Namma Metro has only worsened Bengaluru’s traffic congestion and air quality

Namma Metro was touted to be a sustainable green public transport option, but it has only added to congestion and poor air quality.

Bengaluru’s Namma Metro has one major advantage. It does not get caught in the city’s notorious traffic jams. The ground reality however is, metro construction is today a major cause of these traffic jams. Which the humble Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) bus does get caught in.

At the drawing board stage, the metro was touted as the solution to Bangalore’s two key issues. One, getting private vehicles off the roads, thus reducing traffic congestion and vehicular pollution. Two, as being a much greener, affordable and accessible commute alternative as compared to to other options such as the city bus service. Together, this was expected to result in better air quality over the city.

Unfortunately, despite the thousands of crores being sunk in it, Namma Metro is nowhere near achieving either of these objectives. And the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) website states nothing about it being ‘green’, except for some figures on the number of trees felled, translocated and planted.

Also, repeated calls and emails to BMRCL officials to get information on environment precautions being taken in the construction process got no response.

Citizen Matters, through a series of articles, has tried to argue that buses are the relatively more sustainable, affordable and accessible commute option. There is enough statistical and anecdotal evidence that shows that the BMTC bus service deserves far more funding and all-round attention.

Yet it is on the metro that money is being showered while ignoring what most experts, and so many foreign cities, have shown to be better public commute options.

In any case, given that Bengaluru’s metro currently has only two operational lines, “the metro fails miserably in connecting the major hubs of the city,” says Shrushti Joshi, a frequent metro commuter.

While the slow pace of construction on other routes has only made the city’s traffic congestions and resultant vehicular pollution worse.

And as to whether it really is the green option it is touted to be, opinions, and some studies seem to raise serious questions. 

Tress being planted in an open plot of land.
All that the BMRCL website has to show for its green initiatives or impact are some figures on compensatory afforestation. Pic courtesy: BMRCL

Two contrasting studies

One study, titled “Comparison of Ridership, CO2 emissions, Travel Fare for Selected Routes in Bangalore and Tokyo Cities,” suggest two major findings. First, the major hurdle to metro ridership in Bengaluru was the lack of non-motorised transport infrastructure, for instance, pedestrian pavements. Secondly, the carbon dioxide emissions on the Purple Line, a distance, 17.8km with 75% capacity was 8.87, which in Tokyo’s (Hibiya) Silver line, with a similar distance, was 3.07. An indicator that Bengaluru’s metro contributes significantly to polluting emissions.

This measurement of CO2 emissions is expressed in kilograms per passenger at different levels of passenger loading. To quote from the study:

CO2 emissions are indirectly computed by first computing the electrical energy consumption using a simplified model. The economic feasibility is determined by computing the income spent per year on the metro using Per Capita Income and travel fare. The results demonstrate that Tokyo’s metro is better than Bangalore’s metro in all the aspects mentioned. Furthermore, the paper also recommends the improvements which can be implemented to directly or indirectly improve Bangalore’s metro“.

Interestingly, a 2022 study by Bangalore University, carried out under the guidance of Dr Nandini N, the principal investigator with the Department of Environmental Science, has a different case to make. 

This study undertook the following metro corridors – Gottigere to Nagawara, Mysuru Road Terminal to Kengeri, Krishnarajapuram-Byapanahalli to Whitefield, Puttenahalli Cross to Anjanapura Township, R V Road to Bommasandra, and Hesaraghatta Cross to BIEC. 

The major finding of the study suggests that PM2.5 concentrations recorded at sampling stations in the city were well within the limit of 60µg/m3. PM stands for particulate matter, and 10 and 2.5 micrometres are the respective particle diameters. Increased exposure to the PM2.5 and 10 can cause respiratory ailments including, chronic bronchitis and reduced lung function.

PM2.5 concentration at 60µg/m3 is the prescribed level by the Central Pollution Control Board for industrial, residential, rural and other areas. But the study points out that the PM10 concentration has been within the prescribed limits of 100µg/m3 only since 2018. 

Read more: Raja Rajeshwari Nagar may have Namma Metro, but poor last-mile connectivity discourages commuters

A view of an elevated metro rail corridor in Bengaluru city
In a love-hate relationship with the metro, Bengalureans have their reservations about the project. Pic: Pragathi Ravi

Not answerable to anybody

But how did the metro came to be portrayed as the greener commute option than say, for instance, green buses?

The answer lies in the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) that governs India’s urban mobility policies and laws. The NUTP was amended in 2014, in order to implement low-carbon, city-centric and city-specific mobility solutions. The parameters included were integrated land use, transport planning, promotion and implementation of non-motorised transportation, and an overarching multi-modal sustainable urban transport apparatus. 

