Did ‘Open Streets’ at HSR Layout make any difference?
Probably, yes. A partial twist in the mindsets of people!
Know Seven different views from seven categories of people..
The concept of Open Streets executed on September 20, 2015 at HSR Layout has recorded a ‘MIXED’ impact in the neighborhood after four months of its implementation.
Although a forgotten concept, the abstraction turned into reality in India when the state government of Karnataka came forward to pilot ‘Open Streets’ in all seven sectors of HSR Layout. The initiative which promotes the use of public transport, cycling and walking restricted the movement of all motorized personal vehicles such as cars, motorbikes, autos and taxis, etc. within the locality. Public transport facilities like buses were provided by BMTC which plied in the vehicle free zone of the neighborhood to help locals move within and outside. The collaborative efforts demanded intense coordination and involvement of different organizations and groups like DULT (Directorate of Urban Land Transport), BBMP, Bangalore Traffic Police, BMTC, BMRCL, Bangalore Police Department, Department of Forest Ecology and Environment, Department of Tourism, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, HSR Cyclists, HSR RWA (Residents Welfare Association), BCOS (Bangalore Coalition for Open Streets), etc.
HSR Layout being one of the most vibrant and progressive neighborhoods in Bangalore was chosen for the pilot attempt because of the presence of numerous dedicated citizen groups with a long-term commitment and potential to promote the use of sustainable modes of transport.
The immediate impact about the bus services showed positive signs of awareness spread to the residents about the usage of public transport. But, the long term impact created during the last four months post implementation was studied to conclude the possibilities of replicating the same in other neighborhoods as well.
1. A CIVIC ACTIVIST’S VIEW
“The coordination between different civic agencies like BMTC, Bangalore Traffic Police, Bangalore Law & Order Police, etc. deserves immense appreciation. Even though there was lack of adequate prior communication within the layout and the neighborhood, people enthusiastically participated in different activities and supported the concept of using public transport and other sustainable modes of transport to commute. It was observed by the volunteers and civic agencies that a few educated citizens of the neighborhood did not cooperate with the initiative of the Government and created avoidable ugly incidents.
Post event, there were four feeder routes engaged within the layout. Based on the feedback from BMTC drivers and officials about the loss they were incurring, the HSR RWAs proposed to the BMTC workable routes which connected the layout till Majestic also.
Mere lack of communication and aggressive campaigning has led to a situation where, out of a population of 40,000, only 50 to 60% are interested in using sustainable modes of transport now. Also, the entire heterogeneous group of people at HSR Layout would be well accepting if BBMP in conjunction with the Traffic Police and DULT could make pedestrian pathways available and allow the footpaths to flourish, by taking stringent actions. I would suggest the event to be conducted on a regular basis like once in three or four months to create consistent awareness amongst people. On the whole, approximately 60 to 70% of the residents felt it was an excellent initiative and we are now mentally prepared as to what could be expected on such days.” – Brigadier Murthy (Retd), an Army veteran and a civic activist.
2. A BMTC OFFICIAL’S VIEW:
“During Open Streets, nine feeder and three trunk routes were facilitated through 52 buses with an interval of 5 to 10 minutes between two bus stoppages. BMTC Day Passes were provided at subsidized promotional rates, which were valid within HSR Layout and other areas in Bangalore on the day of the event. For almost one month after the event, four feeder routes which were active led to monetary loss due to insufficient usage of buses.
One feeder (FDR) bus which runs for 200 kilometres per day bears an expense of 44 rupees per kilometre and in turn gains eight to nine rupees per kilometer amounting to a loss of around 34 rupees per kilometre. Considering the loss and the suggestion by HSR RWAs, only 10 schedules (340A & 348M) of FDR buses are currently being operated from Parangipalya to Majestic and vice versa. Two more schedules (362) connecting to Shivajinagar are also added.” –a BMTC official said.
3. BMTC’S CHIEF TRAFFIC MANAGER (OPERATIONS) VIEW:
“Through Open Streets in HSR Layout, we could sensitize local people about the use of public transport. But, on a general note, only RWA’s take major interest and show active participation. Common people at large fail to get involved and so we go at loss. Anyhow, we at BMTC are streamlining operations and depending on the run, re-routing will be done after regular valuations. We are confident of achieving maximum use of public transport in the city and it definitely will take time.” – Renukeshwara, Chief Traffic Manager (Operations), BMTC.
4. A DRIVING SCHOOL OWNER’S VIEW:
“As a responsible citizen, I am aware of the environmental and social hazards like pollution and traffic congestion. But I have been surviving on the driving school business for the last ten years. After the event, even though there is no significant change in the number of students, I am sure the awareness about the use of non motorized transport will bring about a change.” – A driving school owner said.
5. A BCOS MEMBER’S VIEW:
Other than the perspectives about frequency of buses and the need for better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, Sathya, a core BCOS member said, “HSR Layout has majorly people belonging to middle class and elite sector and so, making them accept the concept of Open Streets and the usage of public transport is even more challenging. In order to address such sectors in HSR Layout, Whitefield, etc., BMTC as an operational agency could improve its communication and outreach by using technology. The crowd needs apps which gives them assurance about the locations, definite timings and frequency of buses.”
6. A GROFERS’ EMPLOYEE’S VIEW:
Businesses like Grofers and Flipkart positively adapted to cycling for delivery purposes within the layout. “It was fun to go around cycling to deliver items within the streets of HSR. Moreover, the delivery boys who went cycling were paid more than the usual on that day. Our business was not affected.” – Suresh, a Grofers employee said.
7. HSR RESIDENT WELFARE ASSOCIATION MEMBER’S VIEW:
On speaking to Karthik, the Treasurer of HSR RWA, he said, “Open Streets as an event was 95% successful. Marginal awareness about public transport has spread across the locality. I use public transport to the maximum extent possible but predictability in bus timings and locations needs to be worked upon. This is affecting the economically weaker section which is much in need of such services. The feeder buses could be smaller in size for easier identification.”
The common response received from the senior citizens of HSR Layout was that the entire locality turned out to be very lively and delightful on the day of the event. According to them, the concept of Open Streets which created a mixed impact in HSR Layout need to be enforced in every locality on a regular basis enabling the pedestrians and cyclists to reclaim their share of road space in the city.
Are we ready for the next ‘Open Streets’ at MG Road?