Chennai City Connect (CCC), a city based NGO, founded by prominent leaders of the industry, works focusedly on urban issues of the metro and addresses problems of rapid urbanisation. In co-ordination with various stake-holders notably the government, CCC brings them all onto a single platform to address these issues effectively and providing implementable solutions.
“We work mainly with various departments of the Government of Tamil Nadu. Other cities like Coimbatore have evinced interest to create City Connect in their respective cities,” said Raj Cherubal, Director- Projects, Chennai City Connect.
Pondy Bazaar pedestrianisation, modeled on Times Square…
“We are currently helping with pedestrianisation of Pondy Bazaar to create safe, vibrant public space, wherein one section will be closed to vehicular traffic. When this was done in Times Square, rentals around Times Square went up by 70 per cent. Sales improved with more footfalls, as people were able to leisurely stroll through streets without traffic and chaos,” said Cherubal. “As more and more malls come into the city, these commercial areas should realise that people will prefer leisurely shopping experience rather than one amidst pollution and congestion. In Shanghai, parts of Nanjing Street are car-free; yet it is one of the most expensive places on earth and some of the biggest shops are there. Corporation of Chennai did stakeholder meetings and response was very positive.” pointed Cherubal.
Dynamic parking to become reality
The Government of Tamil Nadu sent a high level team of Ministers and officials led by Minister for Housing and Urban Development R Vaithilingam to Budapest, Hungary, in mid-2012 to study urban solutions. Based on the visit and various other studies, soon every inch in Chennai will be marked whether a vehicle can be parked or not. “Often we see boards that read no parking 100 meters but the end of the 100 meter mark is not defined. With parking marks throughout the city people can easily understand where to park and where not to,” said Cherubal. In association with the Institute of Transportation and Developmental Policy (ITDP), CCC is helping Corporation implement parking solutions.
Corporation is appointing an agency that will be in charge of checking and monitoring of parked vehicles. A central database of all vehicle registration would be built. Random checks of parked vehicles would be taken and sent to the central database and it will reflect if the vehicle has paid the parking toll or not. “In three months we expect this system to start working. Ultimately city needs dynamic pricing based on the land value of the area. Space is precious. Every advanced country is moving towards dynamic parking and hence we are recommending this concept. Expensive vehicles parked for Rs 5 in T Nagar or Adyar where one sq ft is very expensive does not make economic and parking sense,” pointed Cherubal.
No concept of city governance…
What Singapore learnt in 60 years, we will have to learn in a much shorter timeframe. “Every city is in bad shape as there has never been a concept of city governance in India. The Corporation for long had no power, prestige and responsibility as everything had to be decided by the Central and state government. Decentralisation will help in better performance and this has been proved time and again world-over,” stressed Cherubal.
With the cities burgeoning transportation, security and other amenities have to be planned. CCC is working along with ITDP on a Bus Rapid Transit System. Today on OMR 64 per cent of road space is occupied by 23 per cent private vehicles. Chennai needs 7000-8000 busses but the city has only about 3500 buses. Buses have to inch through heavy traffic. The steps are high that it takes people time to climb in and out. By putting buses in dedicated lanes in the middle of the road and having raised stations to alight the busses, fleet efficiency increases. BRTS is such a model proposed along the corridors: Saidapet- OMR, Thirumangalam-Padi, Thirumangalam-Madhavaram and Koyambedu- Poonamallee.
The Corporation has already taken up 79 of the 400 roads in the city to be designed according to world-class standards. 55 roads have been designed and out of this 20-30 roads are in various stages of implementation. Next 30-40 roads will be taken up. Another 49 roads have been tendered and the same process will be repeated for rest of the roads.
We often blame our citizens for being neat and clean in other countries while polluting our own. Cherubal takes a tangential view to this, “I feel there is no point in blaming the public without giving the infrastructure. Provide good infrastructure and then punish people who misuse it. Government agencies and Corporation have initiated many good plans to build capacity and I believe if everything goes well, Chennai will be far better than what it is now.”