Over the last few days, it was reported that Metro stations at Silk Board and K R Puram will be developed as transit points, so that in the future we could have a line running on Outer Ring Road, connecting to these two ends, and linking to other Metro lines in the city..
This was greeted in the media as ‘Metro to run on IT corridor’ along with the claim this will significantly decongest traffic in the high-employment zone. Friends of the government, in particular, touted this as an important step for Bangalore.
In reality, it is nothing of that sort. The announcement is being made now, not with any proposal to build the Metro line (that is not part of Phase 3, let alone Phase 2 on which work is beginning now. If a train runs on ORR, it will be in 2025 at the earliest.
So why is the announcement being made now? To pre-empt two other possibilities, which are alternates to Metro.
One, this is an effort to stop Commuter Rail service from starting on tracks that run through the heart of this same area. Those trains could begin running in six months, if the government put its mind to it.
And two, to stop Bus Rapid Transit service from being initiated on ORR. The road infrastructure, especially the split flyovers and under-passes, were explicitly designed for BRT. But that has been put on hold while Metro makes moves to grab that project also.
Rupee for rupee, Metro beyond Phase 2 is not a worthwhile investment, and we would do much better spending that money on dedicated bus lanes, cycling infrastructure, walkability, and the Commuter Rail System. If we did that, the benefits would arrive faster, and at much lower cost.
The ‘lower cost’ is the reason the politicians don’t like these alternatives. Like the steel flyover, it is a case of ‘we need projects that can spin money for politics’ more than ‘we need ideas and solutions that are good for the city’.
If a government that is friendlier to citizens is formed in 2018, I am sure it would cancel these dumb ideas. That may explain the rush to green-light as many of them as possible now.