Wednesday , 18 September 2019

Mumbai on the move

While the various nodal agencies – MMRDA, MSRDC and MCGM – responsible to keep the metropolis on the move have tried their best (in varying and debatable proficiencies) to do exactly that – keep Mumbai moving – by undertaking and commissioning various new projects, the city’s travel woes haven’t eased much. But then, its commuting habits seem set to change now. In fact, they have changed to quite an extent. Only, the city bursting at its seams does not appear to be displaying these changes with the needed fervor. A look by Vidyottama Sharma at some of the projects that changed our daily travelling habits and those that are set to do so in the near future.

A vertical city like Mumbai is not easy to plan for, manoeuvre or manage for the traffic enforcement authorities, planners or managers. The two vertical lines (Western and Eastern) do not offer sufficient horizontal accesses in the city. Add to it the gullies, sub-gullies and sub-sub gullies in narrow and congested areas, and you have a recipe for disaster. Now, this poses challenges galore for the traffic/town planners and then, the responsible body for traffic management – the traffic police.

But then, the administration has indeed tried. Tried to inject adrenalin into the city’s choking traffic veins, that is. It has not only helped the commuters to fly over the roads via constructing flyovers, but has also ventured into the sea to look for viable options along with providing solutions for surface transport and enhancing the railway routes. Yet, the city’s traffic woes aren’t anywhere near getting over – pockets and stretches have been experiencing relief time and again though. Given the city’s burgeoning population, no relief can be said to be enough; and no plan, foolproof. Of course, the utter indiscipline of the pedestrians too intensifies trouble. Footpaths are seldom used, subways are not safe. And sundry vendors encroach upon the road space. No wonder a group of foreigners visiting the city last year had observed, “Why is it that all the people are walking in the centre of the roads and not on the footpaths? Are the roads not meant for vehicles?” Good point, but then there are no footpaths left on most of the roads. Also, our indiscipline has always egged us to shrug our shoulders and move on with the oft-repeated, “We are like this only”.

 

Mumbai Urban Transport Project

Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) is a 4526crore project that is aimed at providing effective public transport systems. Under the project, investments will be made by the government in suburban railway projects, local bus transport, new roads, bridges, pedestrian subways and traffic management activities. Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC, formed in 1999), a 50-50 joint venture of Railways and Government of Maharashtra, will implement the rail projects under MUTP and other projects of Railways in the MMR. Many road construction and widening projects too come under the MUTP. An independent Traffic Management Unit (TMU) has been set up at MCGM under the project. The BMC Act has been amended accordingly and Traffic Management is poised to become an important activity of BMC. After the completion of this project, the TMU will play an important role in planning and coordinating the traffic and transportation system in the city. 250 state-of-the-art traffic signals being installed under the Area Traffic Control System in city fall under MUTP. BEST has purchased and is operating 644 eco-friendly buses with better technology and improved facilities under the project. For easing pedestrians’ troubles, Subways, Foot Over Bridges and amenities are being constructed. Also,roads are being widened and flyovers made. Parking spots, improvement of footpaths, removal of hawkers from footpaths too fall under this.

And this – “we are like this only” – approach shifts the burden of traffic management and providing infrastructure entirely on to the shoulders of the planners and traffic police. So, the last few years have witnessed various stages of planning, implementation or dedication of traffic management projects in Mumbai. Apart from the many flyovers dedicated to Mumbai’s travelling population, Bandra-Worli Sea Link has been one of the biggest landmark projects completed in the last five years. And Monorail, Metro, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and Eastern Freeway are the projects that will make a huge difference in lessening Mumbai’s traffic woes at various intervals in the near future. Or so it is expected.

Let us travel back a little in time. There was a time when Mumbai had not developed a good relationship with the concept of flyovers. Travelling in Mumbai was a nightmare as the local trains always carried more passengers than they were designed for, and the roads often carried the burden of people and vehicles several times higher than their concretised bodies were manufactured for. Then, a decision to build flyovers all across the metropolis promised change, and relief. Over 50 flyovers were planned as a part of Mumbai Traffic Improvement Mega Project. Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC)’s planning and execution along with some support from Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) began changing the city’s landscape, and travel scene. Mumbai was on the move. Or so it seemed.

