The city originally grew out of a collection of villages. After decades of development that has resulted in spread out residential pockets, the past seems to be catching up with the present.
Away from the main roads, amidst hundreds of narrow by-lanes, lie the homes of a significant section of the city's population. For them, each working day is a struggle against time, hampered by the lack of transportation.
The recent announcement by the government on providing public transport to any locality with more than 100 families has sparked much interest among residents in such localities.
The idea itself is not really new. Residents of many localities recall the mini buses that connected the then developing areas to railway stations and bus terminals in the 1970s and 1980s.
Girija Raghavan, a resident of Ashok Nagar, says she used to travel from Nanganallur to Meenambakkam railway station by mini-bus. “They were also operated from Nanganallur to Saidapet then.”
She suggests that mini buses be operated on short routes such as Nesapakkam to Ashok Pillar or Vadapalani and from localities on the East Coast Road to Thiruvanmiyur.
“Many working women opt for private vans to reach their workplace, as there are no direct bus services. Not all can afford it, though,”Ms. Raghavan adds.
Some of the other localities that mini-buses used to serve are Tambaram, West Mambalam and Chromepet.
For many people living in the western suburb of Pattabiram, share autorickshaws are the only option to travel to the interior villages or to Poonamallee. T.Sadagopan, a resident of Pattabiram, said residents have to take a detour through Avadi to reach localities such as Poonamallee and Thirumazhisai, though they are closer to Pattabiram, as there are no direct bus services.
Many parts of north Chennai lack connectivity even to nearby areas.
S. Jeyachandran of Tondiarpet says that commuters from north Chennai have to travel to Broadway to reach Koyambedu as there are no direct services. Mini-buses from Minjur to Thiruvottiyur and north Chennai to Guindy would be of great help to commuters, he says.
Residents of Nanganallur have been demanding a mini-bus to connect with Grand Southern Trunk Road for the past 10 years. V. Ramarao, secretary of a civic welfare association, says that a proposal submitted in 2000 seeks a circular route through Nanganallur, connecting to Pazhavanthangal railway station.
S. Rajagopal, secretary of the Federation of Mogappair Residents Welfare Associations, says: “In the western suburbs, Mogappair Eri Scheme is one place where people have to walk a long distance to reach a bus terminus or depend on autos which fleece passengers. Operating bus services from Anna Nagar West and CMBT via Mogappair to Ambattur Industrial Estate would receive good patronage.”
Though there have been demands from various quarters, a scientific evaluation will be the basis to fix routes. As of now, there are many existing MTC routes which are being operated because of recommendations by MPs and MLAs. To ascertain travel demand patterns, Anna University has begun a study.
Mini-buses will operate on routes with low volume (making it unfeasible for regular bus operation), but with high frequency of transit, said a senior professor at the Department of Transportation, Anna University, who is involved in the study. “The origin and destination will be fixed and there will be very few stops in between.”
According to him, various factors such as travel time, population density and travel pattern will be looked into before recommending the routes. Vehicle population studies to identify two-wheeler corridors will be used since it is easier to shift them to public transport options.
The study will also look at modifications to existing MTC routes in the light of the induction of mini-buses into the fleet. Citing an example, the professor said: “The 21 G route (Broadway - Tambaram) has peak loading till Mylapore towards Broadway and till Guindy in the reverse direction. As a result of the overcrowding, no one between Mylapore and Guindy takes the bus. The city has expanded since the time when Broadway was the centre of activity. Existing routes have to be relooked.”
(With inputs from Ajai Sreevatsan, T. Madhavan and K. Lakshmi)