I have a nightmare…


Of course everyone talks about it, of course everyone just keeps on ranting about it. I’m sure the planners had made amazing plans for the city. I’m sure they considered all aspects of the impending growth and kept that in mind while designing the city. However, one thing that design has taught me is that if it hasn’t been executed the way you designed it, the designer is at fault. It is in the nature of being a designer that makes you to blame yourself for all the bad that happens around. The same happened with me. As Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream…’ similarly, “I have a nightmare…”

A few days ago, in this nightmare, I saw my office building, and several adjoining others stewing in their own sewage filth. Constant smoky drainages were spewing out varying densities of sewage fluids and semi-fluids. The froth had reached the second floor. Yes, now this land is inhabitable. Planktons have started to engulf the multi-storeyed buildings. Glass shattered, doors broken, cafeteria chairs and tables floating in the murky disease ridden sewage water, false ceiling falling, beams rusted, ceiling lighting on the floor, elevators crashed, and what not. Yes, this was Prestige Tech Park, secreting its prestige. Yes this was Bangalore, or Bengaluru, doesn’t matter what you call it, no one wants to own up to it now anyway.

As I wake up and get ready as usual trying to forget the apparent inevitability. My pretty-smart phone understands that I would be going to office in sometime now and starts populating my notifications, ‘1hr 26min to work’, she says. ‘Heavy traffic as usual’, she adds. To compete with her, Zuckerberg tells me to ‘Carry an umbrella, chances of rain’. I try to get an Ola share or an Uber Pool (more rant on that later) if and when the kind-hearted friend of mine is also hating the traffic for his 30-odd km ride to office. My home and workplace is a mere 6km away and I’m thinking what point was the turning point? At what point should one stand out and scream, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!(This video brings me to tears!)

‘Maybe its Mumbai, maybe it is 25 years of Her privilege that has made me so vexed’, I say to myself. (I’m gonna yet again take the opportunity to praise Her). The robust public transport — wherein even people having multiple cars tend to take the train/bus/metro/monorail/rickshaw/taxi/Ola/Uber to work. Whenever the electricity goes off just because of slight rain and I have still not bought candles, yes She is to blame. Whenever I have to buy 20L packaged drinking water and not drink straight out of the tap, yes, again, its Her. Whenever its just 10pm and I get hungry, I end up just drinking water and going to sleep, yes its Her again. But I’ll stop this section of the rant for now.

Last week there was a gushing flow of water coming out of EcoSpace and EcoWorld (irony fans?) on to outer ring road rendering in the entire area being choked with water and streets becoming rivers.

Whoever wanted to build this,
Ended up building this!
Thankfully someone has made a ship in the middle of the road foreseeing this!

It was a mere 2mm of rain that caused this havoc, resulting in almost all the offices on the entire outer ring road stretch to close down and employees being urged to work from home. How are these companies okay to bear such losses? How do such MNCs allow such pathetic situation in the place they invest heavily? The answers are beyond me. Or maybe not, it is just that they don’t care. If it goes over their heads, they would just pack up and leave. Leaving the city behind in shambles.

Apart from being frustrating, it is sad to see the beautiful city actively being pushed into the point of no return. The owners of the place do not care, and the citizens continue to blame the outsiders. If the owners of the city keep giving permissions to erect these air-conditioned IT sweatshops to gather their truckloads of money to support their nth order generations, inflow of people is not going to stop.

Bike riders are dying falling from potholes, service roads are unserviceable, flyovers are pathetically planned, drainages non existent, lakes lather more than your shower gel, signalling systems unavailable, skywalks are absent, airport is in Hyderabad, trees are uprooted at will, lanes are perpetually occupied by dug up debris, I see new tech parks coming up boasting a capacities of 5 lakh, I see new buildings being constructed at crucial junctions, I see people on extreme right lane want to go to the extreme left and buses have to turn a hard right immediately after a bus stop on the left sweeping the entire traffic to a standstill and traffic police only catch riders without helmets contributing to the maximum cause of traffic.

Yes, yes, I hear you, yet another rant. It’s the same in all cities, that is the nature of cities, and you are right. However, this time, I wish to not just rant but propose some solutions around the same. I’m sure such solutions were already voiced out several time, but the true owners of the city who also go by the alias — builders and politicians, do not pay any heed to it. It is still worth a shot.

Now, I travel through the outer ring road daily and twice a month head to the airport, so my rant slash proposals will be pertaining to that. And I would be more than happy if everyone of us shares, comments and contribute ideas to decongest the overstressed city of Bengaluru.