Furthermore, the directives of the NUTP-2014 specified streamlined investment projects for a larger people-centric urban transportation, which meant equal attention to be given to other public commute. But most cities ignored this, focussing instead on building costly metro networks. Which led to little attention or resources left for other sustainable transport alternatives, like non-motorised Transport.

The diversion of large sums of money to metros is shown in studies titled, “Policymaking Towards Green Mobility in India” and “Urban Transport Developments in India under NUTP and JnNURM”. The studies show that the NUTP funds and the funds allocated for Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), which were supposed to offer delivery in terms of better and sustainable urban public transport, were all diverted to funding metros and light rail.

Although the NUTP as a policy is quite comprehensive, the worsening road congestion and the resultant increase in vehicular emissions indicate that these are byproducts of systemic issues within India’s transportation sector.

For instance, despite all the funds allocated and spent on metro systems nationwide and in Bengaluru, last mile connectivity remains a major problem. Metro designers and planners have time and again failed to consider last-mile connectivity to complete the transport loop. 

In fact, metro corporations in all cities have been set up as special purpose vehicles, which is answerable to no one, to overcome political and bureaucratic hurdles over budgets that municipal corporations face. For instance, BMRCL has faced strong opposition from citizen groups for the felling of trees. Yet continues to garner more funds even after running into huge losses after the initial allocation has been used up.

Read more: Metro vs citizens

The cheaper green option

A paper on Policymaking Towards Green Mobility in India study tells us that during 2014-17, only Rs 1236 crore under the Atal Mission For Rejuvenation And Urban Transformation (AMRUT) project were allocated to buses. While metro projects nationwide were allocated Rs 2,63,770,000 lakh crores.

In earlier articles, CM had argued how the BMTC, after a push from the National Green Tribunal, has taken steps towards introducing BS-VI buses in its fleet. A study titled, “Migration to Bharat Stage (BS) VI: Emission Control, Fuel-Grade, Automotive Electronics and ECU Challenges” too suggests that the shift to BS-VI buses will ensure emission control.

But the focus on metro has scuttled even such basic measures as creating bus priority lanes, according to Srinivas Alavalli of Janagraha. Let alone achieve its objective of being a greener, complementary mode of public transport along with other options.

BMRCL’s reports to the Forest Department can be found here.

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  1. Girish says:

    Somehow the Metro trains are always full and people need to be controlled by police personnel due to the crowd. If all those people were on the road, so many more buses would be needed. If the BMTC have an excellent ticket system like the Metro then the metro will not be able to operate due to the crowd. The corruption of the bus conductors, The horrible auto drivers will become unbearable.

    • Joseph George says:

      To be constructive about the whole thing – why not just issue monthly passes to people which is more or less on par with bus passes?more people will ride the metro and BMTC can scale down on buses if thats the big problem.
      Honestly getting from point A to B is far easier with metro as compared to buses and IPL nights at the kanteerava is much easier to go to without driving thanks to metro.
      Why aren’t these not mentioned in the article instead of demonizing it?

  2. Rajesh Rangan says:

    Metro and suburban rail are only solution to city’s problems.

  3. Jishnukrishna Venkat says:

    Construction, this year,after many delays is happening fast. Whitefield and R V Road are all set to open Dec ’22 and Jun ’23 respectively.

  4. Jishnukrishna Venkat says:

    Thus, people will start using them more soon and traffic problems will reduce

  5. Gopal says:

    The article is shallow & lacks depth. For instance blaming construction for congestion, it’s a known fact that metro lines or road flyovers, are bound to make the surrounding roads congested. Blame the slow construction timelines, or repeated design changes for congestion not metro lines themselves.

    Metros have high capacity bandwidth, on a given day the total footfalls in Namma Metro hovers between 4-4.8 lakhs. If one expects buses to carry such loads, BMTC would have to increase their fleet significantly. It is a fast means of transport, & is unaffected by road traffic.

    If one blames metro for tree felling, then the alternative (If we do not have metro) would lead to even more tree felling & road widening as people would have depend on road for transport(either private vehicles or buses).

    Rail based transport are best options for big cities, be it metro or local trains, other transport means cannot match their predictability & high capacity loads.

  6. Shekar says:

    I’m sorry, but this article is incorrect.
    Every since covid, there has been record sales in vehicles for obvious reasons, hence the increase in vehicular movement.

  7. Murali says:

    Metro had definitely helped a lot but the it is implemented is bad. Simply, metro is in addition to existing roads. But in most of the stretches below roadways either narrowed down or have bottlenecks due to Metro pillars. The very purpose is defeated to some extent.

