A good public transport system is one that is perceived by the user as a single system. It will allow seamless travel between different modes using a common ticket. To facilitate the functioning of such a system, the Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) has long been mooted.

A draft bill that will give the Authority statutory powers is finally ready. To review its integration with the national policy framework and to offer suggestions, a senior official from the Ministry of Urban Development was in the city last week.

“Some inputs have been offered, but it is up to the cities to take a call based on their specific land-use patterns and demographics,” said S.K. Lohia, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development. “UMTA will be a strategic planning and coordinating body with enough teeth to take decision on a wide spectrum of issues.”

Pointing out that several means, apart from legislation, have to be looked into in order to avoid turf wars among different agencies, he said, “a certain degree of control can be exercised through capital financing. The Authority can also impose usage charges on certain facilities and monitor overall air quality levels.”

Once the UMTA is set up, it will also be a single-window agency to route central funding for transportation and related projects. Mr. Lohia said that the dedicated urban transport fund, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), can be routed through the Authority to various agencies to ensure an overall monitoring.

A common mobility agency that will serve as a control centre for feeds from all signals, junctions and all public transport systems will be set up. “Parking enforcement will also be an intrinsic component,” Mr. Lohia added.

Insisting that concerted efforts have to be made by various agencies to make UMTA a practical reality than just a piece of legislation, Raj Cherubal of City Connect, an NGO working on issues concerning the city's transportation, said, “People have to move from one point to another at minimum expense. It should not matter who earns.”

He added that parking policies and development rules are deeply integrated with transportation issues. “Significant allocation must be made for parking facilities near high-density transit corridors and should be controlled in other parts. Providing free parking defeats the purpose of public transportation.”

S. P. Sekar, Head of the Department of Planning, Anna University, said that transport planning is intrinsically linked to land-use planning and both need to be developed together in a manner that minimises travel needs.

“More attention has to be paid to channel the future growth of the city around a pre-planned transport network rather than develop a transport system after uncontrolled sprawl has taken place,” he added.