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Namma Raste - road use efficiency

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Marathahalli bridge

Read in an email this morning that on 19th July 2008, a workshop on “Reclaiming Bangalore’s roads: Namma Raste” was jointly organized by Environment Support Group (ESG), CIVIC Bangalore and Alternative Law Forum at Vidyadeep, Ulsoor Road, Bangalore.

The context for this meeting was the PIL against BBMP over widening of 91 roads. Apparently, the claim is that the widening projects will increase average vehicle speeds from 8-10 km/hr to 40 km/hr (ref: material from ESG/HU - these should soon be up on ESG website, so I will save myself copy paste jobs here).

The workshop had over 90 participants, ranging from representatives of traders’ associations, resident association federations, and organizations working with the differently abled & for the urban poor, groups working on pedestrian rights, architects, schools, colleges and members of Hasiru Usiru.

I know there is a set of people who consider extreme environmental activism as anti-development. Put those biases aside for just a moment, and think about road widening efforts or flyovers that have come up in your area. Then, if you commute more than 5-6 km, tell us if your commute time has improved. Think and tell if there is enough proof that these projects help. Save for just a few flyovers, they don't!

I can give you an example from my area. My wife takes 45 mins today to do 9 km from Whitefield to IRR/Domlur area. It used to take asbout the same time (50 mins) to do Whitefield to Langford town two years ago. What has happened over last two years? Well, let me list them all

  • Airport is gone, and hence a lot of vehicles.
  • There is a new 6 lane railway overbridge at Marathahalli
  • Marathahalli market area road has now been 'widened'.
  • Airport road itself saw some limited 'widening'
  • The road from Kundalahalli to Marathahalli too has been 'widened'

Despite all this, the speeds have reduced, ~ 20 kmph, to 10 kmph in this example. When you discuss this with self proclaimed urban development experts, the reason given is - there are more people and vehicles now.

Okay, alright. But isn't that the problem we should be attacking here!? More you build, more they come - that just can't be the excuse for misguided investments with undefined RoI (return on investment). The effort has to be to reduce usage of private vehicles for office commute. Investments have to be go towards managing whatever road resources we have. Past all that, we can look at adding more road area.

Lets put a number to the efficiency with which we use our road resources (I will post a whole lot of pictures to prove this point). Remember our talk of entropy, turbulence and all that? Every 200 meters, you either have

  • encroached or missing pavement, leading to pedestrians on the road
  • car parked on the arterial road (tons at Marathahalli)
  • Some construction happening, with construction material spilling on to the road
  • Bikers riding wrong side, autos criss crossing, blah blah blah - you know all this too well.

I would say that Bangalore's road use efficiency is probably about 40%. What I mean to say is that if the traffic and road space was managed to perfection, we can handle the same number of vehicles with 40% of road space.

Now, do widened roads add to this efficiency? 5% increase in road area gives you 2% increase in capacity to handle vehicles. That 2% increase in capacity to handle vehicles can come from efforts to increase road use efficiency itself. The question of course is -

  1. How I arrived at these numbers, plus
  2. would it cost less to increase road use efficiency.

Lets collaborate on a paper right here to arrive at rough numbers on road use efficiency. But I am willing to bet that #2 is true. Its not just that it will cost less to invest in increasing road use efficiency, but, this approach has better guarantee of success than investing in widening more roads and building more meaningless flyovers.

I have not rested my case yet. I need help to build that road use efficiency number :)



s_yajaman's picture

SB - agree with you - driver sense is absent

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I will nominate BBMP for a Nobel Prize if they can increase the average speed to 40kmph - this means JP Nagar to Richmond Town in less than 20 mins.  They might be able to increase it in stretches but not along 10-12 kms.  They are talking through the hat here. 

I think there has been only one good flyover built in Bangalore - the Town Hall to Sirsi Circle flyover.  The rest have only served to transport concrete and steel to different parts of Bangalore and move bottlenecks from here to there.

