Pune's Metro Rail - For whose benefit?

A much sought after proposal, the Pune Metro has been planned for two corridors – traversing from North to South is the PCMC to Swargate corridor which is Phase I, and from East to West is the Vanaaz to Ramwadi corridor which is Phase II. It runs underground and overground, together at a total length of 30.36 kms. The estimated cost is Rs.11,522 crores.
Phase I : covers a 16.13 kms stretch (10.18 kms elevated, 5.95 kms underground), from PCMC to Swargate.
PCMC Station- Tukaram Nagar-Bhosari-Kasarwadi-Fugewadi-Dapodi-Bopodi-Khadki-Hill Range- Shivajinagar-ASI-PMC-Budhwar Peth-Mandai-Swargate (Elevated from PCMC to Shivajinagar, underground from Shivajinagar to Swargate).
Phase II: covers a 14.23 kms stretch, all elevated from Vanaz to Ramwadi.
Vanaz- Ideal Colony -Anand nagar- Nal Stop-Garware College-Deccan Gymkhana-Sambhaji Park-PMC--Civil Court-Mangalwar Peth-Pune Railway Station-Ruby Clinic-Bund Garden-Yerawada-Kalyani nagar-Ramwadi

The main objective of the NUTP (National Urban Transport Policy) formed under the MoUD (Ministry of Urban Development ) is to plan for people rather than vehicles, by providing sustainable mobility and accessibility to all citizens at affordable cost and within reasonable time. It is universally agreed that a robust public transportation system will play a major role in decongestion of roads, minimizing pollution, and making mobility cheaper and faster across various sectors in society. Hence the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) system or the Metro becomes very attractive as a transportation means to achieve this goal.


Yet, is Metro truly the best mobility option for Pune? There are some major issues that have been overlooked while opting for this MRT system.



Background:

Initially the DMRC was given the mandate to do the planning as well as construct, despite the fact that it does not do any urban planning, but take only contracts to carry out construction. While DMRC was planning the route, there were no alternative options proposed. There is no logic as to why certain routes were fixed. All along activists, urban planners and NGOs have been criticizing that the planning has been done in a haste in 2010.

This raises the question whether the planning had happened taking the on ground needs of the citizens into consideration, or finalized based on the ease and convenience of the DMRC.

It is interesting to note that only after Nagpur decided to construct its Metro through the Nagpur Metro Corporation, the question of whether handing the construction of Pune Metro to DMRC was a conflict of interest raised. After which, only now in 2016 the contract is awarded to Maharashtra Metro Corporation which will do both the Nagpur as well as the Pune Metro now.

Interestingly, The MMC is considering change in route along with other changes, which proves that DMRC plans were not in accordance to the city needs.
The entire planning process of the Metro has been shoddy and reeks of non-transparency.


Is Metro a suitable choice for Pune?

There are several factors which need consideration while selecting mobility options for a city. Although a Metro is touted as the boon that will eliminate Pune’s traffic problems, there are many factors which point to the unsuitability of the proposal, and many questions need to be answered before a Metro is approved as a solution.

i) Has Pune’s mobility pattern been considered?

The right mobility solution for a city can be found by studying the city’s routes, areas, and mobility pattern of its population, and matching it with the available resources.
Like any city, Pune too has its unique organization in terms of residential hubs, commercial areas, its topography, architecture and heritage sites. It is a fast expanding city and each area is developing into a self sufficient unit with commercial areas, schools, shopping centres, medical facilities, entertainment hubs, parks and open spaces found in many areas.
The mobility pattern of the majority of the population in Pune is such that more people travel crisscrossing different areas of the city, or even just numerous locations within a particular area, rather than travel long distances in one particular direction.

A Metro is more feasible in cities where long distances in one direction have to be covered by a larger number of people, e,g Mumbai, where there are more centrally located business hubs and people commute from the suburbs to town (city centres) on a daily basis. Then a Metro becomes redundant, and what would be more useful is a good network of buses and BRT , cycling paths and pavements within arterial roads. A Metro cannot provide for this need.


ii) Route planning

The planning of the Metro routes is another questionable issue. The areas where a larger, substantial number of people could have been benefitted by the Metro (like centres of the city Laxmi road, etc) have not been covered in the current planning. This raises the question whether the planning has happened taking the on ground needs of the citizens into consideration, or has been finalized based on the ease and convenience of the DMRC.


iii) Does it reduce travel time?

