On the Road to Safety
CHENNAI: Public transport and inter-modal facilitation, aspects that the Road Safety and Transport Bill 2014 hopes to address, are pressing issues in more ways than one — urban planning, environment and the sheer need for people to be able to get to places faster than what it takes in the snarling traffic of today.
Inter-modal transport, that is the use of two or more modes to finish the course of a journey, aims at reducing dependence on individual automobiles. With the Corporation taking up the Non-Motorised Transport Policy in collaboration with Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), pedestrians and cyclists hope to see a safer system with “a changed culture that accepts the use of cycling and walking as means to move around in the city”. The plan hopes to correct mistakes of the past, but several hurdles are yet to be crossed.
Levelling it up
One of the main issues with inter-modal hubs is not just proximity, but accessibility. “Putting things next to each other does not solve things. We have to consider how much climbing and how much brushing against people needs to be done to get from one mode to the other,” says Christopher Kost, the Technical Director of ITDP. One classic example is that of the Central Station and the suburban and MRTS station, where along with proximity there exists a chaotic, uncomfortable transfer. “We cannot just give people subways and overbridges. We have to give them a pedestrian-friendly ground level. Now, there is no median and the traffic police are left in the lurch,” he says.
Planned nodes are crucial to ensuring that mass transport works, and the transition from the station to the neighbourhood or workplace needs to be smooth. “The reasons the MRTS didn’t work were the issues in accessibility and safety. This needs to be solved in future projects,” says Gitakrishnan Ramadurai, professor at the Centre of Excellence in Urban Transport, IIT-Madras. “When footpaths and access roads are made better, more people will use it.”
Last Mile Connectivity
Efforts have been made to address the issue with feeder buses and share autos that operate in the suburban lines. Bicycles are now being looked at as an efficient way to cover the last mile. Kost says plans for around 200 stations with 3,000 shared bicycles are on the anvil along with smart-card access in areas with heavy movement such as Egmore, R K Salai and Alwarpet. “I have seen cycling tracks being planned in Indian cities from one metro station to the other. If people need to travel between stations, they can use the Metro! The cycles should be to access the nearby neighbourhood,” says Kost.
With plans to introduce more cyclists on the roads, their safety too comes into the picture. “Around 60-70 per cent of road accidents involve the vulnerable road users. More stringent punishment is being looked at as a way to solve this in the new bill. Enforcement is the next important step,” says Gitakrishnan. Dangerous junctions that have narrow and jammed roads would be studied and speed implementations would be introduced to make cycling safer according to ITDP’s proposals. The implementation of these plans, Christopher says, needs to be vamped up to make people choose public transport for its convenience.