Friday, October 25, 2013

New set of don'ts too might fail motorists in Kochi

The who-cares attitude of the PWD and the KWA in restoring has resulted in frequent accidents in Kochi. Seen here is incomplete restoration of the SA Road at Vyttila Janatha. Photo: H. Vibhu
The HinduThe who-cares attitude of the PWD and the KWA in restoring has resulted in frequent accidents in Kochi. Seen here is incomplete restoration of the SA Road at Vyttila Janatha. Photo: H. Vibhu

The latest move to set additional restrictions for digging up freshly laid roads is unlikely to improve the condition of roads in the district if the effectiveness of prevailing mechanisms is anything to go by.
The decision to set new riders and a calendar for such works was taken at a high level meeting of District Collectors and department heads chaired by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy earlier this week. District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareeth said the new conditions would be applicable for important roads of the Public Works Department (PWD). The PWD will be asked to draw up an annual plan for road works and communicate it to the departments concerned at the district road coordination committee.
“Based on this plan, other departments will be given a window for carrying out work that involves digging up roads. Sanction will be given for such work only if the agencies concerned give an undertaking on a time limit for completing the work and deposit the estimated cost of road restoration,” Mr. Pareeth told The Hindu.
Asked whether the agency concerned would be penalised if the work overshot the allotted period, the Collector said it would be decided by the coordination committee.
Such a coordination committee chaired by the District Collector already exists, but has largely been reduced to a toothless arrangement. Though the committee is supposed to be informed about work involving digging up of roads by agencies such as the Kerala Water Authority or the BSNL, which are also expected to deposit restoration expenses, in many cases, the committee is hardly aware about such work.
A senior official of the PWD admitted that while the committee should be informed about all works except in emergency cases such as pipe burst, there were many such instances in which it was not done. “In fact, in many cases, the PWD is in the dark and come to know of such instances only when poorly restored roads lead to accidents. There is nothing wrong in digging up roads to repair a burst pipe since it is an essential service, but the agency concerned should see to it that the road is properly restored,” he said.
‘Flawed approach’
D. Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research, said there was a fundamental flaw in treating infrastructure developments around a road in isolation.
“The need of the hour is to develop a concept of the street and to entrust a single agency with everything from road to infrastructure developments in streets. A manual for street development along the lines of the road development manual should be drawn up and strictly adhered to while undertaking any work in the streets,” he said.
Lack of coordination
Mr. Dhanuraj said the problem, at present, was that multiple agencies were engaged for various services and no amount of discussions among those agencies would help iron out some elements that were often overlooked.
Consumer welfare activist Dejo Kappen of the Centre for Consumer Education said no new arrangements would help improve the condition of road as long as the lack of coordination among agencies persisted.
The pathetic condition of Tripunithura-Aryankavu Road and the Piravom-Nadakkavu Road, which were dug up for pipeline works, best exemplified it, he said.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Broken road drained fuel tanks, burnt hole in pockets, says study

The approximate loss incurred by thousands of motorists and commuters who used an ill-maintained road has been quantified by a city-based NGO.

Through its project ‘Taking X-Rays of Roads’, Centre for Public Policy Research undertook a detailed study of the the Palarivattom-Kakkanad Road — a major road corridor that connects the city with the Collectorate.

Global Positioning System and Android applications were used to study parameters such as fuel wastage, its cost, subsequent increase in pollution and loss of man hours, said sources in the agency.
Loss incurred by way of fuel wastage, wear and tear of vehicles, increase in commuting time and rise in traffic snarls/accidents has also been quantified.

The Public Works Department had awarded a contract of Rs.10 crore to resurface the Palarivattom-Kakkanad Road. However, the contractor abandoned the work. The PWD’s ineptitude in speeding up the work meant road users’ pockets were further dented.

The survey found that the average speed of vehicles in the stretch fell to 19 km per hour from 30 km per hour. This speed is considered “very uneconomical” as per international standards (AASHTO Road Standards).

