A mobility wish list for 2022

A mobility wish list for 2022

Hyper-congestion, poor walkability and faulty designs have trapped the city's teeming millions in an inglorious mess. Will 2022 be any different?

For decades, the wannabe smart city has struggled to put in place a robust, caring mobility policy that ought to have made commute a safe, comfortable and seamless affair. Credit: DH Photo

Urban mobility analysts contend that a change is possible in the new year if priorities shift with the focus clearly on sustainable options. They see winds of change in new laws being drafted to bring non-motorised transport back to the spotlight, but insist on a clear roadmap for timely implementation.

15,000 buses

In the words of urbanist Ashwin Mahesh, the focus should also be on public transport. “We have only about 6,000 buses, and even these operate in shifts. The city needs at least 13,000 to 15,000 buses going by the rule of thumb that every one lakh people require about 120 buses. Currently, we don't even have 50% of that fleet.”

The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), he points out, is now essentially a service limited to commuters inside the Ring Road. “Outside the ring road, the BMTC service is quite poor. Since 60% of the population of the metropolitan region now lives outside the ring road, more than half the city is without an adequate transport service provider,” Ashwin explains.

Doubling the existing bus fleet is critical for another reason: The radial Namma Metro lines essentially run along the same road path.

Inevitably, these gaps have forced people to switch to personal, private motorised vehicles. But, as Ashwin reminds, many of these 'motorised' trips can be eliminated through a smart boost of walkability and cycling.

1,500 walkable streets

The smart city road upgrades now in progress might give an impression that the transformation is just a few months away. But the need is to scale up. “There is no point in doing 10 or 15 streets under the TenderSURE / Smart City projects.”

“If we want to improve pedestrian mobility, we need to do it on 1,500 streets,” he says. “It has to be a city-wide programme. How smart is doing it for less than one per cent of the city?”

The thrust should also be on continuity. “Every street that is 60ft or wider should have a minimum of 2m wide footpath and it has to be continuously walkable. In many neighbourhoods, in the name of footpaths, they have built something but nobody actually walks on them because they are not walkable. They are more like decorated drain covers,” elaborates Ashwin.

For the city's Bicycle Mayor and Citizens for Sustainability (CiFoS) founder Sathya Sankaran, 2022 holds a lot of promise. “There are at least three major developments that might help the mobility situation in Bengaluru. One of this is definitely the draft BMLTA (Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority) bill.”

BMLTA bill

The regulatory body required to coordinate with all the agencies and deliver better outcome for the public has been in the works for more than 10 years now, he points out. “It is really heartening to see that the time has come. Hopefully, this will turn around the way our city is built.”

But this alone as an authority is not enough, says Sathya. “The Trasit Oriented Development (TOD) policy, which surfaced in 2021, could be very useful. Both the BMRCL, and DULT have been championing this.”

He explains, “With the suburban train, the bus, and a lot of micro mobility modes coming together, the TOD is a very important step. The whole built form needs to start revolving around mainline transport modes. We already have 100-110 transit nodes, and we need to start building around transit nodes. Without strong linkage between transport and built form, we are going to continue to suffer and make a lot of mistakes.”

Active Mobility Bill

The Active Mobility Bill drafted recently to protect the rights of pedestrians and cyclists is another move that could be decisive, notes Sathya. “If we can pass these bills, both in the budget and monsoon sessions that are coming up, 2022 can be a turnaround year for setting in motion some key aspects of mobility.”

The three legislations could form the fulcrum around which the whole paradigm can shift around mobility, says Sathya, sounding doubly optimistic about the new year.

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