Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation tells TrafficInfraTech that in order to bring a method to administering the city, the Corporation has decided that certain roads will have no vendors, and certain zones will be no encroachment zones. It is also forcing the road facing shops and malls to have adequate parking and is allowing three wheelers to enter.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Urban Development Association (AUDA) are responsible for developing, upgrading and maintaining the roads in the city. How does the collaboration work?
AUDA does not plan the road connectivity in Ahmedabad. The AMC plans and build roads on the area of 456sqkm. AUDA?s role is that every 10 years, it prepares a development plan ? a plan to add to the existing road network and connect the city with other parts of the state and the country. We do the execution of the plans and the maintenance. We understand that with the increase in population, the traffic also increases. We have an Integrated Urban Mobility Plan that AUDA has approved. It is a contingency plan so that we know what areas will be populated and by what period. Accordingly we can develop the road network. We plan the road network under two Acts ? the Town Planning Act (TPA) and the Gujarat Provisional Municipal Corporation Act (GPMCA). The TPA is used to give compensation to the constructions that are removed for construction of the roads. In GPMCA, the market rate has to be paid on the land acquired.
How are the uses of new construction technology for roads?
Two years ago, we had decided that on roads over 60ft, we will follow the national highway type of construction which is superior. Not many cities apply it for the city roads, Surat and Ahmedabad do. So, all the roads of 60ft width and above are of superior quality. We do wall-to-wall carpeting, and use the batch mix plant and maintain the water table, so there is no water logging.
How do road development plans keep pace with the flow of traffic?
As part of the ten years? plan, an urban transport mobility plan is prepared. Keeping this long term mobility plan in mind, we start the construction of the road. For every city scheme that we undertake we look where road network comes first, we take those roads. That is how we keep pace with the requirement of roads with the increase in population and traffic.
AMC has to work in tandem with the traffic police to manage the traffic. What are the challenges?
AMC provides the engineering solutions in terms of roads, traffic signage, street lights, etc. The traffic police?s job is to maintain and enforce it. If the coordination is not perfect, there can be problems. We have started a statutory committee where the chairman is the head of Ahmedabad City Traffic. All the concerned traffic engineering and road professionals from AMC are the members of the committee. They meet every fortnight, find out the problems and suggest concrete action to be taken. A fortnight later, they see the implemented status and move on. This is how we try to increase coordination. If problems arise, then the police and municipal commissioner are approached by the committee to sort out issues.
The city bus operators are managed by the corporation. What efforts are taken to improve the performance?
We run two bus services. One is the oldest bus service, the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service, run by the Municipal Corporation in Gujarat. Under it, we have over 800 buses covering the entire city with the frequency depending on the peak and non-peak hours. Then, we have developed the BRTS which is a dedicated bus corridor. It uses a state-of-the-art intelligent transport solution. It is well appreciated and much rewarded and much talked about. We cover over 66km through BRTS. There is a strong element of Public Private Participation here. The buses are owned, operated and maintained by the private operators and the depots are constructed on Corporation land. There is a very strict schedule in place. Factors such as how often the buses are to be washed & maintained and their mechanical aspects are all well prescribed and monitored by a third party. In AMTS, we have hired contractors to run and own the BRTS buses as per our schedule. We are increasing the PPP participation by bringing in the private sector efficiency, without increasing the kind of expenditure that is usually expected from the public sector.
BRTS is a success story. But what about integrating with metro rail when it arrives?
The state government has recently constituted the Multi Modal Affordable Transport Authority (MATA) which emphasises on affordability as public transport cannot be expensive. It will be a combination of metro and / or BRTS, city bus service, pedestrian service through footpath, cycle tracks and inland ferry service. For e.g., the Sabarmati river divides the city into east and west, so a ferry service can be provided to people who want to cross the river. These are some of the concepts on which we are working. Today Ahmedabad, like other Indian city, suffers from ?poor public transport vs private transport ratio?. In developed cities like Singapore, Seoul, most of Europe and New York, the share of public transport is as high as 50 and 60%, here it is 20% even with BRTS, and our target is to take it to above 50%. So, Metro is to be done by separate STV called MEGA. For the metro link between Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad (MEGA), the AMC Commissioner is one of the directors on the Board.
The first phase of the Metro is of 76km. It will be both underground as well as above the ground and will connect important places in both the cities. BRTS hopes to complete 85km by 2013-14. We have announced BRTS phase 3 ? the proposal has already been sent to the central government through the State government for JNNURM finance. This will increase the total area covered to 115km as after this phase, the Metro will touch the Ring Road. In Ahmedabad, we have unique ring and radial road structure unlike other cities, hence, traffic congestion is less here. The BRTS phase 3 will take these roads to touch the Ring Road.
The AMTS now has 800 buses as compared to the earlier 500 buses; we target to take it to 1200. Their services will have to run parallel. BRTS along with metro services alone cannot cover the city because of its dedicated tracks. So, AMTS will have to provide more tail-end services, right at the door step. So the planning has to be done in such a way that the transport services do not compete with each other but complement each other.
What about the IT based ticketing system?
In BRTS, we have IT based ticketing system. In AMTS, we are working on its integration. When the Metro comes, the grand plan is to have a common ticketing system to the possible extent between these three services.
Have you introduced passenger communication systems, especially at the bus centres?
In BRTS, we do have them. There are announcements inside the bus station giving information on the arrival and destination. As the bus is on the move there are announcements being made along with the audio-visual display of the stop approaching next. It is found that while the physical infrastructure is given weightage, the integration of traffic technology is lagging behind.
We are now giving lot of importance to traffic technology. We are trying to bring more sensor based technologies which will study the traffic in real-time and accordingly, decide how long the traffic lights should be kept on. We are currently evaluating some of the proposals and converting some of the traditional systems into sensor based IT solutions.
What are the plans for improving facilities for pedestrians and parking?
As part of BRTS planning, we provide dedicated Pedestrian Park, Cycle Park and parking. In places with no BRTS, we are trying to create more places for paid parking. We are trying to bring home the point through many initiatives and educational activities that parking cannot be treated as a birth right ? people have to pay for parking. Parking is using of public place, so we have started many paid parks and will continue with more on the roads. AMC is doing a good job in clearing the encroachments in the arterial roads and improving the cleaning and waste management systems.
We decide that certain roads will have no vendors, and certain zones will be no encroachments zones. Currently, 40km of what we call the Model Road does not have any encroachments. Since a lot of illegal parking takes place, we are forcing the road facing shops and malls to have adequate parking and are allowing three wheelers to enter. In Indian context, apart from education, we need to tighten the enforcement machinery as that works much better. As a result, we are having much better results now.
Regarding cleanliness, the overall solid waste management practices in the city are taken to the next level, where we are treating 1000 tonnes of waste out of the 4000 tonnes of waste lifted everyday off the road. Because of this, the roads look clean.