Comprehensive Mobility Plan: RWAs push for last-mile connectivity, skywalks and EV charging points    

The consultative meeting was called by CUMTA to discuss RWAs role in facilitating door-to-door survey for the mobility plan for Chennai

Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) from Chennai and its suburban areas made some pertinent observations and suggestions regarding public transport and commuting in the city during the consultative meeting arranged by the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) late last month to discuss the Comprehensive Mobility Plan. These included — smooth access to railway stations and bus stops through walkways and skywalks; ample parking areas that are accessible to all including persons with disabilities; electronic display boards on buses; last-mile connectivity; EV charging points for commuters and much more.        

In my capacity as Secretary of the Alliance of Residents Welfare Associations (AoRWA) and Convener of the Perambur Neighborhood Development Forum, I managed to coordinate the arrangements for the meeting with Arun Balaji from CUMTA. The meeting was attended by members of AoRWA, who represented the different Federations of Residents Welfare Associations across the city.

Well-known civic and social activists such as Kamakshi Subramaniam from SPARK; Santhanam Meenakshi Sundaram; Neelakannan, General Secretary, AoRWA; JMS Nagarjunan, Dayanand Krishnan and Ezhisaivani representing Chitlapakkam Rising, Geetha Ganesh of AGS Colony Velachery Residents Welfare Association; S M Govindarajan from Federation of Tambaram Residents Welfare Association; Ramakrishnan from Federation of Adyar Residents Welfare Association, Ramesh from Thiru Vi Ka Nagar Residents Welfare Association and others participated in the meeting to discuss the mobility plan, which lasted over one and half hours.

Agenda for the meeting

The core agenda for the meeting was to discuss the Comprehensive Mobility Plan and offer suggestions on how the RWAs can help in facilitating the door-to-door surveys. We have shared our views and it was agreed that we will be extending our total cooperation. Though the meeting was not meant for any grievance redressal, I. Jeyakumar, Special Officer, CUMTA, was kind enough to listen to what everyone had to say.

Here are the suggestions that we want to present to CUMTA on behalf of the members of AoRWA:

  • Ensure smooth transfer from one mode of transport to another. Bus stops, railway stations, Metro Rail, Metro Lite, auto stands and parking facilities must be linked properly. Provide easy access with walkways, subways or skywalks wherever needed. At the MGR Central Railway Station, people are forced to walk across the road amid heavy traffic. We are thankful that authorities have learnt from past mistakes, as is evident at Perambur, where one of the entries to the Metro station is going to be within the railway premises.
  • Ease of transfer with proper display boards and directions can help address this issue. For example, in Perambur, there are three to four bus stops near the railway station and a passenger may find it difficult to board the bus because each stop is located in a different direction and the bus routes are entirely different. Provide electronic display boards in every bus shelter with the details of the bus numbers, bus routes, and bus timings.
  • Provide a skywalk or subway across the road between the Perambur railway station and Perambur bus terminus, as this will help ease the pedestrian traffic on the road. Provide auto walk or moving walkways wherever possible for ease of transfer from one mode to another.
  • The condition of the restrooms at the railway stations should be on par with the toilets in Metro stations or airports. We seek clean toilets with proper water supply in every MRTS and suburban railway station. The toilets meant for the differently-abled in most of the railway stations remain locked all the time. When I raised this with the Station Manager at Perambur Railway Station, she said that the keys are at the Station Master’s office and commuters are free to take the keys and use the facility. How can a differently- abled person cross over from the 4th platform and come to the Station Master’s office on the first platform to collect the key only to use the toilet? This issue needs to be looked into on a priority basis.

