To decongest roads, use public transport

The spectacular growth of vehicular traffic in developing countries has resulted in traffic congestion, pollution, longer journey times and increased road accidents. In the last couple of decades, Indian metropolitan cities have experienced rapid urbanisation, unprecedented growth of industry, commerce and employment and thereby the addition of millions of vehicles.

Today, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad have between them more than 25 million vehicles. But there has been no commensurate growth in road infrastructure. As a result, there are too many vehicles on the road occupying a limited space. So, the greatest challenge for civic authorities and police in these cities is traffic management, more than providing civic amenities and security to citizens.

Bengaluru, which is known for traffic congestion, has a population of nearly 12 million and some 7.5 million vehicles. The people-to-vehicle ratio is one of the highest in the country. Such a large number of vehicles without adequate road capacity is leading to traffic congestion, low average speed and longer journey times.

Traffic congestion is at its frustrating worst during peak hours in areas like Hosur Road, Bannerghatta Road, Old Madras Road, ITPL area, Nagawara and Koramangala Inner Ring Road, where thousands of employees of private companies commute to and from work in their own vehicles. Most of these vehicles have single-occupancy, but occupy considerable road capacity.

One of the key reasons for traffic congestion in Bengaluru is lack of an adequate public transport system. The city has some 6,500 public transport buses and around 40 km of metro rail connectivity.

According to the draft Revised Master Plan for Bengaluru–2031, the model share of public transport in total overall trips is only 48%. Private vehicles constitute 52% of the total 10 million trips per day in Bengaluru. Ideally, a city should have 75% of model share of public transport. In Mumbai, the public transport share of total trips is 82% due to a good commuter rail network. As a result, it has a lower proportion of private vehicles compared to Bengaluru.

It is known that public transport occupies less road space and causes less pollution per passenger-km than personal vehicles. As such, public transport is a more sustainable form of transport. Therefore, the stakeholder agencies should promote investments in public transport as well as measures that make its use attractive. BMTC should increase its fleet to 10,000 buses and the second phase of metro rail should be completed early.

This apart, the suburban rail system connecting areas outside the city and central areas needs to be introduced early. People should be encouraged to travel in public modes of transport by giving them incentives. World over, urban public transport is highly subsidised to make city travel cheaper and economical. People will shift from personal vehicles to public transport if it is a cheaper, faster option.

Further, Bengaluru has corridors that have varying densities of travel and hence need mobility modes that best match the level of demand on a particular corridor. This often requires different operators managing such systems. However, a good public transport system is one that is perceived by the user as a single system and allows seamless travel between one mode and the other as also between systems managed by different operators.

Such seamless travel is possible if proper interchange infrastructure is available and users are able to use a single ticket over all such systems. This also requires that a single agency takes responsibility for coordination so that there is a common approach to public transport planning and management.

There is a wide spectrum of public transport modes. At one end are high capacity, high cost modes like underground metro rail systems; at the other end are low-capacity bus systems running on a shared right of way. Within these extremes are a range of intermediate possibilities, such as buses on dedicated right of way, elevated sky bus and monorail systems, electric trolley buses, etc. While some of them are most effective over high density trunk corridors, others prove useful as feeder systems or sub-systems that serve limited sub-areas within a city. 

In Bengaluru, apart from completing the second phase of Namma Metro and increasing BMTC buses to 10,000, the suburban rail system should be developed. Passenger trains from Yeshwanthpur and Kengeri to Whitefield and to Kempegowda International Airport will encourage commuters to switch from personalised vehicles to public transport.

Major companies, especially in the IT industry, have a big role to play in encouraging their employees to commute using public transport system. Recent initiatives by some government agencies to observe Bus Day, No-Traffic Day, etc., are welcome moves to reduce dependency on private vehicles. A good economic and sustainable public transport system will definitely reduce vehicular traffic on roads and make the city more livable.

(The writer is Additional DGP, Crime and Technical Services, Bengaluru)

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