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Is a surface LRT system suitable for Bangalore ?

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TrafficPublic Transport

The city is desperately in need of some additional form of mass transport system to feed the Metro. The choice is essentially between Monorail, LRT or BRT. Some of us believe that a surface LRT is suitable for Bangalore, & that it can assist in reducing street congestion.

Any kind of mass public transport can work, provided everything is thought of & the act is put together with well-coordinated efforts by the many agencies involved. For surface systems, this will also mean educating all of the public to understand how to conduct themselves on the streets with these new systems in place. The no. of people on our streets is very large indeed, be they pedestrians or people within cars or on two-wheelers, three-wheelers or on buses. A large proportion out of this are poor, uneducated residents – laborers, daily-wage workers, hawkers, etc. who have to primarily worry about day-to-day living necessities.

We see vehicles mowing down pedestrians. We also see pedestrians not bothering about movement of traffic. Accidents are too many & street space is scarce – this is the existing situation now even with the better maneuverable road vehicles that can steer clear of pedestrians, if & when required, but the rush is paramount for everyone.

The idea for mass-transits going elevated is to “add” to capacities rather than “share” the scarce & insufficient road infrastructure. I have seen many LRTs in operation (Berlin, Vienna, Antwerp, etc.). All these operate on fairly wide roads with an educated, disciplined populace that allows right of ways to public transport as almost second nature & where pressures due to excessive poor, uneducated pedestrians is not as high as it is in Indian cities. If we can have this degree of discipline on the streets, sure, LRT will work even with the very large no. of people on the streets !

The cities that are adding LRTs are mostly medium sized, well spread out ones with proportionately larger road areas & not congested, dense cities. Bangalore’s problem is that there are too many people, too many complicated street intersections, narrow streets with little scope for widening, sharp turns, etc. The denser cities which had trams have mostly all dismantled them as trams obstruct movement of other types of road traffic & pedestrians.

Thus, is LRT a good choice ? The first attempt to provide a mass transit had been an effort to make an “addition” by elevating the Light rail. Though this attempt failed, the point remains valid even today. Subjecting streets to further pressures with surface rail systems may hamper & complicate traffic movements.

For me, the ideal choice is of course elevated Monorail that comes with the additional benefit of investors building & operating it on the lines of BOT or PPP models. BRT is a second choice due to much lower costs & more flexibility, though it takes away some street space. LRT, of course is the last option due to high costs, requiring funding by the state, & for the reasons mentioned above.


srinidhi's picture

wheres the monorail..?

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If Monorail is indeed that efficient..why arent there many implementation of them outside airports and theme parks??

I guess as you suggest above we first need to list out the issues with the existing modes of transport and then with that decide the right mode(Mono/BRT/LRT) instead of starting with the mode first!

However PPP is the mantra these days as the govt doesnt want to spend any money and as you say, if Mono finds interest with the private can have its way!

idontspam's picture

My question too...

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why arent there many implementation of them outside airports and theme parks??

Exactly, What is it that we are convinced about, that the rest of the world isnt?

Naveen's picture

Monorails are in Use for Urban Transport

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Normal 0

There are currently 13 monorail systems in operation for public transport (excluding those that are in use at theme parks, airports, zoos, etc.): Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Seattle, Sydney, Qiongquing, Osaka, Tokyo, Tama, Hiroshima, Naha, Kokura, Chiba City & Kuala Lumpur.

It is true that Monorail technology has suffered from significant operational & financial difficulties in the past. The designs were by European & American makers, originally. Instead of ushering in an era of clean & rapid public transport for urban use, monorails have had an uneven history with limited corridor lengths that have proven to be financially unsustainable. This is because development of the technology earlier was intended for use in theme parks or airports, zoos, etc, which were then tried to be used for public transportation. Higher fares could not be collected when Monorails were employed for such public use.

Technologies such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) have delivered quality services at rational costs to a long list of cities (Bogotá, Brisbane, Curitiba, Guayaquil, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Paris, Rouen, Seoul, Guangzhou, etc.), but use up street space. This is a big disadvantage in cities which are congested or do not have sufficient road widths to allow for separate BRT tracks. Monorail has not yet achieved the same record of success in implementation or performance, no doubt.

Japan was the first country that successfully used Monorails for mass public transportation. An indigenous firm in Malaysia (Mtrans) had begun constructing less expensive models & has been attempting to hard-sell the system, agreeing to meet all building costs on financial models similar to BOT or PPP. This led to many Asian cities looking more seriously into this option since they do not need to invest heavily into the system.

Some of the advantages of monorails include:

·         Relatively quiet ride performance (since monorails actually use rubber tire technology for traction with the median rail).

·         Excellent safety record in systems to date (the nature of the technology means that a derailment is nearly impossible).

·         Sophisticated image that can help attract discretionary public transport users, such as car users.

The disadvantages are similar to elevated Metro-rail:

·         Infrastructure costs can be expensive (especially when compared to Bus Rapid Transit).

·         As an elevated system, it can create access issues for customers moving from the surface level to platform, unless escalators are used.

·         Visual intrusions in the urban environment.

·         Emergency evacuation can be difficult (side foot tracks will be necessary all along the routes, as for elevated Metro).

·         Limitations due to rail switching.

