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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Walk, Skip and Hop Your Way to Metro Stations - CHENNAI

Chennai Metro Rail is expected to start its operation in the 10-kilometre stretch between Koyambedu and Alandur. However, questions persist over the basic facilities available for commuters, particularly the differently abled, at stations on the stretch, including Arumbakkam, Vadapalani and Ashok Nagar.

These stations lack footpaths and wherever there is one, it is only a foot-wide, says a study done by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
As per ITDP’s research from the world’s best practices, such  streets with high volume footfalls should provide a minimum of three-metre clear, uninterrupted pedestrian walkway. With thousands of passengers expected to use the service in the coming months, the access to the stations is yet to be designed in a well thought out manner.

The biggest issue is the delay in notification of the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) Act. This has resulted in the delay of integration of all public mass passenger transport modes through various measures, including routing and scheduling, operating feeder services and combined or common ticketing facility to offer seamless commuting options to the public, said sources said. But ITDP technical director Christopher Kost says that the delay can’t be cited as a reason. “Yes, the notification is yet to happen, but that doesn’t absolve independent agencies like the State Highways Department to provide quality footpaths,” he says. “What prevents them from working independently like the Chennai Corporation. The Corporation Commissioner regularly conducts the meeting on Non-Motorised Transport (NMT),” says Kost.

The primary issue, as experts see it, is that the Metro corridor runs along the most unsafe roads, and it caters to the commuters who have to walk all the way to get into the train.

“But Highways officials have failed to get their act together for catering to this section,” said Kost.

According to the ITDP study, seamless and efficient transfer between different transport modes is crucial to ensure successful migration to public transport systems like Metro Rail. If the wait at inter­modal points are long, the passengers will  prefer to use their private vehicles. However, even the MMI (Multi Modal Integration) committee has failed to do its part.  Although the committee conducted a survey of the metro corridor on January 23 and ITDP highlighted the issues relating to pedestrian movement, the Highway officials have been sleeping over it for six months.

Kost added that the entire stretch was unsuitable for the differently abled. “While the stations have ramps, the question is how the disabled people will reach the station to access metro trains. There are no ramps along the footpaths,” says Kost.

In Arumbakkam, Vadapalani and Ashok Nagar, there are no clear pedestrian walkways in the station area. Most part of the stretch lacks footpaths, which should be designed and laid before Metro Rail begins operations.  There are also too many driveways along the length of the stations with abrupt curbs, making the walk equivalent to a hurdle race, says the ITDP study. Best practices vouch for continuous footpaths even at property entrances. The street design does not account for seamless connectivity to other modes of public transport such as MTC bus stops. It is not yet clear how the routes of the other modes of transport will be rationalised to act as feeder network for the metro rail system, the study adds.

In an integrated network, the passengers have added benefits, including information integration, whereby they will be able to avail real­time information on various modes regarding connectivity options, routes, schedules, and fares. These also include fare integration with integrated payment solutions like smart cards that allows seamless access and payment across different modes.

Such levels of integration can only be achieved in the presence of a strong and unified transport authority.

Source: The New Indian Express, 25th June 2015

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