For a city that is aspiring to be smart, its transport system is anything but. Mumbai’s apathy towards solving its traffic congestion woes has cost it dearly — the National Capital Region (NCR) and other metros have raced ahead as preferred investment destinations in the past few years.
This therefore greatly increases the significance of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) newly released comprehensive mobility plan. Reason: It does prioritise public transport. But many of its suggestions — congestion charges, dedicated bus lanes and higher parking charges — are old and tough to implement because it will take serious political mettle to get them off the ground.
All of them have been suggested earlier, but have never left the drawing board. For better implementation, the plan has now been submitted to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to be incorporated into a unified plan for the MMR. The big question: Will some of these suggestions be implemented ahead of next year’s civic polls?
The BMC, in its draft traffic policy in 2008, had already said it wants to impose a premium, also known as congestion charges, on cars driving into busy areas during rush hour. It was to use tax as a tool to push more people to use public transport.
Some other suggestions included hefty charges to park on roads, dedicated bus lanes, multi- storied car parking, illuminated subways, no parking near crossings railings along the roads, encroachment-free footpaths, among others. The suggestions were discussed and dumped only to be discussed again several times in the past eight years. With no solution at hand, just draft studies, six years later, the BMC gave a Rs7.2 crore contract to Lee Associates to find a solution and separately introduced a ‘parking policy’.
The plan was submitted last year, six months after the deadline. The parking policy, which had hiked charges by 300% and introduced charges for night-time parking and parking on roads, was strongly opposed, and currently remains in limbo.
The current plan makes similar suggestions — higher charges for parking on roads and approving registration of cars only when the buyer can submit proof of parking space.
Transport expert Ashok Datar, who was a part of traffic studies teams for both the civic body and the MMRDA, is hopeful. “This study at least has an approach to promote public transport unlike the earlier ones. Even if half of the suggestions are implemented to encourage public transport, there will be visible change in the city’s transportation.”
BMC officials also pointed out this was the first time the civic body was considering such a policy. “This is the first time the BMC is preparing a holistic plan for traffic management, which includes a road speed survey and a pedestrian survey. We have discussed many plans in isolation earlier,” said SVR Srinivas, additional municipal commissioner, in charge of road and traffic department.