The Monster in my City
Cities grow as a collage of numerous layers of history mingled over a period of time. Cities are constructive entities with social, political, economic and cultural values. Every layer that gets overlaid on the city has an impact on its each and every aspect. Most of Indian cities that developed during the colonial era flourished around a core city or old city, a British established estate called Civil Lines, and the cantonment areas. Wherever the British established
‘Civil lines’, they laid railway in between the core city and the civil lines. The British in India considered the Indian neighborhoods filthy. Racial segregation became a general rubric of colonial administration and was adopted in following manner:
Physical separating walls / Railway line between European and Indian population.
Huge open space was left which acted as a buffer between the European and Native settlement. For Example: Ram Leela Maidan in Delhi, Kasturchand Park in Nagpur
Unlike western cities such as London, which have grown on Central Business Districts (CBD) model, the workplaces in India have been established along the fringes and cities have grown accordingly. Thus, Indian cities do not have single Central Business district. In cities which have a CBD, people from all around the city have a common, centralized workplace (as shown in Figure a and b below). Since the workplaces are concentrated at one place, a concentrated mass transport system model works there. But for cities that do not have a CBD, the situation is different (illustrated in Figure c below). The home to work trips are not concentrated along a single corridor and are spread across the city. Thus, a concentrated mass transit system will function only if it is supported with a feeder system that connects other parts of the city. First and last mile connectivity has huge importance here. Any metro project needs to be assessed with this approach.
Figure a- Layout of cities with CBD
Figure b- Layout of Linear Cities with CBD
Figure c- General Layout of Indian Cities
Case of Nagpur Metro:
Nagpur is a geographical centre of India. Being located right in the heart of the country, it serves as a connection to major parts of the country by Roadways as well as Railways. It has always served as a major layover destination for travelers across India. Being a transit city, a variety of cultures have together woven the fabric of Nagpur.
Being a city under continuous transit, Nagpur has National Highway 7 which cuts the city along North-South corridor and NH-6 along the east-west corridor. Thus, two major connections via roadways and Railways already exist in Nagpur. Nagpur, the 2nd capital of Maharashtra is under a major transformation of “infrastructure development.” With the fever of metro running across the country, Nagpur is not behind. Within a short span of 4 years since its conception, the metro monster is already set to ride along the city corridors. This monster can be seen chasing its tail along all the major corridors of the city adding a new layer to the collage of the city’s fabric.
This has given me a point to ponder upon! Detailed project report for metro mentions public transport and paratransit as the largest carrier of city traffic.
Reference: Detailed Project Report Nagpur Metro
Superimposing the socio-economic layer over the usable modes of transport, it is clear that affordability is the major parameter guiding the use of public or shared transport. Commuters from the nearby industrial towns like MIDC, Hingna etc. have a huge migration in the city daily where bus transport is efficiently utilized. Metro DPR shows its major dependency of ridership on the special economic zone- MIHAN. MIHAN is expected to accommodate a population of ~2.4 lac population. According to the L&T-RAMBOLL report, 40% employees will commute to MIHAN from Nagpur city but there is no mention of people who are likely to commute from MIHAN to Nagpur. It is expected that there will be overall 30% commuting of both resident population and due to employment, which will make an impact on the daily ridership of metro. But if we look at ground reality, MIHAN is growing at a snail’s pace! More than 12 years after the project started, majority of the SEZ is still vacant and unutilized. Given the current scenario, out-migration of the city’s youth to other parts of the country continues without any in-migration. Thus, the projected ridership seems highly overstated than the actual. Ridership of metro will also depend on the first and last mile connectivity as much as on the affordability of the tickets.
Figure d: Work Centres, Settlements and General nature of trips in Nagpur
The work centers in Nagpur are spread all throughout the fringes of the city. Katol Thermal Power Plant to the north, Kalamna Market, Cold storage units, industrial areas like Chikhli, the STP’s etc. to the east, Mihan to the South and Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and institutional hub towards the west. The work-home trips are therefore not concentrated on a single east-west corridor but spread across radially. Figure d shows arrows with double lines representing most frequent trips and the dotted arrows representing comparatively fewer trips.
Figure e: Overlaying Metro corridor shown in Green
Figure e overlays the proposed metro corridor in green color. This corridor is just another addition to the other north-south corridor on the city. The major concern is to connect the people to the work centers which are presently not a part of any metro route except for Mihan.
An efficient public transport is a need in every city. Any intervention in the city – be it metro, or BRTS or bicycle tracks, needs a holistic approach for its sustenance. An efficient public transport is a system that ensures last mile connectivity of the user. through various means such as paratransit, pedestrian walkways, bicycle tracks, etc. These together can make the transport sustainable. With the metro which has already come up in Nagpur, commuters shall reach the station by walking, cycling, autorickshaws etc. To encourage people for walking and cycling, their safety needs to be taken care of.
According to the metro policy (Section vii a.), every proposal for Metro Rail should necessarily include provision for feeder systems that help to enlarge the catchment area of each metro station to at least 5 kms. But in Nagpur, with another major ‘’Infrastructure’’ project of concretization of roads, a new wave of construction of concrete roads has struck the city. The new roads which are being constructed are by a different agency where there is no attention paid on the walkable footpaths or cycle tracks or to accommodate the bus-stops and other pedestrian infrastructure. Edge-to-edge concrete is being poured without designing a section for non-motorized transport. The clause in the metro policy is very open ended, in that it fails to identify who amongst the Metro Corporation or the Municipal Corporation (or the Improvement Trust in case of Nagpur) is responsible for implementing the walkability around the 5Km radius. This lack of accountability is due to the gap created by the open-ended policy by the authorities, implementing agencies and in turn the contractors working on different projects in a city.
With this, an ideal scenario could have been as shown in the diagram below – A ring system connecting all the work centers thereby strengthening the role of public transport systems like buses or suburban railway and para-transit modes such as rikshaws, other buses, shared autos etc. as feeder systems to create a holistic system of public transport. The north-south and east-west Road and Rail route can be made stronger in terms of public transport with the help of surface rail and bus transport which already exists on these spines. A metro on the same route may end up increasing congestion on the roads rather than decreasing it.
A holistic approach towards public transport
This proposed overhead metro corridor is the monster entering our city. The horrendous columns of the metro have overpowered the green avenues. The Ambazari lake bund with its natural vegetation that serves as a natural green edge is now behind the bars of the metro. The monster has already eaten up the green canopies of the Jail road along NEERI, along Ambazari lake and the national highway.
Green canopy on Nagpur Jail Road
Metro dominating the visual character of the street
Ambazari Lake: Destruction of green edge
This monster will also have to be fed with riders all the time to keep it working. These unanswered questions around viability of the project, accountability of the authorities, impact on the environment, aesthetics, functionality and most importantly, affordability and convenience for the people remain unclear, just like the fate our city!
First published by Parisar on 15 Jan. 2018