Get off that arterial road

The City’s centre cannot be decongested without taking the vehicular load off the main arterial roads. Lacking proper service roads that cater to local traffic and seamless connectivity to the radial roads, the arteries are getting increasingly clogged

The deadline inched closer, but it was still three hours away. The consignment had to reach Halasuru in the heart of Bengaluru City. Starting off in a car from Mysuru four hours in advance, Dilish calculated he would be just in time to impress his client.

Two hours and 10 minutes later, he touched Kengeri. But before he could heave that big sigh of relief, reality shook him hard. Dilish knew he had grossly miscalculated the time, and the peak-hour rush.

Worse, he had overlooked that nightmarish, chaotic drive to the City’s centre just a few kilometers long!

For, in their drive to decongest the City centre, the City’s planners had neglected the arterial roads linking the heart with the periphery and beyond. Highway traffic, local traffic and the truckers headed for the peripheral roads would merge and occupy every inch, reducing speeds to a crawl.

Dilish would eventually reach Halasuru, but only after two hours and more. He missed the deadline by a mile!

Thousands of commuters heading into the City from other districts and states meet the same fate as Dilish, everyday. Trapped in the traffic, they wonder why the critical arterial roads were allowed to be systematically undermined. By chaotic roadside developments, by poor traffic management, by delayed multi-modal commute options…

No service roads

From Mysuru Road to Old Madras Road, Hosur Road to Kanakapura Road, the arteries emanating from the City’s heart aren’t designed for smooth flow of traffic. They aren’t wide enough to accommodate continuous service roads, which would have otherwise catered to the local traffic. Offloading vehicles to the circular roads is not a smooth affair either.

Service roads are rarely developed on either side of an arterial road. Commercial buildings are allowed to come up haphazardly. Eventually, traffic mounts on these undeveloped stretches, spilling over to the main road. Space is one problem, as advisor to government on traffic issues, M N Sreehari explains. “To accommodate service roads, there should be a right of way of at least 30 metres. Sixty per cent of the City’s roads are too narrow to meet this standard.”

On Old Madras Road, the high-speed toll way drive abruptly ends at the mouth of KR Puram. The market rush takes over, drastically upping commute time to the City centre. Poor connectivity to the Outer Ring Road, a badly designed KR Puram cable-stayed bridge and unscientifically placed bus stops at the bridge entrance combine to spoil every travel plan.

Satellite terminals 

To decongest the City’s Majestic area, KSRTC had proposed satellite bus terminals on most arterial roads. The ones on Mysuru Road and Tumakuru Road are functional. Fair enough. 

But why place the one meant for Old Madras Road --and by implication, Kolar, Tirupati and Chennai-bound buses-- away from the arterial road. Passengers are hardly aware of this terminal, tucked away behind the Baiyappanahalli railway station on railway parallel road. 

Result: Thousands of Tamil Nadu and Andhra-bound passengers queue up right on the Old Madras Road, triggering kilometers-long traffic congestion. Vehicles getting into the City from distant destinations are trapped right at the gates of Bengaluru.

Inter-modal transport connectivity is often talked about as a system that could quickly take away those trapped on the City’s periphery. The first and second phase alignments of the Namma Metro could do exactly that. But as admitted by the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) top brass himself, the phase 1 stations are not designed to offer space for stopping buses.

Poor Metro linkage 

So, a KSRTC or private bus cannot even park opposite the Baiyappanahalli Metro terminal. There is not even a bridge to shift passengers from the far end of the Old Madras Road to the station! The next best option could be the Swami Vivekananda station. But that comes only after the crowded Suranjan Das -- Old Madras Road junction, where peak hour waiting time could exceed 30 minutes.

Ramamurthynagar-based businessman, Vinod P feels the extension of the Metro line from Baiyappanahalli to KR Puram could solve part of the problem. The second phase of the project does have a station there, but the inter-modal linkages at this point is currently in a complete mess. 

These problems of arterial congestion would have been nipped in the bud had Bengaluru developed outwardly with a holistic approach, say urban planning experts. That would have meant creating self-sustained city clusters with their own social, cultural, and educational infrastructures to complete the physical infrastructure such as roads and industrial hubs. 

City cluster approach

The City cluster approach would have reduced the need for people to commute all the way to the City centre, and go back the same distance to their homes on the City’s periphery. Whitefield and Electronic City, for instance, could have developed as City clusters if the social, cultural, health and educational infrastructures had come up along with the IT infrastructure. 

In the absence of such an approach, the arterial Old Madras Road and Hosur Road remain clogged. The huge number of vehicles criss-crossing the City come in direct conflict with motorists entering the City from the peripheral areas through the arterial roads.

The circular roads around Bengaluru, including the Outer Ring Road, Intermediate Ring Road and the NICE Road were designed to take the load off the arterial roads. But barring the NICE Road, the intersections of the arterial roads with the circular roads rarely aid seamless transfer of traffic. 

The Peripheral Ring Road could be planned better if, as Sanjay Sridhar from C40 Cities points out, the regional growth implications of that road are understood better.

He explains, “The road will bring with it a lot of development, such as transport, commerce, economic activity... But you need to have a development strategy. The land around the road should not be released immediately aiding sporadic development, but in phases.”

Resisting pressure from the real estate developers, the government should evolve a land releasing mechanism based on demand. “Once this is ready, integrate it with the regional plan of Bengaluru,” he says. The message is clear: Unless the city’s future growth is planned systematically by understanding the dynamics of regional growth, problems such as the congested arterial roads will not vanish in a hurry.

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