Mumbai Metro – Citiflo integration

The image below appeared in Times of India on 23rd March, 2016

a95ce1ae-116e-4e5e-8186-55bf287fd54e

There will be difficulties in the success of the partnership between Mumbai Metro and bus aggregator Citiflo. The same obsacles which plague BEST buses and rickshaws will also affect the Citiflo operations leading to financial stress. No doubt Citiflo must have done its calculations but the moot point to observe in the information provided in image above is that a distance of 5kms is proposed to be covered in 30-40 mins i.e a speed of 10kmph or less. This is the same problem affecting BEST buses, they cannot turn around fast enough are spending most of their time idling in traffic, which is what the Citiflo buses will also do. Of course the passengers will be sitting in air-conditioned comfort, while still wasting as much of their time.

The objective has to be to make sure that a distance of 5 kms is covered in less than 15mins and the solution is to create new road(s) to access the hinterland consisting of Chandivali and Powai and to reduce load on the ridiculously overloaded Saki Vihar Road.

The low rise slum pockets which carpet between Saki Naka station and Subhash Nagar/Asalpha Station need to be the focus of attention and have indeed been so. Last year in September some of us were invited to view this presentation which had Asalpha as a case study.

The image below will help highlight the situation. Three placemarks to focus on – Asalpha Metro Station, Nahar Amrut Shakti Colony and the commercial complex called Boomerang. The straight red line between Asalpha and Nahar measures 800 meters. That is all that the distance is, which normally would get covered in 5 mins. But currently Nahar Complex has to be approaced via Saki Vihar Road and Saki Naka Station, doubling the distance and the time taken during peak hour congestion can easily be 20-30 mins.

All that is needed is a straight road to be developed from Asalpha Metro Station to Nahar Amrut Shakti. Beyond this there are existing roads connecting to Chandivali and Powai. The road should have a minimum of 15 feet wide footpaths on both sides, thus enabling those staying in Nahar Complex to just walk to Asalpha Station.

Even streamlining the existing Kherani Road can offer immediate relief. Kherani Road during peak hours is a sad sight to see and speaks volumes of the neglect of urban planning and the complete lack of compasion and vision within the city to offer the most simplest of solutions to its citizens.

Asalpha1

A close up image

Asalpha2

None of this is unsurmountble, even as the dense cluster of slums may look intimidating. With the right planners and adminstrators 2-3  years maximum. In a better governed city this would have been made mandatory on Nahar Developers to create such a road before undertaking any construction on their site.

But such kind of thinking and work draws no interest from anybody but the planners and those who are into advocacy. Companies like Mumbai Metro and Citiflo have their immediate balance sheets to look into and the commuters whose problems they (and activists) are trying to solve are plugged into FM Radio or playing video games on the phones. Most of them do not even read such news reports.

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Coast Road diary

18.01.2015

Today I spent time trying to understand what will be the capacity to transport of the coast road project.The 128 odd km train network transports 7 million people everyday. 4000 BEST buses running on whatever number of route kms transport 4 million people. Similarly the 36km coast road, how many people will it transport?

For example if the project is 36 kms long and has four lanes and if each lane is 3.5 meters wide then we have a conveyor belt whose total area will be

For one kilometer

1000 meters into 14 meters = 14000 sq.mtrs.

For 36kms

14000 x 36kms = 504000 sq mtrs.

Now if each car(to begin with only cars) is occupying 25 sq. mtrs of space then we can have 504000/25 = 20160 cars on this conveyor belt – two lanes are for south and two for north.

Now if these lanes are moving at a consistent speed of 50kmph then how many vehicles pass through in an hour? How many people (depending on vehicle type, single person driving a car or a bus full of people) would be transported in an hour? How many in a day.

I checked the coast road report and realised that the dimensions of the road are much more

Widths of coast road

We will see a total road width of 36ms so the above calculation changes to

1000 x 36 = 36000 sq. mtrs.

