Who pays for the construction of the parking lot at Chennai Central station that the Times of India says will have seven levels to keep 4,000 cars (story here) ? The other development of the Chennai Central tunnelling work reaching a milestone with the last of the TBM points forging through on Friday is reported here by ToI and here by New Indian Express.
A Chennai Metro train at Koyambedu station. Photo: KARTY JazZ, Creative Commons
In the absence of any differentiation in the costing of the Metro construction between core facilities and such add-ons that have no universal value, we must assume that the cost is distributed across the entire system – which means, it is loaded into the fare that everyone pays.
If this is not the case, Chennai Metro Rail Limited is duty-bound to explain how it is arriving at parking fees, in order to segregate the expenditure and cost recovery.
Since Japan, whose investors have funded the Metro, is also deeply interested in India’s car sector, having a thriving business in the country with its Toyotas, Suzukis, Hondas and so on, it is likely that there is a convergence of interest between the local car lobby and the decision.
Why criticise commuters?
Many people criticise bus, rail commuters for demanding better services at affordable fares, which are not anyway available. There is no effort at bringing link buses to the Metro stations. Even pedestrian access to the Metro stations in Vadapalani, Koyambedu, Alandur are crudely designed, and hence dysfunctional.
Secondly, while we welcome mass mobility systems, Chennai Metro Rail maintains an aloofness with users characteristic of all public services in India. It does not think public transport is a partnership, rather a top down offering to helpless users. Thus, its proposed Chennai Metro app (for Android) may not have real time information on trains, just static maps, an outdated model. The report on the app in The Hindu is here.
Filed under Chennai, CMRL, Commuters, Metro Rail, MTC, Pedestrians, Public Transport, Transit, Transport, Transport Information, Walking
The time is approaching when we must choose a new government for Tamil Nadu. For commuters, the past five years under the AIADMK have been literally expensive in the following ways:
- MTC BUS SERVICE IN LOW GEAR: In spite of rapid economic growth, the AIADMK government did not improve Chennai MTC bus service. The bus fleet in real terms remained stagnant, since there was no modernisation programme to run good quality buses that meet at least national standards, if not international ones. By contrast, bus commuters had to merely watch personal car use grow by leaps and bounds with the latest products hitting the roads, some of them made in the city itself – air-conditioned, plush, equipped with great audio, video and given the benefit of government-sponsored road space. It helped that oil price fell, and in spite of increase in pollution, the State government did nothing to encourage the use of public transport. Buses: 3,500 approximately, static. Cars and other private vehicles: a few hundred registered everyday. According to this policy brief put out by TERI in 2014 Chennai has the second highest ratio of cars to population at 100 per 1,000 people after Delhi, against the national average of 13/1,000. Both the DMK and the AIADMK have focused on the growth of car production, while not making significant improvements to bus mobility – despite the fact that Ashok Leyland, located in Chennai, has been announcing several new bus products over the years, including the Janbus. The only “modernisation” of MTC took place with funds from the Union Government through the JNNURM scheme in 2009, although even there, the standards for buses were diluted citing the recession.
- HALF-HEARTED MINI BUS SCHEME: The small buses introduced by the AIADMK after much delay were actually the idea of the DMK, which announced the scheme in 2010. However, after the change of government in 2011, it took another two years before the concept became reality in a limited number of routes served initially by 50 buses, as this report notes. This figure went up to a total of 165 buses early in February 2016 (see this report) with the addition of 30 routes that connect some interior areas and in some cases, bus termini and train stations. It remains far from scientific, since there is no policy to connect mass transit stations through such a feeder service.
- DELAY IN METRO OPENING: The AIADMK took its time to open even the small segment of the Chennai Metro between Koyambedu and Alandur, and overpriced it to the detriment of commuters – it does not attract any significant patronage as a result, does not apparently cut congestion on Inner Ring Road (Jawaharlal Nehru Road) on this stretch, and does not contribute to reduced carbon emissions, in spite of the heavy investment. The delay in the opening of the Metro robbed Chennai of clean air, says this report. It is even more frustrating for the Chennai commuter and the visitor, that the Metro work has repeatedly stalled during the five years of the AIADMK regime. Even if the factors were external, such as the Russian contractor walking out, the State did not really protest. By contrast, the government has been pushing for other works with great enthusiasm – the indifference to the Metro system (Ms. Jayalalithaa has a declared preference for mono rail), has clearly resulted in the delay and a representative of the Japanese funding agencies, Muneo Kurauchi, chairman, Japan-India Business Co-operation Committee openly criticised the Jayalalithaa government on this at the high-profile Global Investors Meet.
The S30 small bus waiting at Liberty bus stop on a trip towards Ashok Pillar.
