Unitary agency for Bengaluru commute

Unitary agency for Bengaluru commute

Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority can plan, coordinate, prioritise projects better

Unitary agency for Bengaluru commute

Metro stations without bus connectivity, railway stations without bus stops, link bridges in limbo... These sights across Bengaluru don’t shock us anymore.

Trapped in a setup where the railways, Metro, BMTC and other transport agencies don’t collaborate, plan and design projects for seamless inter-modal connectivity, the commuter finds himself clearly lost.

Is there a way out of this mess created by a serious lack of inter-agency coordination? Yes, a well-empowered Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) with legislative backing could do the trick, reasons Sathya Sankaran from Citizens For Sustainability (CiFoS).

But the Authority should have its say in the entire 8,000 sqkm area of the Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Authority (BMRDA) and not just in BBMP’s 756 sq km.

The message is clear: If a grand, seamless, sustainable transport system is to take shape for the future, the focus should be on Greater Bengaluru, wide expanses of which are already seeing high growth. “This vast area is the city’s future. It needs to be protected from commute woes that Bengalureans are suffering now,” Sankaran explains.

Authority with teeth

Empowered as a final authority to decide on the commute needs, UMTA should have enough teeth to override narrow vested interests. This implies the Authority will be neutral in its priorities. Metro Rail or Mono Rail will cease to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Sustainable solutions such as Commuter Rail will not be side-tracked to suit costly infrastructure projects.

Once constituted as a statutory, independent authority, UMTA could raise funds and apportion finances to projects based on priority. This could also mean channelising all transport-related infrastructure funds through a single authority. The UMTA will also license and plan all transport services, with agencies such as RTO, BMRC and BMTC only implementing and operating.

UMTA structure

But the Authority can fulfill this huge responsibility only if its structure is sound. “It should be a full-fledged department with capabilities to consult and source public opinion, identify best practices, collaborate with people with great ideas on urban mobility. The Authority should be peopled with urban transport planners with expertise on rail, road, new technologies linked to sustainability, etc. The BBMP and the traffic police cannot be into urban planning.”

UMTA could also act as an ombudsman. Successful models are already there: The Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

In 2007, the state government had formed the Bangalore Metropolitan Land Transit Authority (BMLTA), which was designed to act like UMTA. But beyond coordinating JnNURM schemes, this body had no powers. The weak experiment eventually failed.