This is a case-study on the causes of traffic congestion experienced on the Outer Ring Road – in particular, the stretch (and direction) starting from Mahadevapura till Marathahalli, ORR. Here is the link to the Google maps (click to open exact location in google maps) for this location. In general, while traffic congestion is everywhere in Bangalore, the aim of this document is to show-case this particular stretch as glaring example of various reasons and faults that lead to congestion. It would hopefully serve as an example of things that can be readily improved, as well as certain designs that need to go away for good.
Important Note: This document is in no way published to demean the hard-working traffic police of Bangalore (BTP as they are known), who attend to the traffic day in and out, standing for hours in pollution and risking their lives in order to smooth out the traffic flow. This study is also not to demean the general road commuters although patience and discipline are virtues that never go wrong and should be inculcated at all times.
First of all, let us see this stretch we are talking about from a bird’s eye-view and then get deeper to the point where we start to see multiple root-causes of congestion. This is a part of the eastern part of Bangalore (or, Bengaluru) where most of the IT companies are situated. These cutting-edge corporation form an easy target and excuse for all the blames of population explosion, congestion, immigration (sadly used in one’s own country to point to outsiders) as the source of all evil and problems, without looking at the fundamental issues due to which such problem arise.
As one can see, this is the National Highway 44, and one of the major roads that is exceptionally well maintained when compared to other local ones including the state highways. This is obviously expected as National Highways do follow highest road standards and planning in India. The NH-44 on this stretch has:
- Two flyovers:
- One at Mahadevapura
- Other at Doddanekundi
- Two under-passes:
- One between Doddanekundi and Karthik-Nagar
- Other under Marathahalli junction
Now, this was done to have a smooth flow of traffic and attain a signal-free movement for a convenient drive. (By the way, some years ago, there used to be a convenient crossing and a traffic light near the Rainbow Hospital, but that has been done away with, hopefully based on some research – however it is something that has caused more pain than a solution.
The reality is not so smooth though. Except for certain times on weekends or wee hours of early morning or dark late-nights, the traffic congestion causes cars, buses, tempo travelers to inch forward on this mighty highway, so much so that one can probably “walk” faster instead. The bikers and tuk-tuks, zig-zag to their benefit but to an overall detriment to road discipline, successfully transferring a pain under their own ass to other commuters.
This straight stretch of about 4 kilometers can take anything between 4 to 40 minutes to cover depending on the traffic conditions and the time-of-the-day/week one chooses to travel. The moot-point that “Why does one not WALK instead?” can be easily contested that anyone driving for longer distances (maybe going from KR Puram to Silk board or any such route) cannot be expected to walk all that distance even when he or she has to inch forward at several places where people can just walk faster.
Efficient automobile traffic is a fundamental city service. When traffic slows, productivity suffers, goods can’t flow, and first responders are delayed. Yet cities around the globe struggle to manage their streets. The intersection is perhaps the greatest traffic control challenge. The risks are abundant: drivers running red lights, making illegal turns, or dodging pedestrians.
Source: Intel (Insight.tech) https://www.insight.tech/cities/ai-puts-traffic-managers-in-the-driver-s-seat
Chaos in Diversity
Vehicle Diversity make simple roads more complex mediums of transport. Where a bus condenses several passengers and drives as a single unit, each biker takes its own control and swerves as it pleases to him to get ahead without regard to any road discipline. A tuk-tuk can drive at the same speed as a tempo-traveler, but gives two hoots for passenger safety with its flimsy fabric sheet and seats without doors or windows (forget safety belts and air-bags)! The argument for buses and public transport also falls short as everyone exercise his/her choice of vehicle and flexibility. Although the public transport on this stretch (and generally in Bangalore) is several times better compared to many other cities in India, except for a few. It would be better if people used more public transport, especially with the ongoing Metro project, but several cars, company taxis, school buses, auto tuk-tuks, bikers would still ply based on their individual requirements in this democratic country.
