Monday , 26 October 2020

Bangalore does it with Blackberry

Taking over charge as the Additional Commissioner, Traffic in 2008, you had to start from scratch…

Yes. When I joined after a three year stint in Mysore, most of the traffic data was handled manually. We started an interim TMC which is now the most advanced centre in the country and is on the lines of what is available in Kuala Lumpur. We have done away with notice pads and carbon papers; our traffic police have hand-held BlackBerry devices connected to Bluetooth enabled printers. Every time a person is caught for a traffic violation, the license/vehicle numbers and details are entered. The system is very user-friendly and it takes a minute to complete the formalities and to issue the receipts. But the real benefit is the back end, the state-of-the-art data server room which is not seen. Every transaction taking place on the road gets stored in the server creating real-time information. A repeat offender is automatically fined enhanced amount instead of र100. We have a huge data base of about 60 lakh violations in the last two – three years. The greatest advantage is that since the data entry is automatic, there is uniformity in entry and collection of fines and there is no scope for malpractices. Leakages are totally plugged. We have a lot more transparency. We are able to see online end to end reconciliation of money collected every day – from the field to the police stations to the treasury. People are now willing to pay because they know that the money is going to the Government.

The scuffles between the police and the public have come down to almost nil. With the BlackBerry system, we have given power to sub-inspectors and ASIs to stop offenders and fine them if need be. The police constables and head constables, on the other hand, can note the details and enter these at the police stations which are connected to the traffic management centre which, in turn, is connected to the Transport Department database. The notice is generated very fast and mailed to the person concerned with details of fine and where to pay it. The fines can be paid at the police stations, customer facilitation centres which we call ‘Bangalore One’ or via the internet. Today, maximum amount of fines comes through internet using credit cards. Since BlackBerry data is integrated with violation ticket database, the unpaid fines get added up and collected finally.

There should be improvement in the collection of fines…

Our manpower was 2200 in 2008 and it is the same in 2010 too. The collection of fines has been about 15 crore traditionally. In 2008, it went up to 28 crore. And with the same manpower and by investing just about 3 to 5 crores in technology in 2009, the collection became 39 crores; in 2010 it is about र48 crores. It is just that the leakages have been plugged effectively by implementing state-of-the-art traffic information system. I can see from my desk what is happening every second. So this is the first part of the enforcement system. Every police officer is being tracked. He has to tally the account and deposit the fines collected the next morning. He knows the work he has done, timings, offences, vehicle numbers and the amount collected.

More on the TMC…

TMC receives live video coverage from 180 major junctions using surveillance cameras. Five enforcement cameras capture traffic signal violations and over speeding cases. Twenty variable message sign boards and all signals are connected to the TMC through lease line. The central server has the ability to interpret the number plates and get them matched with the data base of the transport department.

The officers at the centre can monitor all the junctions. Each constable has extended desk top with four monitors. They can rotate or zoom the cameras. So the whole city is available on the screens. You know, most people think that cameras are only for booking traffic offenders. The real use of surveillance system is the collection of data. And that is what you see in Bangalore. There is total integration of surveillance system and signalling system. We have 325 signals in the system. How do you decide how much green time to be given and in which direction? Earlier, the traffic inspector decided, but today, we have done away with that system totally. For the last two years, we have been conducting studies of each and every junction on the number of vehicles passing through and their turning movements. Each signal has been plotted. Whether you should release traffic straight, or straight and right together, depends on the proportion of traffic which is going straight or turning right. And all these studies can be done more effectively using the cameras. So we are using video analytics; we are seeing the turning movements; we are calculating the vehicular movements and therefore, each signal has about 5-6 phases in a day, say 7 to 9, 9 to 11, 11 to 4, 4 to 7, and 7 to 9 and Saturdays & Sundays having a different plan. Everything is documented. And no one in the city police has the authority to change the timings unless he can come and convince me. Since all the signals are connected to the TMC, there is no need to go to the field to change timings or pattern of a signal or to switch off. If a junction jockey informs that there is more traffic from one direction, TMC will increase the green time in that direction by 10 seconds for one hour. Problems are anticipated and green signal timings are adjusted much in advance. After one hour, the signal goes to default mode.

Booking people is one thing. What we have successfully done is to use the data to rationally design the signals. Today, the traffic may be slow, but you won’t find gridlocks anywhere.

Like the cameras, the traffic police at junctions too keep observing the traffic and communicating with the centre. They have to note down the violations and help the pedestrians at the zebra crossing. And if you monitor the screens, you will find most of the Bangalorians are following stop lines. There are stop lines and zebra crossings in all the junctions. And most of them are following out of fear of the cameras. So this is the surveillance system.

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