Sunday, September 26, 2004

Immediate decongestion is the road ahead

Immediate decongestion is the road ahead
H.S. Balram , Editor, Times of India

Guess what hits a visitor to Bangalore first these days. No, not its Silicon City image. Not even its lovely weather. Not its cosmopolitan culture but its narrow and badly maintained roads choked with 24/7 chaotic traffic. Commuting has become a nightmare for the 70-lakh citizens of this once Pensioners’ Paradise. The IT boom has brought in its wake a large highsalaried community that can afford more than one vehicle — mostly cars — per family. Given the poor public transport system, two- and three-wheelers have also increased exponentially. But the roads haven’t increased proportionally.

Paucity of flyovers, underpasses and subways, a ring road that has too many intersections, lack of traffic awareness among road users, overworked and understaffed police and ill-equipped civic agencies have added to the mess.
So, what needs to be done? A metro rail is the answer. An efficient metro rail system will not only push the bulk of traffic underground, but also ensure that people use their vehicles sparingly. All big cities of the world, with much higher populations, have metro systems. The government says Bangalore will have it in three years. But the pace at which it is proceeding with the international airport project at Devanahalli, makes us sceptical about this promise. If it has the will, the dream will come true.

At least two more ring roads are needed. And the flow of traffic on these roads must be fast and smooth. For this, flyovers and underpasses must be built at all intersections. Delhi has done it. New companies which propose to start operations in Bangalore with a large number of employees must not be allowed set up shop in the heart of the city. They should be asked to move to the periphery which should be linked with good state-of-the-art roads.

Cities like Mangalore, Hubli and Mysore must be provided with good infrastructure and connected to Bangalore by four-lane expressways. Many companies will then like to locate their new operations there. The cost of living is comparatively cheaper. Investment is too Bangalore-centric at present. That is bad for the state. Indian companies must first move to the other cities. MNCs will then follow. With this, Bangalore will get decongested and other cities will flourish too.

A lane system must be introduced. For starters, users of the ring road and oneway roads must be forced to learn this habit. Big vehicles like buses and trucks must move into the extreme left lane. Pedestrians need special care. Good footpaths, zebra crossings, subways and footbridges must be built for them. Encroachers must be evicted and fined heavily. Private-public partnerships like the Bangalore Agenda Task Force must be given all support to improve civic services in the city. This is absolutely necessary to tackle the city’s problems. It’s high time persons in authority acted to decongest Bangalore and streamline traffic flow. And improve other cities to unburden the IT city. Mangalore, Hubli and Mysore are waiting to grow into Bangalores. They have the potential. What is needed is political will.


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