Mumbai is the country’s financial capital but when it comes to infrastructure and planning, it has been lagging behind. Given the circumstances, the conditions in the city need to be re-evaluated every five years. If this doesn’t happen, then the metro will continue to develop slowly. This was the common refrain among international planners and transport experts and consultants at a recent congregation in the city.
The city has been witnessing slow progress on vital transport projects including the first phase of Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro line, Chembur-Wadala Monorail, Water Transport projects or be it clearing of the Elevated Rail Corridor of Oval Maidan-Virar or the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus-Panvel Fast Corridor. All of these are consuming a lot of time and public money, which is also delaying further transit options for the city with a population of nearly 1.5 crore.
According to a comprehensive transport study by experts from LEA Associates, which they have submitted to the state government, by 2021 the population of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region would touch 27 million. The study claims that transit should be a priority. “Every five years there is a need to reevaluate transportation strategies and planning, which is not being done for Mumbai,” said John T Long, transport specialist, LEA Associates of Canada.
Presently the growing urban population is forced to travel in cramped local trains and on densely congested roads. The suburban rail population on both Central and Western Railways has gone up from 74 lakh to 76 lakh within a year. Moreover the number of vehicles on road in the city as well as the suburbs has increased from 20 lakh to 22 lakh.
Poor last mile connectivity
The experts claim that there is a need to improvise the transit from the place of residence to place of work using different modes of transport. There is currently a government agency called Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) consisting of experts and planners who are required to ease transport issues in tier-1 and 2 cities. However, planners claim that nothing much is being done by this body. The situation is such that once a commuter alights at a particular railway station, the arrangement for an alternate mode of transport like buses, auto rickshaws and taxis is very poor. People keep complaining of either refusal or irregular frequency. Due to heavy congestion on road, people have to wait at bus stands while auto and taxi drivers refuse. “Last mile connectivity is missing at present,” said Neera Saggi, a former IAS officer and incumbent CEO, L&T Seawoods Pvt Ltd.
The transport planners also opine that the state government should look at the option of creating pathways and walkways from railway stations. They claim that the offices need to be present close to the railway stations, Metro rail or Monorail stations that would allow easy dispersal of people. “Normally people would like to walk for 10 minutes without taking rest, while 20 minutes or 400 meters is almost the maximum for a person to continue walking,” said Ke Fang, lead urban transport specialist, World Bank. But the officials here want wider footpaths.