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Part II: Traffic Restraining Measures

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Traffic restraining measures
CTTP Section 7.14.1 (Reducing Private Vehicle Use) states “There are two ways to restrain the growth of private vehicles on road: either by pricing policy or by providing better level of service on public transport”, & recommends the following, amongst other measures : Parking facilities provided /planned in side the CRR should only be for Short term parking with high hourly charges.
Congestion Charges be imposed on slab-scale from private vehicles entering first the ORR and then the CRR.

The excessive growth in private vehicles in the city has resulted in serious health & safety problems. Bangalore is now being referred to as a ‘Car dependent’ city. This growth in vehicle population is due to many factors including the absence of tolls for bridges & flyovers, the prevalent undercharging for road use, uncontrolled & free parking, etc. There are no policies in place that involve any use of traffic restraining measures, save for some prohibitions against trucks & goods vehicles on some roads at certain hours. Thus, there are no disincentives whatsoever to restrain motor vehicle use. The social harm & costs for using motor vehicles & road space have also never been gauged.

The world over, it has been demonstrated in many cities that providing capital intensive forms of comfortable off-street mass transport (such as Metro /Monorail or Light rail) does not automatically result in a reduction of private vehicles. Several traffic restraining tools still need to be used to divert private vehicle users to take up public modes of commuting, however politically difficult & inconvenient this might be, & generally based on some calculus that results in lower price, shorter travel time, comfort, convenience, etc. that makes public transport more attractive.

It is clear from the CTTP report (Table 6.3) that even if all recommended mass transit routes, etc. are developed, it would still result in the share of daily trips by cars & two-wheelers to increase from 2006 levels of 4.2 & 18.4 lakhs to 7.0 & 20.6 lakhs by 2025 due to increase in the city’s population & the corresponding increase in the no. of daily trips, although in percentage terms, they would drop to 5.5 & 16.2% from 7.5 & 32.8% respectively. A part of this increase will have to be absorbed with only the present road inventory within CBDs /ORR merely by augmentation of existing roads as creation of additional roads will not be possible within CBDs /ORR (the elevated CRR appears to have been abandoned). This implies that traffic congestion will worsen unless traffic restraints are enforced to bring down the no. of road vehicles.

On street priority to public transport, if enforced will serve as an effective traffic restraint & encourage public transport use. If bicycle /pedestrian facilities are to be upgraded, road space for motorized vehicles may have to be reduced, & this could be another positive restraint. In addition to the existing vehicle taxation, if fuel taxation is introduced /increased, it may have better potential to serve as road use fees & is capable of being used as an effective instrument for restraining traffic. Tolls & congestion /cordon pricing (as recommended in the CTTP report & which has been successful in many cities worldwide) need to be considered very seriously. Measures such as much higher & variable parking fees within ORR /CBDs also need to be focused on. Funds raised through these measures could be useful & can be invested for street improvement programs in a closed loop.

The objective should obviously be to sway & push all groups of commuters to take up public transport for their daily commutes & use private vehicles generally only to reach a bus stop or rail station, or for the ‘weekend family outing’, etc. based on much higher costs & longer travel time for such private trips. If these goals are set, pursued & achieved, it would make capital hungry mass transit systems to operate without subsidies by economics of scale. This is perhaps yet another reason why traffic restraints are a necessity – mass transits involve investments amounting to billions of dollars & the outcomes have to be productive with large passenger volumes & substantial revenues to meet operating costs, expansions /modernization & for debt servicing whilst minimizing financial risks & to improve efficiency & competitiveness of the city. The Laissez Faire approach being followed with no traffic regulation or restraint will not yield any of these desirable results. Trains will be running with passenger volumes much below projections & well below designed capacities with meager revenues, such as the MRTS in Chennai, or the Delhi & Kolkata Metros, necessitating government subsidies – whilst the local governments have continued to argue that they have fulfilled their obligations by providing transport, & it’s the public that has to do the rest.

Whilst the transition to a stifled, discipline–imposing approach from the present unrestrained road supply–oriented sort of development can be a formidable task, it is also clear that there are no choices but to gradually enforce traffic restraints as & when better quality public transport alternatives are made available. It will never be possible to end traffic congestion by widening roads or building new ones – the city cannot ‘build’ its way out of the problem – additional road construction without traffic restraint mechanisms has only resulted in even more traffic congestion – this is generally true worldwide.

Lastly, the city now no longer needs to appear competitive & business friendly, at least as far as restraining traffic is concerned. Business investments are flowing into the city as usual, & will probably improve if congestion is dealt with some harsh measures & reduced successfully – Singapore is an example for this. Efficient, time-saving public transport is the key to address congestion problems, even at the expense of private vehicles – this is obvious & is being demanded now by most business heads. Urban experts, such as Professor Badami, have emphasized the same, time & again in many forums.

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