Delhi – Integrated Transport systems

The Govt. of NCT of Delhi introduced the BRT system in Delhi in 2004 under its Integrated Mass Transit Plan

However, the national capital's infrastructure plans have never been done in totality, and an example of bad planning is the Bus Rapid Transit corridor that the government intends to scrap soon.

Unfortunately the BRT, as was envisioned in its totality, never got built and only a single stretch as a ‘test model’ was built, which, for apparent reasons has failed. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/india/delhi-bus-rapid-transit

Transport and roads are becoming a primary cause of concern for the ever expanding cities along with issues like water and electricity. Delhi too, with the added pressure of satellite towns like Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad has to cater to millions of vehicles on a daily basis resulting in huge traffic jams, pollution and waste of quality time for its citizens. 

However, the city cannot continue to build more and more roads to cater to the rapidly increasing vehicular population. Instead what it needs is an efficient transit plan along with an organized, comfortable and reliable public transport system. The need of the hour is an efficient inter-modal public transport system to reduce the exponentially increasing dependence on private vehicles.

It is common knowledge now that the key to smooth commuting in the future is a good public transportation system that offers better mobility, besides other social advantages like reducing congestion and air pollution.

DIMTS ltd. was founded in 2006 in order to provide complete and holistic solutions for urban transport for the NCT region. Over the last few years it has come up with various proposals and solutions for urban transport. However, most of the plans have not been implemented as it worked as an independent company. The problem as always is that there are several ‘authorities’ and decision making bodies who are responsible for “their own” sector who never seem to take collective decisions for the overall development of the city.

BRT as a transport model cannot function on its own in a city the size of Delhi (and NCT). What is required is an integrated model connecting the buses, trains and metro to provide a complete public transport system along with cycle lanes and pedestrian footpaths. I have had to commute daily on the BRT to office and back and have had to face huge traffic jams and major delays up to an hour and a half for what should take me only 15 minutes. It’s a single stretch working independently of all other modes of public transport, thereby perhaps seeing an increase in number of cars and two wheelers. Moreover, even the authorities have remained confused over which are the dedicated bus lanes … all lanes have cars, bikes, cycles and buses leaving the pedestrians, as usual to weave around these, causing several accidents.

The emphasis also has to be on walkability and giving preference to the pedestrian with a shift away from car-oriented city that Delhi has become. Walkability is the cornerstone and key to an urban area's efficient ground transportation. Every trip begins and ends with walking. In order to achieve high levels of walkability and livability, a city must focus on: Destination Accessibility (walking scale), Diversity (mix of uses), and Density (sufficient people so that costs are contained), Design, Distance to Transit, and Parking (better managed). All of these can only be achieved with an increase in an efficient public transport system.

This will also help in reducing the pollution levels, which have been risen to alarming levels in Delhi over the recent years. The last few days have seen a considerable reduction in traffic jams on the roads due to the odd-even number car policy (also perhaps since the winter vacations are still on), though there doesn’t seem to be any reduction in the pollution levels. Though it’s perhaps too soon to judge, but there are several other polluting factors in Delhi leading to poor air quality. http://thewire.in/2016/01/05/forget-odd-and-even-delhi-needs-a-total-disruption-of-its-transport-model-18580/

The very premise of the ‘smart city’ program to start with is that our dumb cities are to become smart !

The smart city is not just an up-scaled version of the smart home where all our personal devices and domestic appliances are automated and networked. It is fundamentally about infrastructural and civic applications — basically the techno-political ordering of society — and it is about the data and control those applications generate.

Currently, there are 3 types of smart cities that can be seen:

First, and the most common examples are of existing cities being retrofitted and renovated from dumb to smart for not just economic reasons but also political… to sustain the present day entrepreneurial urban governance and making cities attractive through urban development for capital flow.

Second type is wherein a city undergoes large scale integration of ‘smart’ technologies and policies. This integration happens at a scale larger than and at a faster rate than the retrofits. One such example has been that of Rio de Janerio.

The third types are the ones which are built from scratch as is the case with New Songdo in South Korea, aiming to be the world’s first fully smart city.

