Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Why a 22,000-crore solution is at the crossroads

Why a 22,000-crore solution is at the crossroads

The signals in Bangalore have never been your friend

Prahlad Rao

The Bangalorean on wheels has been promised a dozen signal-free corridors. They are going to cover over 150 km of the roads in core areas of the city and its suburban layouts.
For the grand Rs22,000 crore infrastructure plan, unveiled over the weekend, only the sky is the limit. The money is big. The things it will do for the city make it an enticing proposition.
But if the blueprint is executed, the city is going to witness chaos. I'm not talking of the financial chaos and mess the civic administration is being pushed into by the ambitious plan, but the disorder its execution will bring upon our roads.
The plan talks of funds mobilisation but is silent on the timetable of execution. Every project must have a start date and a finish date. Unlike private sector projects, the government never begins in earnest and finishes when needed. Also, very few government projects are truly citizen-friendly.
Forget for the moment how the tax-payers' money will be squandered on signal-free corridors, catering only to a segment of road users. Let us examine one immediate solution to the everyday grind on the road.
The internal combustion engine can rev us up from 0 to 60kmh in seconds. But have we ever seen the analog or the digital speedometer touch that speed? Why? Because we're crawling on our roads. The needle never crosses 40km and the average speed is under 20km. Why are vehicles piling up in front of a red signal when the road just beyond the signal is clean, like the manicured lawn of a five-star hotel? Don't blame the driver in front of you, but the signal staring down from above. The signals in Bangalore have never been your friend.
The city has many cross-roads and main roads. Thus, every intersection is a potential candidate for signal-installation. So, how does one move? The solution is a synchronised signal system.
To illustrate the point, take the example of the signals on the power corridor (from Queens Rd junction to Gopal Gowda Circle). If a motorist is caught by a red light at the intersection of Queens Rd and Cunnigham Rd, it will take a minimum of seven minutes to cross three signals.
And we're not even counting the wastage of fuel and mechanical energy. The way to cross Queens Rd, Infantry Rd and Raj Bhavan Rd signals, is to constantly shift gears, jam the brakes and swear at nothing. In a synchronised signal regime, catching a green light at Queens Rd should automatically give me a green at Infantry and Raj Bhavan signals followed by the policeman's wave at the High Court entry. This will take a driver to the Town Hall signal in seven minutes.
All we need to do is see the potential in such an alternative and make it click


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