Metro route to airport needs surveys, not just opinions

Metro has sought public input on which of the different lines – existing as well as proposed – should be extended to the airport. I’m sure many people will give their input, but there are two other aspects to look at.

(1) We should conduct extensive surveys – ongoing – at the airport to always know where people are going to when they arrive, and where they are coming from to the airport. We don’t need to collect anything other than the names of the neighbourhoods where trips originate and end. A map of this, updated every few months, will provide a lot of useful guidance for Metro planning.

(2) Urban development along Metro corridors has to be tied more deeply to the construction of the Metro itself. At the moment, this is not done. There have been some small steps, like increasing the FSI for places close to station, but those are not significant enough. There must be, for each station, a station-area plan that looks at mobility, amenities, building permits, and a lot more together. BDA is actually supposed to make 47 town planning schemes for different parts of the city, but in its history of planning, it has never done this.

As for the airport connectivity itself, we need a separate exercise – with Metro participation, but not exclusively done by Metro – to decide what the long term strategy for air connectivity is. Is Metro the right mode now? In the future? Should we plan to have a second airport? if yes, where? Should we think of the airport(s) as regional services, or specific to Bengaluru city? If the latter, what’s the connectivity plan for the rest of the region?

The answers to questions of this larger canvas should be established first, before we begin to act on specific initiatives.

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The slow speed at which we establish infrastructure has itself become a source of contention about projects. It is bad enough that some un-necessary things are done, but even those are done so poorly and so slowly that the public’s patience with this kind of development is wearing thin.

Tardiness in projects has a real price. Not only do project costs themselves go up, they have high externalities. All the assumptions about the benefits of a project become at-risk, and have to be re-addressed.

Earlier this year, there was talk of establishing a National Organisation for Rapid Infrastructure, which would focus on bringing speed to the public works construction industry. I thought we should have its headquarters in Bengaluru, and maybe even the first few examples of what the institution can do.

I’m still hopeful that something like this will happen. Paradoxically – or perhaps, predictably – even an institution for making something ‘rapid’ has to move like a snail through the process of being set up.

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