“Bus priority lane in ORR: Ambitious but poorly thought-out?”

There is much optimism around the bus priority lane to be operational on ORR tomorrow. But there's no clarity on what outcome we can expect, or how the project will fit into the overall transport plan for ORR and the city

Tomorrow, BMTC’s bus priority lane (BPL) will be fully operational on a 27-km stretch of Outer Ring Road (ORR), from Swami Vivekananda Road to Silk Board. The project was to be launched on November 1st, but was postponed to 15th, as BBMP was unable to complete the infrastructure work due to rains.

There is much optimism about the project, but it has strategic and planning issues that should have been addressed beforehand. In the first part of this series, I look at the strategic problems around BPL.

BPL is not contextualised in terms of the city’s transport needs

The project should be conceived (and projected) as an important part of the mobility-improvement plan for the whole city. Thus, UMTA (a central agency that handles the overall multimodal transportation of Bengaluru) should plan and explain BPL in overall context:

    • What are the transportation needs of the city – current and future? Share the Travel Demand statistics, Travel Demand zones, Origin-Destination matrix etc.
    • How is the current transport demand met (mode share between BMTC, private buses, school buses, cabs, autos, private vehicles and walking)?
    • How this mode share would change in the ideal scenario and the most-likely scenario?
    • What benefits are expected (such as reduced congestion, economic gain)?
    • What steps are being taken overall to achieve this change, and how will each step work?
    • How does the BPL fit into this plan?

But this approach is missing. Now BPL simply sounds like an idea that we should try out.

The project is launched without any expected deliverable

BMTC has no target for this project (that is, on what basis it would be considered “successful”). For example, the following questions are unanswered:

    • What is the expected reduction in travel time, for a given trip?
    • What target Level Of Service (free space on roads) will we achieve? And consequently, what is the projected increase in vehicle speed on the remaining two lanes?
    • What percent of private vehicle users will switch to public transport?
    • What is the expected reduction in pollution?
    • What is the benefit to the city’s economy?

The public will agree to bear the extra pain that comes with bus lanes only if they can look forward to some exciting results. They will not cooperate if no outcomes have been set for the project.

BPL cannot substitute for Metro. Why is the long-term plan missing?

Just the 6-km stretch of ORR between Marathahalli and Ibbalur has 38 massive people hubs including tech parks and malls. And there are no grid roads, that facilitate smoother traffic and pedestrian movement, to support the ORR. Hence we need a Mass Rapid Transit System – that is, the Metro – here.

A BPL just cannot handle as much traffic volume as the Metro. But the Metro project has been stalled indefinitely.

There is no official clarification on the long-term mobility plans for the area. Currently, it appears as if the BPL plan is aimed at merely pacifying people temporarily.

BPL needs moderate levels of congestion. Reduce congestion first!

According to the Revised Master Plan (RMP 2031), the stretch of ORR between Marathahalli and Ibbalur currently carries five times its rated capacity.

If we introduce BPL on this three-lane stretch, all private vehicles will have to be diverted to the other lanes. Thus each lane will be forced to carry 3-4 times its capacity, bringing them to a grinding halt.

Clearly, we must first reduce heavy congestion to moderate levels.

Fortunately there is a way. Single-occupancy cars make up much of private transport. If they take to the bus, much of the congestion will dramatically disappear from ORR. After that, BPL becomes attractive. But BMTC has never tried to woo the users of single-occupancy cars.

BMTC must pay attention to fundamental service design, and attract single-occupancy drivers to buses. Only this will reduce congestion on ORR. Here is a list of things that BMTC and other mobility providers must follow to popularise public transport.

[In the second part of this series, I discuss the practical problems in implementing BPL]


  1. Sameer Shisodia says:

    “If we introduce BPL on this three-lane stretch, all private vehicles will have to be diverted to the other lanes. Thus each lane will be forced to carry 3-4 times its capacity, bringing them to a grinding halt.”