The one-ways (the ultimate road widening) have done very little to alleviate congestion.  Unless people drive in a streamlined manner without getting into each other's way, we cannot expect great results.

Just today there was a report in TOI that Bangalore sits somewhere at the bottom (among Metros) in the pavement index.  Sadly there were no details by location.  I suspect Jayanagar will do well, Basavanagudi seems to have good pavements.  This road widening will kill any incentive for people to walk.  I was in Singapore last week and it was such a pleasure to walk about unmolested by cars and bikes and not having to dodge slush and muck.

MG Road used to have that beautiful promenade.  I hope it comes back post Metro work.   Our footpaths are truly disgraceful - uneven, garbage filled, narrow. 


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

Flawed short term thinking

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The aim of the Government should be to reduce personalised motor transport in Bangalore. Bangalore was not built to handle more then 4 million vehicles. If the Government is planning Metro, Mono, Commuter Rail, Bus Rapid Transit then there is no need to expand/widen roads.

On the other hand, technologies like underpasses / magic boxes should be properly utilised. Simple infrastructure like having more footpaths, simple median, working traffic signals should be given priority. Such infrastructure is usually called "minimally invasive" infrastructure.

As an example, there was some positives in the Malleswaram Underpass. Before the underpass came into existence, vehicles used to take the cross road which is 12 m wide as a thoroughfare causing maximum jams in residential areas.

After the underpass, the road has become very quite. Vehicles coming from Rajajinagar on Mahakavi Kuvempu Road use the underpass and commuting time has been reduced to a few minutes.

However, because other access roads and alternative roads have not been readjusted, there is even more jam in the beginning of Sampige Road near Swastik Circle.

Hence, IMO, it is not just important to build better road, it is very important to stimulate traffic through computer generated neural networks and other related satellite surveys before taking desicions.

silkboard's picture

the pavement index etc ...

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I think all those stats are coming from the Wilbur Smith study which is up (only executive summary) on Urban Development Ministry website. Trying to get hold of the full report, should be good input for driving our thoughts here.
blrsri's picture

road widening - no use

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as can be seen from SB's pic..the 3 lane road has been turned into a 5 lane traffic and this 3 lane road is shortened to a 2 lane road at the marthahalli junction and further down the road it becomes 2.5 lanes infront of BrandFactory and then again reduces to 1.5 lane near the temple/hump..

Instead all that is needed is to have a uniform 2 lane road with proper parking structures and bus bays and the traffic will be as smooth..whos to listen!

Also, the HAL airport road(from Trinity circle - ITPL) is the best candidate for an LRT route as it has few junctions unlike many other roads..just putting this line will remove all jams on this road!

idontspam's picture


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"Instead all that is needed is to have a uniform 2 lane road with proper parking structures and bus bays and the traffic will be as smooth"

You said it. So we go back to road engineering, marking, signs etc... all roads leading to chaos starts and ends with the above. How do we make the right people understand? Koti rupai prashne. We are still trying to find out who the right people are.

Vasanth's picture

Road widening no use

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Best solution lies in the guided transportation - preferrably elevated. I think BLRSRI is fan of light rail and seems to be pushing it. But, elevated guided rail in the form of full fledged Metro or Mono is the solution. Light rail again will get struck in signals and traffic jams.

Srivatsa's dream to travel at 40 km/hr atleast in the city can be only fulfilled by these means - not even ferrari on the road.

blrsri's picture

monorail is fine too

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The only reason I stick to LRT is because of it prevalance..apart from Vagas/Disneyland/Kualalumpur and some japanese ciites..monorail has not made much impact.. Seattle monorail project was also shelved..may be the whys could be a different topic for discussion

For me the industry corridors need guided transport EC and ITPL area..this will stop mindless commutes!

Ravi_D's picture

Efficiency Number!

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Irrespective of our choice of methods of moving people (and let us not forget materials), we need to know what we have on hand.

Let me not repeat what I wrote here and here. SB makes a good point about the efficiency number. Where do we stand on that number scale now? What would a good number to aim for?

