Bengaluru

Quality of life, liveability should be central goal in urban development intervention

To ensure seamless connectivity, the city needs to move towards a single public transport agency that operates all the various public transport modes.

To ensure seamless connectivity, the city needs to move towards a single public transport agency that operates all the various public transport modes.

Like other Indian mega-cities, Bengaluru is also facing acute transportation issues: traffic congestion, delays, high travel time, and issues connected to transportation – degrading air quality, quality of life, negative health impacts and higher carbon emissions.

The problems in the transportation system are mainly due to a huge imbalance of travel demand and supply, and due to predominance of traditional road infrastructure-based interventions such as road widening, flyovers/underpasses, elevated road corridors that the State government and urban local bodies of Bengaluru have adopted in the last few decades. This has led to increased use of personal mobility modes, such as cars and two wheelers, trapping the city in a "vicious circle of congestion".

World over, such supply-based measure are no longer considered to be sustainable and are not seen in the future action plan of cities. However, the aspirational phase of Indian society is still contributing to this formation of circle of congestion.

To overcome this, the city needs a combination of measures at the policy, planning, and infrastructure level that will help us achieve a desired ‘push-and-pull’ effect in terms of influencing the mode choice of people towards more sustainable options like public transport, walking, and cycling.

Ashish Verma is Associate Professor, Transportation Systems Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science

Ashish Verma is Associate Professor, Transportation Systems Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science

To achieve this, the government’s focus and budgetary provision should be completely on prioritising the movement of public transport (buses, metro, suburban rail) and walking and cycling and scaling up their good quality network supply.

Further, road conditions and road accidents remain key concern in this city, mainly due to poor workmanship of civic authorities and lack of road safety provisions and traffic law enforcement. In fact, the recent decision by the State government to slash traffic fines is extremely unfortunate and will prove counter productive towards any improvement in road related accidents and deaths.

When the political alignments are also correct (same political party at Centre, State, and BBMP), this is the best opportunity to rejuvenate the individual quality of life and liveability of the city that Bengaluru used to have by making them as the central goal for any urban development intervention that government wants to do in Bengaluru, including with respect to urban transport.

To begin with, important projects and interventions that have been stuck or delayed due to political misalignment or bureaucratic hurdles should be fast-tracked, which includes speedy implementation of the suburban rail system and Phase II and III of Namma Metro, and fast tracking the smart city project. Further, recent political will shown to prioritise movement of buses on bus priority lanes should be extended on network level to cover all arterial and sub-arterial roads of Bengaluru and with strict enforcement of the priority lanes. Also, BMTC fares should be subsidised at least to the extent that they become cheaper than the same travel done by a two-wheeler.

A good quality, safe, and comfortable infrastructure for walking and cycling is an essential intervention required to make the city more liveable. No road or junction crossing should be left out of this intervention. More importantly, this opportunity should not be misused to again push large road infrastructure projects in the name of solving traffic congestion problems, except to improve the surface quality and longevity of the existing roads.

However, the biggest hurdle to transforming Bengaluru into a truly liveable city continues to be the fragmented governance of urban transport. With multiple agencies handling urban transport function with often overlapping and unclear responsibilities and with urban transport interventions often decided based on political requirements rather than scientific judgement, achieving a seamless and integrated transport system still remains far from reality.

We need to move towards a single public transport agency that operates all different public transport modes in the city to provide seamless connectivity, which otherwise is practically difficult to achieve when each public transport mode is operated by different agency (BMTC, BMRCL, etc.). Further, every new government talks about a unified body Unified Metropolitan Transportation Authority in different avatars, but nobody has delivered so far. It is high time to make it happen now.

Another fundamental flaw we have in management of the traffic system is traffic police handling the technical function of traffic management without any technical capacity and know-how within the organisation other than the practical experience of traffic personnel on the road. This is certainly not the way such complex issue of traffic management is handled globally.

While traffic law enforcement remains the core responsibility of traffic police, for matters of traffic management, we need a dedicated traffic control and management centre having people with the right background of transportation engineering/traffic engineering, data sciences, etc. to do justice to the complex task of efficient traffic management.

(This is part of a series on how Bengaluru has changed in the last decade)


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Printable version | May 29, 2022 1:56:59 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/quality-of-life-liveability-should-be-central-goal-in-urban-development-intervention-including-urban-transport/article30391452.ece