HT Unclog Mumbai: And miles to go before we reach
That final bit of your commute, from home or office to a local train and back. You rely on buses, autos and your feet. It’s not easyunclog mumbai Updated: Nov 27, 2016 23:27 IST
One step out of your home, a giant leap to get to a railway or Metro station.
Narrow lanes, no footpaths, irregular, crowded buses, autorickshaws and taxis refusing fares — every day, the average Mumbai commuter dreads the journey to and from a railway and Metro stations. Experts call this last-mile connectivity. It’s that final part of your daily commute, from your home or office to a larger public transport system. You rely on buses, autos and your feet. But, it’s not easy.
Imagine if every train or Metro station was not more than a 5-10-minute walk from your home or workplace. Where that is not possible, imagine if AC buses could shuttle you back and forth. For a city where more than Rs1 lakh crore will be invested over the next five years to build an integrated public rail transit system, little thought has been given to last-mile connectivity.
Problems, problems, more problems
Mumbai has for decades relied on the BEST buses, taxis and autorickshaws as last-mile connectors.
But BEST failed to grow with the demand and has been consistently losing passengers. In 1989-90, the buses carried more than 45 lakh commuters daily on a 3,300-strong fleet. Now, that number is 30 lakh. One efficient connector down.
A limit on the number of taxis and autorickshaws in the city, after the state stopped issuing new permits since 1997, worsened the situation. Fewer taxis and autorickshaws were available, despite the growing demand and this gave rise to new problems such as fare refusals, overcharging and vehicles carrying passengers over capacity.
Another problem, experts said, is how Mumbai has grown in the past two decades. New business hubs have come up in areas like Elphinstone Road, Worli, Bandra Kurla Complex, Seepz (Andheri East) and Goregoan . As the population grew, new residential colonies and societies started coming up in both the cities and suburbs.
This means a lot more people are travelling to a lot more places, and most of them are doing this around the same time. While projects such as the Mumbai Urban Transport Project, and improvements to the local train system are helping to an extent, the crowds outside stations remain a nightmare.
This brings us to the final problem. To avoid this grand mess, Mumbaiites are slowly giving up public travel for vehicles of their own that will take them straight from point A to point B. In less than 15 years, the number of vehicles on the roads has doubled. This is adding to the congestion on the city’s already packed roads and leading to problems such as parking space crunch and more pollution.
There is a way out
Over the past two years, more taxis have hit the road with the growth of app-based services and with the government issuing fresh taxi and auto permits. This may improve last-mile connectivity, but experts said several more steps need to be taken.
Mini AC buses is one solution. These buses move faster than the bulky ones, even on narrow, congested roads, and they will be more comfortable. Experts also suggest BEST increases services to suburban railway stations, Metro and Monorail stations.
Share-taxis and share-autos are also cost-effective ways to travel. Experts said basic infrastructure should be improved, such as more taxi and auto stands, especially at business districts and residential areas, so commuters don’t have to walk long distances.
“Autorickshaws and taxis are meant only for last-mile connectivity. People use faster modes of travel such as the local train for longer distances. The government should introduce more share-taxi and autorickshaw routes,” said Ashutosh Atrey, a transport expert. He also suggested motorcycle taxis.
Walking off the problem
According to walkscore.com, a popular website that scores American cities on how walker-friendly they are, one is always only 10 or 15 minutes away from a subway station in New York. Experts said Mumbai can also develop ways to make walking a great last-mile connector. To improve pedestrian facilities, experts are rooting for the implementation of the street vending policy that is pending with the state. The policy looks at regulating hawkers and marking vending zones. “A major factor stopping people from walking is hawking on footpaths. The entire footpath is encroached upon, leaving no space for pedestrians. An important factor in last-mile connectivity is to improve the experience of walking short distances,” said AV Shenoy, an activist with the Mumbai Vikas Samiti, an NGO.
The public-bike sharing (PBS) system, where a docking station near railway stations, bus stops and metro stations provide cycles on rent, can also be a good last-mile connector for people living 5-8km away. A report by the Union Ministry on cycle sharing said more than 200 cities in the world have adopted to this eco-friendly mode of transport.
“Mumbai, unlike other metros, is compact. So any kind of shared transport will prove useful when it comes to last-mile connectivity. Even if authorities work towards making the city pedestrian-friendly, people will find it easier to walk to their destinations, instead vehicles after getting off a train or metro,” said Rishi Aggarwal, the founder of The Walking Project, a group working on improving the walking environment.
Aggarwal also suggested adopting transit-oriented development (TOD), a concept that was opposed by citizen groups and urban planners when it was introduced in the first draft of the Development Plan (DP) 2034. Under TOD, areas around railway stations are given a higher FSI (floor space index) to encourage builders to construct offices and homes there.
These areas also have mixed-land use zones so that residential, commercial and retail services are available at walking distance. The TOD also proposed making 500m around stations pedestrian-only zones.
“Essentially, within the same neighbourhood, people will have services they can walk to. A majority do not have to travel for work. But the complete opposite of this happened at Bandra-Kurla Complex, where there are only commercial activities and people have to travel at least an hour to reach BKC,” Aggarwal said.
While authorities contend TOD does not support low-income housing, experts say they must look at providing low-cost, medium and premium flats in TOD zones. Some experts also suggest the state should promote hubs closer to residential areas so that people do not have to travel long hours, and instead, just walk to work.
First Published: Nov 23, 2016 09:22 IST