 

The spectrum of control: a social theory of the smart city by J Sadowski

http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5903/4660

 

The Indian government too has taken on the agenda of the smart city program with its announcement of 98 cities to be made ‘smart’. This is being called ‘capacity building for Urban Governance’ as ‘Preparation of Proposal for Assisting Cities to participate in the Smart Cities Challenge’. The aim is to include the following:

1. The City-wide Concept Plan will include the Smart City Vision and key challenges identification, situation analysis (physical, economic, social, legal and institutional infrastructure)/ As-is description, review of previous plans, interventions and documents of all departments and agencies (e.g. City Sanitation Plan, City Mobility Plan, Master Plan) and an overall strategy focused on Smart City criteria/objectives/targets. Moreover, based on citizen consultations, the Concept Plan will also define the Smart City and clearly state the objectives based on the Mission document and Guidelines.

2. The Smart City Proposal (SCP) will consist of Strategic Action Plans for Area Developments based on the three typologies: (a) area improvement (retrofitting) (b) city renewal (redevelopment) and (c) city extension (greenfield) and one City-wide (Pan-city) initiative that applies Smart Solutions to the physical, economic, social and institutional infrastructure. Application of Smart Solutions will involve the use of technology, information and data to make infrastructure and services better and using smart technologies for the development of the poor and marginalized will be an important part of the Proposal.

3. Prepare a Proposal to participate in ‘Challenge’ (competition) according to the Smart City Mission Statement and Guidelines. The proposal will contain retrofitting or redevelopment or greenfield models and atleast one Pan-city initiative. The focus will be on transformative projects with the highest possible impact on (i) economic growth in the city (e.g. number of new jobs created, new firms attracted, increased productivity and business climate in the formal as well as informal sectors, recognition of and incorporating urban vendors), and (ii) improving the quality of life of all, especially the poor: (e.g. reduction in commuting time, support of non-motorized transport, improvement in air and water quality/increased coverage of water, solid waste management, street lighting, enhanced green public spaces, improved safety and security).

4. The Smart City Proposal will include Financing plan for the complete life cycle of the Proposal. This financial plan will identify internal (taxes, rents, licenses and user charges) and external (grants, assigned revenues, loans and borrowings) sources of mobilizing funds for capital investments and operation and maintenance over the life cycle of project. Financial plan will provide for sources for repayment of project cost over a period of 8-10 years, O&M cost and also include resource improvement action plan for financial sustainability of ULB.

5. Convergence of area plans with National and State level sectoral financial plans, for example the National Urban Rejuvenation Mission (NURM), Housing for All, Swachh Bharat and Digital India.

6. The Proposal development will be people-driven, from the beginning, achieved through citizen consultation meetings, including active participation of Residents Welfare Associations, Tax Payers Associations, Senior Citizens, Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Slum Dwellers Associations and other groups. During consultations in addition to identification of issues, needs and priorities of citizens and groups of people, citizen-driven solutions will also be generated.

7. The Proposals will be developed in a period of 100 days as far as this consultancy is concerned. Another Agency will assist the City in detailed Project Development and Management.

The above smart city initiative aims to cover all three types of smart cities, outlined earlier, in to one scheme for every city … time given 100 days and of course as always the tender awarded to L1 which have been as low as a total fee of Rs.10.0 lakhs per city! It is by now a known fact that accepting the least price bid does not guarantee maximum value and certainly not for a project of this scale and apparent importance.

From 4 the number of cities to be made smarter increased to 98 … surely it would have made more sense to start with a fewer cities, given more time and a suitable fee, in accordance with the task at hand, and produce reports which would have been based on a more intensive study and more appropriate solutions instead of the blanket solutions being generated with some consultants having taken on 5 cities at a time at L1 of course!. The resultant reports will be nothing more than a copy paste solution … an eye wash as happens in most such studies/ proposals being carried out.

“Moreover, as the vast majority of urban India struggles with poverty, discrimination, precarious housing, water scarcity, unemployment, malnourishment, poor health, and gender-based violence, is the government’s resounding focus on "smart cities" justified?

The Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation mentioned a "4S and 4P formula" to make a city smart: "Smart leadership, smart governance, smart technologies and smart people; and the Public-Private-People Partnership."

