Pune's transport budget: A mixed bag

Parisar’s analysis of PMC’s budget for 2010-11 shows that it is a mixed bag with a few good ideas mixed with some apparently good ideas which may not be so, and some others that are downright bad. The capital expenditure budgeted for transport projects is huge – Rs. 909 crores – which is just under half of all the budgeted capital expenditure (Rs. 1976 cr) and a good 28% of the entire PMC budget (Rs. 3246 cr).

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The largest recipient of these Rs 909 cr is ‘routine works’ such as resurfacing of roads, repairing of footpaths and signages worth Rs. 342 cr. The interesting thing about this category is that the budget proposed by the Municipal Commissioner only suggested Rs. 201 cr for it, but the Standing Committee increased it by about 70% to Rs. 342 cr! The next largest allocation (Rs. 261 cr) goes to PMPML and BRT. Of this, BRT (pilot, CYG and phase I) corridors get the lion’s share – Rs. 208 cr. Given that the experience with BRT so far has been very unsatisfactory, it is not at all clear that spending Rs. 208 cr more will in anyway help genuinely improve BRT and public transport in the city, though we hope to be proved wrong!

Rs. 187 cr are allocated for projects that will primarily benefit motor vehicle users, many of which have been adopted without any public debate about their merits and demerits. Examples include grade separators at Sancheti and S. G. Barve chowks and a flyover from Maldhakka chowk to Sonmarg theatre.

Rs. 70 cr are set aside for a set of projects that appear to be public or non-motorized friendly, but actually are not. For example, it is not at all obvious that a skywalk from Shivajinagar to Shaniwarwada will help pedestrians, nor is it obvious to Parisar that the proposed metro will benefit Pune. Indeed, one wonders whether the goal of the skywalk is to actually enable vehicles to drive faster by ‘getting rid’ of pedestrians!

Finally, it is heartening to see that PMC has allocated about Rs. 48 cr for projects that will definitely help pedestrians and cyclists – projects such as improvements to footpaths etc. But cycling related projects are completely absent in the budget. This is very unfortunate, considering last year’s budget had proposed (though none of them were implemented) many cycling-friendly schemes.

A city’s budget allocation offers a good window into the thinking of its administrators and leaders, because committing money to an activity or project shows real intention on the part of the city. For the reasons given above, it appears that PMC’s budget is neither very NUTP-compliant nor clear on how it would accomplish the goals of the city’s Comprehensive Mobility Plan (50% of all trips by non-motorized transport and 80% of motorized trips by public transport).