For 36 kms

36000 x 36 = 1296000 sq mtrs area

And 1296000/25 = 51840 cars

Subsequently I decided to check up on google and found this useful document – technical paper from Transport for London on the same subject. Though the document has not given the answer it has all the correct formulae and principles to be followed. Now hopefully I will be able to with the assistance of more trained people be able to ascertain how many people will be able to flow in the peak directions on the coast road.

My concern is that as per the coast road they are providing 18 meters of road in each direction which is 60 feet wide. I do not see any road along the west coast which is 60 feet wide – one side? Everybody moving on the coast road has to join the mainland sometime and when four lanes converge into less than two lanes like in Bandra and Juhu and Andheri then will that not lead to traffic backing up on the coast road? Leading to traffic jams transferring from the internal city roads to the coast road?

Importance of public transport – the difference between Mumbai and Pune

I had a good conversation with my friend Neha whom I met after long. We were meeting to discuss her interest in doing something for the cleaning of Mithi river but since she had shifted to Pune it was natural to catchup on how she finds life there. She was quite unhappy with Pune as a city since it seemed to lack the energy and vitality which is so endemic to Mumbai. Probing further the number one reason turned out to be the absence of good mobility options, which could enable her to move around the city more freely for work, hobby or leisure. In the absence of a public transport system like in Mumbai she was left restricted to her home and work most times having to decide on every meeting and interaction outside of this from the lack of mobility options.

Being from Mumbai she was used to having a functional and comparatively speaking great public transport system in place, which can absolve people from the need to own a vehicle or two-wheeler to drive around. There is great trunk network in terms of the railway system which can be accessed in 30 mins from anywhere to go long distance and within the local areas the taxi, autorickshaw and bus network is dense and excellent. There are ten areas for improvement that I can point out for Mumbai but when one gets an external perspective it makes you appreciate all that is going right (and which we unfortunately are not investing in for the future).

She works in a technology company and is stuck to her office transport. A company bus comes to pickup at 7:30am and drops back by 6pm. Timings are fixed and have to adhered to if you do not want to miss. How much more boring can things get? There is absolutely no bus service or train or metro to access the office. auto rickshaws do not charge as per meter and are not easily available. Traveling by fleet taxis like Ola or Meru or Uber on a daily basis is too expensive. And she cannot drive a two wheeler and does not want to own a car.

In Mumbai she never had the need to own a two wheeler or car and consequently does not even know how to drive either. Rickshaws in Pune are badly governed in most parts and can charge unreasonably.

The bus network in Pune is pathetic. She was critical of the need to have spent public funds on BRTS since there is no congestion on Pune roads. And if money had to be spent on the project then it should have been completed and made functional. The public bus service is more like the state bus transport service and nothing which anybody in the middle class and working in the technology or ITES place would work in.

People like to go for art exhibitions or dance or theater performances or just loiter in favourite parts of their city, which need not be the closest from their residence or go for dinners and lunches or for a hobby classes or be part of advocacy group meetings or meet friends or shopping and more. In the absence of affordable and convenient mobility options a lot of these activities which contribute to a more fulfilled and improved quality of life are left as a preserve of only those who can afford to move around in personal transport or cars. The options maybe better for the lower socioeconomic bracket since they may choose bicycling (where too not many women) or using public bus service but the frequency is not that good.

Mobility provides opportunities for economic opportunities and a more full filling life and it should be among the fundamental priorities of any city government. Left unattended mobility will be left for only those who can afford it and it will lead to an overall deterioration of the cities economic ability and cultural profile.

At a time when the government is of speaking of Smart Cities it would be worthwhile to have a mission mode focus on first providing the basics of a good affordable public transport system in the 65 cities chosen as part of JNNURM. My recent article Leadership for Smart Cities

As part of some additional information for writing this post I searched “map of route density of buses in London” and came to this interesting link

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/apr/18/london-bus-travel-map

A similar search for Pune brought this interesting link

http://www.mrane.com/punebusmap.php

About BRTS and dedicated lanes

Her remarks on BRTS reminded me of the continuous difference of opinion that I have with some members in Mumbai Transport Forum – our sustainable transport community in Mumbai – that as far as buses we need not worry much about providing dedicated lanes or BRTS alone to increase the use of buses by people.

