Two months after the bus priority lane in Bengaluru was launched amid much fanfare, the project has turned out to be a damp squib, simply due to lack of enforcement.
The idea was to ensure priority access for buses over private transport and in the process motivate people to ditch their own vehicles. This, in turn, was expected to reduce overall congestion in the city. While the bus lanes were rolled out in mid-November, an event titled the Bus Yatra was held on December 11 which saw Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao, Bangalore Metro Transport Corporation (BMTC) Managing Director C Sikha and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Special Commissioner Randeep D participate alongside residents and citizen activists.
As part of the system, the left-most lane of the entire Outer Ring ROAD corridor between KR Puram to Silk Board was supposed to be reserved for buses. Later the pilot phase was limited to between Iblur Junction and KR Puram. Based on the success, 12 other major roads were also proposed to have similar lanes.
Even though the initial days showed encouraging results, lack of enforcement meant that other vehicles enter the bus lane, blocking the way and thereby rendering the plan ineffective.
A fine of Rs 500 for the first offence and Rs 1000 for subsequent offences was notified by the Commissioner of Police but traffic police officials on the ground say they have not been asked to carry out specific drives against bus lane violations. The central office of the Traffic Police Department claims that police are penalising violators but do not have specific data for such violations.
The BMTC has also installed 70 cameras on buses to help identify motorists who violate rules and use the lane designated for buses only. It is, however, unclear if any action has been taken based on this either.
Joint Commissioner Traffic Police BR Ravikanthe Gowda could not be reached for a comment.
But more than two months into the pilot, the authorities remain undecided about how to make the system more potent. Speaking to TNM, BBMP Commissioner Anil Kumar said that plastic bollards which will create a physical barrier to stop entry of other vehicles will be installed in the coming 7-10 days.
Incidentally, the BBMP was keen on installing metallic bollards but later the plan was withdrawn with reports of accident and the threat it poses to other vehicle users. Later plastic bollards and physical barricades were also installed in some stages. But they were also withdrawn after some vehicles rammed against them.
However, a senior officer, who is also a stakeholder said the move of installing bollards is yet to be decided formally.
“It is true, we have received feedback that the system is failing due to lack of enforcement. Soon in the zonal review meeting we will discuss the issue. We have to assess which is the best way to enforce the system. The solution can be installing bollards, or deploying BBMP marshals or a combination of both. We are open to suggestions, and will shortly come to a conclusion,” he told TNM.
Srinivas Alavilli, co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru and a staunch advocate of the bus priority lanes says without bollards or any physical barrier the system cannot be made successful.
He said, “Without enforcement, how will the bus lane work? There are supposed to be cameras on buses issuing fines. Where are they? The bollards are supposed to be installed months ago. Why is it taking so long? How can traffic police enforce bus lane without technology and physical barriers? The marshals can only work to some extent and we can’t keep them standing on the road inhaling pollution and putting their lives at risk. Most people follow the rules - the bollards make sure that they won’t enter by mistake and deter those that don’t obey the bus lane.”