Public roads, private chaos

Public roads, private chaos
Getting trapped in peak-hour traffic near the K R Puram cable-stayed bridge should be every motorist’s worst nightmare. Triggering the madness, hundreds of private buses stop right at the bridge’s entry point. The traffic piles up so badly that the entire Outer Ring Road underneath comes to a grinding halt.

Motorists assume that heading out of the city would be a breeze once they pass the hyper-clogged Hebbal flyover. But the heavy congestion opposite Esteem Mall would stump them. Dozens of private buses would be lined up without any order to pick up passengers at will, a definite recipe for chaos.

Not shifting

But unauthorised private bus stops sparking massive traffic congestions are not just an outer city phenomenon. Right within the city centre, in transport hubs such as Majestic, City Market and Kalasipalyam, private bus operators reign supreme. They are in no mood to shift to the outskirts, where satellite bus stops have sprung up albeit with disuse problems of their own.

Weekends and holiday seasons amplify the traffic snarls within the city manifold. In January 2016, the state government had restricted entry of private buses, anticipating a huge rush for the Invest Karnataka 2016 meet. The move, which lasted 10 days, banned operations of private buses from Kalasipalyam, Gandhinagar and Anand Rao Circle in the Majestic area.

Passenger inconvenience

But the private operators were not impressed. They contend that their passengers will be inconvenienced, without an option to get to the outskirts on time. Last-mile connectivity continues to be an issue, and the poor cannot afford to take autorickshaws or taxis, they contend.

However, this argument does not hold much water. For instance, shuttle buses operate quite frequently between Majestic, Shantinagar and City Market to ferry passengers to the KSRTC satellite bus station on Mysuru Road. The launch of the entire first phase of Namma Metro means trains are available to Baiyappanahalli, Nagasandra, Yelachenahalli and Mysuru Road, at least till 11 pm.

Plans in cold storage

Three years ago, the government had announced plans to shift all private operators outside the city proper. But it was easier said. KSRTC buses did shift out, but only to the Mysuru Road satellite terminal, as Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy points out.

The Peenya satellite terminal is hardly used by the public. KSRTC buses heading to Tumakuru and outside the State start from Majestic and make a token roundabout at this terminal. Private buses bound for Mangaluru, Mumbai, Pune and other destinations park right on Tumakuru Road near Goverdhan theatre and Jalahalli Circle, picking up passengers who wait near bus operator offices on the service road.

Motorists say the parked buses trigger massive traffic congestions on the highway, particularly between 8 pm and 10 pm. Traffic police struggle to manage the peak-hour traffic that spills over onto the service roads. “The congestion is so bad that even ambulances are stuck,” says Sai Kumar, a frequent commuter on that route.

A police matter

So, what prevented the state government from shifting private bus operators out of the city? Ramalinga Reddy says the decision should be taken by the city police. “It is a matter of the police. If they request us, we can make an announcement,” he says.

The private bus lobby is very powerful with high influence in the government, say long- time transport watchers. This has emboldened them to stay put and refuse to move out of the city's transport hubs.

But even if they move to the outskirts, is there any certainty that the private buses will not park on the sides of arterial roads? KSRTC satellite bus stations do not allow private buses, and unlike a few other parts of the state, there are no exclusive private bus stands on the outskirts.

Private bus stands

One solution would be to lease out vacant government land for the bus stands. “Since the state collects taxes from the bus operators, it has to provide some facilities. The operators too should spend on building some basic bus stand infrastructure. After all, they pass on the tax burden to the passengers,” contends urban mobility analyst Sanjeev Dyamannavar. But whether the powerful private transport lobby with high connections in the government is interested in such balancing acts is anybody’s guess.

Private bus pick-up points, a recipe for chaos

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