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PIL - To Sort out the Transport Mess

[Note: Work in progress - Copied from an email exchange, needs to be merged with the the PIL draft itself]

Our basic complaint is ----- 

In the past, the authorities had been trying to address street congestion only by expanding common use roadways & building flyovers – what normally would seem an easy solution to overcome such problems, apparently. However, this is a temporary measure, at best, & such responses by them were obviously incorrect in the first place. The correct response should have been to expand roads, whilst simultaneously work on solutions that try to keep a check on the growth in traffic, such as by charging high parking fees or by bringing in parking restrictions, controlling supply of parking slots, allocating lanes for buses as & when roads were being widened, creating infrastructure for faster bus movements (such as bus-only overhead ramps or underpasses), creating better pedestrian & bicycle infrastructure, & charging high for private vehicle ownership (high, annual taxes), etc.. 

None of these restraining tools had been used. Now, even after creation of the necessary lead institution, as recommended by NUTP, the various bodies still continue to address congestion in exactly the same tested & failed way. 

Referring to Srivathsa's ideas:

a)   On the complaint, we might want to add some data to it - e.g. the number of pedestrian deaths over the past 2 years, photographs of pavements along the arterial roads, width of pavements along arterial roads (we can take measurements) and check vs. IRC.  You can add Sankey Road to your list (see the pavement next to the Golf course).  The more details we have (even if as annexures) the better the chance we have.

Absolutely – Pavement widths, their poor condition with pictures can provide valuable support. For unsafe conditions, & particularly the vulnerability of pedestrians to injury & deaths, analysis /reports by Secon Pvt Ltd (with data up to 2006), titled “Bangalore: Silicon City or Black City?” could be used, with their consent (This had been posted earlier by TS). Their article had also appeared on World Transport Policy & Practice, Volume 13, Number 2, Oct-2007, by Eco-Logica, UK. These can be attached. We will require to get updates of this from Traffic Police.

b)   You also say that - "negligible efforts at prioritizing public transport by the concerned authorities."  BMTC can show how many buses they have added in the past 1 year and say that this is more than what even Bombay has added.   So how can we say that public transport has not been given priority.  (I think you are right, but what I think is not important).  What do we mean by prioritizing public transport?  - Bus lanes? better bus stops ?

What I meant was that road & related infrastructure developments are being put in place for creating common mixed-use road facilities, usable by all, with no efforts to segregate public transport buses & it’s users. No road investments have been made or are planned for 'bus only' use, not to mention proper sidewalks & cycle stands, at least at the approaches to bus stops. Whilst we concede that whole networks of bus-only infrastructure (such as a full-BRTS with physically separated lanes) is impossible, if not very difficult to plan on existing streets, at least where new additions are being made, such as flyovers or underpasses, provisions for buses to escape signal delays, etc. are not even being considered, even after the ‘discovery’ of quick installation underpasses, or ‘magic boxes’ as they are being referred to.

The only bus-exclusive facility in the city is outside the bus terminus in majestic, near railway station – one carriageway (on the right side) has been made bus exclusive. Narrow streets in market areas that see a lot of pedestrian movements (Chikpet, Balepet, Commercial street, Brigade road, Malleswaram–Sampige road, Gandhi bazaar, roads around Jayanagar 4th Block complex, Yeswanthpur market, etc) should have been reserved only for buses, bicycles & pedestrians a long time ago when private vehicle ownership levels were beginning to rise steeply, but none of this was done to discourage them.

District Office rd (facing Cauvery bhavan, near KG rd), Raja Ram Mohan Roy rd, Kasturba rd (Hudson circle to UB junction), Nrupathunga rd, Seshadri rd – these wide roads in the heart of the city have all been made one-ways & have nearly five lanes each, many over 20m wide. About 6-7m could easily have been left for buses on one side (two bus lanes, to allow buses to overtake one another as necessary). Such a move would also have provided pedestrians some secure havens. Pedestrian walkways would have received more attention at least along these bus routes – Such efforts for bus prioritization have been Nil.

Likewise, when Richmond & Residency roads were made one-ways, Richmond circle flyover could have been converted to a bus-use only facility, which would have speeded them up & made best use of the now outdated flyover.

A questionable new-elevated road coming up over Hosur rd – the financing modes may not permit bus lanes over these. It is also quite logical to assume that BMRC will not plan a Metro alignment along Hosur road now since this was not planned & allowed for when constructing the tollway. When all this is known, there are still no plans for bus lanes at the bottom. Thus, this is again going to benefit private vehicles & encourages more car & 2-wheeler use, whilst bus commuting gets discouraged.

Proposals such as above may face political difficulties because they run counter to pro-growth forces & motor-vehicle owners, but a balance has to be reached somewhere - the tilt is excessive in trying to be overly accommodative to private vehicles, whilst ignoring the public transport users.

A key point in NUTP recommends exactly this – to encourage & support investments in facilities that would wean people away from the use of personal vehicles rather than build facilities which would encourage greater use of personal motor vehicles.

