Karnakata State government bid unceremonious goodbye to the BRTS plan on Outer Ring Road and instead chose metro. But many questions remain unanswered.
Newspapers announced with glee and celebrated the news that the Metro construction between Silk Board and KR Puram was going to go ahead and will be “fast tracked”. On Twitter, corporate honchos part of the Bengalulru Blueprint Group, congratulated the government for taking the decision.
But it was with a fair degree of alarm and shock that the already harassed lot that commutes to the Outer Ring Road read the news. According to this news, Metro Phase 2 construction in this region would now be from Byappanahalli till KR Puram (that line will continue towards Whitefield). Then from KR Puram till Silk Board, and in parallel from RV Road to Electronic City passing through BTM and Silk Board. Enough construction activity for a few bladders to burst every day.
A few months ago BDA had taken over a lane to do some cleanup of the drains near Ecospace. It resulted in traffic snarls for one whole month with people getting delayed by more than 30 minutes every day! Buses regularly break down on the ORR stretch, causing hours of traffic jams!
Other options were considered and, apparently, dismissed.
Given this summary dismissal of BRTS, a few questions are bound to arise:
Where was the thought process about road width when the flyovers were constructed? The rationale behind the signal free corridor with parallel flyovers was BRTS. We are told that a lot of taxpayer money was spent to prepare this whole stretch from Silk Board to Hebbal for BRTS, and then it turned out that the “road width was inadequate”.
Given that this statement is coming from a member of the Government's own Blueprint Group, was there any independent study commissioned by the Government, any academic body, or body of urban experts that confirmed that BRTS was not possible? Can those study results be made public?
If indeed this is true, who is accountable for this mess up? Or do we just forget this as a bad thing? Remember that this bad design has lead to two lanes being wasted and has possibly caused hundreds of traffic pileups. The money lost is not just the money spent but also those countless hours of productivity and stress.
After enduring all those years of hardship while the flyovers were constructed, the whole thing has been found to be a total waste of money and time. What is the guarantee that the Metro construction won’t end up the same way? If you cannot be trusted to do a proper feasibility for the BRTS, how can we trust your feasibility study, if ever there was one, for the Metro? To put it simply, you screwed up big time with the BRTS, how do we trust that you’ll get it right this time?
Assuming that the BRTS was indeed ruled out citing “road width was inadequate”, what other options were considered before choosing the Metro? There were options like Bus priority lanes, or even LRTS (Light Rail Transit System)which usually gets thrown around a lot during these times. Apparently, it is faster to construct, can run at higher frequency and stations are smaller and is cheaper to build and operate. There is also the railway line that runs parallel to the ORR, all the way from Hebbal to Electronic City, as Ashwin Mahesh has pointed out, which can be run alongside the BRT. Was it explored? Any feasibility done on it?
Namma Metro phase II map. Source: http://themetrorailguy.com/
Other questions not related to the BRTS-Metro feasibility:
The ORR mess is a result of poor planning, of concentrating workplaces in one place, and making people commute long distances. I do not use the phrase “making people commute” lightly. Given the number of workplaces and employee numbers on the road, it is not possible for everyone to live close by. Also note that a lot of schools are now shifting to either the Kanakapura Road-Bannerghatta Road corridor or the Hebbal-Bellary road corridor. For most people it is a choice between their commute and their kids’ commute. It’s not hard to imagine what people would choose. Is this now a throwing in of the towel that nothing is going to be done on spreading workplaces around the city or encouraging companies to explore options outside of just one section of one road?
What is being done to address the continued increase of private vehicle numbers on ORR? Will they continue to proliferate on ORR, which will only give diminishing returns for any public transport mechanism, as last mile connectivity to workplaces will still be a mess? There was some encouragement for carpooling from the traffic police, but that seems to have done little. Solutions like charging a congestion tax or even having campuses charge a hefty fee for parking can be explored. Decongestion will need both discouraging private vehicles through congestion taxes or paid parking, and encouraging public and shared transport, by increasing travel options and exempting carpools and company buses/vans.
There is a tendency for people in Government circles to come up with grandiose plans that never go anywhere. The Byappanahalli-Whitefield Commuter Rail, and the stage carriageway for ORR at BTM Layoutin parallel with the Metro are examples. In case of the Metro, the footing seems to be slightly more solid. The BMRCL website now includes a map for the ORR link between K.R. Puram and Silk Board.But please note that this is a "proposed" route, and was added on the 14thSeptember 2016. There is no solid alignment yet, nor has there been any soil testing, feasibility or DPRs done, or any mention of which phase it will happen in. In terms of what else is proposed, most of the above document talks about the different lines to get to the Airport.
The total estimated cost is said to be Rs. 3600 Crore and some news sites quote the Government saying that “innovative financing techniques” will be used by BMRCL. It reads like there is no money on the table yet to get started on this. Note that no one from BMRCL seems to have been quoted said anything in direct speech anywhere about "Innovative financing techniques".
The usual go-to person for Metro news is @TheMetroRailGuy. And this is what he had to say on this news.
And this was in February. Note that DPR is yet to be prepared, or any soil testing done, 7 months from then. The only thing so far on it is the CM being quoted saying this on the 15th of September:
Siddaramaiah said: "We realize the Metro line between Central Silk Board Junction and KR Puram is important to reduce to (sic) vehicular density on the road. Moreover, it will be economical in the long run." He ordered BMRC authorities to submit a detailed project report on this by October 20. (Source: TOI.)
The Metro MD has said that the DPR will be ready by November, in "one or two months". And yes, they did promise to have entire Phase 1 open by November 1st.
The Metro might happen if they find it feasible, but do not hold your breath about it happening in Phase 2. Continue regular programming and sit in your everyday traffic jam.
Let's not talk about other easier options either. Given that despite all opposition from the public, the Government is going ahead with the Rs 1,350 crore steel bridge from Chalukya circle to Hebbal (which is now apparently Rs 1,800 Cr), it is unlikely they'll settle for anything that costs less than Rs 5,000 crore in this case.