The failure of the AIADMK government during the past five years has hit the consumer in terms of inflation in transport costs, unpredictability of travel, inefficiency, risk of accidents, pollution and loss of quality of life. There is no law that compels State governments to provide a measurable level of public transport, both in terms of quantity and assessed satisfaction of users. The gaps in the system are filled by companies like Uber, Ola (with cabs, discounted shared cab rides and autorickshaws), and unregulated share autorickshaws that do a lot of service, but illegally, by operating cramped 7-seater carriages that carry up to 15 people sometimes.
We need a revamp of Chennai public transport. I intend to write more on this in coming weeks before the elections. Five years ago, I wrote this post on who would give us better wheels, Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa? What do you think?
Filed under Ashok Nagar Chennai, Buses, CMRL, Commuters, India, Metro Rail, MTC, Pedestrians, Public Transport, Straphangers, Transport, Urban rail
I have had the opportunity to look at the upcoming Vadapalani station of Chennai Metro Rail. Although it is in the segment from Koyambedu to Alandur (which is ready to be inaugurated as and when the AIADMK government stirs itself) the station is far from prepared as of today.
I found some work going on in haste this afternoon.
What really troubles me is whether it is fit enough for mass pedestrian access of the kind that Chennai Metro keeps talking about. The approach from the west (from the SIMS Hospital of SRM) is weak, there is no strong footpath to take a rush of passengers, and even the one leading into and out of the station is small. To the east, the situation is not very different. Even during the construction, Chennai Metro Rail Limited has not provided good pedestrian segregation here, and when it rains, this site is surrounded by water.
Apparently, cooperation between the State Highways, CMDA, Chennai Corporation and CMRL is weak.
By contrast, there seems to be a wide gap for vehicles on either side, one leading to a big shopping mall behind. Will this be used to operate feeder transport services or for use by assorted vehicles including private ones?
Here are the photos I have from today and the past couple of days.
The slim footpath that actually leads to the staircase into the station. Is there a ramp? Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan
The actual entrance to the station, behind which there is a hall, and ticketing area. Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan
The alignment of the Chennai Metro Vadapalani station on the elevated track, between Koyambedu and Alandur segment. Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan
This is the site of an important facility that pedestrians in Chennai’s Rangarajapuram and Kodambakkam areas look forward to – a walkway connecting Rangarajapuram Main Road and T. Nagar’s North Usman Road near Vivek’s.
Before the Rangarajapuram bridge with its two arms was built here, there was a railway gate here, with a guard to man it. After the gate has been removed to make for the ‘flyover’, the question of constructing a low-use subway for pedestrians and cyclists was taken up.
Some vested interests quickly tried moved in to demand that motorised two-wheelers and even autorickshaws should be allowed to use this small passage. Pedestrians have been protesting that there are other options for motorised vehicles, including the newly constructed bridge (which operates as a one-way access in the morning hours), with the default entry being from the T. Nagar side. It is not clear whether motorised two-wheelers will be allowed to ride through this mini-subway.
What stands out in this project is the lethargic pace of implementation.
As the picture shows, things have been lying in a morbid condition for weeks, and residents of several apartment complexes on Rangarajapuram Main Road have been unable to have access to their property. No one from the Corporation of Chennai seems to show much anxiety at this state of affairs. Contrast this with the 24-hour work cycle for the Chennai Metro Rail that is advancing that project so visibly.
Equally important, once this facility is completed, it will provide walkers a quick passage to T. Nagar.
It remains to be seen whether the subway will have sufficient space for walkers, with safe elevation of walking path, or whether they will be at the mercy of motorised road users once again.
In my new blog on The Hindu website called Urban Prospects, I raise the question of whether the Metropolitan Transport Corporation has learnt anything at all from the student tragedy on Old Mahabalipuram Road (Rajiv Gandhi Salai). That piece can be read here.
If you have a point of view on the matter, head over to the blog post and let me know.
The Blog Section of The Hindu is here.
A good piece by G. Pramod Kumar in FirstPost on the same issue titled “Too old and too few: the real reason behind Chennai footboard deaths” is here, and he provides a good overview of the problem of neglected mobility of Indian citizens.
This Urban Jungle column in The Hindu on Monday “A shoddy job on buses” was the basis of a chat that was organised on Facebook, inviting readers to air their views on the state of Chennai MTC bus services.
The point made in the column was that the MTC was not using its funds gathered through higher fares to provide commuters a comfortable ride. Here are a couple of pictures that make the point. Both show bad maintenance of buses and were taken during the past fortnight in Chennai.
Broken seat in a 17 D deluxe bus that charges commuters twice the normal fare
A disabled woman waits to board a bus in Guindy. The majority of Chennai MTC buses have a floor height of 1100 mm, which involves climbing three steps.