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From the 2016 Archive - India's Silicon Valley Goes Green
NB This article has not been updated since 2016 and context and details may have changed since then. 

Bangalore (officially known as Bengaluru) is not short of impressive labels: it’s the Silicon Valley of India, one of the county’s fastest growing cities, arguably the country’s most dynamic urban economy, hosts a list of the top research institutes in India, has the largest bus system in India carrying more than 5 million people per day – and not least has hosted the Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award since 2011 – and won the prize itself in 2012. It also has huge challenges to manage its physical growth, and distribute economic opportunity widely, commensurate with its growth status.



Social-economic challenges – and the BIG (Bangalore Intra-City Grid) solution

The growth and socio-economic challenges of Bangalore play out in part as pressures on the transport systems in the city and region, and secondary pressures on the population resulting from poor transportation. Car ownership more than doubled in the first decade of the 2000s, while air quality is sometimes far above permitted national and international safety standards.

Central to the improvement efforts to the transport system in Bangalore is the work of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), and its partnership with the World Resource Institute’s EMBARQ India sustainable mobility program. There are various strands to the collaboration between BMTC and EMBARQ.

One of these is the upgrade to the bus system through the so-called Bangalore Intra-City Grid (BIG) which came online in 2013, and won the Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award in 2012. The plan is to grow to 3,000 extra buses per day, operating in synergy with improved street planning and transport management, ending up serving 2.5 million passengers per day. This would make the bus network host to nearly 50% of all motorized journeys in the city.

Another contribution is the evolution of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) solution in Bangalore. BRT has come to life in India rapidly in the previous years, learning from its hugely successful application to similar urban areas in Latin America. From the first BRT in Ahmedabad in 2009, India has multiple large-scale BRT projects across the country, now including Bangalore. Added to this are major extensions, that went live in 2016, to the metro network, taking 100,000s more passengers off the crowded streets.

© Wikimedia_Indianhilbilly

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) helps plan for continuous growth

As with the experience in other rapidly growing urban centres, one of the major achievements in sustainable mobility is the institution of a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) process and vision. TOD has as its central insight that, unless public transport is embedded – conceptually and infrastructurally – in the plans, processes, and final configuration of the urban fabric it cannot be realised, even if in fact public and political will, even money, is available for it. So, developers, both private and public, must be prepared to give over land and to optimise access for transit facilities; but in return, they can expect higher prices for their properties because proximity to quality public transport is a major driver of property value.

While much of the credit for sustainable mobility goes to public bodies such as BMTC, and the city authorities themselves in the case of TOD, public participation has also played a significant role in promoting sustainable mobility. Along with EMBARQ India, the co-winner of the 2012 Volvo Award was the Jana Urban Space Foundation, which created the TenderSURE process – a method for achieving transparency, quality, participation in urban road contract tendering and development – and guaranteeing outcomes that were socially and environmentally appropriate. The TenderSURE project secured $160,000 US through civil society action, that was multiplied to $56 million US, to ensure safety and space for pedestrians, using a reliable road design model, across 30km of roads in Bangalore.



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Text by: John Manoochehri
Last edited: 2017-03-15