The Laissez Faire approach which provides infrastructure without focus on right of ways for buses or other non-motorized modes & not allocating sufficient pedestrian walkway widths is benefiting only car & 2-wheeler users as they, being more nimble, challenge buses, bicycles & pedestrians, & win the battle on the streets. This promotes further motorization & greater use of private vehicles, & the problem gets even worse

c)  You might want to add how the one-ways have made life difficult for the bus commuter and that this is the ultimate road widening tactic and things still have not improved.  We can count the number of pedestrian crossing facilities along the major roads.

One-ways can serve to discourage private vehicle ownership, but the focus has been to increase the speed of the flow of vehicles, & not to discourage them. As already mentioned, peripheral lane/s on the wider one-ways could have been left for buses, for buses to move either along the same way or in the opposite direction to plan routes better with savings in time, costs & in improving efficiency. A test of this was once done on District Office road, but was soon abandonned without any hard work by various bodies to overcome obstacles. The authorities clearly take the easy ‘exit’ route out, rather than to go through some difficulties & establish more permanent solutions.

Pedestrian crossings are put up at many spots now, but they are generally poorly planned, most of them being overhead, are not preferred since secure infrastructure for approaches & exits to stairways are far from satisfactory. If continuous, uninterrupted & even pedestrian walkways are provided leading up to the stairway & also past it, the utilization might improve.

A pedestrian underpass at BDA junction is a classic example – this leads nowhere as pedestrians have to negotiate the barrage of vehicles flowing past it’s mouths.

d)  How much money has been spent on flyovers in the last 5 years and what improvement has it brought is another piece of data that will help. Richmond Circle flyover is the perfect example of money down the drain.  The flyover was built and then the roads were made one-ways.  The original flyover was a unidirectional design.  Now we have a policeman on top!!!

Very Right, I think. Money spent on flyovers in the last 5 years have resulted in worse problems of congestion as they shift bottleneck from place to place. We might have to RTI for the amounts spent.

e) Judges normally allow PILs only as a last resort and if all other steps have failed.  THey will ask things like - have you met Mr. Gupta?  Have you met Mr. Subramanya and made your case to them?  What was their response? Why have you come to us?  What would our response be?

I agree that PILs will be allowed only if merited – We have to prepare for this. We have held meetings with various bodies, such as BMTC, BMLTA & need to meet them again, perhaps. We have made a possible idea presentation for bus priority lanes to feed metro to BBMP, & might want to check his position on this, just to be clear, although we know now that all efforts are to take the easiest of options that encourage private vehicle use & ignore all others, except for some token efforts to ward off criticism.

As Pranav mentioned, we will engage with the lawyer & the various bodies in parallel. Only when responses from authorities convince our suspicions will we decide to file the PIL, but I believe we must continue with these efforts.

f)  I think the other thing that we need to fight against is corporators announcing grade separators in their localities.  Traffic improvement must be left to BMLTA.  Corporators should focus on local improvements (at least in my opinion) and be the voice of the people.

Absolutely. Ministers & Corporators competing for laurels is another piece of evidence that suggests that our leaders are immature & incapable. How much can we expect from such lame duck administrators ? The only answer to such misaligned interests is for us to file PILs to try to shake them up !!

Your further comments :

Coordination can be achieved by using the BMLTA better – this is a key point. We are not asking the judge to install a mechanism, he will not go in that direction.  They cannot get into legislation.  They can however demand that existing mechanisms and institutions work as intended. We have to prove that the BMLTA is not working as intended and because it has not been given the powers originally intended.  Merely saying so will not be enough.  Is it the speed of execution that is being affected?  Is it the quality of execution that is being affected ?

Perfect Summation. We do not need any more bodies since the administration is already bloated, as it is.

A big question mark here – does the BMLTA have the necessary regulatory skills ? Or is it just another entity comprising bureaucrats with little expertise ? This need not necessarily be out of the purview of the judiciary, & is very relevant. Most of the institutions are run by bureaucrats with poor abilities & in the typical vintage India IAS style, totally disconnected from realities. These officials further their personal & departmental interests in that order. Why should ABIDE come into existence now ? This role should have been left for BMLTA. If it is not well equipped with technocrats & traffic experts, then they should be trained or hired afresh.

Bad policies can be reduced by sticking to the CTTP (are we sure?)

Personally, I am not convinced either as the CTTP recommended alignments for Metro & BRT are more supply oriented & not based on where demand is (ie. purely based on existing road demographics, & without any innovative attempts) – bus priority measures recommended within ORR are only at the periphery, whereas needs are far greater within ORR. Further, there is at least one other gaping hole – traffic projections (based on models) predict increases in traffic volumes even after all mass transport & road additions /improvements by 2025. Strangely, the CTTP has not addressed solutions for this at all, & in fact, seems to accept it.

Are footpaths not being provided though the CTTP says so?  Are pedestrian facilities not being provided?  The BBMP will turn around and say that they can't do everything in one year - but they have a plan for everything and all will be fine in 5 years.

This is quite correct – we will need to get pictures of the more recent developments by BBMP proving that their approach continues to be negligent of pedestrians. The poor condition of sidewalks, narrow widths, etc., diverge completely from IRC guidelines /NUTP /CTTP, all of which have recommended improvements to pedestrian facilities.

In a nutshell - we have to show causative linkages among the symptoms and what we believe are the root causes.

Very True, & let’s move – it might have some value for the city, even if we do not succeed in bringing about any changes !! comment guidelines

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