‘Forced stops’ due to presence potholes and rough road surfaces on the stretch increased fuel consumption of vehicles, especially of heavy vehicles like buses. Thus, expenditure on fuel by vehicles covering the stretch worked out to Rs.5,87, 672 per day as against the approximately Rs.2,72, 000 prior to the commencement of road repairs.

According to the study, fuel consumption increases by 50 per cent to 100 per cent when vehicles drive down potholed or ill-maintained roads. Since more than 95 per cent of cars were fitted with ACs, fuel consumption increased further by 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

This led to increase in pollution levels and added to the total loss to the economy.
Other factors such as maintenance cost for wheel alignment and tyre puncture further increased the financial burden on commuters.
Traffic grinds to a halt on the ill-maintained Civil Lane Road, that leads to the District Collectorate and the InfoPark, in Kochi. File Photo

Rise in pollution
Motoring down the road also increased the emission of noxious gases from vehicles. It is well known that halving of speed increases the emission of Carbon Monoxide (CO) by over 25 per cent.
Cost per person
The study also found that the total loss in time for a commuter who crossed the stretch was 20 minutes. This later increased from 25 minutes to 45 minutes.
Considering that the average daily wage in Kochi is Rs.500, the cost of total man hours lost worked out to Rs.60,000 per day.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Parking woes to get worse

Kochi: With the Metro rail work gathering momentum and work along MG Road all set to start soon, parking problems will worsen in the city. Motorists will have a tough time ahead as the Metro authorities plan a total ban on parking along MG Road.
No agency, including the corporation, traffic police or the district administration has any idea about alternative arrangements for parking. Though the Kochi Metro Rail Limited expressed interest in renovating the Subhash Bose Park by providing parking space facility at its northern end, the proposal didn’t find favour with the corporation. The KMRL authorities are yet to submit a formal proposal, but the local body is against the concept of providing parking facility within the park.
“We will not allow any part of the Subhash Bose Park to be converted into a parking area. The city has only 0.3 per cent of open space, while urban planning norms stipulate 10 to 15 per cent of open space. So, no parking can be allowed in the park which is one of the few open spaces in the city”,  said K.J Sohan, corporation Town Planning Committee Chairman.
Meanwhile, sources at the KMRL said they have no plans to change the existing structure and had only made a suggestion to revamp the park. The plan was to replace the damaged equipment, make a turf and to provide proper lighting.
According to urban planners, unless coordinated efforts are made, the only way out for people is to walk along the road after parking their vehicles at places far from their venues of interest, till the metro work gets over. “The number of people coming to MG Road will fall when the metro work starts.
However, proper parking facilities have to be provided near Vyttila mobility hub and other vacant spaces near the highway. If hop on-hop off buses are introduced to connect parking areas to MG Road and other city centres, the issue can be resolved to a certain extent”, said D.Dhanuraj, Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Research, a city-based think-tank which conducted several studies on parking.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Public transport system calls for a new roadmap

As the district gears up to observe yet another edition of Bus Day on Thursday, debate is on as to how far these ritualistic observations go in promoting the public transport system and making it popular among the travelling public.
Experts feel that the need of the hour is a comprehensive and scientific overhauling of the public transport structure to decongest city roads that court thousands of new vehicles every day.
D. Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), says it is this realisation that prompted his agency, which originally mooted the idea of Bus Day, to back out of the project after being part of it in 2011-12.


“The bus routes in the district were fixed about two decades back, after which there has never been a comprehensive plan to rationalize the routes despite the city and its suburbs undergoing a sea change. There are places such as Panamppilly Nagar in the heart of the city, which have grown into major residential and business centres over the years but are still left untouched by buses,” he says.
Mr. Dhanuraj says the inability to map the mobility features of passengers remains the fundamental flaw in the city’s transport management plans. There is no database on key aspects such as the busiest route, the timing of passenger movement and the connectivity or the lack of it between the bus routes and destinations of passengers, which remains at the heart of restructuring the public transport system.
“Our buses are not that bad as they are made out to be. But they are simply proving unhelpful in taking passengers to their destinations. Public transport, after all, is all about ferrying people to destinations of their choice and when it fails to do so obviously they look for other options,” Mr. Dhanuraj says.


