PIL AGAINST THE STATE GOVERNMENT
The City’s inhabitants have been subject to unscientific methods of traffic control & regulation that are relentlessly being pursued by the responsible authorities. This has seriously jeopardized pedestrian safety & movement on the streets. It has also increased dependence on private motorized modes for mobility, forcing people away from walking, bicycling & public transport. There has been minimal consideration for the welfare of pedestrians & bicyclists & negligible efforts at prioritizing public transport by the concerned authorities. This has led to a huge increase in the no. of motor vehicles in the city.
Sidewalks for pedestrians on major arterial roads that are being widened, such as Racecourse road & Seshadri road have deliberately been made very narrow & left uneven, reflecting low priority, whilst vehicle carriageways have been made excessively wide after increased road width available with land acquisitions.
Despite evidence & examples that such unscientific road development results in even more private motorized traffic that slows down movement of public transport & severely disadvantages walking & bicycling, the city corporation continues with these undesirable methods to deal with traffic & congestion. These unsatisfactory responses to the needs of the city by the city corporation must be stopped urgently as it has been causing a great deal of inconveniences to the general public. Unless this is halted, the quality of life in the city will keep deteriorating further.
The administrative structure & mechanisms have clearly failed & have not been up to the task. In fact, they appear clueless about steps to be taken to rectify the situation. A well coordinated & planned effort by all concerned agencies is what is required to address the urgent issue of street congestion in the city, but such a plan is yet to be prepared, though a study with recommendations has been ready for long.
RECOMMENDATIONS BY THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
To prevent such singular & one-sided attention & others from being ignored, the central government’s National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP-2006) had prescribed the formation of a unified Metropolitan Transport Authority to co-ordinate with various bodies & to halt such indiscriminate, unplanned responses that only aggravate problems. The State government had accordingly constituted the following bodies:
1) The State Directorate of Urban Land Transport [DULT], under the Urban Development Department vide Order No. UDD 134 BMR 2006 (I), dated 8.3.2007.
2) Bangalore Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA), vide Order No. UDD 134 BMR 2006 (2), dated 9.3.2007 with the following functions :
- To co-ordinate all land transport matters in Bangalore Metropolitan Region.
- To prepare a detailed Master Plan for Transport Infrastructure based on the Comprehensive Traffic and Transport Study (CTTS) for Bangalore.
- To oversee implementation of all transportation projects.
- To appraise and recommend transportation and infrastructure projects for bilateral / bilateral Central assistance.
- To function as empowered Committee for all Urban Transportation Projects.
- To initiate action for a regulatory framework for all land transport systems in BMR.
- To initiates steps, where feasible for common ticketing system.
- Take any other decision for the integrated urban transport and land use planning and Implementation of the projects.
However, the existence of these bodies for over 1½ years has had no effect so far & no steps have been taken to reverse this unsatisfactory trend. No attempts have been made to bring about much needed changes. Pedestrians & bicyclists continue to be losers, whilst public road transport has become time-consuming for commuters. Pollution levels have been worsening in the city.
Environment friendly measures that need to be promoted are being ignored. Cleaner, greener initiatives in the city & with road transport planning have so far been grossly inadequate with large increases in traffic volumes. Thus, the central governments’ policies & recommendations under the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP-2006) have not been adhered to & in fact, the city’s development has diverged away from NUTP-2006 guidelines. Norms for street planning, as outlined by Indian Road Congress (IRC) have also been ignored as pedestrian facilities have been seriously compromised with narrow, broken down sidewalks that are not in conformity with prescribed guidelines. There have been no bicycle-friendly initiatives as per NUTP-2006 & IRC guidelines. The green cover with shady trees by the street sides is being destroyed with each road widening.
Whilst BMRCL is constructing the first phase of a Metro-rail network based on previous study recommendations, other government bodies have ignored most other recommendations as outlined in the latest transport study (CTTS). The study had recommended a Commuter rail system (CRS) on existing rail tracks, a Bus rapid system (BRT) & also a Light-rail (or Monorail) system. None of these systems are being pursued nor planned yet, though it has been over 1½ years since the study had been concluded. The city corporation has, contrary to recommendations, turned it’s attention to provide ‘signal-free’ corridors on Bellary road (road to new airport) & on eastern half of Outer ring road for all traffic now – an effort echoing it’s past responses to increased traffic scenarios. Such recommendations were never made in the CTTS study report. Prioritized bus services, or BRT was what had been recommended on Bellary road & on eastern half of ORR.
1) Generally, the relevant transport bodies, such as BMTC, SWR & BMRCL, the body that is building the Metro-rail system, aided by the city corporation (BBMP) & the City Traffic Police must plan a complete shift out from the present stalemate. They need to work as a team with a common goal, with full coordination under the direction of BMLTA, the Unified Transport Authority for Bangalore Metropolitan Region (BMR).
2) Based on the recommendations from CTTS, all relevant bodies must together prepare a plan to relieve the city’s roads of excessive traffic. Such a plan must include development of all public mass transport systems with full details, & include measures to restrain traffic with TDM principles, as will be necessary once the Metro rail & other mass-transit system/s are operational in the city. Once a plan for decongestion & various mass transport route alignments & modes, etc. is ready, & agreed /accepted by all bodies, it must be well publicized for public support & objections, if any, & for eventual implementation. Once finalized, each body must adhere to it’s responsibilities as per the plan with no deviations, whatsoever, unless extraneous conditions warrant a shift, as agreed to, by all parties. All through these phases, the concerned agencies must coordinate & work with full co-operation with one another.
3) The plan developed as above must include alternatives in case construction of one or more of the various modes of mass transport lag behind in time.
4) Since the creation of DULT /BMLTA has had no impact whatsoever on the city’s road traffic & public transport administration until now, it is desirable that BMLTA be accorded more statutory powers to provide stable & full umbrella arrangements for overseeing all aspects for relieving congestion & public mass transport development, including scrutiny & approving various road development schemes by the city corporation (BBMP), whilst ensuring that future demand analysis that takes account of an operational Metro rail system & also Commuter Rail /BRT systems is mandatory for all future road developments.
5) Construction of phase-1 of the Metro rail project is expected to be completed by 2012 & trains would become operational from then on. The concerned authorities do not seem to have charted what feeder bus routes would be necessary to help commuters reach the Metro stations. The various bodies under BMLTA, particularly BMRCL, BMTC & SWR need to urgently commission a joint study & finalize bus feeder system requirements & routes for the Metro-rail for all phase-1 stations & commuter rail stations along routes that may become operational. Based on this study, near term road development programs can be finalized, instead of ad-hoc road widening, as has been the case to-date.
6) The various transport bodies also need to conduct a study well in advance before completion of construction of phase-2 of the Metro-rail (& phase-3, if there is a 3rd phase), to determine what feeder routes would be necessary, taking into consideration other modes of mass transits that might also come up by then.
7) The plan must also include a study to be carried out at an appropriate time to work on feasibility & for appointing a regulatory body to pave the way for privatization of bus services within the city as the no. of routes would be enormous with increased areas & shorter feeder routes, without any compromise to commuters’ interests.