As the preliminary work on the Metro Rail corridor begins to gain pace, anticipated changes in the land development characteristics along the network have assumed significance.

The requirements for ancillary facilities such as parking, road space and traffic management systems are also set to go up along the corridor, which runs through areas that are already densely populated.

To analyse the anticipated impact on land use characteristics and to suggest measures to prevent runaway development, a study has been undertaken at the Department of Planning, Anna University.

By attributing weights based on simulations of various parameters such as transit options, road width, population density, etc., the study points out that of the 33 proposed stations to be taken up in phase-I, the area around the new Secretariat complex will undergo “drastic changes” and will pose “major planning problems”.

Taking an influence area of 500 meters (ideal walking distance to a mass transit station) from the Metro stations, the locations that are projected to undergo intermediate changes are Washermenpet, Chennai Central and Egmore.

Regulatory mechanisms to handle escalation in development must be carefully worked out much before market forces start dictating terms, says S. P. Sekar, Head of the Department of Planning, Anna University. “About 50 per cent of Chennai's commercial zones fall under the influence area of the proposed Metro network. Some kind of ‘management plan' has to be evolved before the rail network turns operational.”

Of the total land area of Chennai city, 33.29 comes under the direct influence of the proposed corridor, which accounts for about 19.22 per cent.

The percentage of mixed residential usage in this zone is set to increase sharply from 0.83 per cent to 20.17 per cent by 2026.

According to him, the development pattern of hubs such as Chennai Central, where various modes will converge, must be planned in advance. “Such junctions will require complex transportation planning. For example, a conveyor belt mechanism must link Park station with the Metro station at Central to reduce pedestrian traffic on the road.”

At least in the hubs, he says, pedestrian movement must be segregated from other modes of transport.

The study also points to the failure in enforcing a fixed Floor Space Index (FSI) limit across the city. The Ritchie Street market zone has an FSI as high as 4.5.

It suggests a better strategy along mass transit corridors would be to enforce certain important criteria such as fire safety, road accessibility, open space reservation and parking space, while allowing multi-storey development to take place.

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