Tuesday, September 27, 2011

it shall be Street conclave rather than Road concalve

I was present during the Cochin Conclave hosted by Cochin corporation. Though it was a good program, the theme of the discussion was not aptly presented. In my opinion, roads cannot be approached as a stand alone entity. in fact, roads are getting repaired because the other elements surrounding the roads are not taken care of or properly addressed. Roads works are not more tarring and repairing works. Streets need to be conceived as Public Spaces and roads are the major component for that matter; that’s all. What we need to improve upon; design the new or existing roadway, including streetscape design components and complete conceptual level engineering plans. It shall be a holistic plan to attract users of street to own and take proud of the streets and not alone in the case of roads as we look at it today.

There shall be a detailed project concept including the improvement plans for the existing roads. The detailed Project Report would inter-alia include detailed engineering survey, traffic study, sub- soil investigation, X-ray mapping of existing utilities like Electrical cable, Telephone cable, Water lines etc,. and storm water drain, condition survey & adequacy survey of storm water drains, Identification of future requirement for utility department, incorporation of various proposal of Highways and PWDs, Corporation of Kochi, Metro Rail, KSEB, KWA etc., detailed design of foundation, Sub-structure & Superstructure for Flyovers, Foot Over Bridges, subways, skywalk, etc., Multi level parking system, designing of adequate lighting arrangement, Designing the adequacy of drains, Bus shelters with detailed cost estimates and assessment of social and Environmental impacts along with necessary mitigation measures.

There shall be comprehensive plans for the following;

  1. Traffic and roadway improvement
  2. Streetscape improvement
  3. Design of individual elements

Today, everyone is concerned about Kochi roads because of gutters and potholes. But we should not forget that there is an increase in the number of private vehicles hence wear and tear is also been accounted to these facts. It is not an excuse as there are new technologies and methods available in plenty to ensure the long life for roads. But this is the time to reorient ourselves for the concept of roads and streets. It shall be a happy place for pedestrians, motorists, joggers, jay walkers, vendors, cyclists etc. more private vehicles are on the streets because of the poor public transport. Causalities are on raise on the roads not only because of poor conditions of the roads but also because of the poor pedestrian facilities and lack of separate lanes for cyclists and two wheelers. We need street furniture and comfort stations so that citizens can use this secular place for not only for mobility requirements but also use it as public spaces.

We need streets that have the following benchmarks;

- Establishing widths of Rights Of Way

- Connectivity

- Accommodating all modes -Pedestrian, Bicycles, Motorized vehicles, etc.

- Concept of Lanes and Shared Street Space

- Pedestrian Networks

- Pedestrian Street Crossings and Curb heights

- Turning radii

- Service and emergency vehicles

- Utilities

- Road Safety

- On-Street Parking

- Lighting

Next time, when Corporation hosts such an event, it shall be 'Cochin Street conclave' rather than 'Cochin road conclave'. there shall not be a fundamental flaw in judging the issues related to streets..

Friday, September 16, 2011

Do we need Metro rail?

By D Dhanuraj

Media reports say that Planning Commission agreed in principle to sanction metro rail in Kochi while posting the matter to purchase committee to evaluate the financial obligations. My friends in media are a little apprehensive to conduct the due diligence of the metro project as they fear public backlash on this subject. Same is the case, when Italked to political leadership as many confess privately that they don’t agree with metro rail project. There is a moral hazard as they perceive it in the public domain as they go in either ways on this subject.

I have a firm belief that metro rail in Kochi is not going to solve any public transport issues for many reasons. In city like Kochi, where the population is almost stabilised in CBD area as per the census figures, metro taking its route through MG road cannot be comprehended. Many reports say that the average speed in Cochin city will be 6 km/hour in 2030 so metro is advocated. I am not sure which part of the city they are citing for this 6km/hour argument. This is a city where the master plan is pending for decades and no one even sure about the growth pattern of the city. I am sure it is not going to be M G Road or Banerjee road for that matter. FSI is low in the state that high raise buildings are not a possibility in the near future. Or, I am not sure whether metro plans are linked with FSI and real estate development so that it becomes a comprehensive town plan. i searched for it at many places but could not find out any documents related to such a plan, nor is the case with ridership. I am convincingly told that no one has any studied numbers on the floating population even now. Only number that we have is that cochin has a population of 6lakhs plus as per the latest census figures and it accounts for 1.5 million when the city is connected to suburbs and mofussils. But we are going to spend around 4300 crores of rupees to get this fancy project. What does it mean? Each kilometre will cost 160 crores. Are we in the right direction understanding the real time issues of sustainable public transport in cochin?

