Is the government looking at projects that would benefit citizens or are they looking at what they perceive as vote catchers? Or are they looking at big-ticket projects so long as they appear to benefit all but actually might benefit only the rich and the mighty? Let us look at five sample News Items to begin with.
News Item (1): Twenty-five 32 seater hybrid electrical buses procured by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) MMRDA for BrihanMumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST), at a cost of Rs1.61 crore each that will operate with Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) as the hub, going to some five destinations in the City and neighbouring Municipalities. MMRDA is said to have decided to bear the operating costs as well.
This may be a forerunner to more AC Buses being operated. But prima facie, any success of public transport catering to any section of society depends upon the crowd within the mode, its travel time and commuter waiting time at transport bus stop. By merely letting people know when their next bus is likely to come, one is ensuring that commuters may opt for more comfortable alternative mode of transport if available immediately.
News Item (2): Three coaches out of the 12-coach of 70 suburban rail network trains to be air-conditioned coaches.
It is gathered that the purpose of providing the AC services is to attract motorcar users to public transport and to permit those already traveling by suburban local trains, little more comfort at ‘affordable’ prices. It must be understood that the price citizen will have to pay for this facility will be of practically having no effect on road congestion but denying the currently harassed rail commuters that much needed space in public commute. This is directly related to livelihood of most of the over 75 lakh rail commuters. Are car users expected to travel by train where the only place that will be less crowded will be the AC Coach – the rest of the railway system will continue to be overcrowded as before; actually more overcrowded.
News Item (3): Metro Work started on several fronts with the objective to complete the 194kms network of Metro Rail in Mumbai by end of 2021.
In 2004, the 146.5kms Mumbai Metro Rail Master Plan of nine Metro Lines (MMMP-2004) was unveiled, to be implemented in three phases and completed by 2021. The costs were estimated to be just Rs19,550 crore. The construction of 11.4kms Line No1 started in 2006, got to be put into service only in 2014. Till date the Government of Maharashtra through MMRDA had managed to complete only one line. The original planning was done with knowledge of limitations to availability of finance as well as the havoc it would cause by way of additional road congestion if work fronts were opened up at multiple locations. However, despite this the revised Metro Master Plan of 194kms costing nearly Rs1 lakh crore, has been commenced in 2015 at several fronts.
Everyone uses roads to commute irrespective of whether one is using suburban railway, and now single lines of Metro and Monorails. Road congestion affects everyone’s mobility adversely.
News Item (4): “Derail services, get your demands on track? RAIL ROKO As 3-hr blockade achieved what trainees couldn’t do in a year, such protests could become trend, say experts, wonder how rlys, agencies didn’t see it coming”
In the current political dispensation, little thoughts are being given to what is essential and also the tolerance limits of people to bear travel travails while they see scams and scamsters seemingly making hey while the government is looking elsewhere.
News Item (5): “When Mumbai raged red with farmer’s anger” an article familiarized urbanites “farmers’ and adivasis’ fight for Minimum Support Price, land transfer to their names under Forest Rights Act, implementation of Swaminathan Commission Report, intricacies of farm loan waiver and so on.. and similar protest marches on other issues.
Bogota, the capital city of Latin American country of Columbia, operates a bus service called Transmillenio with 175 person capacity buses at a frequency of about 12.5 seconds. It carries more than 45,000 persons per hour (pph) per direction at average speed touching 40 kmph. Keeping this in view, prima facie following is proposed for commute in Mumbai.
Let us look at what railways carry and its capacity. The Comprehensive Transport Study 2008 by MMRDA stated that Suburban Railway System provides a capacity of 1.80 lakh pph while it carries 3.60 lakh pph in the peak direction. There is a shortfall of 1.80 lakh pph public transport capacity that is needed to be infused into the system and it is by no means small. It is practically 100% of existing capacity.
A bi-articulated bus with sitting cum standing capacity of 250 persons operating at a frequency of 20 seconds will give a capacity of 45,000 pphpd. If we introduce a normal 10m single bus between two of the bi-articulated buses one with 15 seats, another with 30 seats and the third with 45 seats and no standees, the hourly capacity of this system will be 900 Business Class travellers, 1,800 First Class Travelers, 2,700 J-class travellers and 45,000 commuter class travellers i.e. 50,400 pphpd. Four such routes will give 2,01,600 pph capacity to the system. This is about 10% more than the much needed 1.80 lakh pph. It is estimated to cost not more than Rs10,000 crore. More such routes could be worked out of lower capacity but total capacity of around 2 lakh pph could be quite practically achieved. This system, along with some fine tuned features, could be termed as Well Designed All Inclusive bus rapid transport (BRT) System.
As against this bus system, the MMMP-2004 had envisaged a capacity of 72,000 pph. Apparently, in response to constant reminder to MMRDA of this great shortfall in capacity then envisaged, the revised plan the MMMP-2015 tries to provide 96,000 pph. This is primarily achieved by providing 8-coach trains instead of originally planned 6-coach trains. The capacity of the revised Metro will be about 45% less than the needed capacity of 1.80 lakh pph. Also, it is estimated to cost about Rs1 lakh crore, 10 times costlier than the bus system proposed above.
In the congestion with speeds of 8-10kmph, five lane highway carries not more than 10,000 pph. With increased speeds, in fact this drops further to perhaps 6,500 pph. If one lane is taken away for Metro construction as has happened currently, the maximum throughput will be about 8,000 pph and at higher speeds, dropping to 5,000 pph.
It is getting amply clear that the required capacity of 1.80 lakh pph will never be achieved with the approach to augment road capacity of personal motorcar usage. And the costs for providing Metro of this higher capacity is too exorbitant, quite possibly 15-20 times of the said BRT System.
Can we the citizens, realising that our government that is already in debt of about Rs4.25 lakh crore and having no guarantor for Metro projects, expect to be optimistic about their timely completion even though of inadequate capacity. Citizens should also remember that just as Mumbai has a very dense population, it also has quite a dense underground utility service lines that cannot be disrupted. Implementation delays have to be of foreground conclusion.
If the government continues to pursue with options that would not deliver and citizens are aware of this, should not citizens resort to agitation such a Long March to Mantralaya on a working day? After all the Long March will not be longer than 30kms and commuters number 70 lakh in Mumbai!
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected]