Did Open Streets at MG Road yield results? The expected results?
The first time MG road turned vehicle-free was on February 21st, 2016 when cars and bikes were replaced by people strolling across the 700m stretch from dawn to dusk. While ‘Open Streets’ is an initiative to promote cycling, walking and the use of public transport, the 12 hour traffic-free stretch along with Rangoli Metro art centre catered to many artists, performers, food businesses, handicraft businesses, etc.
The rendition of a ‘carnival’ feel in the commercial zone has made a positive long-lasting mark in the minds of Bengalureans about Open Streets. In contrast to it, the initiative was implemented for the first time at HSR Layout, a well known residential neighborhood of Bengaluru in September 2015. The first anniversary of Cycle Day, a BCOS (Bangalore Coalition for Open Streets) initiative, which regularly finds its place in different localities on Sundays was translated into ‘Open Streets’ for the first time at HSR Layout. While the local RWA’s took the onus of outreach and awareness tasks within HSR, the second Open Streets was publicized to an unimaginable extent across Bengaluru and other parts of the country as well. The sustained efforts of conducting Cycle Day helped the government to scale up to Open Streets, a larger initiative at HSR and MG road.
The event was organized and coordinated by DULT (Directorate of Urban Land Transport), Tourism Department, BMRCL (Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited), BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation), Bangalore City Police, Bangalore Traffic Police, BESCOM (Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd), BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board), Karnataka Pollution Control Board, Karnataka Forest Department and BCOS Cycle Day. A survey was also conducted by ESAF (Evangelical Social Action Forum) Bangalore during Open Streets regarding gender ratio, age groups, distance travelled, public transport usage and few other aspects.
This yielded positive results which directly showcased 21% of the survey participants needing more public spaces suitable for people to explore on foot with family and friends.
Ranjini Shetty, an Architect and the owner of Designuru stall said, Survey conducted by ESAF Bangalore.“I was at the venue from seven in the morning till it shut down and I watched the whole street transform. The cycling community was the first to appear and slowly the rest of Bangalore came out, the sun didn’t seem to discourage anyone. It was a celebration and everyone was a part of it! I have never experienced Bangalore like this before and I hope it happens on a regular basis.”
Maximum presence was showed by people between the age groups 35 and 60, with the overall male-female ratio being 11:9. Also, the highest percentage (42%) of people travelled a distance of more than 10 kilometres to reach the event destination.
With promotion of sustainable transport being one of the major ideas of the initiative, 100 prizes – 50 gift coupons worth Rs. 500 and 50 special commemorative cards preloaded with currency worth Rs. 500 were given out to 100 different lucky draw winners who commuted to the destination by BMTC buses.
WHAT DID BMRCL DO?
The implementation of metro system at Bangalore- ‘Namma Metro’ handled by BMRCL (Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited) was initiated in the year 2011. Following which, after five years, the city has two lines of metro functioning currently. In order to expand the ridership of metro, the agency has been taking necessary steps, of which OMG is one.
As one of the stakeholders of ‘OMG’, BMRCL extended metro services till 11pm which saw increased ridership on the day due to the central location of MG road metro station at the event destination.
Vasanth Rao, Chief Public Relations Officer, BMRCL said, “The idea of Open Streets came about with the intention of encouraging people to use public transport. Air pollution is very high in the city with some 54 lakh vehicles on the streets. Out people have forgotten to use public transport. So, we thought something has to be done to attract people to use public transport. Alteast, let’s make a beginning on a Sunday.”
Details of Metro ridership from different parts of Bangalore:
Swipe outs at MG road metro station on February 14, 2016 (Sunday): 6265
Swipe outs at MG road metro station on February 21, 2016 (Sunday – OMG): 19,210
The swipe out at MG road metro station during OMG is almost 3 times the swipe out observed on another Sunday.
WHAT DID BMTC DO?
BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation), one of the most well known bus transport systems of India plies buses within the city. It is an important agency which does not fail to participate in initiatives like Open Streets, thereby showing it’s concern for the environment and people which form the city.
BMTC ridership (no. of passengers) from different parts of Bangalore towards MG Road:
South – 3746 North – 1159 East- 1700 West – 1971
Total – 8576
“On February 21st, BMTC had provided 50 schedules comprising of 11 routes and 933 trips with buses connecting major bus stations and metro stations compulsorily via Anil Kumble circle or MG Road metro station. Total distance covered by the buses during OMG was 8899 kilometres. RBANMS ground was exclusively allotted for parking and feeder buses were deployed to and from RBANMS grounds via MG Road metro station. We also provided late night services when five schedules of buses operated via MG road till 11pm. While this event was organized to promote sustainable modes of transport as well, it was not addressed completely by the public leading to a loss on our side.” – A BMTC official said.
Total BMTC ridership (feeder) from RBANMS ground to MG Road and vice versa: 395
Number of cars parked at RBANMS ground: 40
Number of two-wheelers parked at RBANMS ground: 10
The above figures show that better patronage of BMTC services was expected than what was observed.
PARADOX OF THE SCENARIO
The below bar graph conveys that almost 31% of the survey participants used public transport (Bus & Metro) and 40% used private modes of commute (cars and bikes). Therefore, 48% of them used sustainable modes of transport (Walking, cycling, bus, metro). On the contrary, 98% of the survey participants showed their support for sustainable transport, leaving behind the remaining 2%.
The paradox of the scenario lies in people encouraging sustainable modes of transport, yet flocking the event with their private vehicles parked right at the doorstep of the venue.
Therefore, the efforts-demanding ‘Open Streets’ urges the responsible residents of the city to turn the usage of sustainable modes of transport an inveterate aspect of their lives, failing which the whole idea will repeatedly remain futile, even if organized monthly as per the survey.
‘Open Streets’ wants you to be open-minded, leaving aside motorized transport for short distant commutes and join the sustainable transport club!