Studies show that travel by Metro or (any rail system) that is underground or elevated has a minimum door-to-door trip time of about 20 minutes. This is because what needs to be taken into account is the time for commute from the origin of travel to the Metro station, the time to get onto the platform using either the escalator, or walking depending whether it is an elevated or an underground Metro, and then time taken from alighting the Metro to the destination.
Because of the time lost on escalators and long walking distances inside underground or elevated spaces leading to the Metro, the use of BRT on dedicated lanes becomes more efficient for trips less than about 10-15 km.

And supposing you have to make one change, i.e change the Metro due to change in your route, or if there is one feeder trip for a Metro trip, then travel by Metro takes even more time than by car or motorcycle for trips over 12 km. In Pune, almost 75% of the work trips undertaken by an individual are between7-9 kms on an average. Hence, a good bus service will render much more efficiency over a Metro.


iv) Does it have a strong feeder network?

A Metro is not a stand-alone system. Unlike bus-stops, which by virtue of their larger numbers and in closer proximity to people, most Metro users need to reach the station either walking for a considerable distance or by some other mode of transport, usually a bus.

Pune has pathetic facilities as far as the pedestrians go, where the pavements are often filthy, uneven and patchy making them risky to walk on, dug up and sometimes non-existent. Therefore they are not at all conducive to provide a hassle-free walk for the Metro user.

Other public transport systems like buses, or BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) are still very poor in terms of frequency and connectivity. Hence, a long wait for a bus, only to head to a different mode of transport like a Metro, is not an attractive way to commute. A Metro user will be greatly inconvenienced if reliance is on a public transport system like buses or BRT, and that system itself is inefficient. Pune’s pedestrian facilities and public transport systems are not geared up to support the Metro and need to be reinforced significantly before they can be viewed upon as a dependable feeder network for it.


v) Is it financially viable?

Ridership is one of the key factors to the success of any transportation system. The Metro is estimated to carry 5 lakh passengers by 2018 and increased to around 7 lakhs by 2031. In comparison, the PMPML (Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd) is already carrying around 10-12 lakh passengers as of today! This figure can increase substantially through efficiency, improved route planning, and even more buses, if necessary.

Moreover, the capital costs of a Metro for Pune is calculated at Rs. 11,500 crores, catering to only 2% of the population, whereas the capital costs for 3000 buses is Rs. 1000 crores which service around 25% of the population. So in effect just 1/10 of the costs incurred on Metro will provide for servicing 25% of the population, if utilized for improving the bus system.
If you consider the investments, Rs.1000 crore can construct 5 kms of an elevated Metro line, or 2.5 kms of an underground one, while the same costs can build 67 kms of BRT.
With this data on hand, one surely wonders on the benefit of having a Metro, whether in terms of its cost effectiveness, efficiency, or connectivity to the passengers and the Corporation.

Does it address issues of congestion and pollution?
A strong belief that a Metro will eliminate pollution and traffic congestion in the city has been formed in people’s minds. Nowhere in the DPR is there a mention of this (and justifiably so) as a Metro is incapable of addressing this issue as a system by itself. Various measures will have to be implemented efficiently to get these desired results.

The only way by which it can be reduced is by limiting the use of private vehicles, esp. cars on the road. A justification for excessive use of cars is that there is no alternative, but if the efficiency of public transport like buses and BRT is optimized, there is likely to be a substantial shift from using private vehicles, thus reducing congestion and pollution on roads.
Disincentives for use of private vehicles like high parking charges, congestion charges, environment tax, etc supported with an efficient and robust public transport system is an effective strategy to minimize the use of private vehicles.

