High-capacity mass transport system proposed

Halting further densification of the core areas of three major cities of the State and evolving planning solutions at the city and regional levels have been mooted to overcome the near-immobility in the central areas and the chaotic traffic conditions there.

“The complex problems faced by Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode cannot be solved merely by widening a few roads or adding a few buses or by any cosmetic improvements. Preventing further densification of the core areas of the cities is the only solution,” says N. S. Srinivasan, former Director of National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (Natpac).

Even after traffic has reached a point of near-immobility in the central areas, it is not uncommon to find conversion of land use and other developments, making the traffic problems more severe. Transportation planning is the most neglected field in urban and regional development in the State and attempts made so far have been inadequate and also limited in scope, he adds.

Dr. Srinivasan, who was the architect of the 42-km City Road Improvement Project in the capital, says that the transportation planner is usually brought in to solve problems created by defective circulation system or land use being finalised without examining the traffic and other implications.

The central part of a city acts as a centre for the surrounding city region and as a local centre for the surrounding residential area. Due to its central location and dense development, it attracts huge volumes of traffic. Studies have shown that about 40 per cent of all the passenger trips of a city have origin or destination at the core area.

Increasing traffic

With the increasing concentration of activities in the core areas of the cities, the volume of traffic to and from the city core is bound to increase and immobilise traffic conditions, unless effective steps are taken by proper planning of the cities. From the point of view of traffic circulation, the city centre should have ease of access and the internal movement should be safe and convenient. Dr. Sreenivasan says roads do not satisfy either of the functions properly and accessibility of vehicles is seriously hampered. Many shopping centres take the form of a linear shopping street, which also acts as a main traffic artery.

As a result of inadequate capacities of road and parking spaces, the efficiency of the city centre is reduced. The sheer magnitude of traffic is the cause of the traffic problems.

The traffic should be provided with good circulation system and adequate and convenient parking places. The problem is more complicated due to the diversity of land use in the central area of the city and also the mixed nature of traffic.

Most of the main arterial roads in the cities have volume capacity ratio in the range of 2 to 3, and hence it is very difficult and also costly to augment the capacity of arterial road corridors. The remedy is to provide high capacity mass transport system on selected corridors with a network concept, but this is very cost intensive. “The experience has shown that cities have become liabilities rather than assets,” Dr. Sreenivasan says.

Any attempt to further intensify the land use of these corridors will be suicidal, as there will not be any reserve capacity in the system to meet the normal growth of traffic taking place in the cities. One of the ways of tackling the problem of the city centre is to recognise that the long-range solution to the problem does not lie within itself, but lies elsewhere in the city and its region, he says. Cities like New Delhi have been divided into several planning zones and each zone has been planned and developed into self-supporting communities with adequate employment, health, education, recreation, residential and other facilities.

Decentralisation of wholesale markets has also been carried out there.