Not a day passes without there being some news in the media about how the Pune Metro Rail project is going to liberate Pune from its traffic issues. But the little known fact is that it is steeped in a deluge of issues. Several lofty claims that Pune Metro makes are nothing but an eyewash. With the project under execution now, it indeed is time for Punekars to start the real 'Samvaad' about Pune Metro. Keeping this in mind, we are starting a 'Debunking Metro Myths' series where we will pick up one data point and try to understand, analyze and share it with everyone.
Statistics show that Delhi has the highest daily ridership in the country with a large margin over other cities at around 27 lakhs. Bangalore with a population of 80 lakhs has its Metro ridership at 4 lakhs while ridership of cities like Jaipur, Chennai, Kochi and Lucknow fall under 60,000. The combined population of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad stands at 45 lakhs and the Pune Maha Metro has estimated a daily ridership of a staggering 6 lakhs by the year 2021. On the other hand, daily ridership on PMPML, the public transport provider for Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad area is already over 9 lakhs.
However, for a better assessment of ridership it is more crucial to look at the ridership per km. Though Delhi shows a total ridership of 27 lakhs, its ridership per km is only 9,300. Other than Mumbai which is at 24,300 and Bangalore at 9,700 no other city has managed to cross even 5,000 per km ridership. But as per Pune Metro estimates the ridership per km for Pune comes at 19,500 by year 2021, which is more than double the ridership per km of most cities! It is almost vying with the Mumbai per km figure when there is a huge discrepancy in terms of all other factors like population, the general organisation of the two cities, preferred modes of commute etc. This irrational estimation goes to prove that the proponents are only fudging impressive figures whereas with a comparison to other cities, it is evident that these figures are grossly over inflated.
Another issue related to ridership is the projection of population on which the ridership estimations are based. In the case of Metro, the base figures used for these calculations itself are incorrect as seen in the DPR. For instance, The DPR estimates a population of 37.5 lakhs for PMC in 2011. The actual population of PMC is 31.15 lakhs as per Census 2011. Therefore, there has been an over-estimation of 20% in the Metro projections. In some cases, like the Cantonment population estimates by the Metro DPR, there is a supposed annual growth of 0.5% when the actual census figures show a negative growth rate of -1.02%. These are just examples of the shoddy work that has been done in the planning, but the implications of the estimations are enormous.
If we look at peak hour ridership, the total of the 2 Metro corridors for 2021 is around 6 lakhs which is almost the same that PMPML is already carrying at peak hours. This, when the PMPML’s performance is not at its best and there could be several areas of improvement in terms of infrastructure as well as service. Considering the capacity of the Metro and also the costs incurred for developing it, what benefit is the city achieving over PMPML in terms of ridership? If even a small percentage of the costs incurred on the Metro could be used for improving the PMPML infrastructure and management, the buses could increase their capacity to carry over 20 lakh commuters daily. This is what would really benefit the citizens in terms of accessibility as well as affordability.
The Pune Maha Metro is touted widely as a solution to traffic congestion and pollution issues the city is grappling with but it was never a city’s choice from its genesis. It has only become a status symbol for the fathers of the city or pushed forth with other hidden agendas. This project has been thrust upon the citizens of Pune not only in terms of the wasteful use of public resources but will also be a continuous drain on taxes and maintenance costs.