My contention for buses in Mumbai is that we need to focus hard on the aesthetics, comfort (which means AC as well), hygiene, use of IT for predicting times, far improved bus stops and bus priority measures through signals or other means. We need to increase bus frequency on all trunk routes, even it means buying more buses to compensate for the higher turn around time of buses due to congestion.

Once we take care of this a sizeable amount of people who are currently anyways idling in their cars will shift to buses, preferring to reduce the burden if they are the ones driving or for cost reasons. A lot of those using taxis or auto rickshaws for longer routes would also shift.

In the Pune context there are just no worthwhile buses on the road at all. People will be interested in dedicated lanes and speeds for the buses if they first see the buses on the road, which they can use. Putting a BRTS corridor in place without first not investing in improving the fleet and quality of the existing public bus service is like going for cake before bread or putting the cart before the horse.

Buses provide an excellent choice for providing public transport for cities. Require very little additional infrastructure utilizing existing roads. Cost economical. They can be quickly put to service and can provide a better reach.

 

Images from Mumbai

Inside an AC BEST bus Mumbai A bus depot in Mumbai AC Fort Ferry 1 bus

 

Spectacular disinterest on Climate Change in Mumbai

Even as New York City – and many more cities globally – saw one of the largest public congregations demanding action on climate change, the silence in Mumbai was nothing short of spectacular. I was informed of only one very small and local march in Dadar (West) but there was nothing like the big euphoria and prior planning and social media drum up before the event. There has been absolutely no coverage of even the global events in any of the English dailies and clearly the editors know their audience very well.

I had thoughts about organising something but I am now nowhere as active as I was in the last decade.

Towards the mid of last decade Mumbai too came to be swayed by the great outreach carried out by Al Gore and team in taking Inconvenient Truth to the world. To me it was annoying to see every tom dick and harry to be organizing screenings of the movie. I never saw any interest in the same people and organisations – the Rotary’s and business chambers of the world – towards any of the here and now issues.

I was involved in so many of those here and now environmental issues in the front line and trenches and could have done with some show of mass enthusiasm and support on them. Saving the mangroves, cleaning the Mithi, improved public transport to avoid emissions and congestion, energy efficient buildings, solid waste management and the usual jazz. Support for Al Gore was easy but not for one of them within the city. And then India wants to become a super power when it doesn’t have the faintest of clue or interest in what soft power is – of course I should not forget Bollywood and the influence of Amitabh Bachchan. In 2007 even the US government was recognizing some of my leadership by inviting for the IVLP program but there was no interest in any government authority here.

That was also the time when I was more motivated and enthused with the co-benefits of tackling climate change. The here and now benefits compared with what will happen a bit down the century. How better public transport is as much about climate change but has an immediate relevance in better quality of air and quality of life, how saving mangroves prevents floods now as much as provide resilience to climate change decades down the line. I had my doubts whether all those so enthusiastically screening the movie and the droves attending it had any serious interest in doing something about the issue. And it seems vindicated with the response in the past month to the People Climate March.

To me the craze with screening Inconvenient Truth and Al Gore was symptomatic of the the craze to be associated with all things white and American which this country suffers from. There were so many of these wealthy middle class teenagers and those in their early 20s organising all kind of arbitrary events on climate change – distributing solar lamps, organising talks by teen counterparts in America, equivalent stuff in the adults. There was the Indian Youth Climate Network formed.

So now when there is such a poor response in Mumbai to one of the most significant events globally, I am left wondering what happened to all those enthusiastic – though I found them very shallow- kids who were doing all the jumping around on climate change in the last decade? A lot of last decades events were given a push up by supporting US organisations and I guess that is what was missing this time around. Left on their own the folks here are incapable.

