Development in most of the city’s business hubs has been unplanned, and the Vikhroli-Powai belt is no different.
Even though the Powai complex was planned, it was never envisaged as a business hub, while Vikhroli was an industrial area that is now turning into a vibrant hub for the service industry. And like most unplanned development stories, the infrastructure has failed to keep up with the development boom.
But is it possible, still, to improve the situation or is it a lost cause? A panel of experts HT consulted seems optimistic.
HT took the two experts — urban planner and executive director of the Urban Design Research Institute (URDI) Panjay Joshi and transport planner Vijayshree Pednekar from the Observer Research Foundation — around the business hubs to gain first-hand experience of the problems and strategise on the solutions.
The common problem is poor road connectivity to both Vikhroli and Powai, the latter more so. “The most urgent need in both these areas is to physically integrate these hubs into the city with better road and transportation links. This can be done by creating new links as well as improving the existing ones,” said Joshi.
The one possible game-changer, according to the experts, is to develop a link road from the Andheri-Kurla road all the way to Saki Naka junction. Such a road would serve two purposes — it can complement busy JVLR during peak hours and help decongest it.
The other advantage, Joshi said, is it could help commuters get to Saki Naka metro station easily, making the journey to Andheri and other western suburbs smoother. Currently, a journey from Powai to Andheri on the JVLR, in the evenings, can take up to an hour. “This way, even public transport can be encouraged by ensuring more people use the Metro,” said Pednekar.
Both the experts opined the JVLR needed to be improved. This road is choked in the evenings with private buses leaving Powai and Vikhroli, ferrying company employees to the western suburbs. “These buses end up choking the road. Hence, the only way to ensure commuters enjoy a quicker journey is to introduce dedicated bus corridors. This way, the buses will move quickly in their special lanes, and other vehicles will also get more space,” said Joshi.
Both these hubs also desperately need a decongested Lal Bahadur Shashtri Marg, the major arterial connection. “The authorities must ensure this road has no illegal parking, which takes up a lot of space. They must also ensure the road is free of encroachments. If that is done, the connectivity from Powai to Navi Mumbai and south Mumbai will improve,” said Joshi.
The experts also suggested an array of options to improve public transport for better connectivity to these hubs, from circulator bus routes to more shared autorickshaw and taxi stands. Another major suggestion, the need for which has been acutely felt, was the construction of parking lots in both the hubs.
The experts drew up detailed suggestions that prove there is a way out. Now, the authorities need to show they have the will.