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Road Space and Road Density

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TrafficTraffic jams

While we are complaining that we are spending too much on roads, apparently, we dont have enough per this report

Road space in Indian cities is woefully inadequate: It is 18 percent of total city area in Delhi, 11.9 percent in Bangalore, 10 percent each in Mumbai and Chennai, and 6 percent in Kolkata. Ideally, road space should be closer to 30 percent

This has meant that the road density is consequently higher and hence more jams.

Equally alarming is India's road density. Hyderabad's, in southern India, is the highest with 2,337 vehicles per kilometer, while road space is merely 6 percent of the city's area. With over 10,000 new vehicles being added to the city roads (at least until the global financial crisis hit India), the problem is being compounded. The figure for Mumbai is 448, while it is 345 for Kolkata and 184 for Delhi. This is a bleak picture.

Are we wrongly complaining of too many vehicles while we are right in thinking we have too little road space?


idontspam's picture

Related news

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TOI: Till 2011-12, an investment need of Rs 36,146 crore has been estimated, of which the BBMP can sustain only Rs 8,889 crore. But the infrastructure needs are too heavy for the investment capacity. Hence, infrastructure development activities with the help of private participation (Swiss Challenge method) have been suggested

Naveen's picture

Interseting Stats

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"Ideally, road space should be closer to 30 percent".

I'm not sure where this ideal is derived from. In the older European cities, such as those in Italy (Rome, Venice, Milan, Verona, etc.) streets are very narrow & I doubt if they have as much as our cities. Much better street space management & restraining measures has resulted in no chaos at all.

I think the road area percentage requirement would depend largely on how efficient PTs are & how few use cars. Built up areas cannot be pulled down easily to make way for roads. In a way, it is perhaps a blessing in disguise that we have less road space in our cities since PTs will receive more attention, which is beneficial for the environment.

I wonder if there are similar stats available for other world cities, just for comparison.

das's picture

Rome, Venice, Milan - good examples

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Our policy should be:
1. Improve usage efficiency of existing road space.
2. Only then think of increasing the road space.

Our current road space usage efficiency is truly abysmal, and yet road widening is the only solution we can think of. I wrote this article on the issue some time ago.
Road widening - road to nowhere ?

Public transport is of course THE biggest soultion.

idontspam's picture

Living proof of what?

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It may be interesting to note the emptiness during the expansion was due to diversion in place during construction of BDA and Cunningham road underpasses underway at the same time. You should have walked over and taken a shot of Palace road at that time.

das's picture

Not sure what you mean

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Can you just elaborate on the point you're trying to make ?
idontspam's picture


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Your writeup seems to suggest there was no traffic even on a single lane of Sankey road during peak hour so there was no need to widen it. I am pointing out the fact  that the road looks empty because of the traffic diversion and not due to the clearing of traffic at cauvery jn as you seem to indicate.

However I agree with the point of needing to look at optimising traffic junctions before looking at the need to widen.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

High Court orders on road widening...

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Please have a look at our friend Leo Saldhana's PIL reg road widening.

We can wait for the final verdict?

- Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

idontspam's picture

Inadequate road space?

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Additionally when we do build magic boxes and make junctions signal free we are transferring the jam further down to the next signal. So unless we know for sure that traffic will dissipate or split after the junction we have to supplement with  higher bandwidth aka road widening. In case of sankey road most traffic will be heading towards airport and is a corridor. It was essential to have it of decent size. For our kind of population (both traffic and humans) arguably 3 lanes is "decent size" for corridors.

I would like to know everybodys views on wether we actually have inadequate road space in Bangalore as pointed out in my original post (quoting reports). What is ideal traffic population to target for a city of our size? Can we feasibly block off some intersections (especially smaller roads) from joining our main roads to keep number junctions in check?


Naveen's picture

PTs Govern Road Requirements

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I am still left wondering where the report quotes 30% for roads as ideal. I doubt if there are prescriptions for road space vis-a-vis city area. In this ever-changing world, with environment concerns now becoming more important, cities such as Seoul have dismantled roads with improved PTs.

I think the question really is how to cope with loads, expectations & income increases of the city's population in terms of mobility. I dont think one can infer that the available road space is sufficient or insufficient by any means. One thing is certain - our PTs have so far not be up to the task & have not been able to manage with what we have & the result has been an increase in the number of private vehicles - well beyond manageable levels.