I'm not sure if anyone has properly recorded data and analyzed quantum of traffic moving in Bangalore from a birds-eye-view perspective. When it comes to fixing the issues, a lot of 'constraints' we (and to their excuse, city officials) claim are 'self-inflicted!'. We did it to ourselves. By not thinking the whole thing. We should do something more concrete. Any patch fix will pave way for another 'contraint' excuse later.

How do we go forward? Prajegale, do we have enough expertise and resources to arrive at these numbers from within this group? Is it a Transportation WG type of a project?



silkboard's picture

Forget monorail LRT etc

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Yes, its all internlinked, public transport is the long term solution. But we can do a lot more even before bringing in LRT, mono, and even BRTS (asj's point) etc. Lets focus only on that in this thread.

The key here is to get "streamline" or "laminar" flow of traffic going on our roads. This is blrsri's point about having uniform two lanes, guaranteed to be free of any obstruction. Order breeds order, and chaos chaos. Naysayers will say - a pedestrian will jump in there, a rick will drive wrong way there - but its all managable. Once people get a taste of the benefits of "reduced "entropy", they would want more.

To prove the point, we need to work with traffic police and BBMP to mark out a small area as pilot. No road building. Small investments to mark lanes, enforce parking, and free the pavements of everything but pedestrians. And, this wouldn't be a signal free corridor, but, with a signal every 1 - 1.5 kilometer. This will make people buy the 'concept'.

Above is already in play at select stretches. In fact, airport road was almost like that. Airport road managed more vehicles than it does today after HAL has shut, ask those who use the road. Why? becuase the enforcement has softened now.

A 15-20% gain in efficiency will create enough "space" for BMTC to move its buses faster. Increase in road use efficiency coupled with work to get BMTC plan its routes better and planned investments in things like TTMC - this itself can rid Bangalore of the congestion problems, and buy us 5-6 years to build LRT, mono, BRTS etc in planned way (as opposed to knee jerk mode - which is natural as everyone wants quick fixes and high budget projects)

Now, about building the Road use efficiency number, we need data.

Key would be

  • total road length + area in Bangalore
  • total # of vehicles on the road
  • average speed
  • people being ferried in those vehicles

Comparing above stats for a few cities in India and world will be a good start.

I need that Wilbur Smith paper - can anyone help me get a copy. 

tsubba's picture

intersections! intersections!!

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P, if there is some journal in which that paper is in i can try to see i can access it through my account. quick search says it is now a govt document. perhaps not openly accessible unless you start praja dilli. :) one more thing. work on intersections. very very crucial. very crucial. did i say that is the fundamental thing? very important to understand that intersection design is a traffic engineering problem not a road engineering problem. intersection is traffic management 'hardware'. at the traffic flow level, need to think in terms lane network not road network. onece you start thinking in terms of lane network, it become obvious that intersection design is crucial. midblock between intersections vehicles dont dwell, they move. mostly in the same direction. perhaps different vehicle times limits speed but it moves. real conflict arises at the intersections. and therefore througput of the network is controlled by intersections. slip lanes and turning lanes can increase throughput of the network by factors. very very well researched result and fairly intuitive really. lane network will take time and regulation. as a first step perhaps we can think in terms right of way widths(ROWW) and standardize that. class1 12x3=36 feet ROWW. class2 = 12x2=24 ft ROWW. class3 12 ft ROWW. standardize through out the city. not one feet more not one feet less. if you have road that is 43feet roww. mark off the extra 7 feet. work on intersections with this standard in mind.
s_yajaman's picture

Good idea SB

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Your idea is probably what we need to go to Mr. Sood with. The chaos Bangalore has reached unmanageable proportions.  As he said, he gets suggestions everyday.

What we need to do is to pick one area in Bangalore and come out with a comprehensive plan to manage the traffic there - traffic lights, lanes, discipline, pedestrian crossings, bus stops, the works.


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

kbsyed61's picture

s_yajaman, I second your suggestion..

