After a delay of more than a decade, the first meeting of the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) is expected to be held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, raising expectations of major decisions being taken to resolve the city’s transport problems.
Residents and urban planning experts have demanded that the government focus on common ticketing for all modes of transport, affordable fare, feeder services, regulation of intermediate public transport such as autorickshaws, share auto and infrastructure for multimodal integration.
T. Nagar resident V.S. Jayaraman said the residents expect CUMTA to improve the services and ensure connectivity of intermediate public transport such as autorickshaws and increase frequency of public transport such as buses. “We have been demanding an increase in the frequency of buses from T. Nagar to areas such as George Town and Mylapore. MTC has not increased the frequency. So, CUMTA has to play a role in improving the frequency of bus services. Common tickets will help. We want regulation of auto fare by CUMTA,” he said.
Padi Kuppam Road resident Chidambara Perumal said Chennai had been unable to adopt appropriate technology for comfortable transportation only because the government agencies were reluctant to talk to one another. “While I was working in Singapore in 1997, the public transport was comfortable. I used a common card for public transport in Singapore. Agencies in Chennai have to scale up. Chennai has access to technology. But we are still unable to implement what a small country did 25 years ago,” he said.
Former urban planning experts in CMDA, who played a key role in authoring the statutory provisions of CUMTA, said the original draft of the Act pertaining to “source of funds” had been changed, weakening the authority. “CUMTA should be a watchdog. It should ensure that public transport is affordable. All infrastructure projects on public transport should be vetted by CUMTA,” said a former planner.
Urban planners said CUMTA had to focus on initiating transportation projects that contribute towards the achievement of net zero emission. “The government took 11 years to activate CUMTA. Once the authority becomes a reality, the commuters should get the highest level of service at minimal cost,” said the planner.
Studies taken up
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Hitesh Kumar S. Makwana said various studies were going on about common ticketing. “We have appointed a special officer for CUMTA from the Railways. He is an IRTS official. The officer will join by the end of this month. The CUMTA Act is being amended so that it will be more relevant for today’s requirement. The draft amendment to the CUMTA Act is almost at the final stage,” he said. “We have to engage a few more specialists. We will give advertisements this month for hiring specialists. Our main work will be that we will give recommendations. We will monitor. Our team will go to various places such as Kochi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru to adopt best practices and modify as per our requirement,” said Mr. Makwana.
“In Kochi, they have started common ticketing on a small base. In Karnataka, they have created some urban transport fund. All these things are on our agenda. CUMTA is the need of the hour. We want to strengthen it and make it an independent authority. Specialised work such as common ticketing will be done based on a study by sub-committees. One sub-committee will look after multimodal integration, another traffic and transportation safety, another will look after implementation of various projects. The government order will be issued shortly. A separate office of CUMTA will start functioning in Nandanam CMRL office. Now, it is operating from CMDA office in Egmore,” Mr. Makwana added.