Even then it was becoming clear to me that in the youth most of the enthusiasm revolved around showing extra-curricular activity on their resumes when they make applications to the Universities in America and Europe. Very little of their enthusiasm and motivation was about any serious interest in developing India’s response to climate change. It is easier to mouth generalities working in the UN and WB than handle their city governments within. It is quite apparent that at least in Mumbai there is no significant new strong young leadership coming up to champion for environmental issues in general or climate change.

Nothing more to say except mark a milestone in my recording of India’s response to climate change  – which is quite pathetic – on which I was posting mostly in the last decade. More in the link below. I think I am quite vindicated about the poor opinion I had about all those who were so enthusiastically organizing and watching the Inconvenient Truth screenings.

https://rishiaggarwaal.wordpress.com/category/climate-change/

Neglect of North Mumbai transport infrastructure

13th July 2014

I experienced a new route to travel to Pune and realised how as a city we are cheating ourselves of a good quality of life by denying essential transport infrastructure which should have been developed decades ago but is nowhere in sight as of today.

A friend from Mulund was going the same way and going by his car and suggested I meet him at Nahur Bridge which joins the Airoli Bridge and is a straight route from there to the Pune Express Way. I stay in Oshiwara MHADA, Andheri (W) and with the new Metro in place coming to the Central line is no longer a foreboding thought. I took a bus from close home to the nearest Metro Stop at Azad Nagar, got on the Metro, got down at Ghatkopar and took the Central line train to Nahur and then walked to the highway.

No travel trip goes waste for me, always exposing me to sights and sufferings, which I would otherwise not have seen (those who are regular on these routes go through this everyday) and in this case the misery of people coming from Nahur Station to the Eastern Express Highway was experienced first hand by me. But this blog is not about the suffering of those people right now. The kind of suffering people are going on Nahur Bridge and onward to Airoli is to be seen to be believed. The Mayor and other politicians and IAS officers who sit in the cozy comforts in the head office and travel to work and home in air-conditioned red beacon cars would never identify with the suffering at many such places in the city.

During the return trip I was not as eager to do all these three interchanges back but the only alternative was the road route back in a cab and that would have been a time killer. It occurred to me that the Goregaon Mulund Link Road (GMLR) should be the exact transport link which would make it so much easier for me to reach Nahur Bridge and back from Andheri (W) area.

The map below shows the two route options

Andheri - West to Nahur route options

Andheri – West to Nahur route options

Red is the existing route which I took and break up is as below

Oshiwara MHADA to Azad Nagar – Bus or autorickshaw –    3.75 kms
Azad Nagar to Ghatkopar – Metro –                                             9.25 kms
Ghatkopar to Nahur Station – By Train –                                    9.25 kms
Nahur Station to Nahur Bridge – Walk                                       300 meters through bad footpath, water logging and exposure to rain.

The total trip is 22.5 kms and takes a little over an hour.

Green route which is what can be provided

There is a portion of the route passing through the green forested section which would be a tunnel connecting Mulund on the eastern side and Goregaon on the eastern side.

The door to door route length is about 16.5 kms of which the tunnel component is 5.5 kms.

Buses can run between Seven Bungalows Depot or Oshiwara Depot in the Andheri – Goregaon region and ply till Airoli bus depot and never go empty. This route would free up unnecessary load on the railways or the metro or even on some of the roads.

The tunnel is the only component which needs to be developed and all of the other 11 kms of roads required are in place. There is absolutely no problem with encroachments on the Mulund side though Goregaon side might be tricky with a lot of formal development by prime developers like Rahejas and Mantri having come up just where the tunnel entry/exit should be. Not insurmountable and would never have been a problem had this tunnel been built even as late as ten years back. This is how infrastructure takes a back seat even as developers shape the city land use and people come to stay and work and for decades go through struggle wasting precious time.

Providing the green route would make a difference to millions of lives and greatly relieve the burden on other transport systems.

