Ever since Bengaluru’s population and vehicular numbers started increasing rapidly, the city got troubled by massive traffic snarls. The situation has been getting worse with every passing day, and commuters have to spend increasingly more time on their daily commutes. The inflow of more vehicles soon wiped off the partial localised relief yielded by road widening, more roads, flyovers, and underpasses. In 2021, TomTom, the leading independent geolocation technology specialist, placed Bengaluru globally as the 10th most traffic-congested.
One of the solutions identified by observers of Bengaluru traffic was the unification of several city transport agencies by bringing them under one umbrella. Subsequently, the state government introduced the Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority Bill, 2022, in the Legislative Assembly on 23 September 2022 and sought suggestions from its people. The Bill was finally passed on 27 December 2022, paving the way for establishing the Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA). The BMLTA was tasked with regulatingg, developing, operating, maintaining, monitoring, and supervising mobility within the Urban Mobility Region (UMR).
One of the solutions identified by observers of Bengaluru traffic was the unification of several city transport agencies by bringing them under one umbrella.
The Bengaluru Urban Mobility Region had multiple institutions and agencies, such as the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Bruhat Bengaluru MahanagaraPalike (BBMC), Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) and the state’s transport department involved with the various aspects of urban mobility, from planning and development to implementation and management. These were empowered under different legislations and dealt with parts of the overall public transport. They created overlapping responsibilities and functions and impeded a unified approach to planning and implementing transportation projects. All these organisations have now been brought under the BMLTA, the single transport planning agency for the Bengaluru metropolitan region.
Karnataka’s chief minister is the chairperson of the newly established authority. The minister in charge of Bengaluru development, the minister of transport and the city’s mayor are also part of the Authority’s 33 members, which include departmental heads having any bearing on the region’s mobility, transport experts, and civil society, private sector and academic representatives working in the field of mobility. The authority can get special invitees whenever required.
The state’s chief secretary and additional chief secretaries of the department of transport, finance, public works, and women and child development head its executive committee, which will work out the operational details and implement the decisions of the authority. The territorial limits of the BMLTA could be varied through a government notification. BMLTA’s chairperson is responsible for supervising, directing, and controlling all administrative matters. The Directorate of Urban Land Transport Commissioner is its Chief Executive Officer. The authority will meet twice yearly, with the Chairperson at liberty to convene a special meeting whenever necessary. On the other hand, the executive committee will meet at least once every quarter or more often if required.
The authority’s most significant function is to promote seamless mobility by integrating UMR’s land use and transport planning. For this purpose, the Authority will prepare a Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) for the UMR. Additionally, it is responsible for the City Mobility Investment Programme’s review and approval in accordance with the CMP. It will establish frameworks, regulations, and mechanisms for seamless coordination of strategic and operational matters among agencies such as urban transport, infrastructure development and traffic management providing facilities and services.
The authority’s most significant function is to promote seamless mobility by integrating UMR’s land use and transport planning.
The BMLTA will regulate UMR’s travel demand by devising measures such as congestion pricing, parking regulations, tolling, special purpose lanes, etc. Furthermore, it will adopt standards and guidelines issued by state and central governments and develop additional standards and guidelines specifically needed for mobility in the UMR. It would also lay guidelines and frameworks for private sector engagement for planning, developing and managing service delivery through effective contract execution by transport service providers and agencies involved with traffic management and infrastructure development. It would prepare norms for public-private partnerships or other financing mechanisms or instruments for implementing transport projects.
An organisation such as the BMLTA has been a long-felt necessity for all major cities in the country. All metros have been facing mounting traffic issues. It is high time, therefore, that an apex organisation is created with powers to bring all players involved in land-use and mobility planning onto a single table. The state of Karnataka deserves credit for initiating the process, and it is hoped that other states will follow suit.
However, establishing the BMLTA is only the first step and perhaps the easiest step. A whole host of measures are required to follow in quickly so that the BMLTA does not get into the trap of constantly catching up with the mounting mobility problem. To begin with, several consultants would have to be brought on board to prepare the Comprehensive Mobility Plan, City Mobility Investment Programme, performance indicators, service level benchmarks and travel demand management measures. Communication and outreach campaigns, building partnerships for research and establishing institutional arrangements and communication protocols between the authority and urban transport agencies would become natural extensions of BMLTA’s scope. The cited tasks would require prolonged consultations and deliberations.
Communication and outreach campaigns, building partnerships for research and establishing institutional arrangements and communication protocols between the authority and urban transport agencies would become natural extensions of BMLTA’s scope.
The BMLTA would have to have sufficient resources to implement the infrastructure plans. These are time-consuming jobs within the government since laid-down processes for tendering, and selection of vendors must necessarily be followed. Methods of funding the authority have been indicated in Chapter IX of the act. These have shown dependence on central and state allocations and some taxes specifically collected for the Authority. These may not be sufficient. Establishing a city parking authority and monetising all public parking may be a good idea. This will be a good source of funds for mobility infrastructure and for bringing discipline to parking in the city.
A vexed issue that will stare all such authorities in the face is the ever-increasing number of personal vehicles in the city. No solution will be sustainable if the inflow of new cars and two-wheelers continues unabated. Many countries in the developed world have restricted the registration of new vehicles unless the owners could identify dedicated parking spaces for them. Indian cities have not begun to walk that path since they do not have registration powers. The Government of India and state governments have been chary of taking recourse to this strategy on account of the huge employment generated by the automobile sector. However, it is only a matter of time before the governments are forced to take this measure. It is also plain that soft and easy solutions do not deliver tangible results in urban mobility.
This article is authored by Dr. Ramanath Jha, Distingguished Fellow of Observer Research Foundadtion, Mumbai. View are personal.