Urban Mobility of Kerala
D Dhanuraj
Urban Mobility of Kerala Download as PDF
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Urban Kerala is not a recent phenomenon, but a heavily contested argument in the theoretical circles of practitioners. Many argue that Kerala should be considered an urban metro for its good planning and development processes. The State accounts for a higher vehicle density in India. Unfortunately, it also takes the number one position for deaths caused by accidents. There has been a systemic failure in defining the mobility needs of the majority middle class population of Kerala, which has, over the years, led to congestion, not only in cities, but in smaller towns as well.

Urban Mobility is not about KSRTC buses or private cars alone. What is required is an integrated mobility plans for trains, buses, cars, autorickshaws, cycles and, importantly, the pedestrians. Most of the State Highways lack pedestrian sidewalks, reflecting on the errant policy making of the State. Similar is the non-usage of inland water navigation routes, which would reduce the heavy volume of traffic on the roads. A city like Kochi, which is well bounded by water bodies, embraced road traffic, ignoring the decade-old practice of ferry services. This is a clear example for how administrators and policy makers portray these issues. Though most villages are well connected by road, the bizarre fact is that in several villages, there are no bus services. People are forced to walk three to four kilometres to reach the nearby bus stop. This underlines the necessity of integrating feeder systems with mobility plans, so that the first and last mile problems can be resolved.

What we need is intelligent transport management at the regional level; hence starting with the corporations. The Panchayat Raj Act should be amended so that corporations are vested with the power to decide on the kind of transport its citizens need, and how the same can be improvised. The need to establish a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority is imperative, so that all the stakeholders, including representatives of the general public, can sit around a table and find solutions to the ever-demanding nature of urban mobility. A Transport Management System with traffic experts should be set up for each corporation and region, and should not be at the mandate of traffic police any more. In addition, intelligent transport systems can help monitor, control and regulate traffic in a city on a 24 x 7 basis. Dedicated bus corridors like the BRTS, along with frequent intercity train shuttle services can help save millions of rupees that are wasted as a result of traffic snarls across the State. Bus stops and bus routes should be rearranged and rationalised every six months, so that new roads and bridges can be incorporated into the mobility plans, thus saving time and energy.

Pedestrians are highly neglected in Kerala's mobility plans. Most of the state highways and other roads lack pedestrian sidewalks, and space for pedestrians to take morning walks. Poor planning has resulted in a reduction in the number of pedestrians, forcing people to drive their vehicles, even for small distances. This has caused an increase in the number of road accidents. The lack of downtown concepts and walking plazas in an upwardly mobile middle class society is surprising. Parking spaces should have been thought of and policy initiatives for the same should have come into force ages ago. All these issues seek a revision of mobility plans for Kerala, which otherwise will be infamous for its traffic congestions in another ten years. One cannot dismiss the argument for a complete street policy and urban mobility agenda task force on priority, for Kerala's overall development in the years to come.



D Dhanuraj is Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research. He can be reached at dhanu@cppr.in

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  1 Comment          
[1]  February 23 2011
Urban mobility issues are abundant across the country. In addition, what's in place also goes haywire when it's misused. Recently in Delhi, traffic movement was blocked at India Gate by 100-odd doctors protesting against government rules and unrevised salaries. There should be laws in place to prevent such agitations.
 
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