Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Open Suggestion to BBMP - On Parking & Living.

(Cross-posted from a post on Through Tinted Glasses).

Every time I visit Bangalore, I feel an inner need to reflect on what particular work can improve life in Bangalore.

On this visit, one Bangalore fact that sticks out in my mind is its parking problem. Most roads in residential neighborhoods in Bangalore, are created by the Bangalore Developmental Authority, and have a 30' width, not including the space needed for drainage. So, if you leave about 5' on either side for pedestrians, you really only have about 20', or about 10' for traffic in one direction. (A frequently found sedan on Bangalore roads these days, such as the Maruti Suzuki SX4 Model, is 69", or nearly 6', wide).

But, the problem is that cars are frequently parked during the day on either side of the street, thus using up to 15' for the 30' width. Pedestrians thus are forced to walk on the asphalt, and this reduces the available asphalted portion for automobiles even further, to barely accommodate a moving car in a single direction.

What is the solution?

A Residential  Building, at Chestnut & Octavia in San Francisco.
A possible solution is to adapt, within the city limits, what cities like San Francisco have been practicing for quite some time. (It was not long ago that San Francisco and Bangalore established a sister city relationship). The accompanying picture shows one neighborhood in San Francisco, specifically at the intersection of Chestnut and Octavia streets.

A key point to be noted in this picture is that the garage doors seen here are very deceptive. The parking space is not just for one car: As a car enters through the garage door, the entire ground floor is opened up for parking, and living space starts at the next floor — 1st floor in Indian parlance or 2nd floor in American parlance. An immediate consequence of this arrangement is that the streets are left free for moving automobiles and pedestrians and, where possible, for curb-side parking.

Thus, if all future construction within Bangalore City Corporation limits takes place in such a way that adequate parking space is provided for inhabitants, and visitors, of a building, an important problem will have been solved. Otherwise, we will create many more Mantri Square-like disasters throughout the city.

Is anyone from BBMP or the Bangalore Team of the San Francisco-Bangalore Sister City Initiative or the Bangalore Developmental Authority listening?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some Important Improvements Needed in Bangalore.

(Cross-posted from a post on Through Tinted Glasses)

In a separate blog post, I explained why I almost like Bangalore. As I prepare to depart from the city at the end of this excursion, I feel obliged to write down what is immediately needed in Bangalore. I am sure many have voiced their opinions on these matters before, and many will voice their opinions after.
  1. Footpaths. Having a plane surface for the footpath is a reasonable requirement and, normally, you would not think twice in using concrete for that purpose. However, a circular — in Kannada — by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) indicates a different solution because, I believe, of weaker water handling properties of concrete. Whatever the solution, it is not clear from the BBMP web site what kind of program of activities to improve footpaths is planned.
  2. Garbage Collection. It is hard to understand from the BBMP web site what kind of scheme is being planned to improve the garbage collection within the city limits. Garbage lies nearly everywhere and the landlords continue the state of affairs probably with impunity. There is some news about BBMP's plans by a reporter, but one does not get a good feeling about BBMP's plans.
  3. Traffic Management. Every intersection is a disaster. It seems that individual motorists have not been educated that the intersection is a shared resource that cannot be hogged for long periods of time. Or, perhaps, the individual motorist feels that, since no one else follows rules, "Why should I?" If people are ticketed in some select intersections, perhaps there will be a greater awareness throughout the motorist population.
In any case, one hopes that BBMP will attend to these and other matters: Bangalore will have to compete with other international cities for attracting various kinds of businesses in the future.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why I (almost) like Bangalore.

(Cross-posted from a post at Musings of a Computing Professional)

My present visit to Bangalore grew partly out of a desire to take part in the UVCE Mega Reunion, and partly out of an approximately once-a-year visit to be with my octogenarian father. It has been nearly a month since I arrived at the Bangalore airport and, after taking in Bangalore in some of its awesome variety, I have reflected here on why I almost like Bangalore.

In his book The World is Flat, first published in 2005 and now newly republished as 3.0, Thomas Friedman has colorfully introduced Bangalore in story fashion through his experience in the golf course in the central part of the city.
"No one ever gave me directions like this on a golf course before: ... 'Aim at Microsoft or IBM'. I was standing at the first tee at the KGA Golf Club in downtown ... I had come to Bangalore, Indian Silicon Valley ...' .
Today, if you visit Whitefield — now considered part of Greater Bangalore —, you will see many more buildings, many of them high rises, that belong to who's who of multi-national corporations (MNCs) in the IT and other industries. Thus, as an IT professional, you simply cannot be lost in Bangalore. If anything, there is the added dimension of dealing with the Indian psyche to all of the rest of what is involved in an IT transaction.

If you are a programmer type, there is sufficient reason to be effective from being in Bangalore too, thanks largely to cloud computing. Dijkstra made the observation, in his famous 1972 Turing Award lecture, that programming is probably the most complex in terms of the orders of magnitude that the human mind has to conquer: 1010. While Dijsktra's comments were focused on a software system programmed on a single computer, the advent of cloud computing adds a new spatial dimension to the order of magnitude1, not to speak of the higher-speed electronics, which itself can add 3 more orders of magnitude, from microseconds to nanoseconds. So if you are a programmer interested in dealing with taming programming complexity, you can do so quite effectively while being in Bangalore.

Google Maps is another major boon to the chaos inherent to the Bangalore I grew up in, in the 1960s and 1970s. During this visit, I have never had major difficulty to get to anywhere within the city and, that too, by the Volvo bus transport, thanks to the Bangalore Google Transit Trip Planner. What is required is a bit of taming of what you type into the Google Maps' search window: I have discovered for example that, if you do not include street address, or door number as it is generally known here, the positioning of your location of interest is reasonably accurate, and that is good enough for getting you around.

Nearly any problem that needs a solution in the Indian society needs to be highly scalable2. Consider the mundane problem of outfitting the entire city of Bangalore with proper infrastructure of footpaths — or sidewalks, for the American reader. You have to be amazed why, in the last 4 decades, the quality of these footpaths has not improved at all! Take the Outer Ring Road3, for instance, as shown in the Google Maps Web Element at left. In some sections, in J P Nagar, pedestrians are forced to avoid the footpath and walk on the road, by the curb! Forget uniform paving on the footpath, the granite slabs intended to cover the drainage system are regularly missing near the Outer Ring Road underpass at J P Nagar 24th Main Road! Why is this? Is the problem so complex that it cannot be suitably solved? I'll leave the reasons to the reader's imagination.

In summary, if you can make do with traffic imperfections, including insufficient concern for pedestrians, there is sufficient excitement in the Bangalore air. And, that is enough for anyone, with sufficient non-concern toward traffic and pedestrians' problems, to like the city.

1In a Special Report: The World's Largest Data Centers, we learn that the largest single building data center is about 1.1 million square feet.
2This statement is true not only of India, but also of China; both are countries with more than billion people.
3When it was first conceived, Bangalore city limits were probably within this envelope. Now, of course, the city has grown beyond the Outer Ring Road, thus mocking the use of the word 'Outer'. That is besides the point.