A senior officer of the Motor Vehicles Department says the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and a nationalisation scheme notified by the government in May 2006 effectively ruled out any rational restructuring of bus routes.
Before the advent of the Act, Road Transport Authorities (RTAs) had considerable power and they formulated the routes that often reflected the public demand. Bus operators were given permits based on merit to operate in those routes.
“The Act heralded what was regarded a liberalised scheme whereby the RTAs were cut to size and obliged to issue permit in whichever route the operator applied for as long as it was not in conflict with the nationalised routes. This effectively threw passenger necessity out of the window while reducing the public transport system to pockets which the operators found most lucrative,” he says.
The nationalisation scheme notified in 2006, on the other hand, made issue of new permits almost impossible. For instance, if an operator applies for a permit in the Aluva-Panamppilly Nagar route today, it will be denied as only the KSRTC is allowed to operate such a service.
Dejo Kappen of the Centre for ConsumerPublic transport system calls for a new roadmap Education says cosmetic measures such as the observation of Bus Day will not promote public transport system unless the necessary infrastructure is strengthened. “Even the buses rolled out by the Union government as part of decongesting the roads in metropolitan cities are being deployed by the KSRTC for long-distance services. This defeated the very purpose of their allocation, which was to transport people en bloc working under the same roof such as IT Parks thus discouraging them from using their own vehicles,” he says.


Mr. Kappen says seven out of ten private vehicles they observed at Vyttila as part of a study a few years ago had single passengers. While two SUVs take up the space of a bus, they more often that not carry just two passengers as against an average of 30 passengers a bus transports.
He also recommends an entry tax for private vehicles entering the city akin to what is being practiced in Coimbatore city. This will definitely be a positive incentive for choosing public transport over private vehicles, Mr. Kappen says.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Delhi Metro Experience - Recent ones

by D. Dhanuraj

It has been so fascinating to travel in Delhi metro when it was inaugurated. I never missed a chance whenever I was in Delhi. I used every opportunity to understand the mobility features of the commuters; type and age of them, class and community of them etc. I was fortunate enough to be the part of a kind and obedient  commuting population whenever the Metro broke the previous records of volume transportation both in 2011 or in 2013. I experienced the changing style of commuting population, increasing demand from the commuters side etc. In the last two weeks, I was in Delhi and on Metro again.

It was on July 1st I arrived in Delhi. I arrived in T1 terminal of Airport. Coming out of the terminal, I was told that there is a Metro pick up so i decided to experience the journey again. Then I realised that DMRC has taken over Airport Express Line from that day onwards. I paid Rs 120 for the ticket till Sivaji Stadium. I was asked to wait as there is a feeder system to pick the commuters to the nearby Aero City Metro Station. A few of us waited for another 10 minutes then the bus came. It was a small us not suited to the airport pick ups. I was lucky for I did not have too many luggage but many others in the que struggled. The bus attenders were no so friendly. We are told that there is an additional Rs 20 to pay for their service. Some of the passengers shouted at this. I wonder why cant they include this ticket fare in the metro charges when everybody talks about the single card system for commuting on various modes of transport. Anyways, they waited for another 10 more minutes to start from T1. Remember, there is a Metro service in every 15 minutes.

When they dropped us at Aero city Station, I found out that they have parked at a distance and there is no smooth sailing for luggage trolleys.  Many struggled to keep the bags on their shoulders. Entering the train, I found out only a handful of people opted for Airport Express even at the peak morning hours. I am sure the feeders and smoothness of interchange stop many from entering Airport Express. Even in T3 (last week experience), the connectivity between Metro terminal and T3 is at a quite a walkable distance. Same is the case with dingy conditions prevailing on the emergence from New Delhi Airport Express Metro Station. One may end up paying Rs 150 for an Auto for 3 Kms where as Metro as such demands only Rs 150 from T3 to New Delhi station.

