Bengaluru offers tech solutions to the world, and is known as the IT Capital, but it has not been able to find a solution to mind-numbing traffic problems in the city. The average speed of vehicles has reduced to just 12 km per hour, which points to bad traffic management and appalling infrastructure, report Aknisree Karthik and Shweta Singh

For most Bengalureans being out on the road is no picnic today with the traffic only worsening on several stretches. In fact, the average speed of vehicles around Vidhana Soudha is now 12 kms/hr and on Outer Ring road in Marathahalli it is around 6 to 7 km/hr.
It is only slightly better at 18km/hr near the BEL Circle, going by traffic expert and former advisor to the government, Prof. M N Srihari.

For people, the crawling traffic means missed appointments, late arrival at work and so on. While successsive governments have tried to tackle the problem by building more flyovers and introducing the Metro Rail to help commuters, the roads seem to be groaning as much under traffic as before. Prof. Srihari points out that Bengaluru is home to 74 lakh two-wheelers and four-wheelers and every year nearly 4.5 lakh vehicles are added to this number.

The problem is compounded by the city’s narrow roads, which are made even narrower by parking on the roadside, he notes. “When governments can come up with Indira Canteens in all the wards, why don’t they show the same interest in setting up multi-level parking lots in the wards as well?” he asks pertinently.

The question now is can Bengalurueans hope for a new approach to an old problem from the coalition government that has taken over following the last assembly poll? Can they take heart from the fact that the new Bengaluru Development Minister, Dr G Parameshwar, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister, has directed the police department to chart out short term plans to decongest city traffic?

While Prof. Srihari is all for short – term measures, he cautions that they cannot be short – sighted and must contribute to a long term solution to the city’s traffic troubles.

“For example if road widening is suggested as a short term measure, it should be done all along the stretch eventually and not haphazardly,” he says. In his view there are simple solutions at hand. For instance, if parking is banned on all major roads, there could be immediate improvement in traffic conditions in the city, he argues.

“In a built – up area with narrow roads, we do not have many options for improving traffic conditions. But we can give priority to extending the Metro Rails network, connect it to a Mono Rail and provide last mile connectivity. And we should discourage people from buying vehicles and instead opt for the Metro Rail or any other public transport system,” he suggests.

A study in chaos! It’s nightmare near schools If roadside parking is a bane across Bengaluru, it is an even bigger nuisance around schools as both private and school vehicles park on roads around them to either drop or pick up students both in the morning and evening. The inevitable consequence is traffic snarls as drivers try to squeeze past the chaos around the institutions. The worst hit areas are those having schools within residential areas.

In Central Business District, which witnesses heavy traffic, also has a number of schools on Residency Road and Lavelle Road. Other localities such as Indiranagar 100 feet Road, Cambridge Layout Road and Koramangala 20th Main Road, which are home to both aided and unaided educational institutions, also see traffic hold-ups when children arrive and leave for the day.

Complained Mr Rajan, a resident of Cambridge Layout, “Once the school starts it becomes very hard for us to drive through the traffic snarl. Our mobility comes to a grinding halt especially at noon and in the evening when the parents come to pick up their children and park their cars in front of the houses.” Residents of Indiranagar, Lavelle Road and Residency Road lamented that not just their main roads but even their bylanes were taken over by school buses, autorickshaws and private vehicles as children were dropped and picked up at the many schools dotting their localities.

Ask Additional Commissioner of Police, (Traffic), R. Hitendra about the continuing chaos around schools and he admits the traffic hold-ups caused by school buses and private vehicles blocking the roads is a recurring problem. “We have been issuing guidelines to the schools across Bengaluru to take steps to ease road traffic around them. Like every year, this year too, we have written to the authorities with recommendations. But the department cannot take coercive action. We need to look at the issue from all angles, not only from the point of view of motorists, but also the parents and their children’s safety,” he added.

On Monday, the traffic police held a meeting with all schools across Bengaluru to discuss the traffic pile-up and issues like pick-up and drop points, and a no waiting policy outside schools. “A meeting was held and the department has given a clear message to the school authorities that they need to comply with the recommendations and make sure that the school buses and autorickshaws don’t choke the city roads,” said a senior police officer.

While the schools have been given some time to get things in order as they have only recently reopened, the police intends to crack the whip later, he says. “After a long discussion, the school managements across the city have agreed to follow the rules. For instance, their buses will be given only five minutes to pick up the children. If they take too long, we will take action and tow away the vehicles,” the officer warned.

Guest Column: Don’t approve solutions which only come with high investments The problem with short term measures to curb traffic is that they don’t make any impact at all. Some of the solutions seen as short term by the officials are flyovers, road widening, underpasses and so on. They all come with heavy investment and instead of solving the traffic problem, only worsen it.

But there are other short term measures which do not need any investment such as introduction of best traffic management measures, introduction of one -ways and two- ways after a study, playing with traffic signal timing, traffic signal synchronisation in corridors and so on.

To reduce traffic snarls in a particular area, officials can stagger the timings of its offices, establishments and schools . They can also decongest a particular stretch by restricting private vehicles, introducing parking control measures, improving the quality of roads and pedestrian facility, improving cycling and pedestrian comfort.

But unfortunately, politicians and officials approve solutions which only come with high investment. They seem to believe that whatever comes without or with minimal investment is not a solution at all. However, by just introducing the simpler short term measures, there can be significant improvement in traffic conditions in the city.

Dr. Ashish Verma, mobility expert and associate professor, transportation systems engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.)

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