Delhi Metro wins over New York Commissioners

“Delhi should leverage its advantage – the density and the metro system. That kind of investment will pay huge dividends in the times to come,” says New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who is visiting India along with Commissioner of New York City Planning Amanda M. Burden.

Ms. Sadik-Khan has implemented an ambitious programme of transforming New York City. She introduced a network of bike lanes, turned parts of Broadway into pedestrian plazas and eliminated hundreds of parking spots across the city.

After being around Delhi and having used the Delhi Metro on their first day in the city, the ladies were very impressed with the service. “The metro is spectacular and you have built it so fast! It's affordable, it's clean, well-lit and the stations are well designed,” she said. She also praised the women-only compartments “which we don't have” and loved the feet-shaped directional signage on the floor of Rajiv Chowk station: “Such an easy solution made such a big difference.”

Ms. Burden agreed, saying the key for Delhi now would be to promote development along metro lines: “A similarity with New York City is that Delhi is growing, and you now have a good metro system which you can build on… We were very lucky to have a very good metro system, so we changed all land-use planning…all new development is now within a ten-minute walk of metro,” she says.

As a planner, Ms. Burden believes in the importance of mixed land use. “Residential, commercial, shops, parks, all need to be within walking distance [of the metro],” she says.

When Ms. Sadik-Khan joined as Commissioner in 2007, her biggest challenge was to de-congest the existing system of roads and increase the use of public transport through an interconnected system. She focused on introducing simple, cost-effective measures like having parked cars to protect the pedestrian space.

Ms. Burden engaged with the community, focusing on increasing the predictability of new real estate development along the metro lines. “I do not allow any new development in the far lying areas, so people do not need their cars,” she says.

Another important aspect, Ms. Sadik-Khan points out, is that it is not impossible to curb the number of cars on roads: “If you don't provide parking controls, people will continue to use streets as parking lots. And that is not the best use of the most valuable real estate. It will continue deteriorating.”

Both agreed that it is important to have a strong leadership that allows for different agencies to interact and work in tandem with each other to implement “transit supportive land-use policies”.

“People do not want to be in the kind of city that has double and triple decker roads. People want to be in a walkable, wide, socially-inviting environment,” says Ms. Sadik-Khan.

More In: Delhi