Read more: Citizen audit finds issues aplenty in Perambur Railway Station

Better access to public transport

mobility plan meet
Last-mile connectivity and dedicated lanes for buses and autos were some of the suggestions made by the RWAs. Pic courtesy: Raghukumar Choodamani
  • Ensure last-mile connectivity for commuters. A person coming from the airport by Chennai Metro spends only ₹60 to ₹70 to reach his destination. He is, however, forced to spend over ₹150 to ₹200 to reach his home by autorickshaw or taxi because of a lack of other options. Introduce e-rickshaws, smart bikes and small buses to bridge this gap.
  • Provide charging points for Electric Vehicles (EVs) at parking lots. This will go a long way in motivating people to adopt the greener modes of private transport.
  • Alternatively, smaller loops of Rail Bus covering interior residential and commercial neighbourhoods can go a long way in easing traffic congestion and contribute towards a greener environment. Metromover in Miami could be a good example. The introduction of Metro Lite and trams, which run on the roads is another option that could be considered.
  • Unified ticketing will motivate people to opt for public transport. We suggest passes for commuters, who are using parking facilities and for those who are using public transport, be issued separately. The cost of parking can be factored into the passes to save time.
  • The RWAs suggested sufficient parking lots/multi-level parking should be provided in every CMRL and railway station to help commuters park their vehicles. The parking lots, bus stops and railway stations should be accessible to persons with disabilities, with proper ramps. 

Read more: Public spaces in Chennai fare poorly on accessibility

Improved facilities on roads

  • Widening the arterial bus route roads will help in ensuring free flow of traffic during peak hours. Several roads in North Chennai including those in George Town, Park Town, Washermanpet, Vyasarpadi and Perambur need to be widened, bearing in mind the significant increase in the population and the number of vehicles.
  • We seek basic, concrete, pedestrian-friendly, fully functional footpaths, which are free from encroachments. Authorities must see that there are no illegal parking or commercial activities on these footpaths.
  • A clear policy document to regulate on-street parking is the need of the hour. While there are rules in place that commercial buildings must provide sufficient parking space within their buildings for their staff and customers, most rules are blatantly flouted. Even in residential areas we see residents parking their vehicles on the road most of the time. There are many families with multiple cars and the public spaces are being encroached upon  causing inconvenience to other residents. Please levy a cost for on-street parking of vehicles, on roads within residential areas as well. This will help generate sufficient funds for the exchequer. The money collected can then be used to provide multi-level parking lots in every colony. People must be motivated to use public transport and discouraged from using private vehicles. 
  • We urge the authorities to re-introduce Volvo buses on certain routes, which were discontinued some time ago.
  • The government must focus on strengthening the Metro Rail, Metro Lite and Rail Bus networks across the city. People who can afford the higher fares for travelling in comfort will automatically stop using their private vehicles.
  • Separate dedicated tracks for buses, two-wheelers and cycles will help in easing the congestion during peak hours. When all vehicles are allowed to ply alongside each other, there is total chaos. Green corridors across the city with unidirectional flyovers or subways will help facilitate a signal-free smooth ride. We are glad this is being implemented in OMR and would like to see more of these within the city as well.
  • We urge the administration to introduce air-conditioned electric buses in the short-distance profit-making circular routes covering the interior residential areas, where there are takers for this service.
  • Representatives from Chitlapakkam, Tambaram, Guduvanchery, Perangulathur, Vandalur have sought extension of the Metro Rail services from Meenambakkam Airport to Kilambakkam Bus Stand. One of them also suggested that the Metro Rail services be extended up to Chengalpattu or Villupuram.
  • Residents from Chromepet wanted share autos to be regularised. They also sought metered autos in suburban areas.
  • RWA members from Velachery sought feeder services between Velachery MRTS and the yet-to-be-opened Puzhuthivakkam MRTS to connect other transit hubs.
  • The needs of senior citizens and the youth of our city deserve to be prioritised. Kamakshi Patti conveyed her grievances on the sorry state of the public infrastructure. At the age of 96 years, she wants to go out of her house and indulge in civic activities. Given the condition of our roads, footpaths etc, she says it is impossible to step out of her house with any help. In developed countries, we get to see senior citizens in their 90s driving all by themselves and living independently.
  • Bearing in mind the safety of women during the late hours, our members have sought fully functional CCTV surveillance and increased presence of security officials at all the MRTS and suburban railway stations.
  • Securing the suburban stations from any terrorist attack is as important as the Metro stations or airports. All railway and MRTS stations must be secured properly with a compound wall or fence and mandatory scanning of passengers and luggage must be introduced.

Having said all this, I think it’s high time we try to identify youth, who are ready to engage in social and civic activities and groom them to be the future leaders of our forum. The youth in our country are self-driven and will be in a position to bring in new ideas and use the technology that is available more effectively to identify, escalate and resolve issues in a time-bound manner.

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