A recent news report mentions GMLR requiring a 9.2 kms of road with need for reclamation, road on stilts etc. and that may not have a tunnel option which would not be the best option I think. I still need to study any report from BMC

 

 

 

Sincere City not Smart City

Smart City is the new lingo being banded about in context of Indian cities. It seems to be the Mantra for cities for the new Modi government in place. Having been involved with improvements in the quality of urbanisation primarily in Mumbai for a fairly long time I think foremost the most critical and essential requirement for India’s urbanisation today is sincerity and not all the technological imagery that is being bandied about. The existing top 50 cities and urban agglomerations of India are completely capable of delivering the highest quality of life for a significant amount of India’s population if they are governed well and with sincerity. When there is sincerity and integrity then the right technological solutions flow effortlessly; in the absence of integrity it will be impossible to apply the right solutions to existing Indian cities or build new ones..

Today what is stopping the existing Indian cities and agglomerations from delivering is the complete lack of transparency and accountability in the way they are governed. Public money is squandered in unaccounted projects and there are blatant manipulations of various urban policies to benefit vested interests while millions suffer a poorer quality of life. Urban areas for good or bad will be the centers of economic and human development in the foreseeable future and yet what is happening in Indian cities currently is a complete betrayal of national interest.

It is more than a decade now that I have been involved with urban issues in Mumbai as an activist making noise about irregularities and pushing for the right governance construct in which decisions should be taken. While there is progress, overall there is no improvement in the quality of life. I will pick examples of gross insincerity from a few of my involvements. None of this is limited to Mumbai; I follow other cities in India and being in touch with activists and technical experts in those cities suggests it is the same tale of woe across all the top metros of India.

Let us start with whether we have smart citizens in the first place? In all my interactions over the years with that segment of people which consists of the audience or ‘market’ for improved cities I have found in most a singular lack of understanding about how their municipal corporations work, simple understanding about budgets, various committees which decide on multiple issues in the city and the way these committees sanction public money for various projects.

Civil society members are squeamish about discussing the conduct or character of the elected representatives and senior officials who take decision not wishing any personal confrontation and hoping things will somehow change by talking in generalities.

If this is the case with budgets, the case with understanding public policy is far worse. The numerous ways in which the working of a city can be distorted with decisions about how to use land or how much to build on each unit of land or the kind of transport to be encouraged is beyond the understanding of even the well educated. How can we have a smart city without smart residents? The politicians are perfectly happy with such dumb residents who can easily be swayed by ‘smart’ rhetoric. A smart city would be one where at least ten percent of its residents are smart enough to understand the ABC of governance.

The city gives its purse strings to the incompetent and the downright diabolical but will not make available a paisa to those with integrity and passion and enormous competency. Is such a smart city? Is it a function of technology to provide your citizens with information about how you have used their money for which you are only a care taker as an elected representative or an IAS officer who is trained to supply good governance? Those who were sincere could provide that information even before the computer or typewriter was invented, those who are insincere will not do so in the day and age of ERP software and smart phone apps.

Mumbai’s pathetic roads is a good place to discuss next. You cannot drive for two minutes without having to slow down on a bumpy stretch. Even some arterial roads where the surface will be good will see a few sections which are broken. If not anything then almost all the traffic junctions of the city have the most potholed sections reducing the throughput during signal cycle and causing traffic to pile up during peak hours. This is leading to high levels of stress for the citizens, wear and tear of vehicles, high productivity loss for some of the most hard working people in the country, increased vehicular emissions and enormous fuel wastage which impacts our foreign exchange position.

Year after year crores of public money are spent on filling potholes and fixing broken stretches which in no time reappear. The whole process is nebulous and many a person in the administration and the contractors have been able to build a fancy lifestyle for themselves from this racket. Here too smart gets bandied. There is a lovely lingo of various technologies to fix potholes, machines from Germany and Austria to be imported, fancy processes and all that. Had there been sincerity then the nagar sevaks would have been delivering rather than going for visits abroad to get the right ‘smart’ technology for Mumbai.

Then there are vendors and bureaucrats who offer to sell ‘smart’ IT solutions to monitor traffic congestion using GPS and data from cell towers and cameras and what not. They are a separate set of solution providers unconcerned with the road department and how it functions. There is no integrated unified planning for transport in the city. Every cartel finds its own niche in controlling a part of public money and seeks to ‘optimally’ leverage the control. It is these cartels which are now firmly in control of the smart city propaganda. Is anybody talking sincere city?

