IIT-B and NIT research: Security, maintenance and accessibility required to make city skywalks user-friendly
81% respondents also mentioned access to elevators or escalators could help attract more people to the skywalks
Mumbai: A research paper, jointly conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) and National Institute of Technology (NIT) Hamirpur found that around 20% citizens use skywalks outside some of the major railway stations in Mumbai.
According to the paper, studying the pedestrian traffic and usage of six specific skywalks in the city, lack of security, maintenance and accessibility to these skywalks are some of the prime reasons for this. There were 1,118 respondents for the survey.
Taking into consideration the 36 existing skywalks within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), this team of researchers adopted a systematic and stepwise procedure to finalise the sites for data collection.
“Based on the reconnaissance survey, an attempt was made to select skywalks having a mix of characteristics. For example, skywalks with additional features like escalators, varying walking lengths, varied pedestrian volumes, used by pedestrians with varied socio-economic characteristics, etc. Finally, from the observations made, six sites were selected: Vile Parle, Santacruz, and Grant Road on the western suburban railway line, Vikhroli West on the central suburban railway line, and Thane East and Thane West on central and trans-harbour suburban railway line of Mumbai suburban railway,” said Prof Gopal Patil, professor from the department of Civil Engineering, IIT Bombay.
This research paper was jointly conducted by Patil, along with Samarth Bhatia, a research assistant from the civil engineering department in IIT-B along with Sunil Sharma, assistant professor, department of civil engineering, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh and Aniruddha Chopadekar, a research assistant from the same department of NIT Hamirpur.
“We collected video data to assess the utilisation of skywalks and found that the usage is moderate to low. The ticketing statistics of a few stations like Grant Road (65,591 pedestrians/day), Santacruz (1,48,196 peds/day), Vile Parle (69,724 peds/day), and Thane (2,05,956 peds/day), as quoted in the skywalk pre-feasibility report for the base year 2004 (Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), 2005), indicate substantial pedestrian inflows at these railway stations. However, visual interpretation suggests that at most of these locations the number of people walking at grade was much more than that walking on skywalks. As calculated through the video data analysis, sufficient skywalk capacity available for utilisation by pedestrians,” added Patil.
Suggestions made by the researchers for attracting more pedestrians to use skywalks include the need for better security and safety.
“Nearly 71% non-users of the skywalks felt increasing security, setting up of CCTV cameras and guards will encourage more people to use the skywalk. Similarly, nearly 60% of the respondents felt the need for better cleanliness and maintenance of these skywalks as a reason for them avoiding it,” highlights the report. 81% respondents also mentioned access to elevators or escalators could help attract more people to the skywalks.
Experts feel the use of skywalks was more for improving vehicular traffic than for pedestrians. “Skywalks are not necessarily solutions for improving pedestrian flow because it might not be the natural path a commuter wants to take. It is generally constructed to improve vehicular traffic,” said Madhav Pai, executive director at the World Resources Institute, India (WRI India) Ross Centre.
He however added that well designed and well-connected skywalks could be helpful. “We must also look at providing lifts and escalators here. As far as safety is concerned, if more than 1,000 pedestrians start using it every hour, it will automatically become safer too. Safety depends on the volume of pedestrians. Safety can also be enhanced by looking at sleek, lightweight designs that are clearly visible from the street,” Pai added.
A senior official from the bridge department of BMC told HT that local authorities are ensuring maintenance and safety of pedestrians in order to encourage more people to utilise the services. “We will also consider the recommendations made by experts and see how we can implement the same as the existing system,” said the officer on condition of anonymity.