Making Connaught Place — the shopping hub of the city — a pedestrian-only zone might not be as easy as it sounds, experts said.
Traffic and urban planning experts said that implementing the plan is difficult because the supporting infrastructure needed to make this trial a success, is still lacking in the area.
“Pedestrianising a commercial area, such as Connaught Place, will not be as simple as implementing the odd-even road rationing scheme. It will require a lot of planning. You cannot ask people to give up their vehicles without giving them a dependable option,” said AK Jain, former commissioner of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
He said that advance preparations are needed to ensure that there is no inconvenience to the traders and visitors. To make sure that the measure is not counterproductive, all the stakeholders need to be brought on-board, Jain said.
Data shows that over 5 lakh vehicles cross CP every day, out of which around 1.5 lakh are parked in the inner or the outer circle.
The Lijnbaan market in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is among the commercial spaces which has successfully implemented pedestrianisation. However, it was done as early as 1953 when the dependence on vehicles was not as much. Even then the trail was done for almost a year when the infrastructure was developed.
The area has an underground light rail transit system (LRT) which helps shoppers reach the area easily.
From the more recent examples, it took the authorities around five years to convince people to make US’s Times Square a vehicle-free zone.
Urban planner AGK Menon said that this is a good precursor to a larger attempt to reducing congestion in the city.
“CP is like a traffic island and has access only by road. The market is also a hub for high-value stores which attracts people who only travel by personal vehicles. It will be spectacular if the agencies are able to pull this off but if it turns unsuccessful in CP, people will consider the entire concept of pedestrian zones as unsuccessful,” Menon said.
For example, he said that the BRT in Delhi was a good initiative, but was plagued by bad implementation.
He suggested that the pedestrianisation initiative should be executed in phases. Along with this ample parking space needs to be reserved, and eco-friendly shuttle services also need to be introduced.
“Shoppers, traders and even the implementing agencies should be given time to execute this efficiently. They should take one step at a time for executing the project efficiently,” said Menon.