Now the latest fancy project of the politicians and bureaucrats is to develop a 36km coast road along the western coast of Mumbai at a cost of Rs. 9000 crores which they are touting as the one final solution to all of Mumbai’s traffic congestion problems. The report prepared by the municipal corporation reeks of insincerity, makes no pretense of hiding its biases and violates all basis norms of report writing. Just so as to defuse the opposition from the sustainable transport advocacy groups the same bureaucrats who have sabotaged a BRTS for Mumbai are even dangling a carrot that they will run a BRTS on this corridor.

Would it not be smart to have your 2000 kms of road network in good shape and improve throughput by a minimum of 20 percent from the same roads rather than spend Rs. 9000 crores on a 36 km coast road with a false promise that it will solve all of the cities traffic congestion problems? Is it not insincerity and cheating when you do not look into the travails of 12 million people as they go about using the existing road network? And the money and other resources are all there.

All of America is now realising what a public finance nightmare it is to create funds for renewing highways and all those flyover which looked so cool and ‘smart’ in the 60’s. America has the luxury of printing as much money as it wants to fund its infrastructure and is still not able to put it all together. In the 21st century smart would be defined as learning from the mistakes of the 20th century. Smart would be what is happening in Europe today and the incredibly experience rich public transport and non motorised transport infrastructure that is coming up in its top 50 cities. All of this is happening with a lot of technology but determined by a smart vision founded on a strong base of integrity.

A smart city is one which can understand terms like mixed land use and sustainable mobility and which can have the vision before the technology as was again and again exhorted at a conference in July by a team of technocrats from EU nations who had been flown in to give some insight to Indian bureaucrats for suggestions on how to solve the waste and other environmental problems of Mumbai. The bureaucrats not surprisingly were looking only for technology and could care much less about all this vision nonsense.

Smart is seen to be a function of technology, of vendors who can supply the right gadgets and IT enabled services and of big budget spends. Thus you will have dustbins fitted with RFID tags and weight sensor which will monitor when a dustbin is full and send out a radio signal to a collection van to collect before it starts over spilling. Not mixing waste and doing high level of segregation at source is not advertised because that will affect the business of those companies which in cahoots with politicians have the contracts to transport waste to dumping grounds. Solid waste management is one area where this fraud of ‘smart’ and technology has been played to the hilt. Mumbai itself has seen itself cheated by its officials and elected representatives in the name of using technology to alleviate the city’s garbage problems.

The Smart agenda has existed around for sometime now. As any of the biggies in the space – IBM, Siemens, CISCO and the like – about how much business have they got? Completely non-descript low key companies make the mark in whatever IT work goes on. I am not saying for once that small and medium enterprises should be discriminated against. All that I am saying is that we need the best value for our money and merit should win over any other parameter. Here the space is crowded with companies which win in an L1 contract and after tying up with some front company of a politicians son. Is this smart?

I hope the PMO and the MOUD will start an aggressive agenda to first bring sincerity into the way Indian cities are governed.

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This blog post has also appeared as article on Scroll.in

http://scroll.in/article/672826/India-doesn%27t-need-smart-cities.-It-needs-smart-citizens

Letter on Coast Road

While I have been opposing the coast road for more than two years, this is the first formal letter – a long critique – that I have put in. The acknowledged letters are below and I will keep adding more acknowledgements here as I submit the letters to the relevant authorities.

To reiterate it is the gross neglect of so much else that needs to be done for Mumbai’s transport that really disappoints, saddens and angers me against the project.

Coast Road Letter March 2014

If you see merit in the arguments please do sign the petition at link below

http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/government-of-maharashtra-brihanmumbai-municipal-corporation-stop-the-coast-road-project

and like it at

https://www.facebook.com/NoCoastRoadMumbai

The MCGM report on coast road can be viewed at this link