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VOL. XXII NO. 4, June 1-15, 2012
It's time to manage transport in the City
By K.P. Subramanian

The National Urban Transport Policy 2006 is silent on controlling vehicular growth. On the other hand, the fiscal policy of the Government of India is primarily responsible for the spectacular growth of personal vehicles in the country. Pricing mechanisms can be most effective in controlling the growth of personal vehicles. The Singapore model on Auction Permits will slow down purchases of cars and two-wheelers. The cost of a car in Singapore is four or five times the world price. Amsterdam, London and Stockholm are other cities emulating Singapore. It is high time India also adopted this model.

Reduction of Vehicle Kilometre Travelled (VKT)

Reduction of VKT in the city will help considerably. This could be achieved through the following:

  • Transit Oriented Development: The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has planned to intensify developments along rail corridors through increased FSI and relaxed parking regulations. Higher urban density encourages commuters to shift to public transport from personal transport and, thereby, significantly reduces the VKT. There is ample scope for deliberate strengthening of developments along the three suburban rail corridors and the MRTS. Each railway station has to be upgraded as an institutional and commercial hub.
  • Promotion of Public Transport: The modal shift from personal vehicles to public transportation can remarkably reduce the VKT. Chennai city currently has 3600 buses, which cater to about 54 lakh passengers per day on an average. The city has four rail corridors. Their combined length is about 140 km and they carry about seven lakh passengers per day. The modal split (share of modes) between public and personal transport is about 35:65. However, SMP has proposed to increase the share of public transport from the present 35 to 70 by 2026 with a sub-modal split of 60:40 between bus and rail. This would be possible only through radical and far reaching decisions. Patronage for trains can be improved by increasing frequencies. It is ridiculous that the present frequency of MRTS services during non-peak hours is 30 minutes. Peak hour frequencies should be increased from the present 10 minutes to 3 minutes as in the case of Mumbai. It is essential to increase frequencies of MTC buses and improve the confidence level of commuters. In the present scenario, they are overcrowded, inefficient and unreliable. The fleet strength of the MTC was increased from 2700 to 3600 during 2010. However, the MTC has launched 36 new routes to places such as Mamallapuram, Sriperumbudur and Chengalpattu, located well outside the Chennai Metropolitan Area. This misplaced strategy has negated the imminent need to augment frequencies on existing city routes.
  • It is necessary to accord priority to buses so as to make public transport more efficient. Bus priority techniques are 'bus lanes', 'priority manoeuvres' such as permitting buses' turning movements which are prohibited to other vehicles, and 'priority at signals'. Bus routes should be thoroughly rationalised to act as feeder modes to trains. Inter-modal connectivity along MRTS suburban trains and the MTC, to ensure well-integrated multi-modal public transport systems to provide seamless travel across the modes is an essential requirement. Patronage of the MRTS can be augmented by expediting the completion of Velachery-St. Thomas' Mount section. Patronage of suburban trains can be enhanced by laying a third line to Korukkupet, quadrupling the existing lines up to Ennore, and quadrupling the Tiruvallur-Arakkonam route. These efforts may yield better results at less cost in relieving the congestion.

CUMTA (Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority) was formed in 2007 with the Minister for Transport as its Chairman. However, it is yet to make a breakthrough in bringing an effective coordination between trains and MTC buses. Such integration will go a long way in promotion of public transport, reduction in number of personal vehicles, and production of a positive impact on the air quality. A study had testified that a 5 per cent increase in public transport share has reduced about 8 per cent VKT in 25 years and 12 per cent VKT in 50 years. The CUMTA could be more effective if the Chief Minister is made the Chairperson as recommended by the Ministry of Urban Development.

  • Transport Demand Management (TDM): TDM aims at curtailing travel demand by increasing the cost of travel by private transport through taxes on the use of public roads and parking places. The philosophy of TDM is that those who are responsible for causing traffic congestion should be made to pay extra. Such techniques are:
    • Parking control
    • Road pricing
    • Staggering office hours
    • Banning particular classes of vehicles
    • Car pooling
    • Pedestrian precinct
  • Traffic management and enforcement: Traffic management is an art. It calls for an inter-disciplinary approach, managerial ability, transparency and integrity, socio-economic outlook and environmental consciousness.
  • Therefore, a monitoring team comprising traffic engineers, police officials, social activists, elected councillors and representatives of community-based organisations could be constituted. All traffic management measures may be decided by such a committee with wider consultation.

    An exclusive team of young personnel with competence and commitment, specially groomed and trained on the nuances of traffic rules and regulations, may be entrusted with the responsibility of enforcement and public education.


    The transport system in Chennai has reached a point of no return. Therefore, it calls for out of the box and radical thinking and decisions through political will and professional skill. The Government may build more flyovers, widen roads, unveil mono/metro rail plans, and augment the bus fleet. However, these are all only pull factors. In addition to these, push factors are also required in the form of disincentives to discourage the use of personal transport. This will not brook any delay, for otherwise cars will cause grid locks. – (Courtesy: Our Building and Construction)

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In this issue

A good act, but could be better!
Integrating the City's transport
It's time to manage transport in the City
Elephants over the centuries
Vivekananda's Chicago visit
The day the Don had us nearly run out
Our cars, 1962-2011
Sounds you do not hear

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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