The flyovers began easing the daily commute of the common man but the city’s ever increasing population was, is and will be a big challenge for quite a few years – no matter how many flyovers get added to the list. Every step taken has been like a drop in the ocean. But then, every step is a march ahead towards a better commuting atmosphere. The loopholes in the process or the setbacks occurring in the final product are not the basis of this story – the provision of infrastructure is. Though India’s first Expressway – the Mumbai-Pune Expressway – a landmark in Mumbai’s outbound commute, was a giant step towards speedy, relaxed and safe shuttle between Mumbai and Pune, this story concentrates on the projects that have come up, or are expected to come up, in Mumbai city in the near future to ease its inward traffic scene.

A look at the projects – in the recent past, present and the near future.

Flyovers: 44 ready, many more to go

Mumbai has 44 flyovers including JJ flyover, Thane flyover, Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road, Thakur Complex flyover at Kandivali (505 metres), Malad flyover – popularly known as the Times of India flyover (450 metres), Barfiwala (650 metres) flyover, Santacruz airport flyover (800 metres), Dindoshi flyover at Goregaon (400 metres), Lalbaug Flyover and Sumer Nagar Flyover – between Eastern Express Highway and V N Purav Marg. They have all been completed. Add to the list Navghar Junction (350 metres), Maheshwari Udyan-Tulpule Chowk, Sion Hospital (590 metres), Hindmata Flyover (462 metres) and Airoli flyover. 16 more are in the pipeline. Those that are completed have indeed been successful in connecting Mumbai vertically, horizontally and diagonally but then, the connection routes are still over-burdened. And access to various veins after getting out of the flyover area still is not clear enough at many places.

 

TRANSFORM

The Maharashtra government has, through MMRDA, prepared an updated Comprehensive Transportation Study (CTS) for Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Called TRANSFORM (TRANsportation Study FOR the Region of Mumbai), it receives technical assistance from the World Bank. Under the study, travel patterns of MMR’s residents are identified and analysed, and long term comprehensive transportation strategy for MMR up to 2031 is recommended.

Andheri flyover, built on the busiest arterial road that extends from South Mumbai to the North-West suburbs and much criticised for causing massive traffic jams for over two years, was one of the earliest significant flyovers in the list of the planned 50 flyovers that was opened on January 1, 2001. The 1,456 metre long flyover connects Andheri with Santacruz on the Western Express Highway. Today, commute to and from Andheri via the highway cannot be thought of without the flyover. Lalbaug Flyover, opened mid last year, is the longest of Mumbai’s flyovers at 2.48 kilometres connecting Pareland Jijamata Udyan (Byculla). JJ Flyover (originally named the Maqdoom Shahbaba Mahimi Flyover), thrown open to the public in 2001 and second longest flyover in the city, connects Ambedkar Road with South Mumbai. Suman Nagar Flyover, though experts are expecting it to give nightmares to traffic police, is one more significant addition in the list.

Since Mumbai’s linear geography does not offer space for constructing more roads and the sea on its borders restricts further expansion, water seems to be attracting the city planners more and more. Hence, MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) – the topmost planning government body for providing infrastructure in Mumbai, came up with the idea of using the sea link too. Thus was born the idea of Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL): Commissioned in 2010 by MSRDC, this cable-stayed bridge, linking Bandra with Worli via the Arabian Sea has proved to be a boon for mainly the vehicle owners as it reduces at least 25 minutes of commute between the two areas. Also known as Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, the BWSL carries a little over 45000 vehicles a day through its eight lanes. It was reported that the Lalbaug flyover that was dedicated to the public two years after the BWSL, would attract half of BWSL’s commuters but that hasn’t happened. Lalbaug has developed its own loyal users while BWSL still remains a much preferred route between Bandra and Worli despite it being a costly option.

Future Projects

Mumbai Metro Rail Project, Mumbai Monorail Project, Skywalks, Multimodal corridor from Virar to Alibaug, Eastern Freeway, Milan ROB, widening of important roads, etc. are some of the projects conceived by MMRDA that are in various stages of construction. Says PRK Murthy, Chief, Transport Division, MMRDA, “Mumbai, one of the most public transport dependent cities in the world, is undergoing an explosion in private vehicles on the roads. The public transport share of vehicles is declining due to insufficient capacity and overcrowding. MMRDA is making all efforts to improve the public transport share by providing safe, reliable and comfortable transport. In addition to Mass Transit projects, MMRDA is implementing many modes of travel like Eastern Freeway, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and multimodal corridor projects. These will avoid the movement of truck and container traffic through business areas, thus bringing a relief to the common man in his day-to-day movement.”

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