Hopes of seamless transport in Bengaluru pinned on BMLTA

Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority — which will bring agencies, such as BMTC, BMRCL, traffic police, BBMP, and BDA under one umbrella — is expected to improve coordination and planning among different transport and infrastructure development agencies

January 05, 2023 10:58 pm | Updated January 06, 2023 08:20 am IST - Bengaluru

Nearly 40 km of metro line will be operationalised this year, and it’s expected to benefit lakhs of commuters thereby decongesting road traffic.

Nearly 40 km of metro line will be operationalised this year, and it’s expected to benefit lakhs of commuters thereby decongesting road traffic. | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K.

Much before starting commercial operations, the Sir M. Visvesvaraya Railway Terminal at Baiyappanahalli hit headlines for its “airport-like look’ and “world class” amenities, including a centralized air-conditioned system. More than ₹300 crore was spent to build the terminal — which can handle over 50,000 passengers a day — in order to decongest other busy railway stations in Bengaluru.

Though the state-of-the-art facility has been operational for six months, connectivity remains a major concern. The approach roads won’t be able to handle such big volumes once the terminal attains full operational capacity. The civic body’s proposal to build a “rotary flyover” at a cost of ₹300 crore has remained on paper.

The authorities have been ridiculed for coming out with connectivity plans after completing and operationalizing the terminal instead of doing it in the conceptual stage.

Lack of proper integration

The lack of seamless access among different modes of travel is not new. The non-integration of the metro station and the railway station at Yeshwanthpur, as also the different modes of transport at Majestic are just two examples.

In one such case, after a gap of over three years, the Bangalore Development Authority recently resumed the work of adding more lanes to the Hebbal flyover. In 2019, the project was stalled after the BMRCL raised objections that construction of additional loops would come in the way of expansion of phase III, and integration of various modes of transport. The BDA then decided to redesign the project.

Land transport authority

Considering these issues, the State government decided to constitute the Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA) for the regulation of development, operation, maintenance, monitoring, and supervision of urban mobility within the Bengaluru metropolitan area.

“The National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP), 2014, recommends that cities with a population of more than 10 lakh have Unified Metropolitan Planning Authority,” said Manjula V., Commissioner, Directorate of Urban Land Transport.

The authority is headed by the Chief Minister, and will have 34 members, including two special invitees, and 10 non-official members, including the Transport Minister, Bengaluru in-charge Minister, heads of various departments, and others. Experts and citizen representatives are part of the authority, which will be aided by an executive committee headed by the chief secretary.

It will bring agencies, such as BMTC, BMRCL, traffic police, BBMP, and BDA under one umbrella. In the winter session, both the Houses of the Karnataka Legislature passed the BMLTA Bill, 2022. It states that the multiplicity of institutions, departments, and independent legislations, which they are bound to follow, are currently causing overlap in the responsibilities and functions, thereby impeding the process of streamlining and improving urban mobility.

Aloke Mukherjee, senior associate of World Resources Institute, says, “Now, transportation and civic agencies are functioning autonomously. Most of the time, they do not have a clear picture on what other agencies are planning or how they are executing projects. When these institutions come under BMLTA, there will be better coordination and planning. BMLTA has to look into aspects like an integrated platform to buy tickets for different modes of travel, and better route plans, so that Namma Metro and BMTC services complement each other.”

Expansion of metro network

BMLTA is being formed at a crucial time. This year, close to 40 km of metro line will be operationalized, covering areas like the two IT corridors: Whitefield and Electronics City. By 2025-26, phase II, and phase II A, and phase II B will be opened to the public. Opening of the ORR-Airport metro line is expected to decongest traffic.

Parallely, the Rail Infrastructure Development Company (Karnataka) Limited — K-RIDE — has begun implementing the much-delayed 148 km Bengaluru suburban rail project. In the first phase, the K-RIDE is working on the Baiyappanahalli-Chikkabanavara line.

Common ticketing system

With multiple modes of transport coming up, public transport systems have to complement each other. For years, Bengalureans have been demanding that BMRCL and BMTC integrate their ticketing systems. In the city, the metro has been operational since 2011, but both the agencies have failed to introduce an integrated platform.

Prof. Ashish Verma, convenor of IISc Sustainable Transportation Lab, said, “The BMLTA should review all public transport projects to avoid confusion and chaos. Private vehicle use has been increasing, and authorities continue to expand road networks to accommodate more vehicles. Construction of more flyovers should be discouraged, and use of public transport system encouraged.”

In the city, the vehicle population has already crossed the one crore mark.

Holistic planning

Manjula V., Commissioner, Directorate of Urban Land Transport., said, “The BMLTA Bill provides statutory powers to BMLTA for ensuring holistic planning for mobility through preparation of Comprehensive Mobility Plan, City Mobility Investment Programme, Annual Implementation Plan etc.; coordination between various agencies; development of standards and guidelines for mobility infrastructure and services; service level benchmarking; development of appropriate policies; integration of land use and transport planning; funding through Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority Fund to agencies for mobility related projects.”

BMRCL Managing Director Anjum Parwez said, “Constitution of BMLTA will address issues ranging from traffic to clearing transport projects. Deliberations on issues pertaining to transport system, policy issues, and others will help achieving better coordination.”

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