Friday, August 26, 2016

High speed internet and low speed traffic – A definition of Bangalore

Bangalore, the IT capital of India, has all the right infrastructure when it comes to sending data over internet. IT professionals here move loads of data to client locations all over the world sitting in their offices in Bangalore. That’s great. But check with them at what speed they commute to offices everyday. You will get answers of 5 to 15 km/hour depending on what route they take and what time of the day they travel. A Bangalorean contributes 3x of national average of GDP per capita. But he/she moves at 1/3 rd speed of average traffic movement of India. What a gap, is not it?
I am living in Bangalore for the past 17 years. I live close to Mysore road and go to Whitefield for work. In the early 2000’s this journey was taking anywhere between 45 mins to one hour. As the city grew, there were more vehicles on road, traffic increased at a pace higher than infrastructure growth, so the congestion began, that increased the travel time to 1.5 hours. Then Govt. took few measures to build flyovers and underpasses to reduce traffic jams. While the civil constructions were carried out for these, it narrowed the available space on roads, increasing the travel time to 2 hours for one way commute. Those constructions took couple of years to complete and by then population and the number of vehicles on road had increased, so these flyovers and underpasses did not save any time for us but it increased marginally. Had they not been built, we would have had tough time reaching office on time everyday.
As the next phase, there was NICE road which came up diverting inter-city traffic. Metro construction began and it too took space on the jammed roads to build the huge columns needed for the elevated train. It resulted in the increase of travel time to at least 2.5 hours a day. And one day, Bangalore witnessed huge rains which flooded the whole city, and those of us who left office in the evening reached our homes past midnight. It took 6 hours to travel 30 km that day. We thought of it as one off day but it was not.
Now most of the metro construction is complete and I tried it out one day. From Mysore road to Bayappana halli, it took 40 mins while the same travel on road would have taken at least 2 hours. Good days are here I thought but it did not solve our problem as it does not take us to Whitefield where majority of us work. We are aware of extension plans of Metro but having witnessed that it took a decade to get here, we know before next phase becomes a reality we would have reached our retirement years.
Traffic at KR Puram junction
You cannot say there was complete inaction by the Govt., they did their moves like building outer ring roads, creating one-ways and some more petty stuff but it was not sufficient. Bangalore grew at a pace higher than their expectations. It’s population has gone up 3x in the last 20 years. But the infrastructure building is not as fast resulting in slowing down of the traffic movement. From an average 30 km/hour of commute speed within city twenty years ago, we have been slowed down to 10 km an hour. When you reach office, you are half tired and when you reach back home you are exhausted. Your kids want to play with you and your wife wants you to help her in daily chores, but there is no energy left in you. And during the weekend, you want to take rest while the rest of the family wants you to take them out. It will leave at least one party of the family unhappy.
During this 2.5 hours to 3 hours of commute (one-way) everyday, what do I do? I read 2 news papers and a magazine. I have read more than 100 books during commute hours in the last two years. I speak to friends over phone and get into discussion with fellow bus mates. I complete urgent office work, opening up my laptop and connecting through internet dongle. I also write my blog posts during commute! Well, you can call it ‘life on wheels’. Yes, but we are short of a pantry and toilet which a bus cannot accommodate, else it would not have hurt us this much.
Those who have not visited Bangalore in the recent past and think of it as a beautiful and charming city, please keep your reservations to yourself. When you visit Bangalore next time, your idea of Bangalore will be shattered as you notice that even an Ambulance can’t find a way through this traffic. When you hear of trucks mowing down pedestrians crossing the roads, you will thank God for not living here.
I had thanked God when I had found a job in Bangalore and started to earn a living. But now to reduce the stress and improve our productivity, my employer is allowing me to work from home couple of days in a week. It is a relief, else I would be forced out of Bangalore due to ill health caused by the smoke on the road.

Do I hate Bangalore? No way, I found an identity here. I would rather love Bangalore if it becomes more livable. I hope things get better than getting worse. Else I would be writing my blog posts from else where.