You can view the BDA’s vision for 2015 Bengaluru documented in 2005 for yourself here, and the alleged metro plans for ORR here. It sure is a long read, and perhaps that is why no one bothered to pay any heed to it. As you can see, these things are far from reality. I won’t even bother to mention about the ‘Vision 2015’ document, as it is way beyond being optimistic and thus clearly a failure. While it is obvious that there is no other way of de-stressing an arterial road than plying a mass transit system of a train/metro, we are already way past its usefulness. By the time and if ever a metro does come up, it would perhaps be too late and at this rate, the nightmare would already have become a reality.

The metro document talks about Silk board to K R Puram without crossing the two, hence the traffic here with added parking requirement vows will certainly contribute to mass chaos at these already infamous junctions. The document was made only in 2016, which means that they realised that ORR is being burdened only last year, probably the same time you folks reading this, started getting fed up too. The nod for the project was on 2 March 2017. I do not know for how much money do these companies have to pay to get the land here for, and to whom does it go to, however the govt. would be bearing 10% of the cost of the project. #just saying. Even post 2 March, I have been seeing construction of housing complexes at Sarjapur junction, Sun City, Bellandur Central, and so on, and Tech Parks and multiple MNC buildings such as Embassy, and extension of EcoSpace/EcoWorld and allegedly Microsoft and Oracle, all boasting their capacity of half a million white collar jobs and god knows how many residential houses. If even a half of them travels by car, which they will, you have at least 3 lakh more cars on the road by the time you finish reading this article with the attached documents. When I read that the metro project is aimed at completing in 2020, I had to take another look at the calendar. The state we are in is alarming.

The document talks primarily about innovative ways of financing the metro, and not innovative ways of curbing the traffic. The authorities should keep in mind that plying trains is not a solution to traffic vows, but is one of the key ingredients of it. If starting a metro line were thought of as an ultimate objective, it would never serve its purpose.

There are many of us who, in whatever way we can, try to do something for the betterment of the place we call home. If you think your suggestions would work, another way to spread them around is through this website, http://www.ichangemycity.com/. And of course, share this article and comment on it!

A] Lets start with buses.

1. With absence of trains, buses are the arteries of a city, and untill there is a robust network of buses within residential localities, it is very difficult to progress with infrastructure advances. I have seen negligible buses come inside of HSR and other residential areas, forcing people to resort to cab aggregators. With the last mile connectivity non-existent, adaptation of bus service would always remain low.

2. Bus nomenclature is another phenomenon. Again, referencing Mumbai, if you wish to go to south Mumbai and you are anywhere in Mumbai, all you have to do is catch a single digit or a two digit bus. One of its end points would be at SoBo. Get a ~200 range bus to travel to Bandra/Santacruz, in general western line, get a ~300 range bus to travel to Ghatkopar/Chembur and neighbouring areas, and get a ~500 range bus to go to Navi Mumbai. BMTC nomenclature is beyond my understanding so much so that I didn’t think there existed any correlation. 500CA and 500AC go to different places! However, there seem to be some logic behind its naming as several Quorans point out here, and also this website for your reference, still didn’t help me, hope it helps you.

3. There should be an m-indicator like app for Bengaluru. None from those I searched for are even as useful. Looks like it is time to make one.

4. Driver trainings need to be revisited. 
 There has not been a single day that I have not seen a bus trying to overtake another bus at its stop, just to overtake and stop in front of it. This act stops 3 lanes on the road from moving, sometimes resulting in sudden breaking of cars and bikes besides these buses. Plenty times in the procedure of overtaking, the drivers end up skipping the stop altogether resulting in confused passengers running behind buses. Conductors of course needs to be more polite, as does everyone on this planet. It won’t be a curse to them if they ever actually do return back our Rs.2 and Rs.4.

5. Buses stopping immediately at turnings and junctions. 
 As mentioned earlier, buses almost always have their designated stops at turnings, mergers and other junctions. The drivers too would not logically think about this and stand where the stops are. This is the only time they would abide by rules. There would be a few instances that I would point out in this however, this behaviour is common throughout the city.

  • Just before Silk board towards BTM:
    The stops can be seen here at the mouth of a lane and the dreaded Silkboard signal. This prohibits people to take a left towards Koramangala, as the buses after the stop want to go straight, or horror of horrors, right. This particular stop can be moved behind the intersecting lane away from the junction.
Yes, apart from the fact that everything is always a standstill here, the two bus stops are right at the junction.
  • Just after the Silk Board Junction towards HSR
    I have never seen less than 3 buses piled up here, maybe the drivers are waiting for some sort of a revelation, I don’t know. Again, the stop is designated at the mouth of a tributary road blocking it. This stop should be moved inside the service road ahead of the lane, without blocking the opening of the service road.
All maps images are sourced by Google Maps.

