Bengaluru, the fast-moving city that’s grinding to a halt

How much longer can Bangalore sustain its current levels of inefficient mobility? A new Automotive World report explores the potential for mobility innovation in 'India’s Silicon Valley'. By Martin Kahl

India’s innovation hub…the go-to destination for start-ups and global tech giants…the country’s third most populous city, with a top-25 global ranking, and a projected population of over 20 million by 2030…the place to be even for automakers who have no other presence in India—Bengaluru (‘Bangalore’) is on the up.

You want to get ahead in India? Bengaluru. Keen to establish a presence in a burgeoning e-commerce hub? Bengaluru. Need to be at the heart of India’s Silicon Valley? Bengaluru.

Clearly, Bengaluru is going places, fast.

Except the people in the city aren’t going anywhere fast: alongside all of the above attributes, Bengaluru holds the dubious accolade of being one of India’s—and one of the world’s—most congested cities.

Bengaluru’s drivers waste almost 280,000 million litres of fuel annually because of traffic congestion; they also spend 600 million hours sitting in traffic each year

According to the Bengaluru Development Authority, the city’s drivers waste almost 280,000 million litres of fuel annually because of traffic congestion—and that means an extra 700 tons of CO2 emissions. Add to that the impact on business of this shockingly inefficient use—waste—of time; Bengalureans also spend 600 million hours sitting in traffic each year.

Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done fast.

In terms of the city’s suitability for mobility as a service (MaaS) innovation, Bengaluru is right up there. It scores high in terms of innovation momentum, thanks to an entrepreneurial spirit and innovative tech culture. And it’s that sprit and culture that create an ideal environment for conceiving and nurturing the new technologies and business models that could help ease the city’s mobility woes.

But any old idea won’t work. Ride-hailing, for example, is attractive for those disillusioned by inadequate public transport—but ride-hailing does nothing to reduce traffic. Indeed, it simply adds to the number of low-occupancy vehicles on the road. Ride-sharing is growing—but it still involves putting vehicles on roads, when more basic improvements to public transportation might be the solution, at least in the short and medium term.

That means improving the attractiveness of mass transit travel, something the country hopes to address in all of its major cities with the rollout of the so-called One Nation, One Card initiative which is intended to make travel payments easier and user-friendly. It also means improving the fuel efficiency and emissions of the existing diesel-powered bus fleets. And it means making public transport safer, prioritising infrastructure investments such as the much-needed and long-delayed pedestrian skywalk to bridge the busy road between Bengaluru’s Yeshwanthpur metro and railway stations, eliminating the need for the tens of thousands of rail transit users to risk their lives every day crossing from one to the other.

Bengaluru’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovative tech culture create an ideal environment for conceiving and nurturing the new technologies and business models that could help ease the city’s mobility woes.

As for vehicle fuel efficiency, the idea of switching Bengaluru drivers to electrification is barely being entertained. Poor infrastructure, low electricity reliability, minimal product offering on the vehicle side and high up-front costs mean that a sizeable electric vehicle fleet is a long way from reality. That said, the city recently issued 5,000 e-rickshaw permits, a seemingly small but significant step towards e-mobility in Bengaluru.

Surely, the city cannot sustain its current levels of inefficient mobility for much longer, something that comes through loud and clear in a new Automotive World report on the future of mobility in Bengaluru. Environmental factors, business and public safety are all at stake—unsustainable in a city heralded as a global innovator.

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