Mind the gap: when reality falls far short of projections

Over a decade ago, when phase I of Chennai Metro was being planned, the detailed project report estimated that the system would carry about 5 lakh passengers a day in 2011. However, in 2019, with phase I up and running, only about a lakh passengers are using the Metro for their commute, a shortfall of four lakh from the projected usage.

Ever since the first stretch of Chennai Metro between Koyambedu and Alandur was thrown open to the public in 2015, the number of people travelling has shown consistent growth — from about 8,000 to a lakh now. But why is there such a large discrepancy in the number projected and the actual passenger footfall that we see today? This question dominated discussions at a high-level meeting recently, sources said.

Senior officials contended that the study may have arrived at the 5-lakh passengers figure based on a few assumptions that certain projects or developments would take place. “For instance, they could have assumed that the extension of MRTS from Velachery till St. Thomas Mount would materialise, thereby allowing more passengers to take the Metro till St. Thomas Mount and then use the MRTS. Then, they would have expected the fares of MTC buses to increase substantially (pushing people to take the Metro). But these did not happen. Also, we have to note that the congestion in Chennai is certainly not as bad as in Bengaluru or Delhi, which means many still don’t want to shift to public transport from private vehicles,” a top official contended.

There may be flaws in the study and the way it was carried out. Officials said the 5-lakh passengers’ figure cannot be achieved anytime soon. But the current ridership of one lakh on Chennai Metro has to significantly go up in the coming months and there may be quite a few ways to achieve it.

According to officials of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), after they were criticised for not having sufficient last-mile connectivity options like mini buses or share autos to facilitate passengers reaching their destinations, they have brought in multiple options. Some stations have mini buses and many have share autos or share cars and in a week’s time, all stations will have share car options. This apart, they are in talks with MTC to shift bus stops closer to the Chennai Metro stations so that passengers can use the regular buses to travel to their respective destinations.

“But this isn’t enough. At present, we barely have a handful of restaurants in select stations. Like international Metro stations, here too, every station needs to have restaurants and shops so that commuters can shop, eat and travel seamlessly. This will not only pull in more passengers but also bring in revenue,” another official said.

Though 5-lakh footfall may be a distant dream, officials said it is certainly possible to increase the ridership by another 50,000 to one lakh in the near future.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 3:06:53 AM |

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