I am sure these are learnings for other Metro projects ongoing in other parts of the country.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mobility Hub and the second phase

by D. Dhanuraj

The second phase of the Mobility Hub construction will go for pre qualification tender in the coming days. It seems that dexterous planning has been gone into the designing of the second phase. As expected, the mobility hub is expected to be the meeting point of different modes of transportation. Metro station is planned inside the Hub infrastructure while city buses, Mofussil buses and long terms buses have dedicated bays in the mobility hub. Feeders like autos, taxis will have the provisions at the hub while the boat jetty is planned to connect other parts of the city. Like in an airport, private vehicles will be able to drop commuters at the bay.

Given the real estate value and the location of the mobility hub site, the estimated cost of 400 Crores for the construction of the second phase needs diligent planning and execution. As the media reports, one will wonder what is the productivity and outcome expected from such an investment? How would the State justify such an investment for such a mobility plan? Here the larger vision matters.

  1. The infrastructure should prioritize the mobility as the key feature. Everything shall be built around the  mobility aspect (of society) and not the other way round.
  2. With the second phase of Mobility Hub in running, this could become the CBD of new Cochin. The stake holders especially Mobility Hub society, city corporation and GCDA should sit around and discuss the future plans.
  3. The entire mobility of the region as well as that of immediate neighbourhood shall get aligned with the Mobility hub plans without disturbing the social mobility features of the ongoing crowd.
  4. Like in many other cities, the stake holders can plan regulation of the public transport in the region by setting up UMTA. Present private and KSRTC operations can be grouped into fleet services under the HUB management without retaining the ownership intact as it is now.
  5. Better utilisation of 25 acres of land is the key. Why can't mobility Hub attract medium level investments leading to transit orient development in the location?
  6. Prepare a regional master plan for New Cochin as HUB as the fulcrum for the developments for the future. 
  7. Integration of HUB with rest of the State as important as the integration with the city.
  8. Have modeling exercises to find out the cut off number of non-travellers to HUB premises. This will help to build the shopping area, multiplexes and jogging stretches. otherwise, they may crowd the mobility hub leaving little space for the priority users.
  9. Innovate on the parking fees and differential pricing for the different users like commuters for public transport, those who come for shopping etc. ideally, even though parking space is provided, number of vehicles parked in the HUB premises should be smaller number in the long term with the improvement in public transport systems in the city which is mandated by HUB operations.
  10. Maintain a R&D lab to map the social mobility of the users in the region. Accordingly, routing and efficacy of the mobility hub operations and the proposed New Cochin township can be augmented.
I am sure the authorities would have looked at these aspects before the phase plans are finalised. Given the location and valuation of the property, Mobility Hub society should be able to finance its operations themselves and should not run to Trivandrum for allocation of funds to sustain the operations. If that is the case, it has failed in its enterprise..

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

High court bans road side parking of Auto rickshaws

by D Dhanuraj

Recent ban on the auto rickshaw ban on the road sides by the Hon. High Court of Kerala evoked mixed reaction in me. While I respect the Court order for ensuring safety for the pedestrians, I am not sure why the Autos alone pay the price for the improper parking on the streets. From the media reports, I understand that the order is in response to the petition filed against the Autorickshaws for intruding into the space dedicated (?) for the pedestrians. Here comes my disagreement...

In most of the cases, operations of Autorickshaws are still at the mercy of the Government authorities. They are harassed by authorities for different reasons. But what one forgets is that they play a very important role in facilitating the Public transport system. They act as the feeder systems and bridge the gaps in the last mile connectivity. If Autos are allowed to operate as share autos, more comfort and cheaper rates can be offered to the public. While Autorickshaws have a major role to enliven the urban mobility, they are not given proper space and parking grounds in most of the cases. If the authorities had given them proper space and grounds for the autos, the above situation would not have arisen.

Same is the case with pedestrians. How many roads in our country have proper pedestrian facilities and infrastructure designs supporting them? Most of the times, pedestrian side walks and refuge islands are either missing or not well connected with the rest of the eco-system. I  wish the Court would have made it mandatory that the pedestrian oriented designs of standard procedures for any urban infrastructure projects.

