Saturday, August 18, 2012

Learning from Delhi Metro for an improved metro in Cochin

by D.Dhanuraj

I was in Delhi for  the last two weeks and for the first time, I purchased a SMART CARD of Delhi metro to make my traveling around Delhi more comfortable. SMART card ensures that one does not have to pitch in the que to buy the token for the ride thus saving lot of time at the counters. I was so happy to get one and I decided to use Delhi metro to the maximum for my travel requirements. On the first day I noticed that the travel is not so comfortable as was in the past as I felt more crowd in the cars of Metro. I thought this would be a peak hour phenomenon. But in a few days, I realised that things have been changed for Delhi Metro. Delhi metro is full most of the times in most of the prominent routes irrespective of the timing of the day. I become more curious to know this change over and how did has an impact on the commuting population.

Last week, media reported that Delhi metro is clocking an average of 1.5 million commuting population everyday. DMRC is planning to increase the number of cars in the days to come to accomodate the demand from the commuters. I wish this is technically feasible in these already congested routes. At the same, travelling in Delhi metro in the last two weeks presented me with a very convincing observation; there is a gradual shift towards the poor section of the society who mostly travel in Delhi metro these days compared to the upper middle class in the past. I wish someone has studied this class shift in the commuting public for Delhi. I am very happy that poor are mostly using this Metro as it helps them to reach out to the happening places with minimum cost and less time.It also shows that there is a growing class that can afford Rs 20 for a metro journey; one can argue that there is a substantial shift for the poverty line in Delhi in recent times and I am sure one will dare to set Delhi metro as the base line for this argument from different perspectives !! But what is alarming for me is something else; what happens to those middle class and upper middle class (I dont think Metro attracted rich ever!) who were using Metro earlier. I am sure they are back on streets and driving their personal vehicles to commute from one end of the city to another. What does it mean? There is no softening of traffic congestion on Delhi streets as the traffic is as usual or tend to increase as a result of this class shift. I am least surprised when media reports that there is a growing number of 7.3 million personal vehicles compared to 45000 buses in Delhi. This is again alarming for me as it can really stop a city from functioning. What are these class shifts mean for me? I am not sure whether DMRC had looked at these scenarios when they started Delhi Metro project. Most of the times, I felt it like Mumbai suburban trains. A long Que (unlike in Mumbai suburbans) waiting at most of the metro station to get in. Though guards are there, I wonder how successful they are. We need to think over how to bring back those passengers to metro. I dont find a single solution unfortunately...

Another incident really shocked me was my experience at HUDA City centre. I was traveling to HUDA City centre for a meeting on one fine evening. I reached there by 5 pm in the evening. Without much hush, I came out of the station. Immediately I realised that the compound wall of the station is at least 200 metres to catch a rickshw. Sooner I emerged out of the Station, I was greeted by the auto rickshaw and taxi cab drivers. They want me to give them a ride. Since I know my meeting place is so closer to metro station, I dont want. Though I declined, one after another started following me giving me different price offers. By the time, I crossed the gates of the station wall, I felt exhausted. I might have met at least 10 drives by that time. I started watching the whole episode repeating for other passengers. Lady passengers might have been felt threatened and intimidated by these cab drivers. I was wondering what is the problem there? it is nothing but a poor design of the station to accommodate these feeder systems. I am not surprised if anyone doubts these cab drivers as touts. I am very much for the livelihood opportunities for the informal sector and a strong votary of inclusion of auto rickshaws, rickshaws and other feeder services. here in this case, we cannot blame passengers and drivers as both of them live in a lively eco system. but the issue that I have mentioned is a result of the poor architecture design of the metro station where these feeder systems are not officially linked to the service nor they are accommodated in such a way that passengers can avail their service at the station itself. On my return to the station at 8 pm, I found these challenges more demanding as everyone would be bothered about their safety and security in the above mentioned circumstances.

Finally, to my dismay, there was a long Que at the station gate at 8 pm to enter the Metro complex. I had to spend at least 10 minutes to get on to the platform. I wonder who will be interested to take the metro in Delhi if they have the luxury of personal vehicles. More importantly, everyone wants to go to their office without any damage to the suites they are into. I am sure Cochin Metro team has a visionary plan to execute to overcome all these possible challenges in the future. If SMART card to be used. the system should be SMART.