The proposed Metro expansion in Gurugram needs careful planning
The Metro expansion is unlikely to achieve desired results, if the authorities fail to take into account passenger demand and integration with other modes of public transport.
A couple of weeks back, it was reported in the media that the Haryana Government has approved the extension of the Metro line in Gurugram. The Rs 6,000-crore project will involve the construction of 31 kilometres of the Metro rail line. The new line will start from the HUDA city centre Metro station and will link Old Gurgaon before joining back with the Rapid Metro. The project is expected to start from 2025 and will carry around 5.5 lakh passenger trips per day. It will be implemented by the Haryana Mass Rapid Transport Corporation and is subject to necessary clearance and approval, as well as land acquisition.
Another news item around the same time was regarding the Noida Metro Rail Corporation’s Aqua Line. The 30-km Metro line built at a cost of around Rs 2,600 crores links Noida to Greater Noida. The project started its operations from the month of January of this year and since then it’s been struggling with the issue of low ridership. Currently, the ridership on Aqua Line is just over 13,000 passenger trips per day. In fact, the Sector 147 Metro station has just 20 passengers per day. Yes, only 20 passengers in an entire day! That’s not all. The stations of sectors 144 and 146 see only 36 passengers each per day.
Therefore, as Gurugram looks to plan the new Metro line, it needs to remember that just constructing a Metro will not get riders. Let’s talk about three cautions to Gurugram’s Metro planning.
Don’t overestimate ridership
Ridership in the fundamental parameter that is used to justify a Metro link. That’s because it costs a lot of money to build them, and we are talking about investments in excess of Rs 2,600 crores per kilometre. This is where we fail and fail miserably. For example, the Rapid Metro was supposed to carry over 1 lakh passenger trips in 2013 when it was launched. The ridership was expected to grow. Six years later, with additional Phase 2 linkages, it is carrying around 20,000 trips. That’s 5 times less than the base year. Similarly, as per the 1995 DPR, the Delhi Metro was supposed to carry 31.85 lakh trip on the completion in 2005 which was revised to 22.6 lac trip in the 2003 DPR. However, the Delhi Metro carried only 6.6 lakh trips in 2007. That’s only 21% of 1995’s estimate or 29% of 2003’s estimate. There are many reasons for this low usage and a lot is beyond the control of Metro authorities. But the fact of the matter is the low usage of a costly piece of infrastructure.
Don’t underestimate the power of integration
We need to understand the people don’t choose a transport mode and then plan their journey. In fact, they plan their trip and then chose a mode depending upon parameters like time, cost, safety, comforts, etc. Hence integration with other transportation modes will be the key to success in attaining a significant ridership. While it is good that the proposed alignment has lined to Delhi Metro’s Yellow Line as well as Rapid Metro Station. It is also important that how the alignment will be integrated with other important mobility nodes in the city like railway stations, bus routes, junctions like Rajiv Chowk, Iffoc Chowk, etc and upcoming facilities like Delhi-Alwar link of the Regional Rail Transit System (RRTS), etc. Last but definitely not the least, there is the issue around integrating the stations with walking,cycling, and paratransit infrastructure. Therefore, it is important than Metro authorities plan for an integrated system and not just transporting passengers from one platform to another.
Don’t ignore the importance of demand management
When a city builds a Metro rail, which is a costly infrastructure, it is expected that the land use and transport infrastructure that is developed around it will be able to support it. The is technical term used to describe this is Transit Oriented Development (TOD). However, past experiences in Gurugram suggests that the city is doing anything but TOD. The second phase of Rapid Metro in Gurugram was built along the Golf Course Road, so that a progressive city would restrict the use of private automobiles along Metro corridors, but in this case, the city did the opposite. The high cost of the Metro tickets meant that people who wanted to save money did not use the Rapid Metro. Additionally, expanding the road to 16 lanes eliminated those people who wanted to save time. The result is an abysmal usage of such high-quality infrastructure. Therefore, the city needs to have a clear action plan around TODs.
The Metro is a costly infrastructure that needs careful planning, design, construction, operation, and monitoring. If done right, it can transform the whole mobility scenario in a city. If not, it will be stuck between the devil and the deep sea!
(Amit Bhatt is Director— Integrated Transport, WRI India)