The present alignment starts from Alwaye to Pettah going via MG Road. A large portion of the metro is running parallel to National Highway where as the other part is along Petta – Vyttila road. I am not sure whether Thirukochi buses and private buses in these routes are going to compete with the metro ridership? Do we have that much of population coming to MG road every day? How many are going to alight at the stops like Elamkulam and Thykkodam during the off peak hours? What is the feeder system for the commuters from west kochi side including Mattancherry, Fortkochi, Kannamali, Vypeen, Palluruthy etc? the present alignment does not connect to boat jetties of bus stations. I am told that metro station at Vyttila is not in mobility hub but opposite to temple thus commuters have to walk to the Hub to take the respective buses. Why can’t we plan all these if we are so possessive about the metro plans? At Edappally, Lulu Shopping mall is coming up and it is considered to be one of the largest in Kerala. Why can’t we have a station in one of their floors and ask them to fund it? I am surprised why cant we ask private parties to fund each station where jewellers and textile shops are known for its daily trade volume. If they are not willing, i will assume that there is some problem with the metro plan. No private party will be ready to burn their fingers.

The land use pattern of Kochi is getting transformed. GIS maps show a huge difference in the last thirty years. Interestingly, those areas not connected by these plans. so what are we trying to prove? Please help me to understand this metro rail project in Cochin... I am not against any good project but I am really concerned about the use of public money worth of Rs 4300 crores for 25 km build up in a small city like Cochin. Are we looking for big ticket project? Dont we have the logic to address the traffic issues with a small pie since Cochin is a very small city and its problems are also manageable? We are building this metro where there is no money for the corporation and the government to repair the roads. I am curious and anxious to know what is going to happen. What is going to be the recurring expenditure for the daily operations of metro? Help me to understand the numbers and figures correct as i am not convinced about this big ticket project...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Share Autos in city of Cochin

by D Dhanuraj

it is astonishing that traffic problems in cochin city has been solved well before metro rail started its construction. Authorities claim that it is traffic diversion but what they have done essentially is that diverting city bound long distance buses through National Highways or asking them to terminate at Hub. it seems that an effective chain service from Hub to city side is yet to be inaugurated. Commuting public started complaining about the difficulties they face every day and man hours lost. Especially for the ladies who commute from the areas like Aroor and Cherthala, any delay at Vyttila junction can cause immense trouble back home.

I am surprised that no one talks about para transit operations in a city like Cochin. I am told that there is no provision under state RT Act to issue licenses to share auto or share auto concept is foreign to authorities in Kerala. when we complain about the last mile and first mile problems in the areas like Chellanam, Kannamaly, Palluruthy, EdaKochi etc, we are not thinking of allowing these auto rickshaw services to be the part of larger public transport system. Same is the case with the complaints on narrow roads and efficacy of having bus routes to connect highly densed areas of Kerala not only in Cochin. Share autos can do a better job connecting these remote areas. let it start with connecting Cochin city from Vyttila Mobility hub by share autos...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Traffic Diversion and Metro rail

For many in the Government, yesterday was the D-day for their immediate future plans. The much awaited traffic diversion was scheduled for yesterday. there were protests, agony and confusion after their first trial run. The crowd might have felt lot of ease at the end of yesterday's experiment for the simple reason that traffic congestion was not felt in the corridors. today, media also has written all good stories about the diversion and success.

But, was it a traffic diversion? to me, it is nothing but a ban in a reformed way. reports suggest that the city is devoid of 1500 per trips per every day. if that is the case, I am not surprised that there is no traffic blocks in the city. this could have been done even without reconstruction works at North over bridge. in fact, the mobility hub was supposed to meet these objectives. But i am concerned about the number of new city buses been introduced as a result of this ban. have they taken care of the needs of the public while they try to introduce the new permits?

No one has discussed about Vyttila junction and Edappally junction as a result of these changes. If there is a traffic block, it is because of the reason that they have not identified the proper lane traffic and entry-exit passages.

all the developments raise a very fundamental question; what are the issues with the public transport and traffic congestion in the city? isn't it because of the reason that route rationalization and rearrangements have not taken place in Cochin for a long time? do we need to spend Rs 5000 crores to solve these issues? yesterday itself, it has been proved that these issues can be fixed without much spending.

Has anyone studied on the impact of these plans in the areas like M G Road and Banerjee road?How do real estate market react to these developments. I wish these areas don't go in the lines of Mattancherry and Fort Cochin in another few years. we need a vibrant city and it shall not be at the cost of social fabric.