By Ashvini Ranjan, Convenor, Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP)
A Mysurean visiting Bengaluru experiences a shock seeing the tsunami of vehicular traffic on the roads. According to the official website of Bengaluru City Police, the vehicular population as on 31.3.2016 was 56 lakh motor vehicles. Of these, 70% constituted two-wheelers, 15% four-wheelers and the balance being autorickshaws, buses and others. The numbers are growing at the rate of 10% annually. The average speed of vehicle movement is less than 10 km per hour and continues to slow down with each passing year.
It is a daily challenge for the authorities and in particular the Police to keep the traffic moving. Senior Police Officers in charge of traffic express regret in private conversations, for having missed the opportunity to develop a good public transport system for Bengaluru city and better city planning when there was still a possibility. Most of the measures undertaken to improve are temporary and focussed on solving the day to day challenges with no long-term solution yet in sight.
It does not require a genius to foresee that very soon and out of sheer necessity, businesses will start shifting to other nearby cities like Mysuru. With improving road, rail and air connectivity between such cities, the process will take place much faster than one expects. In fact the process has already started going by the statistics available. The big question is: Is Mysuru ready for the mass vehicle and human migration?
The number of motor vehicles in Mysuru have more than doubled in less than a decade, states a leading daily. Motor vehicles registered with the State Transport Department as on Dec. 31, 2016, stood at 8.15 lakh with two-wheelers accounting for 6.51 lakh of them or almost 80%, followed by 90,517 cars (11.10%), officials said. While there were 21,642 autos, the KSRTC bus count was over 4,000.
Mysuru was never planned for this number of vehicles and until a year or two, density of traffic was not an issue. Today to travel through the central business district, a motorist thinks more than once. Often finding ways to avoid it by taking a detour. Should one have business on either Sayyaji Rao Road, Irwin Road, Ashoka Road or D. Devaraj Urs Road, it makes more sense to take a bus or a auto. Finding a parking space on any of the said roads is like winning a lottery ticket! One shudders to imagine the situation when the real migration starts flowing in from Bengaluru.
The temporary closure of Bengaluru-Nilgiri Road in Mysuru is creating chaos in the city traffic. Police controlling traffic are at their wits end to manage the vehicular movement. This is just an indication of how fragile our road network is and its inability to take any additional loads.
There is still hope to put our house in order should our political leaders and city planners care to do it. The following suggestions may be considered:
- A good network of public transport system with increased frequency and comfortable buses (senior citizen-friendly). This will reduce the need for using private vehicles. Service and not profit should be the motive of this facility.
- Employing the services of expert city planners around the world to examine existing plans and improve where necessary to meet the accelerated growth. Not to stand on ego issues in the interest of the city. It will save big investments in bridges and underpasses in the future.
- Strict implementation of basement parking rule in commercial buildings and apartment complexes. Schemes that condone or compromise building rule violations should be stopped.
- Building drawings should be displayed at construction sites for public viewing so as to avoid and discourage deviations.
- All minor road works and maintenance of the city to happen during the night as done in other developed countries to avoid flow of traffic during the day.
- Using all private and public unutilised open spaces in the city including house sites for vehicle parking. This should be available till such time the owners decide to construct or otherwise use it.
- Incentives and concessions to businesses who decide to move out from the Central Business District to the periphery of the city.
- Penalties for violations of traffic and building laws to become more severe.
A time has come when our leaders have to think like statesmen, rising above party interests and make improving Mysuru their primary objective. Even more important, we the people of Mysuru should conduct ourselves with greater maturity, patience and comply with laid down law. Swachh Mysuru is not just about cleanliness only, it is also about how clean and dignified even our conduct is!