You may have heard the grumbles among the city’s residents, following the recent spate of traffic violations with mishaps in tow. The lack of road discipline and disregard for the law among motorists and bus drivers ha become a cause for concern.
Under such circumstances, transport experts are betting that utilising the space under flyovers on the highways, and creating dedicated bus lanes, will go some way in curing the city’s transport woes, and curbing accidents.
Transport experts, emphasizing the growing preference for buses among commuters, say that dedicated bus lanes will be able to transport more people, reducing the number of four-wheelers on roads, thereby bringing down snarls, pollution and accidents.
But they feel that government-run agencies are not making efforts to keep the Western and Eastern Express Highways accident-free, by implementing basic projects.
Under the bridge
As motorists grapple for space on the highways due to the high volume of traffic, transport experts are proposing exploiting the wide space beneath the existing flyovers. They want a separate lane to be created between the two pillars of the flyover, near junctions, where roads intersect.
Citing the area near Byculla station, where currently northbound vehicles have to go below the flyover to turn right, experts said that spaces below other flyovers are being wasted, what with scrap vehicles parked being there. Moreover, the space is being encroached by slum dwellers.
As per the proposal, just before the traffic signals, a dedicated lane should be created that will enable vehicles to make a turn without impeding vehicles going straight.
“There’s sufficient space available for creating lanes. We have sent several proposals to (government agencies) for studying and implementing low-cost projects, but nothing much has been done,” said Ashok Datar, transport expert and member of Mumbai Environmental Social Network. Some of the junctions recommended in the proposals are the ones at Kalina and Vile Parle airport. “Instead of implementing high-expenditure projects, such smaller initiatives will surely help traffic movement. At many places, road markings that help navigate traffic have vanished,” said Jagdeep Desai, member, Forum for Improving Quality of Life in Mumbai. According to V Phansalkar, joint commissioner (traffic), “There is a need for some minor changes in the proposal to assign separate lanes below the flyover,” he said. Government authorities claim that the high number of vehicles would make separate lanes for turning too congested.
For over three years now, the state government and transport experts have been squabbling over the implementation of dedicated bus lanes or a broader aspect of it — the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS). In a fresh proposal, submitted recently, the latter have asked the government to consider dedicated lanes for BEST buses for smooth movement.
A dedicated lane on the WEH has been slated to cost around Rs 3,000 crore. “For long the BRTS has been kept in cold storage. The government is interested only in high-budget projects like the Metro or Monorail,” said Sudhir Badami, an IITian who has been fervently pitching for the idea.
The authorities, on the other hand, claim that with over 50,000 vehicles plying on the WEH daily, a dedicated lane will restrict vehicular movement. “It is true that there has been no development in implementing dedicated bus lanes,” said an MMRDA official, on the condition of anonymity. On pilot basis, dedicated lanes were tried on the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road, which didn’t work. The BEST for long has been claiming that they don’t have any problems in running buses on dedicated lanes.
>> Improving bus information system — dsiplay route maps, arrival time at bus stops
>> Run more buses wherever possible, especially on important roads
>> Revamping parking lots for vehicles; redesigning major traffic junctions at flyovers
>> Improve signage, zebra crossings, traffic lights
>> Escalate penalty, fine for traffic offences