Government proclamations indicate that smart cities are likely to promote foreign investment and the flow of private capital, possibly through special investment regions or economic zones, which may, in fact lead to increase in land acquisition, displacement, and livelihood loss…

Cities should be inclusive, equitable, ecological, and sustainable. Improved technology and connectivity are important, but what Indians need most is the realisation of their human right to live with dignity. Let the government focus on that first “. Shivani Chaudhry; Executive Director, Housing and Land Rights Network, New Delhi

In continuation ... the so called slums are an integral part of our cities, whcih influence both the physical and human geography of the place and cannot be ignored in planning for the future (re) development of cities of any developing nation. These areas are called slums because they exisit contrary to the common understanding of how an urban area in a city should be! 

This notion has been prevalent ever since the 'City Beautiful' movement started. As noted by Jane Jacobs in her description of the North End of Boston reffered to at the time as a slum : "The North End had probably the highest density than found in any American city, it had a mixed use development and was situated next to an industrial area. North End had small blocks in stead of the large planned super-blocks, the area was “badly cut up with wasteful streets” and the buildings were old.

Jacobs contradicted the professional urbanists in her description of the place as "streets were alive with children playing, people shopping, people strolling, people talking. Had it not been a cold January day, there would surely have been people sitting. The general street atmosphere of buoyancy, friendliness, and good health was so infectious that I began asking directions of people just for the fun of getting in on some talk." Jacobs further elaborates on the diversity and hence the dynamism of the North End ".

 

This is evidence of the fact that though such areas in cities across the world have shown to be the liveliest areas of the city, yet these are shunned upon due to physical planning norms established to provide for more hygienic and greener areas with more light and ventilation but without consideration of socio-economic factors which make cities dynamic. This is evident is the monotonous, dull and uniform developments in the modern city.

Large cities in India such as Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata have huge slum areas. Various authorities have tried relocating people living in these areas through various slum rehabilitation projects which have failed due to very low occupancy. As observed, people living in the slums are inter-dependant and have a very close knit social structure. These are mixed use developments which make these areas very dynamic, safe and full of vitality through the day and even after working hours. When these people are made to live in high rise blocks, they are disconnected and have almost no connection with streets and open spaces which earlier used to be places of social interaction. Most of the urban renewal projects have been a failure. 

This, however, does not imply that these areas should be left as is ...  in fact these need to be integrated with the rest of the city through better infrastructure and by understanding the very nature of these settlements and their origin in the urban areas these are located in.

Himanshu Parikh: http://www.priyashah.com/the_magic_of_slums.htm

Slum improvement:http://thewire.in/2015/09/21/slums-are-the-first-settlements-smart-cities-must-improve-not-clear-them-11181/

 

Man made disasters, man as a catalyst or just simply nature’s fury … this debate has no sure certain answers but the fact remains that our cities of today have neither a social logic of space nor a physical logic of place.

Earlier the streets worked as natural carriers of water, they were water channels supporting the human settlements, even now if one were to plot these channels in any city, these will appear to be a continuous system (if cleaned an maintained can lend to a ‘green’ pedestrian system ! … now the roads and streets are laid out, if planned, as a grid ( or cut out, as an afterthought where need be entirely to serve the car !) blocking out the natural catchment areas, wherein even the humungous, always being laid,  ‘independent’ grid of sewers is helpless when the heavens decide to open up… ! Also it’s high time technology is used to provide for a network of public transport, reachable by any, on foot, within 10 -15 mins to lessen the burden on the streets and parking lots.

Our cities are a continuum of faceless walls as enclosures to the so called society(ies) … with the ever growing numbers of house guards and drivers occupying the house-fronts, forming, in fact another social layer .

… and we continue to use, one of the most illogical terms used in the present day city … the “slum” (originally referred to as the back room) … this is an all important inherent support system to the ‘city beautiful’ … neglected settlements outside our protected boundary walls, a reminder of the lower caste relegated to the spaces beyond the fortified cities of yesteryears…. So either our future ‘smart cities’ become inclusive and accept the fact that we are able to be what we are because we have a support structure in place or remain exclusive with no urban character and keep worrying and trying to resolve the squalor conditions of the slums as an area which only social workers and NGO’s can and should worry about !

Or we decide to do away with these completely, take to the vacuum cleaners and take-aways whilst ensuring ;) that the smaller towns, satellite cities and rural areas are given a strong impetus for growth to become self-sufficient centers … or do we need a judicious mix to contain the character-less urban sprawl, hopefully give it some character and of course to keep our homes and work places in order ?