Planning should precede development… 4

Published : Times of India

Traffic has been a buzzword in the city for some time now,and it is no surprise with four million vehicles on the roads.The traffic police have been battling the increasing congestion with technology and smart systems.Praveen Sood,Addl Director General of Police,shares some thoughts on traffic management,in this chat with B S Manu Rao

The Metro Rail works are progressing well.What is your estimate on the effect of the Metro on the traffic congestion in the city Can we expect smoother traffic in the months ahead

Any public transport system that is robust,economical and reliable is a better solution than endless widening of roads and creation of flyovers.If we put it in economical terms,increase in supply (read infrastructure ) will have little impact if the demand (read for private transport) keeps growing.Robust public transport system is the best way of reducing demand and at present,there is no doubt that Namma Metro will be the most reliable and economical mode of mass transit system to curb such demand in Bangalore City.
However,I must add that the full impact of Namma Metro will only be felt when both the corridors are ready end-to-end with interchange facility at Majestic.Also,success of Metro largely depends on an equally robust last mile connectivity partner which in our case could be BMTC or professionally-run autos.Since endto-end connectivity depends on completion of underground reach of the Metro,smoother traffic in a few months is not a reality.Once fully operational by 2014,the Metro will definitely provide the much-awaited relief from traffic congestion.
I should caution that there are many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.The Metro should successfully attract commuters presently using two wheelers and four wheelers.On the contrary,if the Metro pulls the bus passengers and succeeds at the cost of BMTC,our expectations would be punctured.In a nutshell,the Metro and BMTC must coexist and not compete.Failing which,buses will disappear from the roads and the space will be filled with more private transport,thereby defeating the very objectives.

It is now some time since B-Trac was launched.How do you assess its performance 

B-Trac has been an extremely successful experiment which is being replicated in Hyderabad,Chennai and even Delhi.B-Trac focuses on the use of technology for efficient traffic management.rationalising’.Automating signals and evidence-based stricter enforcement clubbed with capacity building of traffic police personnel are the main objectives of B-Trac.
Since its inception,enforcement has gone up by 400 percent,travel time has reduced and interaction between traffic police and public has improved manifold.However,technology and,therefore,B-Trac has its own limitations – technology cannot deliver if our infrastructure is inadequate and poor in quality.

How effective are signal-free corridors Do we need to look at more such corridors to make the city more efficient for commuters

Personally,I feel signal-free corridors is an over-hyped concept.It promises more than what is actually possible in reality.While Outer Ring Road and radial roads like Hosur Road,Mysore Road,Magadi Road,Peenya Road,Bellary Road,Old Madras Road,and Old Airport Road should become signal-free corridors,anything beyond that is neither feasible nor advisable.
But even these signal-free corridors will require huge investments,time and displacement,which is possibly beyond our capability at present.I must also caution that signal-free corridors without providing commensurate facilities for pedestrians is unfair policy to the disadvantage of all those who walk and have a right to cross the road safely.Unfortunately,very little is being talked about pedestrians.

In the long run,do you see the ever-increasing number vehicles on the roads coming down or going up Do we need more mass transit systems such as dedicated bus lanes etc 

Honestly,I don’t see demand for private vehicles coming down in the near future.Unfortunately,private vehicle in India is not only a mode of transportation but more of a status symbol.This is quite contrary to the Western world where the rich and poor equally take pride in using public transport system.Acquiring two wheelers or four wheelers is the most visible sign of upward mobility in our country.Being a democratic welfare State,no legislative measures can stop people from buying more vehicles.
However,we can create effective incentives for using the public transport system so that people voluntarily shift from private to public mode of transport.Such a move would decongest the roads and improve quality of life and environment.Yes,we need more mass transit systems like BRTS etc,but these have to be green field projects and should not be attempted by merely tinkering with the existing narrow roads.

What should go into the planning of emerging localities around the city to ensure they don’t end up with traffic snarls later

Bangalore developed first and planning came subsequently.We should not commit the same mistake with other growing Tier II and Tier III cities and towns.We should plan emerging localities around cities in such a way that these are self-sufficient and don’t compel people to travel to the core areas in the cities unless absolutely necessary.Planning should precede development.Otherwise,we will land up in a total mess.

Parking is a major problem,especially in the commercial areas.What’s the solution Will intelligent parking systems help

I always feel that parking is ‘the’ problem in Bangalore,even bigger than traffic.Today,we have four million vehicles which run for an average four hours a day and for the remaining 20 hours are parked at one place or another.Where is the planned space for parking these vehicles whether it is commercial or residential areas The need for investments in parking infrastructure and scientific parking management is next only to that for public transport system.
If the money earmarked for road widening could be spent on creation of parking infrastructure,half our traffic problems would have been solved long ago.In fact,we should attract private investments in parking infrastructure.But it can only happen if a parking policy that supports scientific management and discourages free parking is implemented.

Do we need more flyovers or larger investments in public transport

If we need signal-free corridors,certainly we need more flyovers.But it is like treating obesity by loosening the belt.We need to invest more on public transport system,parking and infrastructure – in that order.

Any tech solutions for better enforcement on the cards 

Use of technology is the ultimate solution for efficient traffic management.We can’t go on adding traffic cops endlessly.India has a great paradox.We first put traffic lights and then put traffic men to ensure that people follow traffic lights.European countries are doing away with traffic cops on the roads by replacing them with technology.
Penetration of technology has to be in sync with levels of public awareness and acceptance.Another constraint is that technology alone can’t make traffic better if roads and junctions continue to be of poor quality and unscientific.Technology is no substitute for poor infrastructure.Technology is necessary but not sufficient per se to solve the congestion and chaos on the roads.

 

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