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Southern States - Tamil Nadu-Chennai

Mass rapid transport suggested to ease Chennai traffic
By Akila Dinakar

CHENNAI, JAN. 25. The International Workshop on High Capacity Bus Systems which concluded recently in New Delhi, has thrown light on the need for Chennai to take a look at its public transport system.

Jointly organised by the Delhi Transport Corporation, the Infrastructure Development Finance Company and the Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme of the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the workshop considered the least costly form of Mass Rapid Transport could be tried out in Chennai to ease traffic and make the roads safer.

A publication, titled Urban Transport for Growing Cities-High Capacity Bus Systems, edited by Geetam Tiwari,

was compiled on the occasion.

In the comparative accident statistics of the four metropolitan cities in the country, Chennai tops the list with 2,314 buses and 1,797 accidents, while New Delhi had 928 accidents for 4,330 buses, Kolkata_306 accidents for 821 buses and Mumbai_806 accidents for 3,155 buses.

While New Delhi recorded the highest number of fatal accidents_152 (3.5 per cent), Chennai was second with 133 fatal accidents (5.7 per cent).

While most of the speakers pointed out that the problems of transport in cities of the third world countries were similar such as scarce public investment resources, the solutions were unanimously to improve high quality bus-based rapid systems.

This applied to Chennai too, a transport manager, who was part of the workshop said. The problem of air pollution was also addressed. As one speaker said, ``Rising volumes of air pollution and traffic congestion have gained the attention of authorities in virtually every major city of the world''. The Transport Authorities in Chennai could do well to address the lacunae like lack of good data.

``In India, vehicles were counted once, when they are first registered but not through any yearly fees or census. The number of vehicles in use by type and fuel, distances driven and fuel economy are not known. Non-motorised transport is not counted and emission tests are rare'', a study presented at the workshop said.

Calling for a development of a bus commuter safety policy, which Chennai has not yet drawn, the workshop said buses and non-motorised modes of transport would remain the backbone of transport in mega cities. With increasing accidents and rising automobile pollution, Chennai would do well to give priority to high capacity bus systems at affordable fares. ``Increase in fares because of more expensive buses is likely to shift bus passengers to cars and two wheelers, thus increasing total pollution and accidents, a paper said calling for a comprehensive policy of financing of public transport including cross-subsidies.

On suggestions for financing, the polluter-pay principle could be invoked. Owners of cars and two-wheelers must be made to pay a pollution tax, the proceeds from which could be used for financing more efficient bus transport, a study added.

The problem of commuters shifting to two wheelers and cars from public transport in Chennai was also raised and the suggestion was to make public transport more convenient, safe and efficient. ``Policy should remove incentives for people to drive, pollute and congest more, even if actual emissions from vehicles are reduced by technology'', a study recommended.

A study from TRIPP said bus stops should be within easy walking distance of home and workplace. Buses should be made more accessible and comfortable for children, women, the elderly and the disabled. Public transit should be made affordable for those with low incomes while stress should be laid on improving the quality of pedestrian and bicycle environment.

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