Monday, August 02, 2010

Road-widening plan will make Bangalore's heritage history

Road-widening plan will make Bangalore's heritage history


Where is the space?
There is a valid reason why road-widening has been so vehemently opposed by Bangaloreans. First, the plan is ad hoc. All the 237 roads to be widened have been chosen unwisely by the BBMP. There is a planning deficit on the part of the BBMP. Widening arterial roads is understandable but widening inner roads, without making pavements for pedestrians and not addressing the chicken necks on major roadways, is absolutely a planning deficit. Nothing has been thought through. They have not educated the people on what TDR is, and what is its use and implementation in this case.
Why force it on me?
TDR – or Transfer of Developmental Rights – is to be fundamentally understood before tagging it with the road widening plan. If you get into history, TDR was first used in the US before Mumbai. It's a concept of a 'sending area' and a 'receiving area'. In other words, it is to allow the municipality to restore the heritage areas as they are and to develop them. It is an instrument where buyers and sellers can come together in the inner urban development of the city. TDR to be used for road-widening could have been the 20th use of TDR. There are some fundamental things to implement TDR – to stimulate its demand, to be transparent in dealing with buyers and sellers and to respect the law of the land. All the three are missing in the usage of TDR here. You cannot just fling a TDR paper on my face and say that your land is being taken away.
What about pedestrians and cyclists?
What you see on the roads is just a manifestation of a badly designed use of TDR. The chicken's neck before the entrance of Hosur Road through Madiwala is not looked into. The chicken's neck at Windsor Manor has been forgotten about, while the road towards Mekhri Circle has been broadened. Is there any science behind such plans of road widening? Bangalore is a walkable and cyclable city. What we are looking at is to make people use more of public transport and reduce the number of vehicles in the city. In all the conversations, I saw there is no pavement for pedestrians, which is a fundamental flaw in the plan. In fact, Bangalore is blessed with good weather where people can cycle rather than use vehicles. Instead, the authorities are giving more scope for high-rise buildings to come up and restricting space for pedestrians and cycle users.
Will I see a cleaner Bangalore in 2013?
TDR was meant to restore heritage buildings; but now I see that heritage buildings are under a threat with TDR. If I go to a war widow and say that you cannot maintain this property, what will she live with? Rather I should give her a TDR in lieu of the value of the property and ask her to develop the property which can be maintained as a heritage building in the city later. Not just this, without doing proper homework, they have given nightmares to people by putting red crosses on their house walls. Once they widen all the 237 roads, the situation in 2013 will be the same as in 2010.
Where is the data?
The last (traffic) study done was ELRTA, about 20 years ago. There is absolutely no reliable data for any road widening plan. It has just not been taken up. Even the metro rail project – where have we seen metro or mono rail running over ground? It was all about saving Rs4,000 crore, as underground metro project is Rs10,000 crore, and over ground is Rs6,000 crore. Now when there is no data available, then how are we planning to widen 237 roads? So let them put every plan on to a website, and take FAQs. There are hundreds of others who will do the right calculations for them, and then they can come out with some plan which will be sustainable for the next 75 years.
Can we have a solution?
First let them go back to their drawing boards and remove all the red markings. Put up a plan on what they intend to do on a website and show how things would be like after the road widening. Go public. They should also make ways for pedestrians and realise what we are aiming at. The main problem is to make traffic transportation and mobility easier. I don't want people to spend more time travelling and I also don't want people to meet with accidents while crossing roads; and all this, in a sustainable manner.
Why don't we think about a congestion charge?
Congestion charge in the city centre has worked best in Singapore. Singapore has a Land Transit Authority and the head is a mobility czar who takes decisions on the mobility issue on a day-to-day basis, and also coordinates all the departments. He decides on the parking policy in the city, be it a personal car, trains, congestion, buses, licences, whatever. Similarly, in Bangalore, we have a system called Bangalore Metropolitan Land and Transport Authority (BMLTA). We need an additional chief secretary there – a man who will have powers to regulate between RTO (Regional transport office), BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation), the autorickshaws and also BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) and not just keep records of statistics of the city.


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