Connecting the Metro gaps

BMTC bus routes, Namma Metro and old railway lines criss-cross the city in search of passengers. Yet, the three are hardly linked seamlessly to offer

Connecting the Metro gaps

Spreading its elevated tentacles across town, the Namma Metro is caught in a slow, steady push to boost transport connectivity. Desperate to decongest the Majestic hub, KSRTC and BMTC are up against delayed satellite terminal projects.

But do these projects help connect the dots, let commuters switch from one mode to another with minimum fuss?

Phase 1 Metro stations aren’t designed to house BMTC buses, a flaw that blocks passenger flow from rail to bus and vice-versa. Its city network peppered with over a dozen stations, the South Western Railway lines are hardly linked to BMTC routes.

At the mercy of taxi and autorickshaw drivers, travel-weary commuters struggle daily, as connectivity plans rot in drawing rooms.

But a commuter-first approach could change all this. The massive foot overbridge linking the Baiyappanahalli railway station to the flashy Metro terminal next door is a model for emulation. Though delayed, the bridge offers a smooth way out for passengers from an outstation journey to the city centre.

Yet, there are problems. Climbing the bridge from the two railway platforms is a task too steep. Sixty three steps separate the platform level and the bridge leading to the Metro station. Lugging heavy baggage up the stairs could dissuade the weak and elderly. An escalator could have done the job, but the current passenger volumes at the station may not justify that investment.

Upgrading this old railway station could be one option. Volumes could rise if the chaotic KR Puram station next door is decongested by diverting part of the traffic here. More train stoppages could then be allowed at Baiyappanahalli. Currently, only about a dozen passenger trains have a halt here. Express trains don’t. With the bridge yet to be fully operationalised, rail passengers now take a long-winded route to the Metro terminal.

Shuttle to Baiyyappanahalli

There is another problem. Only trains heading towards Bangalore City and Cantonment stations take the Baiyappanahalli route. The ones bound for Yeshwanthpura take a diversion from KR Puram towards Banaswadi, another station with poor bus connectivity. The solution could be regular BMTC shuttle services between Baiyappanahalli and KR Puram stations.

Finding space for shuttle buses at the chaotic KR Puram station could be an issue. This is a problem triggered mainly by external factors such as the badly positioned cable-stay bridge. But a quick solution is essential, since it is bound to benefit thousands of passengers who commute daily between the city and outlying regions such as Bangarpet and KGF.

Connectivity is a two-way process. Shuttle bus connectivity will mean adequate space for bus bays at the Metro stations. Hardly a few stations under the Phase 1 are equipped to handle the big buses. Smaller mini buses have not been popular with the public, as a top BMTC official informs.

Station sans bus bays

Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) Managing Director, Pradeep Singh Kharola acknowledges the design shortcoming of the Phase 1 stations. Lessons have been learnt now. Dedicated bus bays, he says, will be part of the design in all the Phase 2 stations. But integration issues in Phase 1 stations can be addressed comprehensively only after the entire first phase is operationalised fully.

Temporary stoppages of a few minutes at the Metro stations may not be too problematic for BMTC buses. But as the Transport Corporation’s IT director, Kumar Pushkar explains, the buses will have to halt till a train arrives, and that would require more space. “Last year, we managed to get some space on MG Road. The BMRCL MD has said some area could be earmarked before and after a station for busy bays,” he informs.

But the present arrangement, at best, is a squeeze. At the MG Road station, parking more than two buses triggers a traffic congestion during peak hours. Parking is not even a remote option at the Trinity, Halasuru and Indiranagar stations. Even at the Baiyappanahalli terminal, there are no bus shelters. Only at the Swami Vivekananda station is there space for a bus bay. This, however, has not been operationalised.

As the Metro progresses in phases, the critical need for such linking spaces will only grow. Connecting the stations to the BMTC and KSRTC satellite terminals will then turn crucial for quick multi-modal transport. For instance, the recently launched Rs. 39.25 crore Basaveshwara satellite bus terminal in Peenya will fully serve its purpose only if linked to the Peenya Metro station.

Satellite linkages

Designed to ease the pressure on the Kempegowda bus station in Majestic, the satellite bus stand will eventually see a total of 1,021 KSRTC departures to parts of North Karnataka, Tumkur, Pavagada, Davangere, Kunigal, Hassan, Chikmagalur and Mangalore zones.

Commuters could take the Metro from different parts of the city, alight at the Peenya or Peenya Industry stations and head to the satellite stand. Kharola feels BMTC shuttle services could aptly play the connecting role.

Once the Namma Metro graduates to its second phase, the multi-modal transport hub strategy could be taken further, feel urban mobility experts. Extension of the East-West line from Nayandahalli to Kengeri is part of the Phase 2.

If the Bangalore University station on this route and surroundings were to be developed as a hub, it could benefit South Western railway commuters alighting at the Jnanabharathi station and BMTC passengers heading to the University campus and beyond, the experts point out.

Ridership on the Metro’s first phase is expected to rise substantially once the Majestic station opens. But this is not likely to happen in a hurry. Until then, BMRCL’s best option has been to fall back on a connectivity option: To provide a bus service between MG Road and Sampige Road station, and thus offer a seamless multi-modal commute from Baiyappanahalli to Peenya.

Once this service gets going, both BMRCL and BMTC could get an understanding of people’s response to such multi-modal transport experiments. This could be the precursor to a much larger system with well-planned and designed linkages between the Metro, BMTC, Railways and yes, the personal vehicles offering last mile connectivity.

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