Reduce traffic to a third, avoid road widening

Three simple steps to maximize capacity of existing roads backed with some number crunching.

This is an analysis based on measurable data that shows running buses on time will reduce traffic on roads to 1/3rd its current value. Next, a strategy is outlined to get buses running on time -we can take a hint from the metro: the metro will run on time since it has its own track, so we can do the same for buses: a dedicated lane for buses or specific roads earmarked only for buses. Additionally, the cost of having traffic wardens (who will maintain traffic discipline) for every kilometre of road works out roughly to be Rs 5 crore per annum which is still far less than Rs 6.5 crore per km for road widening.

In the context of the current sankey road widening, making that stretch BMTC buses only will provide immediate relief without having to widen the road.

Maximizing paisa vasool of the road

If the capacity of the roads are a cause for traffic jams then its logical that we first find the best means to use the existing capacity before spending money to increase capacity by widening roads.  

The idea behind finding the beat means is simple: A 10×5 ft car carries 1 passenger and occupies 50sft of road. However the same 10×5 area in a bus can accommodate 6-8 people. So if cars take 50 sq ft/person to transport people and buses take 50/6 = 8 sq ft of road space to transport a person we can conclude buses are 50/8=6 times more efficient in transporting people and hence should be given priority on the road.

Using private vehicles like cars, two wheelers etc also causes other types of road space wastage: the different sizes of the vehicles cause gaps and wasted road space. Additionally, there is the manoeuvering gaps that need to be maintained between vehicles.

This analysis is extended below and summarized in a table. We calculate how much road space is taken up in transporting 47 people (the capacity of 1 bus) in a bus and compare that with road space taken up when they use private vehicles such as cars, two wheelers. To make the comparison realistic we assume a mix of 8 cars (2 passengers/car) and 31 two wheelers (1 per two wheeler) to transport 47  people.

We will allocate 3 inches as the inter-vehicle distance. So, two vehicles will have 6 inches between them. This inter vehicle distance is just wasted road space and it keeps increasing as the number of vehicle on the road increases.












Road space(sft) bus









































Table: road space used per passenger by bus, car and motorbike. The table also shows additional road space occupied by 8 cars and 31 two wheelers used to transport 47 passengers. As can be seen the road space occupied is approximately 4.15 times higher (1429.88/344)!

As can be seen its most effective to travel in buses since the number of people transported per square foot is highest. This is not revolutionary news since most cities in the world run with public transport and we would be defying history in trying to run a city without decent public transport!

Getting Buses to run on time

Now that we agree buses are the best mode of transport, how to make buses run effectively. We are spending millions on the metro because we know it will run on schedule. But if the metro can keep schedule, why can’t buses? Well, metro has its own track while buses need to use the same roads as other vehicles. So why can’t we give buses their own ‘track’ -a dedicated lane on large roads (BRTS – Bus Rapid Transit System) or entire roads. This will ensure buses don’t get bogged down by other traffic and will run on schedule.

All private vehicles can run on alternate roads. Is this possible? Well, currently every time there is a road repair or even for road widening the entire road is closed and traffic runs on alternate roads. We can just change that to have private vehicles on alternate roads and buses on a separate road.

Traffic jams

It’s not yet proven that traffic jams are caused by the heavy traffic. It’s usually a traffic disruption: road repair, vehicle breakdown, right turning and u-turning traffic, motorists crowding the right lanes that cause the traffic jams. Once the disruption occurs, vehicles go helter-skelter and the heavy traffic ensures that very soon the roads are clogged.

Can we have more traffic wardens so that any disruption is minimized? Perhaps, 1 traffic warden every 500 metres on trunk roads. This person is to intervene, alert and contain a disruption from turning into a traffic jam.

How do we figure how many people we may need? I don’t have the road network data so I will use approximate Metro project data. The metro network is 42 km long and the monorail project which is a second feeder is 33 km. Let’s make the critical trunk road network even denser and say its twice these rail networks put together. Possibly, we can just target major office hour traffic areas – like the IT hubs of Whitefield and Electronic city.

  • Trunk Road length in Bangalore= 2 x (42+33) = 150 km
  • Number of wardens required (at 500 m intervals) = 150×2 = 300
  • Salary per warden/month = Rs 8000
  • Annual cost of 300 wardens = 300x .08 x 12 Lakhs  = Rs 288 lakhs=Rs 2.88 crores.
  • Cost of road widening/km  = Rs 25 crore (Ref: Rajkumar Road widening news article)

Clearly investing in traffic monitoring and evaluating its effectiveness is well worth it when you consider the cost of road widening.

On a side note: the police force size in India is pretty small per 100000 people. UN recommends 222 and we have just 130


Alternative measures such as dedicated bus lanes, increasing penalty for traffic disruptions and effectively patrolling trunk roads with traffic wardens should first be implemented to maximize capacity usage of existing roads. It is only after these measures are in place we need to consider destructive strategies such as road widening.

Road widening should be the last option not the first!


  1. Arathi Manay Yajaman says:

    Hope that people in administration read this. With the TDR being offered, we will have tall buildings on narrow lanes… They have not seemed to realise that there is no end to the road widening option… or maybe they choose not to realise it! The way things are going, the city will forever be a work-in-progress.

  2. Vasanth Ramu says:

    Metro, Mono work should take up pace. 2nd Phase Metro should start now itself. No progress on the Mono front. Along with that if BRTS is taken up on wider roads such as ORR, traffic can reduce like anything.

    Government is spending more time on saving its skin rather than any action. BBMP should first clean our dusty and dirty roads, then should come to road widening. It is not doing its primary task properly.

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