In what could be the first proactive step by authorities in Bengaluru to solve the traffic problem, bus-priority lanes will be introduced in the city from November 1.
BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) Commissioner BH Anil Kumar said that a plan is being drawn up by the BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation), BBMP, Traffic Police and DULT (Directorate of Urban Land Transport) officials for several routes. A formal announcement by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa is expected in the coming week.
Bus lanes are planned in the hope that buses which act as a mass transport system, get priority access over private transport especially two-wheelers and in the process motivate people to ditch their own vehicles. This in turn is expected to reduce overall congestion in the city.
An officer in the BMTC said that the first such lane(s) will be introduced on an 18.5km stretch between Tin Factory in KR Puram and Silk Board Junction.
For the same purpose, Deputy CM and Transport Minister Laxman Savadi inspected the route on Wednesday along with officials in a Volvo bus. Following the drive, he asked BBMP officials to prepare necessary bus shelters.
â€śWe are ready to start the project as we have finalised how many buses we are going to run and will be ready to add more buses depending on the demand. BBMP officials are deciding on specifics related to stoppages and demarcations. We want two lanes in the entire stretch and we have also given BBMP, DULT officials details of how many buses we want to run and at what speed on this stretch. We want to see how the public responds but we are expecting more people to use buses as travel times will drastically decrease,â€ť the official said.
The move for bus priority lanes also comes at a time when the daily ridership of BMTC has steadily fallen over the years, from 51.3 lakh in 2014-15 to 36 lakh in 2018-19. At the same time, the length of cancelled routes increased almost 200% over 4 years, from 241.6 lakh km in 2013-14 to 717.9 lakh km in 2017-18.
Sources in the Traffic Police Department told TNM that only vehicles with more than three passengers will be allowed in these lanes and violators will be penalised for violating lane discipline.
Not a new concept
Incidentally, a decade ago, a similar plan was proposed by authorities between Central Silk Board and Hebbal, but the project never took off. Since then, citizen groups have demanded that these bus-only lanes be created wherever practically feasible along with other incentives for public transport.
One city-based organisation, the Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike (BBPV), welcomed the decision but urged the authorities to examine the experiences of other cities.
They said, â€śBBPV welcomes this initiative as it is an essential measure towards sustainable and equitable mobility in Bengaluru. Road space is a limited public resource. Bus-based public transport makes the most efficient use of road space for transporting people. BMTC still caters to 36 lakh trips in the city. However, a disproportionate share of the road space is occupied by lakhs of private vehicles, especially cars and two-wheelers on the road, which serves a much smaller share of trips.â€ť
Experts want holistic planning
While bus priority lanes can be a game-changer for the good, experts have warned that unless implemented through comprehensive planning, it might turn into a failure.
Ashish Verma, a professor of Sustainable Transportation at the Indian Institute of Science, said, â€śThis is a good idea but then again, it has to be designed properly. Otherwise, this would be like Delhi BRTS where it was done for a 7 km stretch and then taken off subsequently. The mistake most Indian cities have done is that they have seen this as an engineering intervention and have introduced it wherever there is availability of space. This will just be like shooting in the air.â€ť
Explaining that bus priority lanes are a system-level intervention, he said, â€śIf there is one lane demarcated for buses which already has high bus volumes, then in actuality it might benefit the passing of other vehicles. Instead, there is a need to think about traffic flow patterns, how much impact this will have on travel times and also how this will induce more people to shift from their personal cars / two-wheeler usage.â€ť
Similarly, Pawan Mulukutla, an urban mobility expert based in Bengaluru, said, â€śBus priority lanes should be planned keeping three prime factors in mind. First, it is to be checked if this helps in improvement of buses. Secondly, there are talks of an increase in speed but the question we have to ask is, does it ensure that this increases the capacity. Otherwise, there can be instances of having bus queues. So there is a necessity to put in place a system which not only increases the capacity of individual buses, but also the entire system.â€ť
He added, â€śGlobally, the practice has been that it has to be carried out from the operational perspective in terms of servicing of the bus. So if we see this as an infrastructural project, then we will have many operational challenges.There are also issues of design that have to be kept in mind. Not all buses will go for the entire length of the corridor and buses also need to enter the corridor. There are also issues with alignment of bus stops as generally stops are on the left but at the beginning and end of flyovers, they are at the centre.â€ť