Despite the Delhi Metro being operational since 2002, neither has it been able to reduce congestion on the road, nor has it addressed pollution issues, for which other severe measures are being put into practice now to curb its crucial impacts. Linked in this context, an important observation is that buses or a BRT system shares the road space with other private vehicles, thus keeping an automatic check and reducing the scope to increase their numbers, whereas a Metro uses a separate route delinked from the roads, and does not contribute to reduce road congestion.

Does the Metro have any other impacts?
Pune’s ecology
A 1.7 kms stretch passes through the left bank of the Mula-Mutha river in the proposed route of Phase II. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued notices to PMC and other statutory bodies including the Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board (MSBB) after a petition was filed against the proposed Metro alignment by few prominent citizens of Pune. A Technical Support Group (TSG) under the Biodiversity Committee was thus set up by the PMC. The TSG confirmed that constructing the Metro in the river bed will damage the riparian zone, disrupt the vegetative cover and affect the aquatic diversity.

Their survey revealed that many native species of flowering plants, and a number of either threatened or rare species of birds, reptiles, insects as well as fish were found within the stretch. The report confirms that removal of the trees and loss of vegetative cover will affect the ecological balance causing disruption of habitat for small birds, raptors, arboreal mammals etc. This matter is under litigation in the NGT.

Pune’s heritage sites
Pune is a city blessed with both natural and man made structures. The citizens of Pune have always valued the aesthetics of the city for the sense of well being they impart. With extensive construction for the new Metro lines, wherein the elevated ones would permanently criss-cross parts of the city, the city’s panorama will be left marred and disfigured. Heritage buildings, old trees, public spaces could get threatened.

Amongst the various natural and manmade sites which will be affected by the Metro project, it is shocking to note that 46% of the listed heritage sites will be endangered. There is a possibility of 3 of the national monuments, the Pataleshwar Caves, The Shaniwarwada and the Aga Khan Palace getting affected.

The Metro project has been approved with disregard to the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, MRTP Act 1966, Bombay Metropolitan Development Authority Act, Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1966 ,Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010, and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

FSI for MIZ
Funding for the Pune Metro is being borne by the Central government (20%), State government (20%) and the PMC (10%) which adds up to a total of 50%. The remaining 50% is through loans which will have to be paid by the local authority (PMC) mainly through taxes and various surcharges on fuel, and property tax, 2% Metro tax on payrolls of all establishments with more than 100 employees, 1% surcharge on stamp duty for transaction on sale of property, Professional tax at 1%, etc.
There is a proposal to offer 4 FSI at a premium, along the Metro corridor, to the extent of 500 metres on both sides which would be the MIZ (Metro Influence Zone)
Two reasons are being cited for this:
1. To increase ridership with increased densification.
The rationale behind this proposal is that as an area gets more populated, there will be a greater need for transportation, and the Metro will be the solution to that demand. Consequently, ridership will get a boost.

But there are several issues with this proposal.
i) Limited understanding of Transit Oriented Development
Sprawled out cities, or ones with lower densities across the world make Public Transport (PT) unviable. Hence the concept of densification is adopted, wherein the populations that move in can make use of the transportation provided. Indian cities are already densely populated and don’t need further densification. Therefore there has to be a greater understanding of the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) while recommending it for any city by our decision makers. If the idea is to shift the use of vehicles from private to public, areas close to Transit (MIZ -Metro Influence Zone) should have deliberate and vigorous policies to retrain personal vehicles.
No parking zones, auto vehicle free zones, high parking charges are just few of the disincentives that could be adopted for the MIZ. Presently, there are no such bye laws for the MIZ.

ii) Affordability:
The densification is being proposed in areas which are already developed. The price of a property in a developed area will always be higher. Thus any new housing that comes up through this extra FSI will cater to the more affluent segment. The affluent segment is most likely to own private vehicles and least likely to ride the Metro.

iii) Infrastructure and amenities:
It will be very challenging to be able to provide infrastructure, services and amenities like water, sewage, garbage disposal, etc for the additional FSI, especially when these are insufficient even with the present lower FSI.


