In choked east Delhi, a project to free up road space

Proposed Vikas Marg pilot project is a comprehensive road development plan that aims to reclaim the street for pedestrians – and replicated elsewhere in Delhi if proves successful

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Puja Bhattacharjee | June 8, 2013



For years treated as the rear lane of the national capital’s arterial road network, Vikas Marg is set to get a shot in the arm if a proposed project to free it of clutter fructifies.

The idea, a top official of the capital’s primary traffic and transport planning agency said, is to free up the road for pedestrian movement and provide alternative parking solutions. Vikas Marg, the main inner-city road to cater to traffic from east Delhi to central Delhi and further via ITO and Connaught Place, remains choked for most part of the day due to the heavy traffic load. Hundreds of cars parked on either side of it, thanks to the presence of the busy Laxmi Nagar, Shakarpur and Preet Vihar markets, also add to the chaos.

ALSO READ: Dear Delhi, think traffic plans before choking to death

A pilot that could be replicated elsewhere in Delhi, depending on its success here, the Vikas Marg project is undertaken by the Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre – or UTTIPEC, the nodal authority for all transportation projects and transport engineering solutions in the national capital.

WHAT is the project?

“Vikas Marg is one of the 14 bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors taken up by the Delhi government. It was one of the corridors identified for providing non-motorised traffic in the taskforce under the (Delhi) chief secretary,” UTTIPEC director Ashok Bhattacharjee told Governance Now. “Our aim is to provide provisions for pedestrian safety, movement of non-motorised traffic (read bicycles, rickshaws etc) along the corridor by removing parking from the footpaths, and reclaiming them (sidewalks) for the pedestrians.”

While multiple agencies, including Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Public Works Department (PWD), would be involved in the project, UTTIPEC would monitor its planning and implementation.

Incidentally, this project is one of the first in Delhi to be designed as per the street design guidelines, introduced in 2009 and which comprehensibly catalogues street design components. The idea, Bhattacharjee said, is to integrate the Delhi Metro station exit points, crossings and “all other components which are part of street design guidelines”.

Clarifying that a “road-owning agency” like the PWD should ideally take up construction of roads as per street design guidelines for retrofitting, he said UTTIPEC took up the Vikas Marg project to set an example and show that a street can be retrofitted as per these guidelines.

WHY is it needed?

According to Bhattacharjee, congestion is an everyday affair on Vikas Marg as vehicles owners intrude on space meant for pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles and park their cars. As a result, he said, “The traffic moves in one and half lanes. The rest of the three-lane road is occupied by vehicles parked (by the roadside).”

So what’s the idea to cut the clutter? “Instead of widening the streets, the plan is to design the road in such a way as to provide equal road space to all kinds of users,”  he said.

Specifying that over 80 percent of cars parked on Vikas Marg, and which stifle traffic flow, belong to shop owners, Bhattacharjee said nine parking spaces have been identified and parking capacity in existing parking zones in the area are in for a boost with stack parking, or multi-tier parking. “DDA is responsible for (availing) stack parking – and rules need to be enforced once the parking areas are available. It will be mandatory to avail these parking facilities for parking a vehicle for long periods,” he said.

Since pricing is a sensitive issue based on demand – and with the example of lack of enforcement in Connaught Place due to steep parking charges – it is understood that the rates would be thought of before they are implemented.

In sum, the Vikas Marg pilot project would deal with special lane for non-motorised vehicles, footpath, bicycle and rickshaw stands, short-term parking facilities, drop-off facilities and stack parking for long-term parking.

WHO all will do it?

According to Bhattacharjee, road-owning or land-owning agencies – PWD and DDA, respectively – will have to enforce rules in case of illegal parking in areas designated for pedestrian use, and the police will have to crack down on illegal parking.

But first, the streets have to be reclaimed for pedestrians with the help of police, he said. Street design guidelines will be incorporated once the roads are free of parked cars – this will include construction of toilets, signage and zebra crossing, among other things, at regular intervals.

Bhattacharjee said the parking slots would be ready in about six months to a year, after which PWD will start implementing the project. The DDA will provide the parking facilities and it will take an estimated two years to complete the project, depending on the PWD.

“The project will test how far the policy can be implemented and I hope this is taken up on a priority basis,” he said.

Agreeing that all stakeholders have to be kept in loop, the UTTIPEC director said user-group consultation has not started yet. He also said the project is a localised plan and future traffic scenario has not been taken into account.

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