Bengaluru’s Mobility Plan has major drawbacks, says IISc review

Comprehensive Mobility Plan does not assess the impact of its proposed measures like elevated corridors or parking policy. It doesn't clarify how increasing the road capacity would help either

The BMRCL and DULT have come up with a draft Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) 2019 to achieve sustainability, and thereby improve liveability in Bengaluru. The CMP develops 10 strategies such as augmenting capacity of public transport, promoting the use of electric vehicles, and so on.

It further develops three sustainable transport ‘options’ or scenarios, each by grouping a certain set of the strategies. And then analyses the impact of each option on modal share and emissions in the city. 

Eventually the CMP identifies several projects, which would be implemented in three phases.

CMP has been technically reviewed by Dr Ashish Verma, Associate Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering in IISc, and his team of research scholars including Vajjarapu Harsha, Hemanthini Allirani, P S Karthika, Nipun Choubey, Rohit Singh Nitwal and Furqan Ahmad Bhat.

As per the review, following are some major drawbacks of the current version of the CMP. 

  • Lack of ‘mode choice model’

To gauge the impact of a proposed urban transport policy/project, it’s important to understand and model factors like travel time and cost, waiting time, comfort etc that influences commuters’ decision to choose a specific mode (car, two-wheeler, bus, walk etc). This would help understand how people’s choice of different transport modes will change, how that in turn will change the traffic patterns and travel times across the city network, as well as petrol/diesel consumption and exhaust emissions.

In the absence of this ‘mode choice model’, we cannot realistically assess the impact of proposed measures like the elevated corridors, parking policy, improved public transport etc.

Also, walking and cycling are not included as transport modes anywhere in the modelling in CMP. This means there is no way to quantify the impact of the proposed strategies and options on the mode share of walking and cycling.

This is the biggest and major drawback of the current version of the CMP report. This also makes the quantitative assessment of proposed options and strategies, as reported in the document, less accurate.

  • Augmenting road capacity is counterproductive

Strategy 6 in the CMP, ‘Augment capacity of road infrastructure’, is misleading. It will only prove counterproductive as it will increase the private (car, two-wheeler etc) mode share in the city. It will also oppose any effort to achieve the target mode shares of public transport, walking and cycling.

Traditional supply-based road infrastructure measures like road widening and elevated corridors will only shift the point of congestion rather than solving the problem of congestion altogether. Introducing system-level measures that brings desired mode shift and improvement in sustainability should be the only focus of the CMP.

While the document mentions that such measures are aimed at prioritising public transport and regulating private vehicles, it is not at all clear how this would be possible. Also, since there is no mode choice model calibrated and used in this study (as mentioned earlier), the real negative impacts of such measures will not be visible in the impact assessment done in the report.

Also, the capacity of a given transport option (Metro, suburban rail etc) should match with the travel demand on a corridor, expressed as persons traveled per hour per direction (pphpd). But if there’s more than one transport mode with matching capacity, the other criteria should be the investment/cost needed for the mode to offer that capacity. This should be taken into account so as to maximise the person capacity of the transport mode per unit of investment.

  • No parameters specified for achieving goals

The objectives/parameters that can be used for achieving the three goals mentioned in the CMP report, and defining target values for these parameters, is missing. Specifying these will help achieve the goals, with a clear quantification of level of achievement.

  • Service Level Benchmarks used are crude and unscientific

CMP uses the Service Level Benchmark (SLBs) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) as the primary measure for quantifying the impacts of the three options it develops, and to compare these with the baseline situation. This is another drawback of the report. Unfortunately, many of these SLBs are crude, very aggregate, and don’t have sound scientific basis.

To give an example, on page 2-54 and 2-55, the baseline evaluation of public transport system is done, which rates the existing public transport as Level of Service (LOS) 1 (the best LOS as per MoHUA scale) on most of the criteria. It also rates public transport as LOS 2 overall, which as per MoHUA definition, means that “the system provided is comfortable”.

But if we take the crowding level (that is, number of persons per sq m) inside Metro and buses as a criteria, we can easily classify the existing system, especially during peak hours, as operating on the worst LOS of ‘F’ (‘A’ being the best), with crowding level often exceeding five persons per sq m.

Further, these SLBs are partially or completely insensitive to many of the sustainable mobility principles in section 1.1 on page 1-2 and 1-3 of the CMP, especially with respect to measuring accessibility to all, equity, health impact, economic benefits to different mode users etc.

  • Short-term measures need not be part of CMP

Operational level short-term measures like junction improvement plans need not be part of a CMP document whose focus is generally medium and long term, unless we can clearly quantify their system-level impact in the medium and long term.

  • Lack of transport systems integration

Transport systems integration at all levels (institutional, operational and physical) should be added as an objective in the report. In terms of institutional integration, having a single government agency to manage and operate all public transportation modes in the city (like public bus service, suburban rail, metro rail) will be a key step to realise a seamless integrated public transport system. This will enhance the functioning of these services and attract more commuters to public transport.

  • TOD alone is not enough as land use intervention

Research and practical experiences across the world have shown a clear relation between mobility and land use. With proper land use development, mobility issues can be answered on a sustainable basis. Thus, Transit Oriented Development (TOD) alone is not enough as a land use intervention.

Further focus on mix land use policies (to reduce trip lengths and thereby encourage the use of public transport, walking, and cycling) is required in the CMP document to bring in the benefits of integrated land use and transport system.

  • Implementation part should be elaborated on

The implementation part for the policy bundles should be elaborated on, as it will clarify the step-by-step process to achieve the goals. 

  • HOV lanes should have been included as strategy

The proposed strategies don’t include HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes, other than bus lanes. HOV lanes would encourage people to opt for car pooling or to have higher occupancy in their vehicles. It would help solve the issue of LOVs (low-occupancy vehicles) that are one of the major causes of congestion in Bengaluru.

Read the full review here.

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