I feel that our thought process should run along these lines:

This is what we have for a city & this is what we have for roads. How best can we manage with these without encouraging individual transport modes since this trend will most certainly imply more road infrastructure requirements in a never ending cycle.

When the ORR was opened (barely six years ago), we had imagined that it would suffice. Likewise, some may think that BETL will be enough for Hosur road-Ecity, but I'm quite certain that within a few years, much more will be required.

The correct solution, in my opinion, is to halt road development for now (except for repairs & maintenance) & concentrate much more on PTs. Any road improvements must be with a focus on making the buses move faster with exclusivity, rather than getting caught up in the traffic quagmire. Mixed traffic slows down buses much more than the more nimble 2-wheelers & cars & they keep losing the battle.

Unless PTs are improved substantially, we will always imagine that the available road space is insufficient & more is required without end.

idontspam's picture

30% or something else?

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I am still left wondering where the report quotes 30% for roads as ideal

If you meant how they came up with that number. I was hoping some of us here might know the ideal number. I couldnt find such a number anywhere on the web. But I would think it was based on some knowledgable information.

silkboard's picture

Road space vs fast roads

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In fighting road widening and pushing for PT, do we mix these two things?

  • Need for more road space in general
  • Need for "faster" roads

We need more road space. Going by the ratios in developed world, even the cities with good public transport, most our cities, with exception of Delhi (and the fabulous place where I grew up - Bokaro Steel City, and other steel townships like Bhilai, Tata Nagar :)) are short on road space (Take the norm to be 20% to 30%).

Adding more road space and making more flyovers and expressways in the city are not the same things

We need wider residential roads (think of those 4-5 m wide single lanes in Ejipura etc), reclaim space from the edges of so many roads with horrible usage patterns. And we need more signals on these roads, and more provision for pedestrians, bikes, seating etc

We need these roads in "deeper" areas of the city (central areas of city are anyway gone now, focus has to be peripheral areas now), in the hinterlands of big corridors, because then, you take the heavy load offcorridors and move"economic and residential activity to "deeper" regions.

A city road is not just the tarred portion for vehicles, it includes space pedestrians, bikers, and space to bring people together (seating, small spaces on pavemetns here and there for small events).

But, what we don't need on ad-hoc basis are "fast roads" (flyovers, signal-free etc). This type of new road capacity kills Public Transport.


  • Widening roads to speed up traffic is a short sighted activity - our opposition and scrutiny should be directed here.
  • But adding more Road space away from main corridors, and provisoning newly added or reclaimed road-space for other usages of roads (walking, biking) as well - this is part and parcel of controlling and managing development.


das's picture

Learn from cities that have 'Been there, done that'

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The emphasis on 'Moving automobiles' rather than 'Moving people' is decades-old thinking. This is what results in high speed roads and elevated highways.

Unfortunately, Indian cities believe in reinventing the wheel instead of learning from cities elsewhere in the world that have already gone down this route.

Here's an article that I wrote about how an 8-lane elevated expressway was built over a river in Seoul 30 years ago, and then torn down again 5 years ago to restore the river. Amazing saga, something Bangalore should learn from.

Nitinjhanwar's picture

Traffic Growth = % of Roads

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Maybe the above link will answer the queries.

But still one should go for

1.0 Public Transport

2.0 Encourage sharing mode of transport.

3.0 Stop the registration of vehicles in a city with saturation level of congestion.




das's picture

I still no agree

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My daily route back home is through Palace Rd. and Sankey Rd. (I live in Sadashivanagar, work in Jayanagar). I've been doing this for close to a decade now on my bicycle, and hence am very familiar with traffic patterns on a daily basis.

The traffic when I got the pic. was the same as before, not reduced by any diversion. The diversion was just before and after the BDA underpass. My point is that the earlier 2 lanes were enough to handle the traffic, there was no need for widening, and the congestion was solved by replacing two traffic signals by underpasses. The width of a road is its width at the narrowest point. This road is 2 lanes wide at the Windsor Manor bridge and after it till the Cauvery theatre, and less than that at the funny roundabout just before Windsor.

Sankey Rd. is actually seriously underutilized now.

I filed an RTI application after the two underpasses were built, and the BBMP in effect says the same thing that I'm saying here. Strangely, they still went ahead and widened the road.

They obviously forgot the mantra "First improve the efficiency of road space usage, then think of increasing road space". comment guidelines

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