Thursday, March 29, 2012

Unified Metropolitan Authority (UMTA) in Kochi

We often talk about unity among diversity, giving popular names such as Kerala United, United Front etc to various institutions and processes. Interestingly, we have been forced to adopt a democratic system by the Britishers , and evolved to a hierarchical structure in terms of size and post. The case of Road and Transport Management is a typical example as to how Indian system works in developing its roads or transport. For eg: take the case of parking, you have the Corporation/Municipality who is in charge of identifying parking spaces and preparing guidelines for parking (onstreet and offstreet), at the same time, management of parking is divested with the traffic commissioner/police. You will have the National Highways Authority appearing in case of NH/SH and the Public works Department for PWD roads. The Corporation / Municipality itself has different department in addressing  parking, like Revenue (for allotting money for land and building parking spaces), Land and Estates Department for identifying land in consultation with Revenue, Mayor and his Councillors with its Commissioner (or Secretary in Kerala) for finalising the parking lots and tendering of parking. This is in addition to various private agencies who manage parking (legal or illegal). Multiple stakeholders for such a process, complicates the issue and leads a quagmire of sorts. Co-ordination, let alone communication is absent, with the road users let to suffer. The example shows how public administration requires reforms to identify and plug loopholes through a better co-ordinated mechanism. It is at this juncture that Unified Transport Authority was mooted by the Urban Transport Ministry in its Urban transport policy, 2010. The same was modelled as per the Land Transport Authority in Singapore which was a huge suceess leading to concrete changes in the transport scenario in Singapore. The authority is not distinct from its components namely the Corporation, Traffic police, RTO etc, but a co-ordinated agency working in sync with all these departments to fufill a definite objective, that of improving the traffic and transport situation in  the city. Chennai came out with its UMTA Bill recently, though its yet to constitute it formally, while Mumbai is still under planning stages.

It at this juncture that the present UMTA in Kochi receives praise. CPPR has been strongly advocating for an UMTA to solve the governance issues which is affecting decision making. A strong UMTA in the likes of Singapore LTA will bring in drastic changes in our outlook towards Traffic and transport development. We required specialised agencies to monitor such processes and require concrete and quick action. This will enable better system in a state like Kerala which aspires to become a model in transport. See Reports which came in Deccan Chronicle (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/cities/kochi/budget-spells-ppp-mantra-286), Times of India (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/cities/kochi/budget-spells-ppp-mantra-286) ...

Check out how UMTA can be operationalised by upgrading the existing Vytilla Mobility Hub .http://www.cppr.in/program_details/82/Mobility_Hub_Society_%E2%80%93_what_is_the_future

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Road safety and Kerala

By D.Dhanuraj

Ever since Malayalam cine actor Jagathi Srikumar met with an accident, media has turned their attention to the medians causing accidents. I must confess that the medians are one of the so many elements of road safety. It is nice to read such debates so to wish that the responsible departments would take it seriously. But what we need is a comprehensive framework for road safety and the auditing of road safety measures taken.

Many papers that deal with road safety in India mentions the increasing sales of motor vehicles as the reason for accidents and causalities. Though I agree with this argument at the theoretical level, I believe this is an apt example for poor side of policy making in this country. Most of the policy documents dealing with road safety either ignores or being oblivion of the elements of road safety.

Road safety includes design (architecture) of the road, safe and secure pedestrian side walks, street lights, pedestrian cross links, junction improvement, proper signals, removing poles that obstruct the smooth movement of pedestrians, straightening the sharp turns etc. Driving on Kerala roads, one must have noticed that pedestrians are hardly respected as there is hardly any space for them for a safe walk on the sides of the road. Most of the junctions lack free right or left turns that cause accidents at the junction mouths. We don't have the concept of detailing even the minutest attributes of a street when the roads are designed. I am not sure whether the department lacks the expertise or skills or they are least bothered about these finer aspects.

Road safety cannot be stand alone subject. It involves so many elements and they shall be addressed to ensure the safety for all the road users. Unfortunately, every one blames the speeding vehicles and the increased number of vehicles on the roads as the major reasons for the road accidents. If that is the case, accident rates would have been bigger in the developed countries. What we lack is the attributes for a developed infrastructure ensuring safety of street users. again, in India, the infrastructure means the big ticket projects like Metros and Fly overs etc. But if we look at the number of road accidents, none of these big ticket projects will have any profound influence in reducing the causalities.Rather, a better coordinated approach among the departments (I would rather suggest for a street development authority) for model streets with side walks, crossings, proper medians etc will save so many lives and GDP of the country.