Grand plans, poor execution

Grand plans, poor execution

Grand plans, poor execution

Haphazard and unregulated growth has had Brand Bengaluru in a clueless twister for decades. Futuristic Comprehensive Development Plans (CDPs) of yore miserably failed in their grand rescue missions. Will the Revised Master Plan-2031 (RMP) be any different?

The verdict is already out, loud and clear in ongoing public consultations: Sustainable, controlled development will largely remain a mirage if the city’s growth is not contained. Grand master plans will just not work in an overburdened city.

Prepared by the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA), the final Master Plan is intended to chalk out a roadmap to develop the entire Bengaluru metropolitan area over the next 14 years. The idea, as the draft explains, is to project the population, lay down the overall space, and provide direction for future growth.

The draft plan may be flawed, as several urban policy experts assert. But the sense of urgency in drawing a workable, implementable roadmap for a sustainable Bengaluru is not lost on anyone.

The RMP finds the existing transportation scenario scary. Due to extreme congestion on the roads, citizens waste 2.8 lakh litres of fuel per hour, daily. “That is nearly 50 crore litres per year. Yearly man-hour lost is around 60 crore hours. In monetary terms, this translates to a loss of Rs 3,700 crore per year.”

Personal private transport contributes hugely to the congestion. The RMP admits that poor public transport options have increased the number of private cars, SUVs and two-wheelers. The resulting congestion has reduced journey speeds from 18 kmph in 2008 to 11 kmph in 2015. If the existing system is left unchanged, the road network speeds could reduce further to 5 kmph.

Currently, the share of public transport on the city roads stands at a mere 48%. This, the RMP emphasizes, should be increased to 70%. How does it propose to achieve this transition from private to public transport? By spending more money on Metro, Monorail, BRT and commuter rail system.

Insufficient data
But urban mobility experts, spearheading campaigns for sustainable transport options, wonder how this problem can be addressed without proper data. “There is insufficient data collected as a part of this process of split of the various modes,” notes a feedback note from advocacy group PrajaRAAG.

The RMP draft quotes various studies in which the car modal share is anywhere between 7% and 21%. This, it observes, is too wide a range to be trusted. “An independent study needs to be carried out as a part of RMP 2031 preparation to agree on the correct current modal split.”

The draft does talk about re-establishing the role of bicycles and pedestrians in the larger mobility plan. But as mobility analyst Sathya Sankaran points out, the report is silent about the target modal share of buses, trains, pedestrians, cyclists and private transport in 2031. 

Transport infrastructure planned and built in the city by BBMP, BDA and other agencies should align with the larger plan. “All infrastructure building project proposals in the city should mandatorily prove how they contribute towards the target modal share.”

But the problem precisely lies here. As civic evangelist, V Ravichander explains, nothing outside the Development Control Regulations and Road Network, is statutory in the RMP.

“It talks about increasing modal share of public transport to 68%. But how are you going to enforce it? BMTC, BMRCL or the Railways are not obligated to follow the plan,” he says.

Need for UMTA
On paper, the transport-oriented proposals should lead to some improvements. But, Ravichander wonders how would this work if there is no plan to integrate different transport agencies. There is no talk of a well-empowered Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) with legislative backing to achieve this.

Integrated into the RMP, the UMTA could potentially ensure inter-agency coordination. BMTC, BMRCL, Railways and the RTOs could then link up to provide seamless connectivity in the entire 8,000 sqkm area of the Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Authority (BMRDA).

This apex body coordinating road, rail, Metro and other public transport modes, could emulate the London model, reasons Vijayan Menon from Citizen Action Forum (CAF).

“Such an authority will avoid the scenario where Rs 42,000 crore is spent on the Metro, but only Rs 200 crore is allotted for the suburban rail system,” he explains.

Origin Destination survey
To think differently about public transport and find ways to increase its share, an Origin Destination (OD) survey is critical. Ravichander asks why this survey, undertaken by the RMP consultants, was not made available to BMTC, BMRCL and other stakeholders.

Sharing the survey findings would have helped these agencies in their current route planning. “The survey shows how many people travel from where to where at what time of the day. This is critical information that will help BMTC replan its routes. If Metro can plan its alignment 10 years in advance, why can’t the BMTC?”

The RMP has been dubbed weak on data and institutional mechanisms proposed. Public consultations have helped BDA gather key suggestions from seasoned players in the transportation field.

The experts and informed citizens who submitted their inputs now hope their views will be integrated into the final Master Plan. But whether that process will work as planned is another issue.  

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