In fact, I took the liberty to take a satellite image from Google showing what exactly happens. My earlier points are seen here.

Buses pile up and encroach the entire road. Vehicles coming from Silkboard main road aren’t able to enter the service road, and those from the service road aren’t able to enter the main road. The ones from the lane are blocked. And most part of the road is occupied by the buses, leaving so little room for the white car to pass through.

  • This same behaviour is observed at the Koramangala petrol pump junction. You know what I’m talking about!
  • From HSR to ORR-
    Bus stops pile up at the Agara junctions.
    There are countless buses merging here and stopping at all roads, service roads and main roads on both sides.

I would suggest that the bus stops be distributed, for example the buses that come from Koramangala would have their stops at the Agara lane itself. And walkway to facilitate walking commuters. Believe me, it is not as far as it looks here.

  • On 27th Main, vehicles ply on both sides of the dividers leading to huge inflow at the Agara junction and the police would of course not curtail any of this. They’re busy catching the worst dreadful criminals — bikers without helmet.
    Apart from fining against lane discipline, police only send vehicles through service roads with some judgement of traffic and not just looking at empty spots. Police should care a little less about fining fancy lights and number plates and control the traffic; of at least cause less traffic. In fact, they stop these offenders exactly where they could cause more traffic.
  • Bus stops left at Sarjapur junction and takes right at Sarjapur road to sweep of all the traffic.
    This area tops my list of pathetic traffic management on this road. Why I hear you ask?
This is chaos. Traffic due to this builds up till Bellandur because of this.

Some suggestion that may work:

  • From ORR towards HSR
    BMTC buses and private buses take up a third lane to sweep the traffic into a small single pot hole filled lane besides the Agara bridge start leading to tailing behind. Vehicles coming from the service road too take a complete sweeping right to take the koramangala junction from sarjapur service road and stop all traffic.The entire width of the road is occupied by people not wanting to go on the bridge leaving little to no room for vehicles intending to take the bridge.
    I have seen buses initially on the left lane to go on the service lanes to go straight below the flyover later change their minds and take the middle lane, sweeping the entire road blocking all traffic, possibly impending crashes of bikers who accelerate instantly seeing some open road. 
    Potholes of course have been on the service road always, rain or no rains, slowing the traffic completely.

Why is there laying of paver blocks under the bridge? Can there not be space for buses to stop? Or parking for those bikers who wish to come from HSR and board a bus here? Or just some garden? Trees? Anything but just paverblocks man!

Look what can be done below a flyover! Oh, Mumbai, its you again!

But more on bridges and flyovers later. Oh the horrors.

There is lot more road left ahead such as the EcoSpace blackhole where time stands still, yet again, people from the left wish to go to the right, and vice versa. This traffic extends till Bellandur just because of this primary reason. A mandatory skywalk is also required at the Prestige Tech Park openings to avoid near death experiences of America’s brain drain.

  • However, one way that may have been in the past is to only have buses on the existing service lanes. Since the service lanes are anyway one way and almost pointless in that regard, they would perhaps better serve as dedicated bus lanes. The inner 3-feet lining of these lanes should be dedicated bicycle lanes followed by footpaths. These separate lane for buses, cycling paths and footpaths would ease the traffic flow, and reduce congestions caused by all of the above points. 
    The entire stretch of the outer ring road has provisions for service roads, which if mandated as bus lanes could ease the traffic. Opening and outflow for lanes perpendicular to the ORR should happen at regulated intervals where in these buses will have signals to let traffic pass. From Silkboard, passages for ORR bound traffic can be made at Teacher’s colony, HSR 19th Main, Agara Pump, Suncity/Sarjapur, Bakasur, Central, Sakra, Ecospace, Embassy, Cessna, Kadubeesanahalli, Prestige, More, Marathahalli and so on. These would act as bus stops while also allowing other vehicular passage movements. Parking on the service road would not be allowed, as entry to these is only for buses.
Like the BRTS in Pune, Ahmedabad and other places if strict lane discipline is followed, it can do wonders.

Though there is a lot lot more to write about, this brings me to a logical pause for buses and their routes.

I did anticipate this, but this has indeed become a really long post. Ergo, more will continue in the next article.

To get a segue into the next article,

B] Cabs

No cabs should be allowed to go inside Tech Parks. Cabs would only travel on the ORR and tech parks need to provide robust shuttle facility for the last mile travel inside of parks. This is the primary reason of frustrated cab drivers, unimaginably long cab waiting, resulting in surge pricing, and people deterring away from cab sharing. And while we are at that, please use https://quickride.in/ or https://www.wunder.org/ or anything you fancy, but please please do not travel alone in a 5 seater car.

To be continued…