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Bangalore's traffic nightmare

Can this business and tech hub stop strangling itself? Maybe.

Until only a couple of years ago, enforcement on Bangalore roads was a somewhat feeble affair consisting of wireless handset-toting policemen relaying situation updates to the traffic control room and trying to manage rush hour traffic or breakdowns on narrow, traffic-clogged roads.

Studies suggested the jobs of traffic policemen in Bangalore were so stressful that they suffer chronic migraines, asthma attacks (because of the air pollution), as well as stress and cardiac issues with the deafening honking and other noise on the city roads.

Now video surveillance cameras are tracking hundreds of major traffic junctions in the city. Software tracking mobile density on roads and traffic junctions sends updates on congestion. GPS-equipped city buses send feeds on the speed they are traveling.

A centralized traffic management center analyzes all the data so that "green time" at traffic lights can be modified. So Bangalore’s rush-hour commuters say they still contend with terrible traffic but at least traffic is crawling and not at a complete standstill.

For the first time in any Indian city, Bangalore’s traffic officers armed with Blackberry devices enforce strict rules at traffic lights and on the roads. As officers log on live databases, repeat offenders are easily tracked and penalized enhanced amounts. To boot, penalty collections have doubled since two years ago, with many offenders simply logging on to the Bangalore Traffic website and paying online.

Still, this is a city with 3.7 million vehicles on the road, and a further 1,000 new vehicles added every single day. Bangalore’s traffic is indeed a gargantuan challenge that technology alone cannot hope to solve, admits Sood.

“I dream of the day when the city’s traffic can be coordinated and managed by technology through a completely non-obtrusive system,” he said.