    Best possible outcome 🙂 Some of the answers to the questions were given in the public consultation. It’s meant to be a cheap alpha, to collect some data/inputs as well. Let’s not push the govt to adopt a one-shot-always-right approach and make expensive mistakes of cheaper iterations from which we could learn – though yes, some of the more obvious ones could have been caught early.

  2. Ram says:

    It’s really hopeless. Not every bmtc driver follow this lane. They drive their own way and stop in the middle of the road.

    • Jayaram says:

      100% correct, 99% Volvo drivers are rash Driving, and most of them are One hand driving
      Why speed governor not getting installed in BMTC bus,in citiy speed limit should be 40kmph.

  3. Pramodh V M says:

    It’s just waste of public money. Most of the time, trucks and other vehicles are parked in this lane. The rash driving by BMTC drivers, the occupy all of the road blocking complete traffic. It’s gonna flop on all the level.

  4. Ramani. Subbumahalingam says:

    The roads in and around ORR between Marthahallli and Iblur is in bad shape.BBMP has to repair roads like Doddakannalli-Kadubisanahalli road connecting ORR and Sarjapur.

  5. Prabhu says:

    This article also lacks preparation, no data to substantiate thier claims like BPL needs moderate traffic.

  6. Chandrashekar says:

    Practical possibility at local prevailing conditions should be thought before introducing any new ideas. How much this is causing inconvenience to other vehicles now.
    Make a survey

  7. Kumar says:

    I agree with article but I am happy that this project has been given a start and freehand from politicians. Hopefully it evolves over a period of time and is an alternative to metro and competes with it. If there is competition only the will govt services improve else complacency will set in.

  8. Vish says:

    Why it bmtc not using the right most Lanes for BPL? Are there good reasons for this decision?

    • Anil says:

      Where is the place for bus stops if they use the right most lane?

    • swar dubey says:

      Do buses even have doors on the right side?

    • Nagesh says:

      Originally this article was meant to be published as a whole, but later it was split in three parts. This logic is explained in the second part. That said, please note that we are constrained by lack of data from BMTC/DULT. If more data is available, we will share it and also update this article. (Contrary to the usual static articles, this will have to be dynamic, to respond to the changes in the ground situation.)

    • Nagesh says:

      Well, there is no point in deliberately failing, so that we can learn from those failures. And most of the problems highlighted in the three parts are predictable. Even a pilot must have much more homework than what we have seen.

  9. Murli KN says:

    If BMTC is confined to the dedicated lane, then other traffic can move smoothly. It’s parallel parking of BMTC bus at bus stops that causes traffic pileup and conjections.

  10. Vinay Lonimath says:

    Seems like Metro is the only way to control the huge amount of traffic. Why not make Car pooling like Quick ride mandatory on this stretch? I have seen employees at Managerial posts driving big cars like Ertiga, Innova, Duster, Fortuner etc all alone. The car poolers are the ones that drive small cars like Kwid, Wagon R, Alto etc. Managers think they earn enough money and feel why they should let other people in their car. Government should impose Tech companies to inculcate Car pooling policies strictly.

  11. Kiran Dubasi says:

    It is a commendable job and decision taken!! Appreciate the topic has been raised now and people are working on it!!

    It is a good point that single person vehicles (4 wheelers) to be asked to use public transport. but there are multiple reasons behind using the 4 wheelers:

    1) Rains
    So whenever there are rains(which are very frequent in Bangalore) ,it is difficult for people to commute from one place to other with luggages.

    2) No point to point commutation.
    We don’t have direct frequent buses from Electronic city to ITPL, Electronic city to Koramangala, etc etc. People have to take multiple buses ,so again if it rains it is an issue.

    3) It is always safe for a female passengers to take their own vehicles for commutation.

    4) People who are physically weak, it is better to use their own transportation.

    There are multiple points which makes it difficult to divert single passengers using their own vehicles.

    Though Quick ride is one of the best options.

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