signages of cautionary and informative types in the City. Now we are expanding to the peripheral areas, increasing the direction boards there. This will happen in the next financial year,” informs MA Saleem, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic and Security).

The signages are not without problems. A B-TRAC Evaluation and Impact Study conducted by the Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP) in 2012, cited instances of signs covered by trees and shrubs and advertisement hoardings, thus negating their purpose.

Rescued by GPS-aided maps

Smartphones equipped with GPS-enabled maps are bound to make address hunting easier in future. But these maps too depend on actual street names,
numbers and area nomenclatures to lend that real-time helping hand to commuters. As an engineering student well versed with Android applications put it, even Google map gets confused with the mindboggling clutter of names and numbers or the lack of it.

The clutter will have to go, and fast. Many high-end cars today sport GPS, voice-aided navigation aids. Tomorrow, this could become a default feature in most cars, and perhaps, even motorcycles. When that happens, you cannot let the BBMP or the traffic police guide us with duplicated street and area names. They ought to get the numbers right, and in sequence !

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