Although different people drive differently, each vehicle lends itself to a different driving style even when the driven by the same person. Have you noticed that a tuk-tuk (due to its 3 wheeled configuration) would always drive and set itself between two cars from behind or the legal space left between two vehicles (just like a biker)? That is because its maneuverability and single front-wheel configuration to drive as a biker but still take several passengers (although with laughable safety). A person who has bike as well as a car, can be quite rash while driving a bike but quite careful in his car. Cars, like buses and tempos are rectangular boxes that tend to form a lane with a much higher probability than a hurried biker or a rogue tuk-tuk. With enough rules, but lax regulation, we have a situation where everyone tries his best to work around the discipline for a selfish personal goal and cares less for the society at large.
While people upgrade or choose different forms of vehicles and drive in different ways or moods, there is something more permanent than vehicle diversity and driving styles, and that is the road diversity and planning. On this small 4 Km stretch, we have an array of different road styles. Namely, flyovers, under-passes, service roads, crossings, turns, curves, up-hills & down-hills, bus-stops, entries and exists from major tech parks, merges, splits, one-ways, two-ways etc etc. In this paper, we are more interested in showing the aspects of road diversity and design that have caused much problem to the road commuters as well as become the major factor in traffic congestion on this stretch.
A deeper investigation – Mahadevapura junction on Outer Ring Road
Coming from KR Puram, this is the first flyover one encounters. It is well maintained and helps the vehicles go over the populated market and junction underneath. True to its purpose, the flyover serves the traffic well. Like other flyover designs that can be seen in Bangalore, this one too, is a strange split design, with a gap between the two directions of traffic.
However, the problem lies under this flyover. Under the flyover we have the following:
- A service road (un-demarcated) on the left – 2 way each side of junction (A1 – A4)
- A service road (un-demarcated) on the right – 2 way each side of junction (B1 – B4)
- A road in the middle (luckily separated) – 2 way each side of junction (C1 – C4)
- A road (un-demarcated but few makeshift dividers) going towards Mahadevapura (on the right – 2 way) (D1 – D2)
- A road (un-demarcated) going towards Udaya Nagar (on the left – 2 way) (E1 – E2)
Basically, it is a junction where (instead of a normal 4 road junction – each 2 way) we have a 8-road junction (16 directions meeting under this flyover). It is not unusual to see this junction turning into a rugby ground every evening where people fight for every inch to come to the junction while the “exists” are empty as no-one is able to leave!
Any vehicle coming from any road on this juncture, has an option to choose any of the 8 directions to exit out! There are one or two traffic policemen tending the junction and and momentarily stopping one/two lanes. The opportunist motorists coming from 6 other lanes try to slide past them giving two hoots to any remaining discipline or authority. Most of the bikers don’t even care that there is a traffic policeman much less wait for his actions. And the pedestrians, they risk and look: left, right, front, back, and at all obtuse and acute angles to find who might be coming to hit them, although they themselves don’t ever stop jay walking!
The 16-way junction is not as clean as it shows on Google maps (click to open exact location in google maps). The roads you see on the map, is instead enough coal-tar connecting all 16-paths into a central playground of traffic mess that the authority enjoys having the sadistic pleasure of watching the scene unfold on their CCTV live screens (every day, every week, every year from over several years). The signals work some times, but the people have been habitual of ignoring them when they sometimes do work and each individual decides on its own. On top of it, there are hawkers and tea-sellers who have their (so called) shop running for earning their 2 loaf of daily-bread (or Idli/Dosa in this region).
The only question is a big WHY? Why “design” a mess and expect it to work any better?
What a single or two or even 3 traffic policemen even do to manage this junction and be fully in control? It is clearly a source of traffic jams and a cause of daily traffic problems, congestion, fuel wastage, anger/stress, delays, accident bills, insurance claims and a direct loss to the ex-chequer. On the design aspect of the road and its junction, who is responsible for all the losses day after day from years and several years to come? Have you ever even accounted? Unless one is considering Mahadevapura junction as a revenue source, no-one in the right mind would blame a car, biker, tuk-tuk or a bus. Reminding of buses, C1 and C4 also house bus-stops. And when the bus stops, all the traffic behind it also stops. Cheery on cake!
Lest I start talking about bus timings and multiple buses (including private) vying for passengers, racing with each other and stacking on the bus stop to create even more traffic chaos, it will be better to move to the next traffic congestion point, which is no more than 1 Km away. Enjoy the ride!
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