Another important aspect is that of parking of private vehicles. Parking is a completely misunderstood concept in India. It is considered as a fundamental right of a car owner/driver to get parking ground at free of cost. Most of the Municipalities have taken the responsibility of providing the parking on their shoulders which kills the very essence of equity of distribution at the input stages of finding solutions to the problem of parking. Private vehicles are parked on the sides of the city roads obstructing the free movement of pedestrians. In my opinion, the auto rickshaw stands/parking grounds are limited particular locations in the city while private parking is omnipresent. The Hon High Court could have mentioned these aspects also (for me, it is important in this judgement otherwise the omissions and commissions will act as stand alones creating more problems) while delivering the judgement hearing the above petition.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Plan called Non - Plan for Kochiates

by Dhanuraj. D

It looks so awkward when we do not forecast the possibilities and challenges that are very much possible within the existing framework. Here is a classic example of such a planned non plan; traffic congestion at LuLu Mall at Edappally. Since this construction for LuLu Mall started, it would have been anyone guess that thousands of footfalls expected in the mall on everyday basis would create traffic snarls and congestion around Edappalli Junction. It seems that authorities concerned neglected or ignored this possibility for many years until the mall got inaugurated. I would say such a sham to decision makers and visionary leadership (?) we have!

While the construction of the Mall was going on, the authorities could have initiated the steps to find the solutions to the traffic congestion that would be created by the Mall. In fact, I remember our suggestions (CPPRs) on a few occasions. We had suggested a hub and spoke model and transport grid organised from Edappally connecting Mobility Hub. In another meeting, we suggested to have the Edappally Metro station on one of the floors of Mall. Unfortunately these suggestions were not even heard by the authorities. There were suggestions offered by other groups as well. They were also turned down. From the authorities part, they did not do anything until the Mall got inaugurated.

I wonder how do we prosper to become the coveted Economic Power status when such incidents are so frequent in this country. It is something similar to demographic dividend prospects. Even though we knew that we could take advantages of having a younger population for a couple of decades, we are still planning for schools and how many schools we may require to tap this advantage.

I don't know why we don't learn from mistakes. Or is it because we lack scientific temperament? But one thing is clear and convincing. We are good at non - planning for the planned projects.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Plan called Mobility Hub Vyttila

by D. Dhanuraj

I was not at all surprised by this reaction of the commuters in  the Mobility Hub premises but was rather excited by the fact that they reached out to the public and authorities in a very enterprising manner. What is Mobility Hub? that is a question that demands not the definitions but the comprehensiveness about the plans and processes in the ground. Mobility Hub is maximised for the meeting of different modes of transportation at a major place. They meet each other as the location ideally suits for the convergence and distribution of different transportation networks accordance to the mobility features of the commuting population. It should save energy, time and offer seamless flow of traffic using any of the modes available. These modes shall be readily available and the information regarding the same shall be easily obtained for the demanding passenger. In lesser time, one should be able to interchange the mode of transport (if required) to reach the final destination.  

In the past, whenever I traveled across the state of Kerala, I wondered how many bus stands each city or township has? At many places I found three. One of the reasons they have cited is that there requires two separate bus terminals for KSRTC and Private Buses. From an economic view point, I am curious why KSRTC owns hundreds of hectors of land for this purpose across the State. While KSRTC in loss making brackets, why cant they innovate on this owned properties. 

Same logic has been applied in the case of Vyttila Mobility Hub also. They have reasoned out to have separate bays keeping it separate from Private Bus operators'. It is sad to witness children, senior citizens along with the tired and exhausted floating population run between the bays to get on to buses at the peak times. Why can't KSRTC and private buses operate from the same bus bay for the same destination? I must ask this question to the authorities? whom are you serving in the Mobility Hub? aren't the commuting population  your clients and customers? Have we been defeated ourselves in defining the purpose and motive of Mobility Hub? 

Please provide access and accommodation to the commuters. No one has to loiter around to figure out the various services offered by the operators. If that is the case, why do we need a mobility hub? why can't we have the traditional bus stands in the city?