2) To raise funds for the project
i) Issue: No study on amount of revenue that can be raised.
The idea is to use the amount raised from higher FSI for funding the Metro. However presently there are no figures to show how much revenue needs to be generated through this means. A study shows that even if just half the land owners along the metro corridor take advantage of the 4 FSI, it will lead to 20 Km of built up area coming up in say the next 10 years. That is more than the total housing needs of Pune for the next 20 years. Should this materialise, the higher FSI will raise over Rs. 37,000 crores as against Rs.3,000 crores actually needed by the Metro.

What can be done:
i) Adjust FSI allowance:
How the FSI is calculated and the figure 4 is arrived at is unclear. The FSI could be adjusted rather than keeping it the same everywhere. So if 2.0 FSI could be an average, high FSI zones, for example a 100 meter circle around the station could be allowed higher FSI (say 4 ) while the area which might be the next 100 meter circle outside this zone, would have lower permissible FSI (say 2.5) . This has the advantage of concentrated intense development along the transit corridor and metro stations. Only the transit lines would have to be strengthened in this scenario. Also higher ridership will be ensured as all the dense development is within walking distance from stations.

ii) Higher FSI on the city outskirts:
The current Metro proposal caters to the already developed parts of the city. What could help is extending the Metro lines beyond the current city limits and creating growth centers on the outskirts at both the ends of the proposed Metro by allowing higher FSI for development. These high FSI developments can be better planned and managed in the outlying areas that in the city, and will reduce the load on growth centers within the city limits.

What exactly is the PMC’s vision?
The Draft Development Plan (DP) proposes revitalization and decongestion of the core city by relocation of trade and markets. In contrast, the Metro project proposes densification and ‘urban renewal’ in the core city.
The Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) proposes decongestion and pedestrianisation of the core city to enhance trade and markets, and to improve the quality of life of citizens. It also aspires to make the city more welcoming to visitors and tourists.
There seems to be no synchronization in the objectives of the various plans of the PMC, and hence there is no clarity in the overall vision of the PMC for the city’s transportation policy.
Do we have better options?
It is interesting to note that some of the proposed routes of the Metro actually overlap with the existing BRT routes. The BRT has a lot more accessibility, is much cheaper, and has potential of a larger ridership, if given the needed impetus and support. Hence, it will be more economical to strengthen the BRT network, rather than opt for an expensive and exclusive option of a Metro.
A quick comparison on the benefits of a BRT vis-à-vis Metro is seen below

 

  Parameter  Bus  Metro 
Infrastructure requirements                                                            

Rides on existing road network of city

Needs new infrastructure like underground or elevated lines, stations etc.
 2  Cost of system

 Low

There is no cost in terms of laying any new roads for buses

 High

Just cost of construction of the conveying infrastructure begins at Rs. 100 crores per km.

 3 Capacity of the system  Moderate  High 
 4  Life of rolling stock Less  High 
 5  Reach of network

Very high. Effectively the whole road network of city is available.

Commuters can begin closer from origin and reach closer to destination.

 
 

Limited to fixed route investments.

Last mile connectivity can be an issue.

6 Flexibility in routes High. New routes can be added, unviable routes can be scrapped, route design can be tweaked. No flexibility
7 Convenience in access

High

At road grade access. No need for using escalators, security gates, ticket gates etc.
Moderate

Getting in an out can be cumbersome during peak hours.



A staged or a staggered approach to an MRT development is being adopted by many cities across the world. A good strategy for Pune would be to make the existing public transport which is the bus and the BRT more efficient by good route planning, maintaining the buses in good condition, adding new routes and buses if required, while also improving the cycling and walking conditions in the city by making the footpaths and cycling tracks safe. Giving an impetus to these systems and strengthening mobility support on the main as well as the arterial roads will go a long way in solving many of the traffic issues. Once these systems reach their optimal capacity, opt for a Metro.


Whether a Metro is finally approved or not, it is imperative that the city needs major relook at its transportation policy and implementation. Only an integrated and a holistic approach that looks at costs, feasibility, convenience, environment impacts and aesthetics of the city will help arrive at a smarter decision.

 

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The Parisar Team