Metro on track for Pune?

It's true that The Metro has become an indicator of a city's urbanity and potential of growth, while also reflecting its "coolness". Till a few months back, newspapers were still contemplating the need for a Metro, but as Punekars saw Metro proposals move ahead for smaller cities like Nagpur, we all felt that we are missing the bandwagon. And hence, there seems to be really a sigh of relief as media reports that "Pune's Metro is on track". 
While I agree that there is certainly excitement when a city promises something as shiny and new as a Metro, I feel there still needs some ground work to be done before such an expensive piece of moving machinery is installed in the city.

There are two primary things while proposing any large infrastructure project anywhere. One, is its purpose and second, is the detail of its design. The purpose, except for making a cool political move, is still hazy when the Metro is proposed for relatively smaller and compact cities, and particularly so when the city does not have even the basic public transport- the good old bus! The reason I choose to rain on the celebration over a Metro, is that I truly believe that Pune will benefit much more with investment going towards improving the bus system and the pedestrian infrastructure, two pillars of a good and efficient public transport system. 

So am I of the opinion that Metro shouldn't be proposed at all for Pune? No. Only I feel that we should spend more time, energy and resources right now on the bus system rather than the Metro proposal. Metro is such a huge affair that it will take its natural time (and more) to get off the ground, but in the glitz and the glamor of the Metro, we should not forget the Bus.

We should remind ourselves time and again that, the Metro, portrayed as a saviour of Pune's traffic woes, will be so only if the bus and the footpaths are fixed and people are able to easily access the Metro. In our rush to zoom ahead in a Metro, if we forget the bus and the footpaths, the Metro will remain a shiny, expensive gift- nice to show off, but rarely used. 

Public transport system of a city is a closely linked network of various elements. No single element can boast of being the sole reason for success of public transport in a city. Starting from making is easier to walk, to accessing small vehicles like auto rickshaws, using bus for relatively shorter distances and then accessing the Metro for longer routes will form a link that will determine the success of a Metro. The success and strength of a network lies in the strength and robustness of all it's links. As I see it today, the two most crucial links of public transport - the pedestrian infrastructure and the bus are weak in Pune and hence my fear that the public transport envisaged by the Metro proposal will only be as strong as it's weakest link!

So while I applaud the CM Shri Fadanvis for making a decision on the Metro ( most decisions regarding Pune always seem to be in a limbo for years), I appeal to the Metro Committee to form a sub committee of planners to look at a time wise phased approach to the Metro. This committee can become the group of people who refuse to forget the bus and the footpaths and thus force all of us to look at all the aspects of transportation linkages before finalising routes, establishing alignments and defining time frames.

So while the civic and state administration struggle to form a Metro company, raise finances and fulfil other documentary requirements, The Metro committee can work on detailing out a road map towards strengthening all links in the public transport network. Only by doing so, will Punekars enjoy the benefits of the Metro when it actually starts to run! If not, Punekars will continue riding a two wheeler, stuck in traffic jams, the only difference being that somewhere underground there will be an empty Metro making rounds. 

Comments

  1. You're absolutely right! The attitude is reminiscent of a child eager to get its hands on the latest bright and shiny toy! You have to wonder why the powers that be do not look at the complete picture? Of course plan for a Metro, it will be a fantastic add on to the transportation network. But if your network is in a shambles to begin with, then aren't you getting ahead of yourself?
    Fix your pedestrian infrastructure, create seamless transit points, provide clear and easy access, look at last mile connectivity,strengthen the Bus network and then go for the big one! Unfortunately the authorities are looking at short term solutions to boost their images not for lasting impacts that could set examples for other cities to follow, making life infinitely better for the average citizen. For example in Mumbai, we're wasting time, effort and the public's money on a shockingly expensive coastal road when just a quarter of that same money can be pumped into upgrading and fortifying the existing pedestrian, bus and train networks - improving the lives of the common Mumbaikar who represents 3/4th the population! We're planning for the rich never for the majority who are poor!

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  2. Who said Metro was a transportation project? It is purely a construction / FSI project and in those aspects, it will be a roaring success!

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