Pothole-riddled roads, terrible public transport options and the government’s dreams of controversial big infrastructure projects are a reality for Bengalureans.
In 2017, the Karnataka government came up with the idea of a personal rapid transit system (PRTS), popularly known as pod taxis as a solution to decongest Bengaluru’s bottlenecks. The city’s residents had breathed a sigh of relief when the government had announced that the controversial pod taxi project was shelved ahead of the Assembly elections in May. However, the scheme is back.
On Friday, Deputy Chief Minister and Bengaluru Development Minister Dr G Parameshwara told the Karnataka Legislative Assembly that the government does not plan to scrap the project. In fact, the new plan is futuristic – to make the pod taxis into a feeder service to the metro lines.
Speaking to TNM, Mahendra Jain, Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Development Department said that the government had decided that the proposed routes of the pod taxi must change.
“Initially, the plan was to construct pod taxis as a separate public transport system. The routes proposed will clash with the Metro and Elevated Corridor projects. We have asked the agency to submit a fresh proposal with alternate routes. We want to make pod taxis a feeder service for the metro rail,” Mahendra Jain said.
Sources in the Urban Development Department said that initially, the plan was to construct a pod taxi line above footpaths. “We realised that Bengaluru does not have wide footpaths and in most cases, there are no footpaths. So the lines should ideally come near the medians of roads or on footpaths, if the roads have them,” the official said.
The preliminary proposal was to construct pod taxi lines from Trinity Metro station leading to Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) stations at Agaram, Domlur, Hotel Leela Palace, HAL Airport, Gandhinagar (just after Marathahalli) and beyond towards Whitefield.
The plan faced severe opposition from activists and experts, who called it a meaningless extravaganza on behalf of the government. The criticism only grew when it was revealed that the pod-taxi route clashed with the Phase 3 of Namma Metro near Agaram, Command Hospital, Domlur, Murugeshpalya, HAL, HAL Museum, Yemalur Cross and Marathahalli.
Despite severe opposition, tenders were floated in November 2017 and three bidders were identified - JPODS Inc, Ultra Fairwood and SkyTran. In March 2018, after sending the bids to Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (IDEC), Ultra Fairwood was finalised. However, the proposal was never passed in the BBMP Council.
After the elections, on taking charge as Minister in charge of Bengaluru, Parameshwara revived the proposal. Dr Parameshwara also said that the pod taxis would have a pilot run between Trinity Metro Station and Hope Farm in Whitefield.