Monorail technology does hold many intriguing performance aspects as well as an image that can potentially be attractive to quality seekers, especially car owners. While the Malaysian monorail system has experienced financial difficulties, there is a glimmer of hope that these systems can evolve into well-performing, lower-cost services, as is being envisioned now.

Scomi has released a new design (the Sutra), which they claim is designed for urban mass transportation, with higher passenger capacity, lower operating costs & energy efficiency.

For Indian cities, there is perhaps an opportunity to try these systems at favorable terms since other fixed guide systems when elevated can be more expensive than Monorail. Mumbai became the first city to confirm a Monorail system. Many other cities, including Bangalore are also showing interest in the system.

srinidhi's picture

LRT can work!

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"A tram service tends to control traffic whereas a bus service is controlled by traffic"

Interesting read on how Boston which has narrow roads like bangalore decided on the green line..

idontspam's picture

LRT ignorance

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I did not know how effective an LRT could be until I had used them. LRT is an extension of trams and is also called tram-trains but often get confused for the slowmoving calcutta type trams. It has come a long way since then. Read more about it here and try the links on the site.

The best part I like about light rail is it can be dedicated like BRT but also mixed with surface traffic, all the time utilizing surface level streets, zero carbon footprint and sharing low floor pavement stations(easier for disabled and older people). No need to build elevated station infrastructure or lay pillars in the city. If it needs to go overground in selected places then it can go on pillars but can be quickly bought back down to share the street. It beats mono/buses/BRT buses on capacity and is comparable to a metro train.

Naveen's picture

Ignorance about Realities

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We, in India have our own constraints as summarized above. Our constraints are not just road widths, but the very large percentage of poor who are not educated enough to understand & allow an efficient transport system to operate freely on the streets. Being poor, their needs are to somehow make ends meet & will not worry about right of ways for trains, or even road traffic for that matter (as is the case now). This section keeps adding as rural migrants pour into cities, & it will take several decades to educate all, if at all this is possible. The traffic is also highly indisciplined & excessive with the very large population in cities & this will remain so for several decades.

When we cannot operate much smaller, slow moving trams on the streets in Calcutta satisfactorily, how can we expect longer, faster LRTs to work any better ? These trains might actually be slower than the Calcutta trams if tested on bangalore's roads due to more complexities with so many frequent intersections. What we need is a system that moves people within the inner city areas where Metro does not pass & also has interfaces with the Metro for providing solutions for commuting within the city.

Apart from this, are there any private parties who will finance construction & operate LRT in India, as most monorail makers are ready to do ?

Whilst these LRT systems might be possible solutions & may work well elsewhere (such as at Boston, Stockholm or in european cities), it does not automatically mean that they will operate well in our cities - ie. seeing a system work well somewhere does not imply that it can be taken for granted that it will also work well here.

I think one needs to be realistic & try to better understand what our constraints & needs are & also be open to all forms of mass-transits before concluding that LRT is the only option - it is one of several options that are working well in many cities abroad, where demographics are very different.

I still believe it is unsuitable for bangalore for the reasons mentioned above.

idontspam's picture

Wrong accusation

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before concluding that LRT is the only option

Which post of mine ever stated that? Please point to the post.

Naveen's picture

LRT Focus Only

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With all due respect, all your posts have been solely about the effectiveness & benefits of only LRT without any consideration for benefits that other systems offer, such as financing models, no use of street space, quiet & pollution free operation (similar to LRT), etc.

You are not the only one impressed with LRT - I am equally impressed by the way they perform, sharing street space with other traffic. In european & american cities, traffic is more homogenous than here & highly diciplined. Not just LRT, even for buses, cars slow down & stay behind buses to facilitate their easy exit from a stop when he flashes his street side light. Such high levels of discipline can never be expected from our traffic - it is of course a dream that someday we will also have such high standards of discipline, but our poverty & the very large population in our cities is the major obstacle & this will take a very long time to resolve, if at all.

I have also used Monorail at Sydney, Chiba & Kuala Lumpur & BRT at Rouen & Guangzhou. Thus, I have seen & experienced quite a few systems & compared their advantages & disadvantages relative to our needs & the many problems that we face.

Based on my personal comparisons, I believe that it is best to leave the street as it is since there is far too much load on it, as it is, not to mention the constant digging for various pipes & cables since our infrastructure is awfully weak & upgrades will continue (sewerage, telephone, fibre-optics, etc.) for a long time.

I had not accused you of anything - in fact, you accused me of ignorance about LRT even after I had mentioned that I had also used the system in several cities in europe.

idontspam's picture

points to ponder

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all your posts have been solely about the effectiveness & benefits of only LRT

Yes because this is a thread on LRT. I have always propounded we need multiple modes and LRT is an option that should be considered. So it is not fair to say everybody who has a view about LRT on and LRT thread is against other forms. Clearly I have used mono and I am not impressed.

I believe that it is best to leave the street as it is since there is far too much load on it,

You have the right to have your view and you make some fair points which must be considered before choosing LRT.

in fact, you accused me of ignorance about LRT

No you took it personally because I realize now you started this thread.


srinidhi's picture

plight of japs on trains!!..

180 users have liked.
funny piece..what if this happens on the monorail in blr..ppl force might topple the train itself!! comment guidelines

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