2019 has been a year of many promises, a lot of hope and some real ground action for public transport and civic administration in Bengaluru. Being an election year, all parties bent backwards to promise speedy implementation of the suburban train. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal used the suburban train as a big carrot for voters of Bengaluru, his strong support for it made an impact, and videos went viral; city voters delivered all three city seats to the BJP, but the minister is yet to deliver. The project is yet to get Union cabinet clearance... With the BJP running the state and central governments, we expected things to finally take off, but it hasn’t happened.
All is not lost, though. We now have a few additional services for local commuters, and the numbers are growing. The automated signalling project is completed, and quadrupling of tracks between the city and Whitefield has been kicked off. The train to the airport is also materialising, with a halt station being readied and shuttle services to the terminal. The demand for more trains on ORR/Hosur line, which will impact traffic, remains unfulfilled.
The city will hear louder chants of #ChukuBukuBeku in 2020. The massive citizen protest against the elevated corridor in March made the government rethink its decision, and eventually, the tender was cancelled. However, references to the elevated corridor emerged once again in the comprehensive mobility plan recently published by Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL). This is worrisome indeed, and shows that big-ticket projects are favoured by all parties. It is also unfortunate that BMRCL is making citywide mobility plans and not a unified transport agency!
One of the reasons for continued talk of flyovers is the snail’s pace of construction of the Metro. Tenders were floated in 2019 for the busiest IT corridor on ORR, the line to Electronics City and Whitefield are still under construction, despite being the most notorious congestion corridors.
On the brighter side, the humble bus finally got some attention -- in a rare display of cooperation, the BBMP, BMTC and Bengaluru City Police came together to start the bus lane on Outer Ring Road. The public consultation held by BMTC will be remembered as a highlight of the year, when a government agency pro-actively involved citizens and sought inputs. Those of us who campaigned hard for #BusBhagyaBeku (double the fleet, halve the fares) were delighted to see a public statement from CM BS Yediyurappa that 6,000 new buses would be procured.
The increased presence of cycles is a welcome sign, but the safety of cyclists and pedestrians continues to be a big concern, in a city choked with 80 lakh vehicles. 2019 will be remembered as the one of ward committees — 27 years after ward committees became law, they finally saw some real action. Almost all the civic issues —garbage management, potholes, water supply, electricity, lakes, footpaths — can be effectively managed at the ward level with citizen participation. Ward committees today are filled with friends and family members of the councillors, nevertheless, we must celebrate the 1,000-plus meetings that happened this past year.
In another positive sign, 2019 saw new zonal commissioners in the BBMP, and the promise of zonal budgets was also well-received.It’s been a year of citizen activism, as people hit the streets with clear demands. Their voices were amplified by the media and heard by the political class and officials. It is unfortunate, though, that citizens need to take extreme steps to get basic civic amenities.
I urge the government to declare a flyover holiday for the next 10 years. We need more and better footpaths and cycling infrastructure, aggressive afforestation and not tree felling for road widening. We want citizen-centric governance, longer terms for the mayor and realistic budgets.Our city has global recognition today, but a terrible civic reputation; 2020 can help change that perception if we all work together.
Co-founder, Citizens for Bengaluru