  8. Sudhakar Suga says:

    When I have to travel I still look for nearest Metro if possible. Which means it’s solving the problem, it did for a part of Bengaluru. When more lines open up, we would have more people hopping onto it for sure, I see the beat of people!. The commute sure gets predictable, who doesn’t need that! The speed of work is questionable but not the need or the intent.

    I really think the comparisons and research quoted here is not apples to apples. It feels more like a lobby for EV buses than a real concern! You also probably got to read the experience of commuters who probably use public transport often and probably both modes, Bus and Metro! The ultimate aim is not to replace buses from roads but the private cars where on person drives in one car.. now compare that!

  9. Jayaprasad Rao says:

    The heading is misleading. Metro construction need to be fast track. Once metro is on track, traffic should be lesser

  10. Durgeshwari says:

    For students who travel to universities in Nagasandra like the new Christ Campus and others, metro is our only hope. BMTC takes forever to reach and it’s a long and tiring journey. By the time we get home, there is no time left for anything else. Metro is what keeps us going. I get the ‘green’ side of the issue but many of you all complaining on fancy articles wouldn’t think twice to smoke so don’t bother. You will convienienly interview people who find metro a problem. Come ask the people who travel long distances using the metro. You want to know what the real problem is, half the people who consider themselves too boujee to use public transport. I know a couple that uses two cars cause they don’t want drop the other off. That’s the typical attitude here and that is the problem. NOT THE METRO. I travel 22 kms within 40 mins because of the metro.

  11. Shankar Joshi says:

    Namma Metro has worsened the traffic congestion and air quality. I think the person who commented this is not a commuter of Metro. The person who has told this words looks like odd man out. I am using metro from last 6 years. The commute time to reach my office was 1.45 to 2 hours daily on one side. Now it has drastically come down to 30 minutes. Person who has ill feelings for metro only will comment like this. I urge the person to take back his words.

  12. Amitesh Raikwar says:

    In other cities metro start running even if it complete 10 km construction but we see silk board to electronic city kr puram to Whitefield metro construction completed but train is not running. Just kr puram to Baiyapanahalli joint and silk board to banasankari pending construction blocked their running plan. If metro get 10 station construction complete it should start running so people can get benefit from completed route and revenue generated from it can help to recover some cost. Silk board to electronic city train should start running so people coming to bengaluru can start using it. Huge traffic of road will reduce if metro start running. Construction is completed of tracks from electronic city to silk board.

  13. Thyagarajan says:

    Some short term pain is ok to have long term benefits. The author conveniently sits in an utopian world leans on being critical without cognisance of issues involved in any development project in India. Imagine Bengaluru without Metro and you will get all your answers.

  14. Snehal says:

    Stop saying the construction is causing troubles. If genuine construction faults are there speak up. Construction will definitely cause some distress, but that’s temporary compared to the long future.

  15. Kartik Srinivasan says:

    Sorry for sounding a bit harsh in my comment.on one hand we have inept political leaders, bureaucrats and on top of that we have phenomenal “rights activists” like this author who are either self-serving or plain stupid.

    So if your drinking water is muddy, what should one do. The author of this brilliant article would suggest, throw away the water and stay thirsty and eventually die of that thirst, but don’t attempt to purify that water to make it drinkable.

    Thats how her arguments sound with regards to Bangalore Metro. Bangalore is creaking under poor and inadequate road infra which are also badly planned. Now this author wants us to ply more buses on that which are deisel guzzling.

    Why doesnt she ask that this Govt and BMRCL be made more accountable for speedier, efficient completion of metro networks, ensuring more areas are covered. And regarding the electricity consumption, why cannot electricity be powered through hydel, wind or even solar means thereby reducing carbon footprint. If one decides that a problem ought to be solved, then one starts thinking in the right direction. Instead of that, this author is suggesting that we run away from the problem!

  16. E V L N GUPTA says:

    I am 62 year old. I have been commuting from Chikkalasandra to Vidhana Soudha daily for the past 14 years. The commute by bus was about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 and a half hour. By road on my two wheeler it takes almost 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach my work place which is about 12 kms and in itself a back breaking experience due to poor condition of bmtc bus or badly damaged roads, after switching to commuting by metro, Upto Banashankari Metro station I ride my two wheeler and park the two wheeler in Banashankari station and take metro from there, I have started enjoying my metro ride between Banashankari to Vidhana Soudha which is about 20 minutes even taking two to three minutes switch over time at Majestic station. No traffic jams, no running for shelter in rains, no riding in hot summer sun. The ride is comfortable, the commute time has reduced to 35 to 45 minutes and back breaking experience is something of past. Definitely Metro has improved my life by leaps and bounds. Last mile connectivity is the problem if we can find a viable solution to it ‘namma metro’ is the best solution to Bangalore’s traffic woes.

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