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".....What we need to do is to pick one area in Bangalore and come out with a comprehensive plan to manage the traffic there - traffic lights, lanes, discipline, pedestrian crossings, bus stops, the works..."

I second what s_yajaman has suggested. We need to demonstrate that we would like to work beyoind suggestions and our suggestions mean something. Unless these are tried out on an experimental basis, you would not know the practical difficulties and ease in implementing the suggested solutions.


blrpraj's picture

I second s_yajaman

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I had suggested that approach before, we need to drill down to a street level in an area and proceed from there - see this comment and this one


idontspam's picture

Somebody was wrong!

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I cant find the comment where somebody in BMTC said bus bays was not in IRC.. he needs to go read... I have laid my hands on IRC 86 and here is what is says

6.2.10. Busbays : Busbays should not be located too close to intersections. It is desirable that they are located 75 m from the intersection on either side preferably on the farther side of the intersection.

Busbays should be provided preferably by recessing the kerb to avoid conflict with moving traffic. The length of the recess should be 15 m for single bus stop with increase of 15 m for each extra bus for multiple bus stops. The taper should be desirably 8 but not less than 1: 6. The depth of the recess should be 4.5 m for single bus stop and 7 m for multiple bus stop. Suitable arrangement should be made for drainage of surface water from bushays. Sufficient footpath should be ensured behind the busbays


silkboard's picture

it was me

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IDS, it was me, but I was only re-stating what Mr Upendra Tripathy told us when we had met him. I have photoyogi, Murali, Vasanth, Naveen to back this up. We had asked him why the Hosur elevated Road (BETL) or other elevated roads as well as non elevated roads (Bellary Road) are not being designed with regular bus bays. That is when he had said this IRC thing.

See, more we learn, share and spread awareness, better it gets.

IDS, possible to upload IRC here on Praja? If its legal to do so (should be, it should be a public domain document), mail over to admin at praja dot in.

tsubba's picture


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aha!! i told you so. irc does talk about bus bays. thanks ids for conforming. the real question is how binding is the irc? looking at the roads themselves its hard to identify any standards. so how do standards work? in theory and in practice. if i am a guy managing roads in my city, where is my copy of the irc rule book? on my table? in my book shelf? in the public library? or in the book store?
rkay's picture


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I wonder what IRC says about road intersections.  In Blore, a typical layout follows the classic grid pattern with each and every "cross" road intersecting with the "main" road.  That is extremely inefficient for traffic movement on the "main" road - look at the mess on the current ORR.  Why don't they have specifications so that the main arterial roads do not have all the sundry cross roads intersecting them?   That way you can distribute traffic flow along multiple roads and merge them to the main road at reasonable intervals - a few kms apart.

blrpraj's picture

guys this article is a must read

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Eventhough this is an old article from 2003 it worth reading;%20July%2013,%202003_%20The%20Week.htm

I partly disagree with this comment coming from IIT professor Dinesh Mohan in the last section of the article ->

Cars transport less than 20 per cent of people in all the cities, but they are given most importance. By giving importance to this minority, we are polluting and killing people. This is an example of undemocratic policy-making.

While he is right about cars transporting lesser number of people what he is missing is that our roads are so badly designed and maintained that they do not give importance or priority to anybody. Since he has travelled to 60 countries as he as stated here -> Every country is proud of saying that it is a set of bad drivers. It is not special to India. I have visited about 60 countries. "  he should know how in many countries a high volume of cars coexist with pedestrians with properly designed roads & sidewalks.


tsubba's picture


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when tsunami happens or mumbai floods our people show order in public space. natural order. its not useful for us to compare ourselves with other people.we are not the chinese or other east asians. and inshaallah we shall never be. we shall for ever be known as the original cacophonous race. on roads we need order because to be cacophonous we need to be alive. the only question what sort of order we evolve for ourselves. i think lack of enforcement if the most fundamental thing. 0.1*rules + 0.9*enforcement = order. enforcement includes manning, education, 'hardware'(if you want people to follow lanes then first draw lanes on roads). enforcement means $$$. comment guidelines

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