The south Indian city aims at seamless integration of different modes as metro takes shape
Shivani Chaturvedi | May 27, 2015 | Chennai
A public transit system will be able to function seamlessly if there is intermodal integration. Commuters need to have last-mile connectivity so that they can avail multiple modes of transport to reach their destinations. One city that aims to set an example by adopting an integrated intermodal transport is Chennai, capital city of Tamil Nadu.
The Chennai Central station junction is going to be a model for urban intermodal integration once the Metro Rail becomes fully operational in a few years. Under this system, nearly every form of public ground transport – bus and train (suburban, inter-state and mass rapid transit system-MRTS) – will be linked to the metro rail station.
The construction work of Chennai Central metro station – the largest of the underground stations, sprawling 70,000 sqm at a depth of 25 metre – is making progress.
Director (projects) of the Chennai City Connect, Raj Cherubal, who has years of experience working with various government agencies, said this was the only way public transport was going to be successful in Chennai or any other city. Today, once a person gets into a bus or metro, it is convenient. The problem is reaching his or her final destination, which may involve changing modes. This is very inconvenient. In a city where public transport is good, all these modes are integrated, physically and in terms of IT systems.
The station will have six entry/exit points for access to southern railways, suburban and MRTS stations, Ripon Buildings and Rajiv Gandhi government general hospital. “We are planning for subways or foot over-bridge or skywalks, like in Mumbai. We have done a study and works would be taken up,” said, NK Kumar, chief general manager (transport planning), Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL).
The CMRL has done station area study of each station and is in touch with various stakeholders. It is also in talks with the state transport corporation and is trying for a common ticketing solution for bus and metro rides.
The airport check-in facility too, is being planned at Chennai Central metro station. With this, passengers can complete check-in procedures, collect their boarding passes at this station, take the metro to the airport, get security clearance at the terminal and board their flight.
Elaborating on the model, Kumar said, “We are covering major arterial roads and planning for feeder bus services which will help people in contiguous areas to access this system. Then there will also be paratransit (specialised transport for the disabled). We have mapped the station areas. We have identified how footpaths need improvement and that would be done by the local body. First step we took is to make proper design, second, we have identified what are the things that need support and intervention.”
Design and challenges
Kavitha Selvaraj, director of CR Narayana Rao (CRN) Architects, Chennai, said, “The experience of a passenger in transit should be given utmost importance in the design of intermodal integration.” The first step would be physical connectivity with least hindrances or level changes, she said. So footpaths, ramps and escalators should be designed keeping in mind the access requirement. The second criteria is proper wayfinding systems, using signage, graphics and maps as available in all transit hubs in major metropolitan cities around the world. Third, spaces should be designed to make people feel welcome and safe, with adequate lighting, activated by people movement, and enhanced with art work. I hope the current design for the Chennai central area will integrate the needs of the users who will arrive there in multiple modes, added Selvaraj.
Advait Jani, programme coordinator at the institute for transportation and development policy (ITDP), Chennai, pointed out, “From whatever I’ve seen, the designs are extremely car-centric and not human-centric. The plan to have 2,000-car parking structure in a place where the roads cannot even handle the existing traffic will only add more chaos to this area. The metro is being built so that people switch over to public transport. But if the development is going to be car-centric then there is no reason for people to switch over. This will only encourage more people to use their own transport instead of the metro.”
Cherubal speaks about movement of commuters: “We have recommended street-level crossings where possible. And in some places where street crossing is difficult, they should provide escalators. Subways should be wide enough to have venders and shops so that they provide ‘eyes on the street’ for safety since you can’t have police in every subway”.
Jani, however, said the plan was to construct six subways that connect the two sides of EVR Salai. Such interventions are done under the name of ‘pedestrian safety’, but these are very uncomfortable for pedestrians to use and soon become unpopular. It is not advisable to have such a system in a place where the passenger volume is as high as five to eight lakhs per day. Having interventions such as subways and foot over-bridges are 19th century infrastructures. Most modern countries have done away with such outdated infrastructures and focus more on improving the passenger experience.
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